The First World War and the German Dilemma: An Analysis of Various Aspects of German History and Historiography in Light of the Fischer Controversy
Moody, Kevin J.
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In the past two decades, Fritz Fischer has become a central figure in the debate on the origins of the First World War. Critiques, synopses, counter-arguments and even vicious attacks have been written with Fischer in mind. But far from modifying his views in any way, Fischer has proceeded to state them even more categorically. He has put forth several replies to and counter-attacks on his critics in which has has argued his thesis more vehemently than he did in Germany's Aims in the First World. One such work was basically a reply to his two strongest critics, Gerhard Ritter and Egmont Zechlin, World Power or Decline (1965). In this second book, Fischer breaks his thesis into seven separate sub-theses while refuting the views of his most troublesome critics. Each of these seven theses is a separate indictment against the German government and its foreign policy before and during the war. In the first of these, he covers pre-war German policy and argues that the outbreak of war caused no discontinuity in German policy. Thesis two maintains that German policy during the July crisis of 1914 consciously provoked war. Thesis three argues that the September Program of 1914 remained the basis of German war aims policy throughout the war. In theses four and five, Fischer follows German war aims policy from 1914 to 1918 and argues that it was consistently and actively committed to expansion. Thesis six tries to prove that these expansionist tendencies were by no means confined to military or governmental leaders, but rather were shared by the great majority of Germans. Finally, in thesis seven, he looks at the leading elements of German society and contends that they viewed military victory as imperative in preserving the old conservative ruling order. In the following sections I have divided and approachedfthe Fischer thesis on the basis of these seven sub-theses. This allows for a more coherent, and organized review or Fischer's basic arguments.
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