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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Describe Imperial Germany Discussion here.


Hey, everyone, IBC, article author, reasonably-knowledgeable-about-German-history-chap here. I recently removed somebody's commentary on the article on the grounds that it was a fat lot of bollocks. Here I justify my statement: as anybody who has read a decent German history book, nay, textbook could tell you, damn near every word of the following is wrong.

  • Hello, IBC. I am Turtler. The person you have been insulting on this matter. And obviously, you have not studied the matter, or you would be able to come up with better arguments than shouting "bollocks" and ironically telling me to "read a book," as you have.

    • Turtler, IBC here, just back in the country and able to respond. I do apologise for having been rude, as I was in a frazzled and exasperated frame of mind when I made my original edit and defending it with vitriol and an attempt to demonstrate ignorance rather than proper arguments, as I had on TV Tropes and other parts of the internet been having to refute throughly inadequate and hearsay accounts of history and so jumped to the conclusion that your edit was of this type and attacked it principally by picking at any perceived factual errors. It's clear that in fact you are well grounded in the subject, that I was taking an excessively literal interpretation of the first comment, and that and we have some interesting divergances of opinion which belong elsewhere on the internet, so below I merely defend some of my interpretations before suggesting a compromise.

      • Turtler again. Sorry for the delay in responding. Fair enough, and no harm done.

"Or, arguably, 1848, when Bismark led the German state governments on an attack on the Frankfurt parliament, pretty much crippling hope of democratic development by putting the power into the hands of the Military and the increasingly-autocratic central government."

  • I hope, for your sake, that you didn't place any bets on that.

"1848": The Frankfurt parliament lasted into the next year.

  • This is as good a place as any to say what was behind me original refutal: I unfairly assumed you were ignorant of the subject, so I attacked small factual errors such as this which I would have overlooked in an actual historical debate. I do have more constructive and fundamental objections, but a loft of this argument si coming from the trivial stuff.

    • Fair enough.

"Bismarck led": Bismarck was a mere reactionary MP engaged in quixotic attempts to foil the revolution by forming a militia from his peasants.
  • Obviously, that "litt♦er), and he was one of the leading voices/figureheads of the counterrevolution (as you would know if you studied the matter). That, and the role Bismarck's men would play in the general Prussian intervention in Saxony and Wurttemburg show he was no minor player.

    • By "little militia" I didn't mean the whole force of reaction, I meant Bismarck's actual failed attempt to mobilise his peasants. He was of course heavily involved in the counterrevolution as one would expect from a fairly prominant reactionary politican, but he did not lead it in any meaningful capacity, and what I was objecting to here is the suggestion that he led it. Who exactly were "his men"? Do you refer to his associates and ideological kindred-spirits, rather than some political or military organisation actually under his command? I think its pretty clear that you've hyped up Bismarck's involvement quite a lot, but that isn' enormously relevant to the topic.

    • Fair enough, but it is disputable that he "failed" to recruit that, he did manage to somehow raise 10,000 militiamen (the infamous "Forkmen", after the pitchforks some of them reportedly would use to kill prisoners who fell into their hands, though it must be said that most of them probably h ad access to modern firearms) for the putsch in Berlin, and smaller detachments of said militia did see action in Dresden and near Stuttgart, though not under his direct command. However, while I can readily agree that Bismarck was not the military commander by any means (he only really "saw action" during the coup in Berlin, and was not allowed in a combat role during the mop-up campaigns), in many ways this is dwarfed by his influence: Bismarck may not have started the Reaction (as shown by what happened in Baden, where it ended before Frankfurt even got together in the first place), but he played a leading role in uniting it (well, to the extent that it was united) and coordinating it and certainly in propagandizing it. The fact that he was sent to touch base with regional military commanders in the most important theaters of the revolution (in Saxony, Hesse, and finally Wurttemberg) and was allowed to actually draft out one of the ultimatums to the Frankfurt parliament himself show he was no minor player, even amongst the big names of the reaction. Granted, I probably erred in overemphasizing him, but his role in this coupled with his role in severely neutering Germany's elected institutions made him the obvious name.

"the German state governments": Were by no means all dancing to Prussia's tune. Wuerttemburg, alone, dissolved Frankfurt after it was already irrelevent, and it had been one of the most liberal states.

  • Oh, so I am supposed to believe that if it isn't Prussian, it wasn't tied to Bismarck? This is easily refuted by Wuttemburg's large Prussian contingent during the actual dissolution, and what the previous troper obviously does not mention was the circumstances in which the Frankfurt parliament was dissolved: after a mixture of anti-Frankfurt forces (mainly Saxon, though Prussian and Wurttemberger detachments were present), and openly THREATENED MORTAL HARM on the remaining delegates, who were only rendered "meaningless" by the systematic countaerattack that wiped out their local supporters, like the Purge in Berlin and the Battle for Dresden. It was only those who had more honor than sense that gathered in Stuttgart and were purged by the Wurttembergers in line with Bismarck's ultimatum (his personal correspondence reveals that role perfectly).

    • I was referring to the events at Stuttgart rather than Frankfurt. We actually agree that after Frankfurt the parliament was made irrelevant (I never said how and never denied that it was the result of a reactionary resurgance), so that's a simple phrasing disagreement. Your main claim here appears to be that Bismarck was at the centre of all reactionary activity, guiding Prussian policy and enforcing it one other states. I maintain that Bismarck's role did not go beyond that of a fairly prominent member of the Berlin purge and that the various such purges represented the (mutually assisted, obviously) local re-assertion of authority as it became apparent that the revolutionary movement was without consensus or phsyical power, rather than a conspiratorial attack on democratic forces headquartered at Berlin with Bismarck at the helm. This, I think, is our historical (not troping) contention: how important was Bismarck in 1848, and to what extent was the triumph of reaction in Germany centrally planned?

    • Firstly, as I mentioned before, Prussia may not have managed the entire reaction itself, but it was perhaps the "workhorse" of it: in pretty much every theater of note in this small war, Prussian soldiers and militia could be found fighting, often times enrolled in the militaries of the other states "off the book" (for instance: the Wurttembergers who actually went into Stuttgart had around twenty Prussian "advisors" listed on their payrolls- it is commonly said you could identify them by their "Baltic" accents, which were unlike those of the natives killing each other off in the South). Secondly, as I mentioned, Bismarck may have been a major leader in the reaction, but he was far from THE leader of it, as my past edit seems to have said, and you are right to point that out. Bismarck was- if not the reaction's Generalissimo- it was its "postboy." He may not have been its Hitler or Stalin, but he was its Bormann or Poskrebyshev: he might not be ordering the firing squads, but he's the guy who goes around carrying the orders, talking to those who will organize it, and generally handling coordination between the different parties while occasionally being asked to give his opinion on a plan or to draw up some documents. While he was below Prussia's von Wrangel and Saxony's Friedrich August II (particularly since the later was the soveriegn head of his nation), the fact that he was either personally present or in charge of somebody that was at pretty much all of the major flash points (Prussia, Saxony, Baden), that he met with the major military and civil heads of the reaction in most of those theaters, and that he was authorized to draw up various documents (including one of the two ultimatums that was presented to the Frankfurt Parliament) show that he was far more important than just a quixotic Prussian MP ranting and raving in the corner. He didn't really command any of the reaction's armies or even its civil structures, but his nature as a courier means he was in many ways the most direct link between Wrangel in Prussia, August in Saxony, and their comrades. In addition, it shows that the reaction had a degree of central coordination if not planning. The haphazard and inconsistent organization probably has much to do with the fact that this was hardly a proper war (they were, after all, fighting against an enemy that had not expected a violent backlash and could usually field no more than token forces). The best comparison is perhaps to foreign allies not in an integrated command or law enforcement from different agencies: at the end of the day, the Saxons would handle Saxony and the Wurttembergers would police the Rhine with relatively little assistance from Wrangel in Berlin, but there was always the sense that Prussia was the "Big Brother" of the reaction, albeit not overwhelmingly. In short, it was understood that the local command would take the lead in their operations, but those operations would be coordinated (but not directed) from Berlin, and that Berlin was a steady source of reinforcement if anybody needed it (an "Arsenal of Autocracy", if you will (pardon my need to get a word ending in -cracy regardless of the precise and literal meaning of it)). Had the war gone on longer (say, if Frankfurt had actually used the time it had to prepare for an armed defense), we might have either seen an increased element of central command or a more fractured one, from the nigh-inevitable Austrian and Russian interventions after they were finished crushing Hungary. A higher degree of central planning and coordination certainly happened after the "war" phase was over, when each German state had a few thousand fugitives it wanted sent in chains or to the grave, and said fugitives were more or less the target of a coordinated effort by the German states to apprehend them, hence the reason why few would try to seek asylum for revolution-related charges from Dresden in Wurttemberg or (especially) Prussia: you would just be sent right back. While more permanent and official alliances and organizations would have to wait until 1866 and particularly 1871, this unofficial alliance shows an early alliance amongst the "Class of '48" across regions and kingdoms against perceived Liberalization (another major reason why the elective bodies of the Germanic states and the German Empire were largely stillborn or at least dangerously underpowered).

