I mentioned that I am helping my cousin with his book about our uncle's WW2 experience, fighting from Omaha Beach to the outskirts of Berlin. So, I have been reading a lot about WW2. But, I came to realize that you can't understand WW2 without an understanding of WW1. That's because WW2 was a continuation of WW1. The interwar period was, essentially, a 20 year ceasefire.
And all this reading I am doing about the world wars makes me realize how monstrously murderous and genocidal the 20th century was- the worst century in human history, by far. And, it's a paradox because, at the same time, the 20th century had the greatest and swiftest scientific and technological advancement of any century. It had more progress and advancement than all the centuries that came before it- combined.
But tragically, WW1 was the rudder for the whole century. If only there had been no WW1, there would have been no Communist takeover of Russia. The Czar was distracted. He was fighting the war- on the front. He was no military man, but his generals did so badly, he replaced them with himself. And he did worse. It's fair to say that Germany won the war on the Eastern front. And, it's noteworthy that Germany helped finance Lenin, while Wall Street bankers financed both Lenin and Trotsky, who was living in New York City prior to the Revolution. Many Russians living in New York City accompanied Trotsky back to Russia.
And, there is no reason to think Hitler would have been elected in Germany without the conditions set up by WW1. He only got 30% of the vote in 1933. But, it was enough for a run-off with President Hindenburg, and Hitler lost that too. But, he did well enough , that a coalition government was formed with Hindenburg as President and Hitler as Chancellor, and you know the rest. But, it was the horrendous conditions in Germany that got Hitler into power and without WW1, conditions would never have gotten that bad in Germany. Before WW1, Germany was on a fast track, not only to economic superstardom, but also scientific and technological dominance as well, and that is why WW1 occurred. It occurred because other countries, particularly Great Britain, and really mainly Great Britain, felt threatened by Germany's rise. It wasn't that Germany was doing anything wrong or illegal. They were just excelling, and Britain did not like it.
So, Britain wanted war with Germany. From the moment, the Boer War ended in southern Africa, war with Germany was the next war on the British agenda. It was being sought from very early in the 20th century. They wanted the war over 10 years before they got it in 1914. It took them longer than they thought to provoke it.
But, the British knew that they could NOT prevail over Germany by themselves. So, they got France and Russia to enter a Triple Entente with them in 1907, and it even said in the fine print that they would all go to war against Germany.
The French were on-board mainly because they loathed Germany for winning the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s. And as a result of losing that war, they lost Alsace and Lorraine to Germany, which were rich mining provinces. And they wanted them back.
Czar Nicholas of Russia was mostly prodded into it by the English and French. But, they had to wave a carrot at him, and that carrot was the Bosporous shipping strait and the city of Constantinople. But, they had no intention of delivering on that, and they didn't. Of course, he was gone by then. He didn't survive the war. The Bolsheviks killed him and his family.
But, the most important thing is that Germany did not want war with anybody. They were busy: building stuff, inventing stuff, discovering stuff. They were not seeking war at all. But, the Kaiser realized that he had enemies on both sides of him. So, he signed an alliance with Austria-Hungay, which was geographically the largest country in Europe at the time. So, England, in order to provoke the war it wanted with Germany, organized the team of Serbs to kill the Archduke Ferdinand, knowing that it would provoke war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. And then presto, the various treaties and alliances would turn it into a world war.
The first act of war was when the Czar mobilized his army on Germany's eastern border, and France mobilized her army on Germany's western border, and in those days, mobilization was considered an act of war. And then, Germany, fearing a simultaneous attack from both sides, felt compelled to launch an attack on France first, hoping to end it quickly, and then turn around and face the Russians. But, that was Germany's colossal mistake. They should have just waited. They should have forced their enemies to attack first. No matter what the outcome, even if Germany did succumb quickly to a two-front attack, they would have been better off, much better off, if they had waited. The decision of Kaiser Wilhelm to launch WW1, to make the first incursion, even though from his standpoint he was doing it defensively, was the most catastrophic decision of the 20th century. He should have gambled and not done. He should have left if to the French and the Russians. They are the ones who wanted war- no him. Diplomatically and otherwise, he was doing everything he could to prevent war- beseeching his royal relations in England and Russia to stop with the bellicosity, but to no avail. He should have held his ground- literally. He should have remained on German soil and forced the warmongers to come to him. Had he done so, there is no way Germany could have been blamed for causing or starting the war. As it was, the issue that Britain used to justify declaring war on Germany was Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality. So, what if Germany hadn't violated Belgian neutrality? You see, it's obvious that these countries were thinking about their history and their legacy, and they did not want to go down as the aggressor. So, if Germany refused, refused to aggress, if Germany insisted that her enemies make the first incursion and take the first shot, they may or may not have. It's very clear that they didn't want to strike first, and Germany should have said, "If you want war, you're going to have to do it; not me." More to follow.