C.2. Military Operations and Plans for German Domination of Europe
Public reaction to war:
The news that war had broken out created a mixture of demonstrative enthusiasm and latent fear. We remember the photos of laughing soldiers leaving their home towns, of women waving at them and throwing flowers, of optimistic inscriptions such as: “see you in Paris soon.” Undoubtedly war came as a relief after year-long tensions and diplomatic-political stalemate. A wave of national pride and optimism suddenly seemed to override all the nasty divisions of political and social life. The German workers, hitherto the biggest group of outcasts, shared this mood and forgot that they had been demonstrating for peace until the end of July 1914 and that the Second Socialist International had agreed to stop a capitalist war by calling for general strikes in all countries at war. Bethmann made sure that the Socialists saw autocratic Russia as the main aggressor, and that was enough to induce the SPD to vote for special war credits.
Although many people in Germany had felt apprehensive about war during the July crisis, once war had come, almost everybody accepted it and nobody looked back. Support for the war was nearly universal, and it was for once more than pathetic phrase when Wilhelm II announced to the Reichstag: “I do not know any parties any more.” The Kaiser spoke of Burgfrieden, a national truce, and the literal meaning of this word mirrored a widespread feeling: peace in the castle, suggesting that Germans had to stand together to defend their castle. Underneath the glamorous patriotic surface, however, strange irrational fears persisted. In many towns people believed that spies had poisoned the drinking water or that French bombers would attack them. In Nürnberg, five hundred miles away from the Russian border, citizens mistook a marching Prussian army corps for a Russian invasion force and panicked.
National optimism, nevertheless, prevailed, and this was typical for most European nations. France declared its own equivalent to Burgfrieden, the union sacrée. French and Russians painted “see you in Berlin in September” on their trains, and British soldiers were eager to fight the barbarian Huns, as they called the Germans. Nationalism in Austria-Hungary was more complex: while most Germans in the Empire welcomed war, many national minorities were less happy to fight for the Habsburg Empire and watched for the first opportunity for desertion. The mobilization of the Austro-Hungarian forces, moreover, displayed dramatic military ineffectiveness and incompetence. True to the tolerance of Austria-Hungary to its national cultures, the mobilization order was published in twenty-seven languages. In most other countries, however, people were generally optimistic and expected their soldiers back home at Christmas after a glorious campaign.
The initial operations:
The Germans saw their optimism confirmed during the first weeks of fighting. The right wing of the German western army advanced rapidly although it encountered strong Belgian resistance, and the encirclement of the French armies seemed only a matter of time. The Russians, however, mobilized much faster than the German generals had expected. At an alarming speed they overran parts of East Prussia in August. Königsberg, the largest city in the province, seemed threatened. This prompted Moltke to take two army corps out of the western front and to send them to the east under the command of the generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff. In late August and early September their army — initially without the two new corps — encircled and defeated the superior Russian armies in the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.
Yet, the missing army corps weakened the German advance in France. In the second week of September the French army, supported by a quickly formed British expeditionary force, mounted a counterattack against the German right wing at the Marne River, some 35 miles northeast of Paris. Suffering from poor communications and exhaustion after long marches and hard fighting, the German armies had to stop their advance. The Schlieffen Plan had failed. Moltke, who had watered it down by narrowing the encirclement movement and by weakening the right wing on the western front, suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned.
Whatever its military merits, the Schlieffen Plan, whether in the original or revised version, had proven a disaster. The German generals had underestimated the speed of Russian mobilization but overestimated the fighting force of the Russian armies. While the Germans had shared gloomy visions of a Russian steam-roller crushing them, the huge Russian armies of the First World War proved ill-prepared for a modern war. Their equipment was scarce and outmoded, their organization and communications were bad. The overestimation of the Russian army in the First World War led to the equally fatal underestimation of the Soviet army in the Second. But one of the worst results of the Schlieffen Plan was that it drew Britain into the war. It may be doubtful whether Britain could have stood aside in any case, but the German invasion of neutral Belgium made British involvement unavoidable and loaded Germany with the odium of international crime. The rapid deployment of British forces to France helped the French avoid the encirclement of their troops.
