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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
Historians OverviewJay Winter

The Turn of the Century
Jay Winter
"It was not at all surprising that anybody who lived in Germany would find this the most dynamic, the most robust, and the most terrifying nation in the world.

"Most of German society as it was in the early 19th Century had vanished by 1900. The pace of urbanization was huge. Berlin was a provincial backwater in 1860. By 1910 it was one of the great metropolitan centers of the world, and it came through migration. Germany was an enormous magnet for people who wanted a good life in Eastern Europe – from Poland, from Russia, who were escaping from other regimes. They went to Berlin, went to Hamburg, went to the southwest of Germany to the great cities of the wine land, and grew this extraordinary labor force, working class, bourgeoisie, business class, that created more wealth per capita than any other country in Europe.

"The pace of change in Germany was probably greater than any other country in Europe.

"No country was moving as rapidly as Germany, and at the same time, no country had social divisions as deep as in Germany. Because all of these individuals coming to congregate in these huge meat-packing tenements – that's what they called them – were living under conditions which were evidently unjustified. And they were living perhaps a mile away from the Kaiser's palace, couple of miles away from Potsdamm, where the high command lived in these elegant palaces that you can still see today.

"This created an extraordinarily explosive mixture where the most powerful nation in the world, Germany, had the most powerful revolutionary movement in the world – the German Social Democratic Party. And it's a function of the pace of change, and the pace of urbanization, that you both had this amazing growth of military power and growth of working class power – and they were both evident together.

"The Kaiser would have demonstrations for his birthday. The Social Democratic Party would have demonstrations for the first of May – and they were about the same size."

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