"on an attack on the Frankfurt parliament:" Frankfurt (or, as it became, Stuttgart) wasn't forcibly dissolved so much as rendered irrelevent. The threat that it would be was used to influence votes a couple of times, such as over peace with Denmark, but by time time it was broken up by Wuerttemburg dragoons it didn't reach its own quorum.

  • Where do I start? So I am supposed to believe that it DOESN'T qualify as "forceful dissolution" if, after the anti-Congressional forces attacked and fought their way through the last holdouts of resistance, (as shown by the massacre of 89 members of the self-proclaimed "German Congressional Guard" the very same day), after systematically killing off those loyal to the parliament in Prussia, Saxony, and Wurttemberg, after issuing a threat of death to the delegates, it doesn't qualify as "forceful dissolution" provided the soldiers do not open fire after the delegates (under threat of DEATH, mind you) cave in? You have a VERY twisted definition of what constitutes that. Oh yes, and you are obviously forgetting the far more brutal suppressions of the Prussian Parliament and PARTICULARLY the Saxon one. When you have your delegates either being slaughtered by attackers (as happened in Berlin and Dresden) or fleeing for their lives to avoid it (to such a degree that there was a nickname made for such emigres, the "forty eighters"), is it a SURPRISE that they could not reach their own quorum?

    • Obviously not. Once again, the essential problem here is that I was referring to the "mopping up" at Stuttgart in an attempt to off-handly discredit your text. I will stand by "rendered irrelevent": I didn't mean by it that this was not done, in various parts of Germany, by forceful means. I was saying that the final dissolution of the parliament was not as it was made to seem in your text, which in my poorly-constructed attack on I'd taken very literally as meaning that "In 1848, Bismarck swung his sword at the head of a column of Pommeranian grenadiers, descended on the decent men of Germany, and cut them to pieces". I was giving (impolitely and inadequately) a more nuanced account which you clearly already knew. We are in agreement on the essentials.

    • "In 1848, Bismarck swung his sword at the head of a column of Pommeranian grenadiers, descended on the decent men of Germany, and cut them to pieces." Believe it or not, he came closer to that than you might imagine: Bismarck was, after all, of military heritage and experience and with a rather romanticized view of it, and some correspondence leading up to the Berlin Putsch showed that he pretty much wanted to lead at the head of his militia, only to be gently shot down by the others, who decided he was in no physical shape to enter combat (again, this was before it was recognized how little combat there actually would be), and that he was of far more use as a courier and public leader. Other than that little obscure bit of trivia, I must again state that "rendered irrelevant" sounds far more like "one day, everybody stopped coming to Parliament" rather than "forced out on pain of death." But other than that, fair enough.

"pretty much crippling hope of democratic development": So how come Prussia did actually cease to be an absolute monarchy, Saxony and the Swabian states would have liberal constitutions by the time of the war, and the NGF and German constitutions were more liberal than either the Prussian '48 or the German Confederation ones? That isn't to say Germany became a democracy, but it did have "democratic development".

  • Obviously, you have what could GENEROUSLY be called a rose-colored view of German constitutional politics before WWI. The fact remains that, after 1848, the power of the military establishment was powerfully ensconced in the political makeup of German politics as being separate or even superior to the elected authority, a fact that was reflected in the 1871 constitution (you wonder why the Reichstag and Bundesrat couldn't bring the military to heel in WWI or the prewar? That was because it was given so poor oversight over the military that the armed forces were insulated from elected authority). And while "democratic development" may have been too general, the fact remained that the German electoral system was intentionally designed to preserve the power of the traditional elite (old man Krupp displayed this particularly well by having- because of the state-wide vote being partitioned into thirds based on wealth- an entire THIRD of his state's entire electoral vote to himself!). As such, while some token liberalization/democratization may have taken place, the fundamentals of power had not shifted form the post-1848 guidelines: namely, any democratic developments are at the mercy of "Kaiser, Burghers (aristocrats/businessmen, to mutilate the meaning somewhat), und Reichwehr (rough translation)" and indeed several of the turmoil that came towards the end of WWI came when the military- with the tact approval of its (by this time) figurehead, Wilhelm II, used its dominance to eject several politicians from voting. Needless to say, this strongly undercuts the idea that the German Empire had reformed much following 1848.

    • I don't think I have a rose-tinted view. Imperial Germany was as I said not by any means a democracy or a nice place. This is a fine summary of why this was the case, but I do object to the idea expressed by the original paragraph that Germany's constitutional development was frozen in time after 1848. Change was made. The level of participation as well as political freedoms in 1913 would have appalled many '48 reactionaries, who would likely have considered a socialist majority in even a feeble legislature the end of civilisation. To stray into counterfactualism, a habit of mine, I am of the opinion that since Germany did devlop after 1848, then were the war to be somehow averted (this is difficult) and with plenty of luck, Germany was capable of developing democracy naturally as had happened in Britain, sonething which the original paragraph rejects categorically. This might be considered a "rose-tinted view" by those who think Bismarck's legacy could never achieve democracy peacefully even given the better part of the next century, or by those who think counterfactuals are silly, but I don't mean my views on what could have been to by my views on what was.

    • I can sympathize with meandering into talking about A Us and A Ts (contemplating them is one of my hobbies), but the bottom line is that the ability of the German states to evolve into a functional, modern, and (more importantly) true Democracy like those in the West and Scandinavia from the guidelines of the 1871 constitution is quite difficult. Yes, Democracies must evolve and adapt as time goes on, as the US, Britain, Scandinavia, and (less successfully) France and the Netherlands had shown. But the key problem is that in order for it to do so, the instruments for change must not only be established, but also accessible. The constitution of 1871 was hardly so, as it split the military from civilian oversight, split the elected body from the heart of power (the Imperial cabinet), and split the voting blocks into pieces (yes, voting was certainly unfair in early British and American democracy, but it was restricted by voting restrictions rather than on the disproportional representation Germany and Austria-Hungary adopted, and even in the olden, rightfully infamous days of the "White, Male, Landowning elite" restrictions in the West, there was never this massive disparity in power like between Old man Krupp and the hundreds of thousands of voters who made up the other 2/3rds of the state's electoral vote.). The practical result of this was that the elected government was severed from the main sources of power, and was marginalized by the constitutional loopholes Bismarck and the other framers knocked in for that express purpose. Indeed, one of the main issues is that even before WWI was even imminent, the German elected bodies couldn't corral the military even when they tried. In reference to the ridiculously independent nature of the military commands in Africa (and their "charming" activities there), it was a common joke amongst pacifist circles after the South African conquest of German Nambia that it didn't really matter because "Windhuk has never followed our orders anyway; it's just that now, they have an actual justification!" When the British, the Dutch, or the French tried it in South Africa, Indonesia, or at home (Dreyfuss Affair), the strong safeguards put in place usually meant that people would get fired if not imprisoned. When Von Trotha disregarded orders in Nambia or found ways to obey the letter but not the spirit, what opposition the Reichstag could muster was largely crushed by the majority there and by the military. Finally, the key problem above all the above with the 1871 constitution is that there really wasn't an established procedure to alter it (I mean, perhaps the only "major" amendment came in 1873, and that was regarding civil codes). As a result, the Constitution forced anybody seeking to reform it to either do it on the margins of the law, or to force them to a head-on collision with the established power (NOT a good recipe for success). And due to the extremely strong and separate interests of the military, the aristocracy (both official and "invisible"), and the Imperial court, there was little chance of that happening uneventfully. The British parliament only really bucked the king's power when they chopped Charles I's head off, and the German constitution's relatively little prospects for in-house reform meant that- unless the military, the aristocracy, the cabinet, and the "Krupp club" with the top 33.33% of the electoral vote suddenly became very placid about loosing their special privileges- it probably wasn't going to alter much either. While we can debate to what extent Bismarck and the class of '48 might have been amicable to a semi-toothless electoral branch or "horrified" about the shape of popular participation before the war, the fact remains that they were the ones who wrote the 1871 constitution, and so they have few to blame but themselves for the situation in 1913 and 1918. Maybe, just MAYBE, it would be POSSIBLE for Bismarck's legacy to become the foundation of Democracy via peaceful reform. It was just that it and the constitution of 1871 (its physical manifestation) made it NEIGH UNLIKELY.