To be sure, if we analyze the mistakes of the German General Staff we have to consider that general staffs in other countries made fateful mistakes, too. The French knew about the Schlieffen Plan but made no preparations to deploy troops to the Belgian border or into Belgium. The Russian army command made dramatic mistakes in East Prussia. But the gap between the assets and liabilities of the Schlieffen Plan in Moltke’s version was particularly large. Given its failure and the fact of British hostility, to insiders the war seemed lost for Germany. There seemed to be no way to replace imports of raw materials and food, as the British closed off the passages to the North Sea.
The public, however, did not realize the seriousness of the situation, and Moltke’s successor, General Erich Falkenhayn, managed to stabilize the western front. The German army conquered most of the rest of Belgium and entrenched itself in a long line from the British Channel to the Swiss Jura mountains. The French and British built trenches on their side, too, and a deadlock emerged that was nearly impossible to break for four years.
Bad news came from the Austro-Hungarian fronts. The troops of the Habsburg monarchy proved unable even to sustain an attack on little Serbia, which succumbed to a united German-Austrian force only in 1916. Meanwhile, the advancing Russians inflicted disaster on the Habsburg armies in the East. Most of Austrian Poland fell into Russian hands, and massive German support was required to stop the Russian offensive in the end of 1914. The only good news for Germany was that the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) decided to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers, as Germany and Austria-Hungary came to be called. But Turkey was no military giant.
More important was that the Germans managed to alleviate the supply crisis through a concentration of all available know-how and a reorganization of industrial policy in the winter of 1914-15. The best chemists of the country developed synthetic materials essential for the production of ammunitions. The scarcity of imported raw materials was thus prevented from stopping the German war machine within months. The food supply was not as efficiently organized partly because strict rationing would have cut into the prerogatives of the Junkers and provoked political resistance. But it was reasonable to expect that the British blockade would take more than one year to create famine in the Central Powers. And most Germans were still optimistic. They recognized that the war would last throughout the winter, but they believed that it would be won in 1915.
The prospect of a long war:
To the German and Austro-Hungarian leaders the situation looked serious but not hopeless. (Joke question: What is the difference between a Prussian and an Austrian? Answer) One thing was clear: time would work against the Central Powers. The Triple Entente was far superior in manpower and economic resources. Britain and France could draw from their vast colonial empires and dominions. (The Germans lost all but one of their colonies within the first months of fighting. – Not that they would have mattered.) Although German wartime industrial production was generally superior to the British and French separately it could not match the combined production of the Entente powers. The Germans had to do more with less, and they had to do it fast. The effect of the British blockade would increase every year, and the vast superiority of the Entente would slowly tip the balance in Europe. This explains why German military leaders again and again seized the initiative and tried to decide the war by staking everything on one card.
The overall situation, however, did not favor offensive warfare. In the west the hostile armies remained locked in a new form of trench warfare, which soon destroyed the naive enthusiasm of young soldiers. In November 1914 the battle of Langemarck in western Belgium, though of no military importance, became a symbol for the undermining of traditional heroic virtue: thousands of young German university students, who had just recently substituted military training for the classroom, started to storm a hill held by enemy troops. Thousands of nineteen-year-olds ran uphill in deadly courage and enthusiasm. Almost all of them were mowed down by a few machine guns posted at the top of the hill. The losses were terrible. Langemarck later became the symbol of the senseless sacrifice of a whole generation of young men.
Trench warfare became more sophisticated after Langemarck. Usually heavy artillery bombardment, poison gas, and machine gun fire aimed to extinguish all life in the enemy trenches. Warplanes helped to direct the artillery and, increasingly, dropped hand bombs on the enemy lines. After such deadly preparation infantry troops advanced on the enemy trenches and tried to conquer them. But often some enemy soldiers survived the assault; with machine guns and hand grenades they inflicted terrible losses on the advancing unprotected men. Artillery in the back of the trenches supported the defenders. Even if an attack succeeded it was normally possible for the defending army to stop further advances by occupying or building other trenches and artillery positions a few miles behind the initial front lines.
