Polemics & Exchanges

On the Western Front

Paul Gottfried’s claim in “Where Have All the Nazis Gone?” (The Western Front, October) that “both sides had behaved recklessly in 1914” is incorrect.  A close scrutiny of the July Crisis indicates recklessness mixed with mendacity in Vienna and Berlin, and merely reactive and predictable responses from Paris, St. Petersburg, and London.  Dr. Gottfried then goes further, turning the claim of “equal recklessness” into the assertion that the blame for the war itself was, or should be treated as, equal.  He further asserts that to claim otherwise is indicative either of foreign Teutonophobia or of German self-hatred, and that only a postnational leftist could uphold the “largely refuted” thesis of German culpability advanced by Fritz Fischer, whom he proceeds to malign intemperately.

Historians of widely different backgrounds, including those with impeccable conservative credentials, accept that the Wilhelmine establishment welcomed the prospect of war and encouraged Austria-Hungary to issue an impossible ultimatum to Serbia.  Both Central Powers acted knowing that their actions could lead to an all-out war unless Russia and/or France climbed down at the last minute and meekly abdicated their status and role as great powers.

Berlin needed a seemingly righteous cause,...

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