"by putting the power into the hands of the Military": Oh no! The capital M military! Sorry, your about 68 years too early there. The Prussian and then German militaries did have undue influence (although in Bavaria, say, it was much less so), but they hardly held power under Bismarck or even his succesors. Germany was not under military rule until the Silent Dictatorship.

  • Oh really? If anything, I am a little bit LATE on pointing that out. The "capital M Military" had already begun to show its ugly head in the German states before 1848, most infamously in Prussia (the "Army with a nation"). Nevertheless, after 1848, it only grew stronger, as shown by the lack of oversight to counter it in the 1871 constitution and by its "invisible hand" in German politics (which you even admit to). Hell, even Bavaria (historically one of the LEAST militaristic German states, as you correctly pointed out) fell victim to this, after various conspirators convinced Prince Luitpold (EASILY the leading Bavarian military man of his generation) to throw his weight- including that of his military rank- to help depose the "Swan King", Ludwig II. That you choose that nation to try and make your first point speaks less about German independence from the military more about the "unofficial" powers the military controlled. And while you are correct that the nation did not come under the complete dominion of the military until the 3rd OHL during WWI, it certainly "ruled" or "co-ruled" Germany with relatively few serious obstacles beforehand.

    • This is a bit of a nitpick, but the "army with a nation" thing is a bit of a red herring, since Voltaire made that remark in the 18th century when Prussia's military was as small and multinational as all the others and seemed out of proportion because Friedrich Wilhelm I had favoured it over his court, abnormal at the time. Nobody had any idea what a "national army" looked like until 1793, and Prussia got one only under Scharnhorst's reforms. This being said, all I'm saying here is to say that a military dictatorship was established in 1848 (which looking back over you didn't really say) was inaccurate. I distinguish between states reliant on force and states which ahve been totally overtaken by the force, and don't believe Germany fell into the latter category until Ludendorff. However it's as we both agree very true to say that the military, with the Junkers and the industrial cartels, were a law unto themselves in German politics which I didn't seek to deny.

    • Yes, I know that the "army with a nation" issue with largely a misapplication of the term, and that at the time it was actually coined, the army was actually quite loyal to the civilian power (granted, it was the monarchs, but still), but in my opinion, it adequately shows the degree to which the military had immersed itself in German politics, and Prussian ones in particular (particularly after the Berlin putsch). In addition, while it is true that you had Brits in the Prussian army and Italians in the French one, etc, the fact remains that moist of the recruitment was always done at home (save possibly for the Condottieri during the Italian Renaissance, who served as a perfect reason WHY national recruitment was a good idea), and nationalism did exist (nascent as it was) within the military. And again, my point was less that the military totally RAN the German state ala the stereotypical "Republica de los Bananas" or Argentina's "National Reorganization Process", but that the Reaction's victory in 1848 thrust disproportionate power into the hands of the military and its Conservative allies that impeded the growth of a true constitutional government, and while what passed for the "military dictatorship" in 1848 (Wrangel and his friends in Berlin) remained genuinely loyal to the Prussian crown, the fact remained was that its role in surpressing the revolution meant that it kept the "bayonet veto" on any reform it felt would challenge its dominance, in the unlikely event that its civilian allies wouldn't kill such reforms in the cabinet or Reichstag. Less Junta, more VERY large Oligarchy.

"and the increasingly-autocratic": You clearly don't know what an autocracy is. Its when power is held by one man. Alexander III, for instance, was an autocrat (and made no secret of it), but the German Kaisers and/or chancellors even at their strongest faced at least some constitutional checks and had to satisfy the oligarchic classes of Junkers, officers, and industrialists. Ludendorff came closest, but even he had Bethmann-Hollweg trying to make peace behind his back and so on.

  • You do realize that attempting to be overly dependent on one defintiion of the word (granted, the original definition, but still only one) is not going to win you points with anybody but Jose the fanatical Greek linguist who was last seen in Crete, right? While Autocratic phonetically means, literally, "Rule of the one", more or less, it has hardly the only definition of the word now accepted. See here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/autocratic
However, let us say (for the sake of time) that you are right, and Autocratic can ONLY mean "Rule by one." Alright, in that case, I made a mistake, and so I can switch it to "authoritarian" or "dictatoral" and continue on. The fact of the matter is that the meaning of a single word means very little in regards to the overall meaning, particularly with plenty of synonyms and semi-synonyms to use.

  • As I said, this sort of semantic pedantry was what I was relying on, in an ungentlemanly fashion. However, I do have a proper issue with the paragraph as it stands, see below.

  • Fair enough.

So, let's get on to my main point in bringing this part up, shall we? The revolutionary failure in 1848 Northern-central German states after 1848, said something bad about Bismarck, and had the clearly weakened the elective bodies of the German states, a weakness that was inherited by the similar bodies of the German Empire. While they could exact SOME pressure on the military, the Chancellorship, and the "Invisible aristocracy", they were largely unable to do so, even when those voted in felt like doing so. On the opposite side of the scale, with have the growing power of the Bismarckean Chancellorship (let's just say that if you were in Prussia or the misfortune of being found out, you had better hope you were either not worth bothering with or that you were a fast runner), the Imperial cabinet (less severe punishments, but let's just say that your businesses will not be doing well for several months afterwards), and the military (particularly during WWI, where you were locked up if you WERE important, and you mysteriously "disappeared" if you weren't). So, the main point-in-being is that the governing structures of the German states and Empire were increasingly authoritarian, a fact you yourself seem to at least tactly accept (after all, at their strongest, the Emperors have to deal with the Junkers, but the actual "mob?" much less so, save during the autumn of '18). If you are forced to lean your entire defense to this underlying point on a questionable word choice by me, than you have already LOST the larger point.

  • Assuming we replace "autocratic" with dictatorial, is it correct, however? I'd argue that it's moreso, but still not fully accurate. Was Germany at the beginning of 1918 more autocratic than in the aftermath of the revolutionary failure? I'd argue it was not. Press censorship was quite a bit less tight, suffrage and participation was wider and so on, and none of thsi challenged the "invisible aristocracy" but Germany's central government was neither created in 1848 nor "increasingly dictatorial". It was dictatorial (between Bismarck and Ludendorff oligarchic might be better, but that's to return to semantics: most dictatorships are actually oligarchies to some extent), but not to an ever-increasing degree.

    • Again, the bottom line is that the 1848 borders of power had shifted far less than the trench lines of the Somme during 1916 (they DID actually move several miles over major obstacles). Yes, you had more people crowded into the lower 2/3rds of the voting brackets, yes, you had some female suffrage, etc, etc, etc. But again, even if we move the goal posts back and forth over whether the monarchy improved or declined such and such distance, the bottom line is that when the cards were down, not much had changed.

"central government.": But Frankfurt was the central government, or rather, the attempt at it.