Such offensive fighting repeatedly cost armies on both sides many thousand men in exchange for a thin death strip ploughed by the heavy artillery shells and full of bones and blood. The trench war experience traumatized the men. Single lives, in any case, did not count. The image of a hellish blood mill was often accurate, but the trench experience nevertheless involved more diversity than many accounts suggest. At all times there were active and passive sectors of the front. Not all soldiers participated in the great and bloody battles all the time. Some front sectors saw little fighting throughout the war. Troops on both sides concluded tacit truces according to the Live-and-Let-Live idea. Often the hostile trenches were so close that opposing soldiers could have killed each other with a few grenades. But if one side started to do so they were sure to suffer the same fate. Soldiers on both sides understood that if they made life horrible to those in the other lines the latter would do the same to them. Such informal — though strictly illegal — truces developed frequently and made trench life less morbid for a while. But this should not detract from the traumatic impact of the trench war. Units frequently changed positions, so that soldiers were likely to experience passive as well as active sectors, hellish battles as well as boredom.
German war tactics:
In the vast plains of Eastern Europe mobile warfare was still possible. In 1915 Falkenhayn thus hoped to decide the war by launching an offensive against the Russians, the one enemy against whom victory seemed within reach. Falkenhayn hoped the Russian army would collapse, so that Russia might conclude a separate peace with Germany and relieve it from the two-front war. The German offensive wrought disaster on the still numerically superior but poorly organized and equipped Russian armies, but by the end of 1915 Russia did not make any sign of peace. To advance into the Russian plains would have created severe supply problems for the German troops. So the Russians were able to reorganize their military force in the winter 1915-16.
In the meantime, the French and British, taking advantage of the German concentration of forces in the east, tried to break through the German lines in the west. After enormous losses on both sides, the offensives had to be stopped. In May 1915 Italy joined the war on the side of the Entente and attacked Austria, but in the following three and a half years the Italians made no progress, as they were fighting up the hills of Alpine valleys. In the fall of 1917 a united German and Austrian army defeated them so thoroughly that the Central Powers could have conquered Northern Italy had they wanted.
On the oceans nothing decisive happened. The German navy, however, discovered that its long-range submarines, neglected by Tirpitz before the war, were an unexpectedly effective force against merchant ships. In February 1915 the German admiralty declared that its submarines would torpedo every ship approaching the British coasts. American protests, however, made the Germans restrict U-boat warfare. The Americans insisted that submarines should comply with the international rules for merchant warfare, which was nearly suicidal for them. The Germans asked the Americans to apply equal pressure on Britain since the British blockade did not conform to international law either.
This was not a question of right but of power and mutual interest. American trade links to the Entente were much closer than those to Germany had been (and German-American trade was cut by the British blockade since the beginning of hostilities). As France and Britian borrowed huge sums of money from the United States and important military equipment it seemed impossible for the United States to let them be defeated. Public opinion in the United States, moreover, was either pro-English or neutral; only a few pro-German voices were heard, and they stopped in 1917. The Germans — for the time being — backed down in the submarine question because they did not want to add another great power to their enemies.
In land warfare, Falkenhayn shifted the focus on the west again. In early 1916 the Germans started to attack the French fortress Verdun. This attack mirrored a particularly cynical attitude of Falkenhayn: he believed that he could wear down the French army by constantly attacking the fortress, which the French — for reasons of national prestige — would under no circumstances surrender. Thus they would suffer such terrible losses that they would become inclined to conclude peace.
