The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany

The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany

The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany

The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany

Synopsis

This is the first systematic analysis of German public opinion at the outbreak of the Great War. Jeffrey Verhey's powerful study demonstrates that the myth of war enthusiasm was historically inaccurate. He also examines the development of the myth in newspapers, politics and propaganda, and the propagation and appropriation of this myth after the war. His innovative analysis sheds new light on German experience of the Great War and on the role of political myths in modern German political culture.

Excerpt

In August 1914 Germany went to war. the war was not unexpected. It had been brewing for quite a while. Yet when it came it came suddenly and, like a whirlwind, transformed German public opinion. in the afternoon of 28 June newspaper vendors sold “extras” telling of the murder of the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince. For a few days there was excitement in the streets, and small crowds formed around the newspaper stands. Yet this fever quickly subsided. After the first week of July there was almost no mention in the press of Austrian–Serbian foreign relations, or of foreign relations at all. Instead, newspapers contained the sorts of diversions that made for pleasant reading alongside a glass of beer in the good summer weather: the trial of Rosa Luxemburg for anti-militaristic remarks, the scandals in France, and yet another call from the right for patriotic Germans to join together to fight the peril of Social Democracy.

On 23 July this changed. Newspapers reported that Austria had issued Serbia an ultimatum, due to expire on Saturday, 25 July at 6.00 p.m. Readers need not be reminded that as Germany was allied with Austria this could lead to German involvement in a European conflagration. in the late afternoon on 25 July vast crowds of curious and excited people gathered in the larger German cities at the sites where they expected the news of the Serbian response first to be distributed: at the city squares downtown, in front of the newspaper offce buildings, in the downtown cafés. After learning that Serbia had rejected the ultimatum, in Berlin and a few other large cities “parades” of enthusiastic youths marched through the streets, singing patriotic songs.

The next week Germans wondered if they would be going to war. Crowds of curious people gathered where the extras would first be distributed, in public squares or in front of the newspaper buildings. As the week continued the curious crowds grew in size. People waited for hours, wondering about their fate. the tension was palpable. Finally, on 31 July the news came: the proclamation of the state of siege. the next day even more nervous, curious people gathered in public squares and in front of 1 . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.