  • True, and this was also a somewhat ambiguous choice of words for me, but one I feel is justifiable. Simply put, while Frankfurt was meant to be the NATIONAL central government, it was a Federated one. In contrast, it faced the Central governments of the various states in Germany , under the defacto leadership of Prussia. As such, the failure of the Frankfurt parliament marks a failure in the idea of a national centralization, but a success for the political centralization that had been going on in the various states under the leadership of individuals like Bismarck, who later used the highly-centralized system he had helped forge in Prussia as the blueprint for the new German Empire (after all, was it not a complaint amongst the Southern Germans that Bismarck was turning "Germany into Greater Prussia" unlike the federated blueprint that had failed at Frankfurt?

    • There was some centralisation after 1848, principally the abolition of the Poznan grand duchy, but I'd argue that the individual states prior to 1848 were as much reactionary and centralised royal dictatorships as they were afterwards. Bismarck took the Prussian central power into his own hands; he did not really create it, as most of the important work in that field had been done since Napoleon. He did extend it to be the framework of his united Germany, but I still think the idea that "central government" was the beneficiary of 1848 dubious.

      • True, save for the unfortunate people who wound up on the blacklist, Royal power didn't drastically evolve into a monstrosity ala the Czars following 1848, but it set the stage for it. Bismarck was indeed more the heir of the legacy of Prussian centralization than he was its create, but after 1866, he began to centralize Germany itself around Prussia- which it largely already was, to be fair- by curbing the independence of the other states and redirecting the power to Berlin (after all, by 1914, or even 1890, how sovereign WERE the German states). This opportunity came after he defeated the Austrians and their Southern German allies in 1866, an oppertunity that would not likely have happened had the revolutionary experiment at Frankfurt survived. So, in short, Prussian centralization over Germany was one of the main, long-term beneficiaries of the fall of Frankfurt.

So, yeah, bollocks.

  • Hardly. Also, I notice that you COMPLETELY overlooked the "flag issue"h here, but deleted it nevertheless. For such a German scholar as you claim to be, is this not an oversight? After all, the Nazis were but one of the hyper-nationalist groups who popped up during the interbellum that completely rejected the legitimacy of the Weimar government, which resulted in the so-called "Battle of the flags," between the Republican "Black-Orange/Yellow/Gold-Red" and the Imperial "Black-White-Red." The Weimer government officially adopted the former, but the nationalist opposition used the later. Initially, this also included the NSDAP, or the Nazis, who can indeed be seen using it in some of the (VERY) early photos of the group, and it indeed did enjoy a brief return to official usre shortly after the 1933 elections after which it was banned again. While it is true that it was certainly less than connected to them, it is nothing less than false to say there was no connection. I await your responses.

    • This matter is familiar to me, probably because I know rather too much about historical flags, which led me as a self-conscious buff to assume that other people wouldn't find the whole question terribly interesting, and that was my whole motivation: it's not a political agenda, merely an attempt to make a sleek article). Well, that's not entirely true: I probably subconsciously prickle at associations of the Reichskriegsflagge with Nazi-ism because among my collection of obscure and outmaded flags I own one on the basis of Rule of Cool.

      • That much we can agree on: the main issue is that our dear friends [1] are trying to bypass the EU hate crime laws by clinging on to a symbol they have comparatively little attachment to (as I mentioned in the article proper), band while it deserves to be noted so, it would be disingenuous to say that they had NOTHING to do with it.

Okay, what's the central problem? To be honest, that I was being a presumptive cock, but besides that? That I was needling at factual errors and semantics to discredit a paragraph I disagreed with which I assumed to be written by someone with little knowledge of the subject. I do disagree with it over a variety of matters (Bismarck, autocracy, democratic development) but I should have pointed this out ina civilised fashion and spared everbody the walls of text.

  • Fair enough. I've been there myself.

And so, compromise.

  • OK, and I must say that the article on the whole suitable.

"It can be argued that the real roor problem was not the terrible things which were to arise from the end of this period, but the period itself, its omnipresent militarism and stiffled democracy, without which they could not have happened."

  • Welcome to European politics, next stop, Rasputinland!

Sorry for being a dick.

  • Apology accepted.

-IBC


And now, the latest installment of "Walls of Text", featuring IBC and Turtler. I'm really going to have to object to this "struggling to tell the differance" business. First and foremost, what is its purpose?

  • It was made in the first round of spiteful editing in reaction to the first wave of issues I mentioned above.

The original statement which it contradicts (and this, I feel obliged as a hedge-trimmer to point out, is technically natter) is accurate: Imperial Germany was often very bad. Imperial Germany was not Nazi bad (it was never a totalitarian regime, never created an industrial murdering process, etc).

  • Not Nazi Bad? True, but the fact remains that it was bad, and it did set the state for "Nazi Bad" (it wasn't a co-incidence that many of the major butchers of WWII served it in WWI). And yes, it WAS a totalitarian regime(or at least an authoritarian one), albeit one where the power was dispersed between a few dozen different establishments (itself not unlike the Third Reich's infamous compartmentalization), and it can be safely said that it at least oversaw the start of an industrial murder process (Nambia, Kenya, helping the Turks "solve" the "Armenian Question", etc).

People often act like it was, and I don't mean controversial historians, I mean ignorant people who simply don't distinguish between the two, and yes, I've met some. I think that, this being TV Tropes and not HistoryDebates, that's grounds enough for the exclusion of some natter which doesn't really add anything helpful.

  • fair enough.

But from the historical side of thing I'm going to have to disagree with what you've written on the basis that while Imperial Germany was very bad, particularly in its colonial behavior, so was everyone.

  • True, but HARDLY to the same extent.

German colonies would qualify among the worst, but the Germans in Togo were less damaging than the Italians in Libya,

  • True, but the Italians in Libya were hardly as nasty pre-Mussolini as it is often made out, and many of the more infamous activities they committed later were partially aided by the Germans (when Graziani went into a homicidal rage after nearly getting killed in Ethiopia, Hitler sent a few hundred advisors to "assist" in "anti-partisan" operations).

say (the Germans in Namibia and the Italians in Libya are a pretty good match).

  • Not so, because as ruthless as the Italians were (even when under German supervision, like 39-42),they never really set up plans for open genocide, "merely" being content to hang a few hundred people in reprisals. During this era (1911-1919), the Italians were hardly more ruthless in Libya and Somalia than the British were in the Sudan (perhaps the HIGH point of the Sudan's modern history), and even under the Fascist regime, they never really organized anything like Trotha's plan to exterminate the Herero or Naquama. Pleasant? No. But hardly equal.

Elsewhere on the wiki, a point is made of distinguishing Fascist Italy from Nazi Germany, never mind the earlier Italies that were equally responsible for Libyan attrocities, so to say that Imperial Germany stood out as presaging Nazi-ism in any way besides being German isn't internally consistent.

  • Italy in this era wasn't Fascist (yes, it had its issues, but its Constitutional governmetn remained relatively intact), and in this era, the main things that could be considered "atrocities" in Libya were inland against the various rebels, as part of the reason why the takeover from the Turks went so smoothly was because the coastal populace was at worst ambivalent towards them, and relations would only really sour in the 30's and 40's. As for presaging Nazism, the extremely authoritarian nature of the German Empire, its exceedingly weak constitutional bounds, and (above all), its dangerously powerful military (which, unlike the Italian one even in the Fascist era, largely operated separately from the civilian leadership save for those at the VERY top).

"Let's see here: Herero/Naquama Massacres,"

  • This would qualify as genocide, but again, the Italians in Libya weren't better.

  • Yes, they were in this era, if for no other reason than because they didn't really have much of a reason to go all out at the time.

Why Germany and not Italy? I'm not trying to whitewash the Kaiserreich, I'm trying to point out that it's often inaccurately mixed up with the actual Nazi regime.

  • And, as I mentioned, that was largely smart-mouthing you.

"rediculous overreaction to the "Maji-Maji Revolt" that probably prolonged the revolt beyond the point in time in which it would likely have fizzled out on its own,"

  • Of course, but this was pretty much standard practice. British conduct in the Matabele wars wasn't gentle or conciliatory.