But this strategy backfired. German losses were not much lower than the French; both sides lost about 400,000 men. In August, after Verdun had proven a gigantic failure and after Romania had declared war on the Central Powers, Falkenhayn was replaced by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the heroes of Tannenberg, at the head of the German army. While the German forces were doing their utmost to stop Allied attacks in the west the Russians started new offensives that lasted from March to December 1916. Whereas they did not push the German armies back, they again came close to destroying the Austro-Hungarian forces. The Germans had to deploy more troops to their ally, particularly when Romania attacked the Hungarian southern flank.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff stopped the attack on Verdun and stabilized the situation in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe. To win military support from Poles, they induced Bethmann to restore an independent Poland under a German monarch on the territory of formerly Russian Poland, but few Polish soldiers joined the armies of the Central Powers. Polish independence subsequently was an embarrassment to the German leaders, since nobody really knew what to do with Russian Poland. The Austrians wanted to include it in the Habsburg monarchy, but the Germans did not believe in the viability of Austria-Hungary (-Poland) any more and thus preferred to control Poland themselves.
Meanwhile, the situation for the people in the Central Powers got worse. Increasingly, they felt the effects of the British blockade. A major sea battle had occurred in 1916 (the battle ofJutland, 31 May and 1 June 1916) in which the German battle fleet had done more damage to the British than it had suffered itself, but it remained impossible for the Germans to break the ring of the blockade far off their coasts. In the winter of 1916-1917 famines broke out. The only food that was not too scarce was turnips. This winter thus came to be called the turnip winter. Social tensions grew. Many people were hungry, and they felt increasingly angry at those who still could eat and live well.
More and more Germans came to believe that only unrestricted submarine warfare could bring the war to an acceptable end by inflicting dramatic shortages on Britain. The Pan-German League and many other right-wing organizations had supported this aim for two years already. The problem was (as in 1915) that unrestricted submarine warfare might draw the United States into war against Germany. Bethmann did not want to take this risk, but the hawks in the German military and government argued that the United States already supported the Entente substantially. The admirals, moreover, declared that it would take at least one year until substantial American troops would appear on the French battlefields (this was right). The U-boats, they boasted, would bring Britain down in only six months and then make the landing of Americans in France too dangerous (here they were dead wrong).
Tirpitz, who had been dismissed by the Kaiser in March 1916 after pushing for unrestricted submarine warfare, did all he could to impress this view on Hindenburg and Ludendorff. And he succeeded. The two generals pressed the Kaiser into signing an order for unrestricted submarine warfare to begin on 1 February 1917. They also asked him to substitute Tirpitz for Bethmann as chancellor, but this the Kaiser refused to do. Bethmann, who was against unrestricted submarine warfare, had to give in; his call for a negotiated peace in December 1916 — started as a last means to avoid unrestricted submarine warfare — received a negative, even insulting, response from the Entente powers. Bethmann survived politically only until June 1917.
When German submarines began to attack without warning all ships around the British Isles, the United States broke off diplomatic contacts to Germany and declared war in April 1917. An extremely stupid attempt of the German foreign minister to induce Mexico to attack the United States in case of an American-German war backfired. The British intercepted the message (Zimmermann Telegram) and leaked it to the American press, thus strengthening the anti-German mood in the United States and President Wilson’s resolve to enter the war.
In the spring of 1917 the French and British launched new offensives to defeat Germany before the Americans could have a decisive (moderating) influence on peace terms. For the first time they coordinated their offensives with the Russians and Italians, so that the Central Powers got under simultaneous pressure from all sides. Everywhere the Central Powers resisted, however, and in the fall of 1917 they even started some counteroffensives which led to the capitulation of Romania and helped prepare the ground for the Bolshevist revolution in Russia. The situation nevertheless looked quite desperate for Germany and its allies. Shortages reached dangerous dimensions even during the summer months of 1917, and Austria-Hungary was obviously crumbling.
