By H. W. Koch
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Additional info for The Origins of the First World War: Great Power Rivalry and German War Aims
For the Anglo-Saxon reader, there is perhaps nothing very surprising in all this: and some of it is already known - the paper on war aims which Rathenau sent to Bethmann-Hollweg on 7 September, for example, which expresses the necessity for controlling France in order to defeat England, and reiterates the importance of German supremacy in central Europe. But Fischer's exposition does suggest a consistency and continuity in German planning; in combination with his insistence that in July 1914 it was the Germans who were egging on the Austrians to war, it makes the comfortable thesis difficult to maintain, that - to use the phrase coined by Lloyd George - 'the nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war'.
It might have been thought that, after the Second World War, the issue would have died, since even the Germans agreed that it was Hitler and the Nazi leaders who were responsible for the war and that the Nuremberg trials, whatever may be thought of them from a legal or political point of view, had at least served to clear up the question of war guilt for the Second World War once and for all. For the Germans this was extremely important: if the blame was put squarely on to Hitler, then the rest of his countrymen were absolved.
Grey played a highly dangerous game, from which only Germany's invasion of Belgium saved him. 'Poor little Belgium' became the rallying cry, if one was needed, although the treaty guaranteeing Belgium's neutrality contained no provision calling for armed intervention in the event of violation, only a consultative clause. Three decades before, when the question of Belgian neutrality and of Britain's intervention was raised in the House of Commons, Salisbury had firmly declined such an obligation.
The Origins of the First World War: Great Power Rivalry and German War Aims by H. W. Koch