  • No, but they usually had the common sense to simply put everybody in a reserve with Maxims on the walls and wait for the issue to die down. On the other hand, the Germans resorted to what I think could be fairly called a "scorched everything" campaign in the interior, where if there was even a rumor about a revolt, they broke out the heavy artillery (I wish that were an exaggeration, but as their misadventures in Kilwa showed, this wasn't so). Yes, the British did occasionally prolong revolts by shooting themselves in the foot, but not on this scale in this era and certainly without Parliament cross-examining everybody involved, something that (as I will get into later) the Germans did not really have.

Why should Germany's participation in the Europe-wide orgy of global pillage by singled out especially?

  • Let's see: maybe the fact that they intentionally and knowingly started the precedent of breaking international law whenever they thought it would achieve their goals (say what you will about Allied reactions, they weren't nice, but they could honestly point to the fact that the Germans started the ball rolling)? Or how about the fact that excepting that which was conducted by themselves or their allies, there really wasn't a whole lot of "pillage" during the "Europe-wide orgy of global pillage?" Or maybe because the German military and the German government were fully knowledgeable about the activities that were being committed and not only refused to stop them save in the face of international condemnation (and sometimes not even THEN), but often ORDERED them in the first place?

"carrying water for the Turkish Empire vis-a-vis the Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic Greeks (see Armin Wegner, who was arrested by his own command in order to conceal/destroy the evidence),"

  • Oh dear.

If we get into a debate about the Armenian AGreatManyPeopleDied as well, we'll be here all month. Basically, it can be argued, and has been by for instance Bernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy, Heath Lowry, Stanford Shaw, and Guenter Lewy (and there is material of theirs available which explains my own case better than I could), that what took place was not a "genocide" but rather an "ethnic cleansing".

  • I have already heard of those "revisionist" versions, and I am not convinced (if for no other reason than we have records dating back to the 1870's on the issue), and keep in mind that those two are not mutually exclusive.

Certainly in the case of the Pontic Greeks there was no genocide:

  • On this case, I would have to agree, if for no other reason than because the spate of officially-approved shootings, pillaging, confiscations, and imprisonments were far too decentralized and wild to fall under that heading. But the fact remains that the Turkish command KNEW what was happening, and not only did nothing to stop it (thus fulfilling the "knowledge" critea for determining malice), but also ENCOURAGED it. And there was plenty of indication that they might have been next had the war outlasted the Armenians.

there were attacks on some political leaders who were collaborating with the Russians after Pontus was re-taken

  • A: Look at a map of Pontus, and look at the frontlines throughout the war, and tell me what is wrong with that statement. B: Tell me how a few dozen COLONELS in the TURKISH MILITARY were "collaborating with the Russians", and C: Tell me how the local merchants in Constantinople were "collaborating with the Russians" in 1899.

but the Pontic Greeks were still there at the end of both WW1

  • As were the Serbs in Croatia following the fall of the NDH (they did, after all, succeed in only killing a FOURTH of them). To confuse a lack of resources for mercy is hardly solid grounds for an argument.

and the Turksih Independence War, or how could they all have been transplanted to Greece in the population exchange

  • A: Again, by the time they actually WERE transferred, they had already lost several dozen thousand NONCOMBATANTS to atrocities over the decade before. B: They weren't all transplanted, but as you would see if you went to the records in Istanbul, you would know they certainly TRIED.

forming much of the population of modern Macedonia and Thrace, a process who's tremendous effects on Greece are extensively documented?

  • and how much more tremendous would those effects have been were it not for things like the razing of Smyrna or the Istanbul pogrom?

The population destruction of the Armenians can be attritubted to a variety of sources: very widespread participation in the Fedayeen units and resultant casualties and families being left destitute; general casualties from the breakdown of food supplies, epidemics, and so on attending war in a harsh and primitive land; a massive flight from the occupied territories (where Dashnak-organised collaboration with the Russians had been almost ubiquitous) into modern Armenia (which was still at least 25% Azeri at that point to estimate from the 1897 census), where Russia made no provisions for the sustenance of refugees; subsequent migration out of the unfriendly environment of Kemal's fascist dictatorship into the diaspora by survivors and those untouched by the events; and of course the enormous casualties resulting from the transfer of Armenians living in the warzone to the upper Euphrates.

  • Cute, but you're missing the forest fo the sake of the individual trees: WHY did all these "misfortunes" all mysteriously happen? Simply put, if during the evacuation of Japanese-Americans/Armenians/Greeks/whatever a few people die of heatstroke, that's tragically unavoidable. If said people die because you intentionally chose a route that would expose them to such conditions for the maximum duration possible, that's tragically avoidable. And if you take them out on said evacuation as a pretext and then turn around and SHOOT all of them once out of sight, that is simply murder. The fact is that the records seized from Istanbul show the Turkish leadership's edging towards intentional extermination as a solution to the "Armenian Question" (yes, they actually called it that), and they took considerable pains to plan it by expanding off of the old Sultanate system of limited pogroms against them. In addition, such wartime difficulties do not explain similar massacres BEFORE the war daring back to the 1870's. Or the sudden dismissal of Turkish authorities who opposed such a "final solution". And they also do not dismiss the evidence from German achieves about Germany's complicity in that role, even when the evidence became so overwhelming that they actually were forced to issue a token criticism of the plan identifying it as genocide.

Many died from starvation and disiese on their journey because infrastructure was poor.

  • And some of that was inevitable. But again: the fact was that the refugees were often not allowed access to the supplies carried by the Turkish forces "guarding" them, and that there were wanton cases of murder within the convoy itself, as the "escorts" would occasionally take the oppertunity to execute some of their "charges."

Many more were massacred by Kurdish warbands settling tribal scores (Ottoman troops me half-hearted attempts to prevent such attacks, which makes sense: they wanted such warbands at the front).

  • This requires that you don't really know Kurdish history, or of the ties the major tribes had to the Porte (it is worth noting that some of the major chieftains even were called to Constantinople both during and before the war, by both the Sultan and later the Young Turks , where they openly talked about methods to "depopulate" the Armenian frontier). The fact that as early as the 1880's Kurdish raiders were aided in their attacks on Armenian , Assyrian, and Pontic Greek settlements by Turkish regulars ( 1894 Sasun, 1896 Van, Khoi, Urmia, eth list goes on and on and on) shows the true nature of this relationship. In addition, the fact that the Porte often DELIBERATELY entrusted the Armenians and other refugees to Kurdish units is either a case of breathtaking naivety or breathtaking cruelty. And while the advice to not attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity often holds up, in this case, forgive me if I am less than generous.

The Porte knew when it signed the transfer orders that it was going to kill thousands of Armenians

  • No kidding.

but this was considered a necessary war measure

  • Hardly. The extensive nature of these attacks, the resources they drained from the Turkish reserve (even AFTER the Russians had capitulated, the Turks still had to concentrated roughly 30,000 regulars and even more Kurdish irregulars against Armenians still holding out in the North), and the conspicuous string of persecution (if this REALLY was a wartime measure, why did they only take the intellectuals and leaders first before starting in on the majority? And why did they so often use lethal force?) shows that to the extent this was considered "necessary", it was far more ideologically so than it ever was militarily, and this was indeed one of the arguments those trying to put a brake to the issue tried to raise.

(and the Fedayeen had captured Van unaided

  • If you knew about pre-WWI demographics, you would realize that this is akin to saying "The British captured London" or "the Americans captured Maine" in this era: you can't capture what you already own and never have left.

slaughtered many of the people

  • Most of those people were Turkish regulars (as the Turks themselves made clear from their logs), and while it probably is true that the Armenians killed Turkish civilians during this time, it is almost certain that more Turkish civilians were killed by the Turkish army and its Kurdish auxiliaries than were killed by the Armenians (indeed, many of the local Turks actually fought ALONGSIDE the local Armenians).

and handed it over to Yudenich, and were doing vital scouting work for the Russians).

  • And after a rather savage massacre that befell that very city in 1896 and more ominous demands in the leadup to the second siege that was very much from the playbook the Porte used to disarm locals before a massacre, you wonder WHY?

However it was not simply "marching them into the desert" (think about it: the Euphrates has cradled civilisations

  • A: And Greenland was once Green. Times change and the land change. B: The fact that the Turkish regulars kept their internees caged in in some of the more desolate regions of said areas didin't help matters.

