Friday, 27 January 2012

Germany and the Outbreak of World War I

Did Germany Cause World War I?

War Guilt

One of the most controversial terms of the Versailles Treaty was the “War Guilt” Clause (Article 231).
Under this particular Article, Germany and her Allies were forced to accept total responsibility:

a)   for causing World War I

b)   for the damages inflicted upon Allied nations as the result of German aggression
While the victorious Allies determined that German actions were solely responsible for causing World War I, this explanation ignores other contributing factors.

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914
 did not have to lead to war.

However, Austria was determined to keep Serbia within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quell any nationalist fervour in the Balkans.

She decided to punish Serbia for the assassination.

The Alliance System
Russia then decided to support its ally Serbia in its dispute with Austria-Hungary.

Once Russia entered this dispute, the existing system of European alliances made it very difficult to keep the Serbian issue from escalating into a much larger conflict.

After Russia entered the conflict its ally, France, is drawn into the conflict because of its alliance with Russia.

Great Britain then became involved through its Entente with France.

Austria and Germany

Austria did not expect Russia to go to war over Serbia. It did, however,
seek German military assistance in the event Russia honored its alliance with Serbia.

Austria’s misreading of Russian intentions was compounded by the warlike posture taken by Germany.

Instead of counseling a negotiated and peaceful approach, Germany declared her steadfast support for Austria and encouraged her ally to take an aggressive approach towards Serbia.


  •                  Given the elaborate alliance system that existed in 1914, it is not surprising that the regional conflict in the Balkans became the spark for a much wider war. 
  •                  The alliance system was, however, not the only factor that led to war.
  •                  Germany bears some responsibility for not restraining the actions of her ally Austria.
  •                  In fact, Germany’s encouragement of Austria’s harsh approach to Serbia made a wider European conflict much more likely.  
  •                  At the same time, Austrian foreign policy was reckless in not seriously considering the possibility that Russia would come to Serbia’s aid.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Political Career of Kurt Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria

Political Career of Kurt Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria

Early Years

Joined Austria’s right-wing Christian Social Party and elected to Austria’s Parliament in 1927, becomes Minister of Justice in the Dollfuss government in 1932. 

Becomes Chancellor

In July 1934, Austria’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party attempts to overthrow the Dollfuss government in a coup.  While the coup is crushed by Schuschnigg, Engelbert Dollfuss is murdered by Austrian Nazis.

The Austrian Nazis captured by Schuschnigg are executed.  German pressure against Austria subsides after Mussolini threatens to go to war to defend Austrian independence. 

Political Philosophy

Under Schuschnigg, Austria continues to follow the Corporatist model of Fascism followed by Italy, where the state is organized via professional corporations or guilds.

Nazi Pressures on Austria

Schuschnigg is determined to maintain Austrian independence.  While Italy and Hungary act as counterweights to Germany, Schuschnigg finds himself in a weak position and tries to appease Hitler. 

In 1936, under pressure from Hitler, Schuschnigg releases imprisoned Nazis and agrees to allow Nazis into his cabinet.  
In February 1938, Hitler forces Schuschnigg to accept Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a well known Austrian Nazi, as his Minister of Public Security.
Schuschnigg announces a plebiscite on Austrian independence.  Under pressure from Hitler, the plebiscite is cancelled and Seyss-Inquart becomes Chancellor.

Life after Politics

After World War II, Schuschnigg resettled in the United States where he taught political science at St. Louis University (1948 – 1967).  He died in his native Austria in 1977. 

Schuschnigg’s Place in History

Unlike so many other statesmen in 1930s Europe, Schuschnigg was very much in the anti-Hitler faction and recognized the serious threat that National Socialism posed to his country and all of Europe.
Schuschnigg’s government showed considerable tolerance towards Jews, an attitude that was uncommon in a large part of Europe.