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Germany and the Central Powers in the World War, 1914- 1918

By Walther Hubatsch; Oswald P. Backus | Go to book overview

6. The Fight for Position in the Mediterranean

Neutrals: Scandinavia; Switzerland; Holland. Europe was increasingly split into two major power camps which were slowly weakening one another. In this situation, the importance of the small neutral nations increased. Early in the war, the Central Powers had looked around for additional partners. In Northern Europe, Norway, favoring Britain and depending on her world-wide shipping, was out of Germany's reach. Trying to involve Norway in the war in order to improve the naval position of Germany was never considered during World War I, not even in 1917 when there seemed to be a danger that Norway might join the Entente. Because of Germany's power, Denmark, decided, with some repugnance, to remain neutral. To be sure, Russia regarded Sweden as a partner of the Dreibund, yet notwithstanding the open sympathies for Germany of the royal family and the officer corps, the requirements for a partnership were missing. A Swedish northern front against Russia could not have been established without German help. At the same time the undisturbed German importation of Swedish ore could best be guaranteed if Sweden stayed out of the war. Germans never expressed the wish for Swedish military help yet a small number of Swedish volunteers fought in the German army. The guarantee of Swiss neutrality was not violated by Germany although the French occasionally considered passing through western Switzerland in order to out-flank the Upper Rhine front. Holland, too, decided to remain strictly neutral, which was an advantage to Germany during the first months of the war in supplying food to her civilian population.

Turkey; Dardanelles; Suez Canal. While thus the attitude of Germany's neighbors was unequivocal, the situation in the Balkans depended entirely on the success of Austria-Hungary. As early as July 28, 1914, Turkey had, in discussions in Berlin, made an offer of an alliance against Russia, and on August 2, 1914, she had concluded a secret alliance with the German Reich. At that time, however, the Ottoman Empire had not yet reckoned with Britain's entry into the war. So, weakened by past wars and internal discord, the Porte declared its neutrality for the time being. When the two German cruisers, the

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