, so clearly places like Deir ez-Zor in its valley aren't blasted wastes, and the photographs clearly attest this).

  • A: And neither was Warsaw (even in 1939) or the Ukraine in the 30's. I was unaware that genocide could only happen in godforsaken plots of sand in the middle of nowhere, and was under the mistaken impression that you can turn anyplace into a valley of death by holding a population hostage and and both limit their ability to get nourishment while killing them off. B: Which photos do you mean? Those by Armin Wagner, or those by John Elder?

Nor was it an attempt to destroy the Armenian or Assyrian peoples

  • The few tons of records the British dug out of Constantinople's archives in 1919 would indicate otherwise, in addition to video footage of the Turkish command itself.

Lebanese Armenians, Iraqi Assyrians (and of course the small populations still remaining in Turkey, such as the late, great Hrant Dink) were left untouched

  • Given the fact that at least 4,000 of the former and 12,000 of the later were never heard from again, that would seem to be not so, and more due to their relative obscurity than anything else (let's face it: if you were a Turkish soldier in Lebanon or Baghdad, you were there to fight the Western Allies, because they were the more pressing problem).

as indeed were the Armenians in western Anatolia and in Thrace

  • Given the fact that the coastal cities were pretty thoroughly cleansed of them, I somehow doubt it. And the defense of most of Turkish Thrace was taken over by the Bulgarian army, so that probably goes quite a ways to explaining the lack of violence against them.

(the so called "community leaders" rounded up in Constantinople in 1915 were largely Dashnaks and Hunchkaks, which is to say terrorists, and those who weren't were mostly released promptly).

  • Now, while I would love to engage in long-winded discussions about the ethics of terrorism and the like, let's cut to the heart of the matter: the fact that many of these "round ups" were conducted by irregulars or even armed mobs puts the idea that only those who were actually involved in terroristic or militant activities against the Turkish government very much in doubt, and while I am willing to bet that many of those who were rounded up WERE actually guilty of such charges and the fact that many of those were released, the fact that large portions of the Constantinople police infrastructure suffered a turnover after such events- coincidentally leading to their replacement by officers who were far less willing to let people out- raises the question of whether the releases of those who were found to be innocent was decided by the local police or by the Young Turks, and if the former, what attitude the latter had to it. In addition, it must be noted that many of the more savage cases of Armenian terrorism during this period were in many ways reactions to the "anthill-MOAB" solution the regional government and to a lesser extent the Porte tried to work. Naturally, you would always have your fair share of kooks, radicals, and murderers, but by trying to "carpet bomb" the issue, it largely turned minor issues like the Kum-Kapu protest into major burning points (story of the 20th and 21st centuries, no?). While I do not deny the legitimacy of the Turkish military to suppress Armenian uprisings, the punitive and unrestrained nature of such reprisals more than anything is what turned a comparatively minor issue into one of the most enduring tragedies of the era.

And as to "destroying the evidence", the German government was obviously applying strict war censorship.

  • And yet in spite of this, even they were forced by public pressure to issue a token protest to Constantinople.

Wegner's vivid images of the human tragedy that was afflicting eastern Anatolia (and remember that Turks and Kurds were also starving, dying of disiese, or being cut down by Cossacks and Dashnaks

  • That I don't doubt, having read some of the more rending accounts of what happened to Istanbul before the railroad through Serbia and the land bridge from Bulgaria were opened, I can't deny that human suffering was felt by all sides, and that when you are a civilian in such circumstances, you do WHATEVER you can do survive. The main issue comes up when "whatever you can do" is strictly limited by people on the wire who point rifles at you and threaten to shoot if you try and make for the stream to get a drink of water after a few hundred miles of marching through the desert. In addition, images of human suffering in Anatolia were pennies a dozen in German and Austria-Hungary during the war, and would be up until the war ended. So why, out of all those capturing the human suffering in Anatolia and the Near East, was Wegner almost alone demoted, censored, and put on a train back to Germany while most of his personal effects were confiscated? That is the question.

: look at the general population decline in Anatolia in that period)

  • I Have. However, while much of that was due to wartime necessity and the lack of food, why was it that the majority of the Turkish or civilian evacuees went closer to the Eastern part of the "mainland", into the old heartland of Armenia and into Northern Syria (where, again, the food problems were far less stringient), but the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek evacuations managed to find their way into central Syria (where most of what COULD be eaten had already been eaten or shipped out) or Western Iraq (STILL not a region known for being fertile), and that those camps tended to be in the less fertile and more inhospitable areas of said regions?

would damage morale, so they couldn't be released.

  • Fair enough, god knows the Japanese-Americans and the German-Americans still know about that. However, again, I must note that while those camps tended to be in the central US and not in the most hospitable of climates (the Arizonan summer isn't the most pleasant of experiences to live through), not only was the death toll vastly lower (which can largely be explained to superior infrastructure), but so was the number of executions and murders of the detained by the detainers, most of which were punished severely. Again, while death and suffering were inevitable in such circumstances, why was there such a large gap between those being killed (not the number of people who dropped dead, but the number who were shot by the guards) in places like Manzanar and in Deir ez-Zor? Contrary to popular belief, the internment camps WERE hotbeds of subtefuge and deception, and executions for such punishment were semi-regular, but again, the fact remains that there is nearly a tenfold gap between the numbers of executions over a comparable period of time and with a comparative number of personnel and impounded? Why?

But as to evidence, the Ottoman archives are open,

  • They were also opened in 1919 forcefully, and many parts of them were used for the tribunals at Malta.

just being translated out of the dead Ottoman language.

  • Eh, not so dead. Roughly to Turkish what 1910's English is to English today, excepting som eof the more "courtly" dialects of the Porte that Attaturk stomped on.

The claims of my side concerning things such as the "Special Units" (who were in fact a commando unit employed mostly against the British in the Mashriq and at Gallipoli) are backed up be German material, and all the stuff translated so far is in favour of our interpretation.

  • And that may well be so, but again, even if the "Special Units" mentioned there were conventional commando units, that still doesn't explain the activities of the Turkish regulars and the Kurdish units under their command in the Eastern areas of Anatolia or in Syria.

Enver Pasha, for instance, gives facts and figures supporting our interpretation in the minutes of private conferences of CUP bigwigs for the control of the war effort where lying would be unnecessary and counterproductive.

  • Again, I that may well be true, but how are we to react to other videotapes that were taken from the archives in 1919 and used at Malta regarding such matters?

I can go on, but the Armenian question was enormously complex.

  • True.

In which case, can Germany be faulted for not actively attempting to halt the ruthless

  • And for having several thousand of their personnel supervising the matter (as was learned in the 1918-20 ransacking of the German archives for plans of a WWI-version Nuremburg trial).

but, so it seemed, necessary policies of an ally which was not nearly so under the German thumb as is often made out (look at their race for influence in the Caucasus: the Ottomans were persuing a independent policy while quite efficiently fleecing their ally out of much war materiel)?

  • The fact of the matter is not so much that they directed Turkish policy so much as they were quite good at covering it up in violation of their international agreements.

Britain and France did nothing to stop the extreme brutality of the Russian response to the early stirrings of the Basmachi,

  • Which was largely because they couldn't: unlike the Germans with the Turkish armies, the Western Allies maintained pathetically few forces in Central Asia: asides from some intelligence officers and Dusterforce (a small, primative, and rather undersized sort of proto-Desert Rats), the closest units were in Southern Persia trying to keep the India-Iraq supply "pipeline" open against Wassmuss's raids, or were on the Afghan-Indian frontier standing guard in case of an Afghan attack (preparations that would prove useful in 1919). Unless the British were going to move some of their units out of Southern Persia (thus straining their supplies) or would raise or divert forces for another Indian army (also unlikely) the Western Allies had no way of directly intervening in Central Asia, and all they really could do was protest.

which was not in the league of the Armenian question but did lead to many thousands of deaths as a direct result of ruthless policy. It was criticised immediately after the February Revolution by Kerensky himself among others, but not by the other Entente powers while it was happening,

Not so: true, it was usually done behind closed doors (by individuals of statures no less than Allenby, Haig, and Foch), some did leak out through places like The Times and a few of the more Russophobit French journals.

and some Kazakhs call it a genocide (I don't think it was, but there's an argument that if the Armenian tragedy was, so was the Kazakh one).