But so was Russia. In March 1917 a bourgeois revolution overthrew the Tsar; the new government declared it would democratize Russia and — to the dismay of the Germans — stay in the war. In April 1917 the German supreme command thus made a step whose momentous historical consequences it did not understand. Hoping to destabilize Russia further and thus to make it more willing to accept a separate peace, Hindenburg and Ludendorff offered to send Lenin to Russia. Lenin was the most radical and able leader of the revolutionary socialist faction, theBolsheviks. As one of many Russian exiles, he was spending his time writing books in the reading room of the main library in Zürich (the tables which Lenin used stood there until the recent renovation; I still studied on them for my finals in the 1980s). He had become doubtful about the coming of the much hoped-for socialist revolution in Russia and elsewhere. That Tsarism fell took him by surprise. He found out at a public newspaper display in Zürich.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff let Lenin pass Germany in an armored train car and sent him to neutral Sweden, from which he crossed the border to Russian Finland. In April 1917 he arrived in Petrograd and immediately started working for revolution. In the midst of increasing chaos the Bolsheviks overthrew the democratic government and took power on 7 November 1917. Lenin was more disposed toward peace with Germany than any other politician in Russia because he expected that a socialist revolution would break out in Germany and elsewhere too. All concessions he made to the German military would thus be temporary. In December a truce was concluded. The German government invited the Entente to join general peace negotiations together with Russia, but the Entente refused. Therefore separate German-Russian negotiations began. After some additional fighting a peace treaty was signed in March 1918 that brought huge areas of Tsarist Russia under indirect German control (through satellite states). For the terms of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, see Eurodocs, World War I Archive: Brest-Litovsk.)
Meanwhile, the German submarines obviously had failed to reach their goal. Although they torpedoed almost exactly as many ships as the admirals had predicted for the first six months of unrestricted submarine warfare, Britain was not defeated at all. Americans and British together built many new ships and learned to protect their merchant navies by forming big convoys, so that unrestricted submarine warfare became inefficient by the end of 1917. While Russia was finally defeated, the supply situation in the Central Powers deteriorated further. The winter 1917-18 once again brought famine to many families. Workers grew restive; strikes broke out in such sensitive sectors as the munitions production. The success of the Bolsheviks boosted radical socialist propaganda in Germany and Austria. Many workers felt that the war should come to an end and that only the German capitalists wanted to continue it in order to secure the conquest of lucrative regions for themselves. Tensions heightened also between the German single states. Many Bavarians, for instance, held Prussia responsible for prolonging the war out of dynastic interests.
At the same time official propaganda did its utmost to assure the Germans that final victory was close and that the supply situation would get better once Germany would be able to import grain from Ukraine, which declared independence from Russia in January 1918, and Hindenburg and Ludendorff prepared for an all-or-nothing offensive in France, hoping to defeat France and avert a large-scale landing of American troops.
In March 1918 the Germans started their offensive with reinforcements from the east. Until July they advanced slowly but incurred horrendous losses. As in 1914 they came close to Paris but lacked the strength to break through. By July 1918 one million fresh American soldiers fought with the Entente. Their number was increasing by several hundred thousands every month. The balance was tipping, even though the German troops in the east kept advancing into chaotic, disintegrating Russia and were occupying a vast area from Estonia to the Black Sea. In July and August 1918 the Allies counterattacked. The Germans had to withdraw behind the lines they had held in March. Again hundreds of thousands had sacrificed their lives or their health in vain. Ludendorff suffered a nervous breakdown but came back to office after a short break.
While the Germans still held the western front, their allies broke down. Bulgaria and Turkey concluded truces, and Austria-Hungary started to negotiate with the Entente. In panic, Ludendorff pressed the Kaiser to appoint a new government that would have the confidence of the Reichstag majority and ask for a truce. The Kaiser followed suit in early October, and the new German government, which for the first time included Reichstag members, asked President Wilson to mediate a truce. Although this was not clear to most Germans, defeat had arrived. Austria-Hungary totally crumbled and Germany soon plunged into chaos.
War aims played a role in making a compromise peace impossible. We therefore need to examine the German plans for a post-war order. Unlike Fritz Fischer claims, