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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 OverviewWolfgang Mommsen

German Army's Advance into Belgium
Wolfgang Mommsen
"Mentally, Germany was not prepared in 1919, to accept defeat.

"In 1914, the Germans entered the war with quite unreal assumptions about its origins, about its nature and about its objectives. They had developed a huge assembly of claims which, in fact, would have meant that Europe could be dominated by German hegemony totally, and were mentally not willing to forfeit this all in 1918-1919.

"All of a sudden, we are confronted with what the bulk of the Germans considered an entirely unjust treaty. So resistance against this Treaty was enormous. I think that the strongest resistance concerned the territorial concessions in the East. Nobody was willing to concede that much territory to the new Polish State. Nobody was willing to accept willingly the system of reparations.

"The Treaty of Versailles created a political climate in Germany in which the right put all the blame on everything that went sour, onto the Treaty and the lost war. And that created this climate in which many people then began to think one had to fight the war once again.

"In hindsight, Germans wouldn't consider the Treaty of Versailles a really unbearable treaty.

Palace of Varsailles
Palace of Varsailles
"Some of the stipulations, especially with regard to reparations, are very problematic, because the allies themselves couldn't agree upon how much should be paid and when and how. And that, of course, has to do with the fact that the Americans insisted on the repayment of their credits to the allied powers.

"Basically, I think one can say the Treaty was harsh, but understandable. It created in Germany a political climate in which it was exceedingly difficult for a democratic system to develop. Somewhat less harsh treaties certainly would have been good, on the other hand. The allied governments were under the pressure of their own public, which demanded the Germans to pay for it all.

"Hitler sold the Second World War to the Germans as righting the wrongs of Versailles.

"As doing the First World War once again, more effectively – conducted in a more total way than before, and therefore winning it. Facts are different because Hitler's aim was going far beyond those which Imperial Germany in 1914, or even in 1917, ever had dreamt of. It's only the connections are very obvious on the First World War and Second World War may perhaps even be considered as parts of a continuous kind of civil war going on between 1914 and 1945, or perhaps even leading further into the 1980s."

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