The early part of it (where the Czarist units pretty much snapped and started killing anything that moved in the Fergana Valley, including a few of their own troops) probably qualifies, as does the early Soviet attempts, but both sides eventually wizened up to the fact that they were only handing their opponents ammunition and began to co-opt the locals to isolate and destroy the Baschembi.

"the blatant use of weapons and tactics outside of international law (Unrestricted Sub Warfare,"

  • Unrestricted submarine warfare is very nasty stuff, but you could say its the submarine equivelant of a blockade like the one Britain imposed on Germany.

  • Except for the fact that with a surface fleet, you only fire on neutral shipping if it ignores your blockade, unlike Unrestricted U-Boat warfare, where if it floats and doesn't carry an acceptable jack, it gets sunk.

I wouldn't actually take that line, but it has been taken. Doenitz was let off for ordering it at Nuremberg partly by the intervention of an American admiral, so clearly senior people on the Allied side didn't see the actual Nazi use of USW as a warcrime.

  • And that was because of an extremely asinine comparison between Western Allied submarine warfare in the Pacific against Japan and German submarine warfare in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The reason it is asinine: because they only focused on how you actually sent the torpedo into the ship (yes, neither side gave warnings, yes, there was no guarantee that survivors would be picked up, etc) instead of WHO was targeted. To realize the issue, take out a map of Europe during WWI and WWII, with the allegiance and sides highlighted. Now take a look at the Pacific theater and compare. Notice a difference? Here's the key: in the former, you not only had Allied and Central/Axis shipping, but also a few thousand neutrals floating around out there. However, in the Pacific, there is no such thing: If you aren't Japanese or Thai, you're Allied, and if you aren't Allied, your Japanese or Thai. No neutrals involved. In short, when the Western Allied subs were let off the hook in the Pacific, the only thing they would really be shooting (save a few cases of friendly fire and once or twice themselves due to faulty torpedoes) Axis shipping. Everybody involved was a belligerent at was and was to be treated as such. In Europe and the North Atlantic, however, you had around a dozen neutral nations at any given time: nations who were not at war with anybody, nations that were just going along trying to trade, nations that almost certainly were not carrying war materials, etc. By purposefully attacking neutral shipping (rather than simply turning it around or impounding it), the Germans knowingly violated the Hague treaties, Geneva, and a few others that I can't remember right now: legally, it was the murder of civilians on the high seas. The bottom line is that both sides in the Pacific were composed of belligerent military (or semi-military, like Merchant Marine) combatants who knew that they were legitimate targets, while in Europe the Germans wantonly attacked noncombatants on the high seas (indeed, they even sank their own ore transports from Sweden a few times because they were flagged as neutral). That the court did not recognize this difference should not exonerate them.

In which case, one might as well say that both Imperial Germany and Nazi Germany used artillery.

  • It ain't the artillery, it's how you use it: bombard armed enemy positions, and you deserve a medal on your chest, bombard neutrals or noncombatants and you deserve a bullet in your head.

  • atrocities against Belgian, French, and Luxembourger civilians that- while blown out of all proportion- did indeed happen),*

  • This is true (although in Luxembourg the occupation was fairly peacable),

    • If we ignore the crackdowns on various strikes and the extreme deprivation that ensured from "requisitioning." Sadly, this probably WAS the most benign German occupation of WWI.

but not terribly out of the ordinary for the time.

  • Largely because the territory occupied was Allied by German forces and its allies.

The one time German territory wasoccupied under military conditions, the Russian advance in East Prussia, German civilians were massacred

  • Needless to say, this does more to indict the Russians than it excuses the Germans, and even the Russians made a halfway decent attempt to enforce punishment (complicated by the fact that most of those responsible were dead or in German POW camps as a result of the Tannenberg campaign).

(and other occupations you have neglected to mention, for instance Serbia, were also bretty brutal: as a matter of fact an argument can be made that the Austrians in Serbia were worse than the German in Belgium,

  • Unquestionably. However, since the title of the discussion forum is "Imperial Germany", and while Austria-Hungary was practically run by German for the last two years of the war, the fact remains that German involvement in the massacres in Serbia and Montenegro were comparatively minimal (German assets in the Balkans were usually based out of Bulgaria rather than occupied Serbia), and I had to stay on topic.

and that Belgium is better remembered because it was the main subject of a hyperbolic propaganda campaign orchestrated by the Wilson administration the personnel of which, interestinly, where involved in the editing of some important American sources concerning the Armenian tragedy).

  • A: it is worth noting that the Belgian issue was hyperbolic FAR before Wilson entered the picture, B: that the centerfugal issues that pushed the US to war were Unrestricted U-Boat warfare and German intervention in Latin America, which were both uniquely German crimes that the Austro-Hungarians had little part of, and C: that much of that "hyperbole" was later found credible (though NOWHERE near all of it).

Are we going to compare Imperial Russia (or Austria-Hungary) to the Nazis?

  • Absolutely. Hell, compare all sides to the Nazis to see how they measure up. But again, however much I might like to do so, the fact remains that this is the "Imperial Germany" thread, and so I have to stay on topic (at least vaguely), and that and the direct links between the Kaiserreich and the Third Reich (again, you have Hitler, Goering, Hess, Canaris, Von dem Bach, Donitz, Hans Frank, and a few dozen other charmers serving in it, and the distinct similarities in policy) force me to bring it up.

"the use of semi-controlled famine for ethnic cleansing (to their credit, the OHL did not intentionally create the Polish and Baltic famines, but they had no scruples about manipulating it to "Germanize" parts of Western Poland and the Baltic),"

  • Such plans definitely existed, but they were not meaningfully implemented since Germany was beaten and Poland freed. Russia, to go back to the same old chestnut, was planning a rather dark fate for the Muslims of eastern Anatolia and the Straits area.

    • Well, the lovely thing about famine is that you don't really HAVE to implement it (unless you're trying to actively create it), you just have to prevent it from being stopped, as Stalin proved with the Holodomor and Germany proved in the East during both world wars. By shifting pre-existing food supplies around, the German government could carve out a demographic map as they wished, like a sculptor could use a knife or chisel to carve out a picture. As for the Russian plans regarding Anatolia and the Straits, well I wish I were surprised, but I can't say I am, given the old Czarist desire for Constantinople. Given the "right" circumstances, the Armenians might have even been the Kurds to Russia's Turkey in doing so, and even the Greeks (who I must admit I am somewhat biased to) had more than a few leaders who could politely be called murdering swine. Well, welcome to "border adjustments" in the classical sense, I guess.

"attacks against a neutral state ("Die Kuba Memorandum" dates back to 1898),"

  • French contingency plans didn't tiptoe around the idea of doing similar things (a preventative occupation of Luxembourg if the Germans didn't do it first was scheduled),

    • True, but the fact remains that A: They didn't actually do it, and B: The main plans for the invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg was for retaliation against a possible Belgian or Luxembourger acquiescence to the passage of German troops- thus a violation of their own neutrality- during the leadup to war. Had the Germans not done so, the French would probably have been all too happy, given their strong positions on the border with Alsace-Lorraine.

and of course Britain and France did trample the neutrality of the actual Greek government. Since it was subsequently overthrown by the war-party with their connivance, this is ill-remembered.

  • True, but even then, the Western Allies didn't exactly behave like the Germans in Greece (indeed, the "occupation" was pretty much restricted to the Coastal forts in and around Salonika), and it WAS partially due to a deal struck between the Serbs and the Parliamentary faction of the fractured Greek government.

"and the use of slave labor (again, exaggerated but still real)."

  • Of course, but I'd file that one under partaking in colonialism, which implied such things.

    • Point taken, but while even I can hardly dispute the gross injustices perpetuated in even the "model" colonies, the bottom line was that outright slavery had ceased to exist roughly a century ago, and if you still wanted to do it, you had to do it pretty damn quietly. The average Indian or Vietnamese subject might not be on the best of terms with their colonial master, but they hardly were drafted and forced to do unpaid slave labor (at least not through official channels, and said unofficial channels were liable to be closed down) like Germany toyed with in occupied Belgium and France and PARTICULARLY in the East.

The conditions of Britain's porters during the East African campaign were generally better since they could of course actually be paid,

  • Usually. The treatment of the porters by all sides in that campaign was pretty much unjustifiable.

but I said earlier that Germany would qualify as the worst or among the worst colonial powers in Africa.

  • True.

"Perhaps the Herero genocide is the WORST thing the Kaiserreich did, but it was hardly the only bad thing."

  • All the things you list I acknowledge, however I have provided comparisons for each one in the behavior of other contemporay powers to demostrate the hyperbole of Nazi allegations.

    • And I recognize many of them were hyperbolic, because this was a hyperbolic forum during the first few volleys between ourselves, and this was mainly a reaction to that. Exaggerated? Absolutely. But that was the point.

  • Of course, WW1 Germany did some terrible things, and was by 1918 the worst of all the belligerants by far. Does this make it Nazi?

    • Nope, and even if it had done every crime the Nazis did, it STILL wouldn't have been Nazi, since Nazism was a separate and unique political doctrine from the German Imperialism that flourished during WWI. The main issue I pointed out was that "if you ran into them at certain times, you too would have difficulty telling them apart", which was more of a jab at you and what I perceived to be your overly naive view of German Imperialism than anything else, though if we wanted to get philosophical, I suppose we could talk about how under the right circumstances, any force could be mistaken for them provided they are committing roughly equivalent actions.

  • I think if we say yes, the Stalinist Soviet Union should also get a "acted like the Nazis on occasion" sticker.

    • Which I have absolutely no problem with, given its long and bloody history.

  • As you can tell from my name, I don't like the Stalinist SU

    • You ONLY don't like that? Heck, that's better than I, because I DESPISE the Lenenist SU, the Stalinist SU, the Khrushchevist SU, the Brezhnevist SU, the Tsarist Regime, and the modern Russian government.

  • but to say they were as bad as the Nazis would be wrong,

    • Veryveryveryveryvery disputable, given the length of the USSR (and of Stalin's reign in particular), the number of people who were killed on his orders (directly or indirectly), or the fact that he ushered in yet another round of slavery for Eastern Europe.

  • and to say that they were in certain ways, times, and places as bad doesn't add anything and opens a humungous can of worms: if we can make a Nazi comparison whenever someone does something wrong which the Nazis also did, history may rapidly degenerate into a tremendous blame-game.

  • Trust me guv'ner: it already has in a very large degree. But the main point I was making was a rather petty tongue-in-cheek swipe rather than a truly serious evaluation, made mainly to spite you and to sarcastically point out the parallels between the Empire and the Third Reich (many of the ground-pounders in WWI became the planners of WWII, the ridiculous amount of latitude they gave their soldiers and allies- as you mentioned with Serbia- in dealing with civilians, and various "Germanization" policies in the East).

  • The thing I object to, people actually thinking the Kasierreich and the Nazis were to all intents and purposes the same (I have clarified for your benefit), is not at all "justified" by such an observation.

    • True, but the fact remains that it had far more parallels than merely being German, and that such events happened to the older part of the generation that would play a role in the Third Reich was hardly coincidental.

"Oh yes, and I know what you are referencing to about the Belgians (I know what it is like showing how bad "King Leopold the Builder" was), but at the time the Congo Free Stat WAS NOT a colony of Belgium, but the personal fief of Leopold. As such, Leopold ran the Congo (right into hell)- with the aid of many unscrupulous Belgians, true enough. But when news leaked out, Leopold was forced to hand over the CFS to the Belgian government after several rallies by the Belgians themselves demanded his head, and the military and the majority of the government backed them. But even if we suppose that the Belgians were worse, does this change the essential point regarding the German Empire?"

  • The Belgians upon taking over moderated things but most of the exploitation inherent to colonialism stayed

    • Point taken, but the fact remained that most of the exploitation inherent in Leopold's running of the CFS vanished or greatly diminished, and by the time of the war, the BC was well on its way to becoming one of the more humanely run colonies in Africa (granted, its competition wasn't always that sparkling, but still).

  • (I'd have to check sources, but I believe mutilation to enforce quotas may have continued on the quiet).

    • Oh, I'm pretty sure it did, but that largely misses the point: any individual, when given the choice, can commit such an act before anybody realizes it. The main distinguishing factor is what is done about it. In that case, the sheer fact that it had to be continued "on the quiet" shows the change: During Leopold's tenure, if an officer of FP was to do that, he would be given a pat on the back for "due dilligence" and sent back to his unit. During the government by Brussels, said FP officer was likely to be hung. So, while the injustices still existed, the fact remains that the government ceased to condone or encourage them, and had begun to crack down on them, which more than anything shows the difference between the CFS and the BC.

  • That's not terribly relevent, however: what is the "essential point about the German empire?" That it used some Nazi tactics?

    • I was unaware that all unsavory and inhumane tactics were forever to be called "Nazi tactics", particularly since they far predated the Nazis.

  • Stalin violated the laws of war, used slave labour, invade helpless and peaceful states, etcetera etcetera, and even used another Nazi method which Imperial Germany did not: totalitarianism. Is it "justified" to confuse him with his nemesis?

    • In the cheeky way I intended that quote to be? Yes.

  • I think not. I re-iterate that what I meant by my original example was purely that people do (in my personal experience: there is no such thing as notability) simply confuse the two, or treat them as one. As I say, I've adjusted the wording of the example to clarify this.

    • Fair enough, and so have I.

-IBC


Some oddities in this article:

Reference to "The Kaiser" without stating the original Kaiser was a different man from the one who sacked Bismarck. There were three successive Kaisers of Imperial Germany, one of whom reigned less than a year before his death.

  • IBC, author: Of course, this is an error. I've elaborated.

The reference to geographical extent of Germany relative to post-1945 borders is jarring, and vague. Especially saying "Kaliningrad". It might be easier to say that Imperial Germany included the provinces of East Pomerania, Silesia, and Prussia which are now part of Poland or Russia (and yes, the Memel strip is now part of Lithuania).

  • Distinction without difference?

A line like "Some of these areas were inhabited by Germans..." opens a huge can of worms. "German" is not an easy word to define for a start. Three European countries aside from Germany have German as a legal and predominant language. All these territories had a good number of German-speakers. It would be better to say that some of these territories were not entirely German-speaking (of course, there are (were) ethnic groups 50 miles from Berlin that weren't native German-speakers)

  • Well, it should be pointed out that throughout the imperial era pretty much all Austrians would have been called Germans by everyone including themselves. And again, I see distinction without difference.

Also, what parts of the Czech republic were included in Germany? The Czech provinces were in the Austrian empire at the time.

  • The Hultschinerland. Just being thorough.

The comment about the Imperial parliament "not doing much" is misleading and subjective. Or at least, it gives the idea that this state was a total autocracy with a puppet parliament. Not the case.

  • Of course it's subjective, but the German parliament did look rather feeble compared to the British of French ones. Of course it had a more democratic suffrage that Britain's, and the British parliaments untrammeled power has long been an object of criticism in some quarters, whereas the French seemed to have a government every week. I don't think it really implies autocracy. Its a simplification but we're not writing a textbook. Nevertheless, clarified.

Finally, "It all ended very badly". Hum. Arguably, not as badly as it did for Imperial Russia, Austria, or Turkey.

  • Well, certainly Weimar could have been saved, whereas the worst that was to befall Turkey (attemped ethnic cleansing by the Greeks, fascist dictatorship) and Russia (communism) were direct consequences of the war, but still, between 1916 and 1918 was, I would say, a very bad time to be a German.

In short, I don't think it's an article that needs this much snark.

  • I didn't write it with the intention of being excessively snarky. I admit it might have been less so if this wasn't TV Tropes, but still, I meant only to inform.

Das Auto: The Other Wiki says there is is small strip of land called Hultschiner Lšndchen wich was a part of Silesia (Prussia) back then and belongs to the czech republik today. I made an edit about the parliament.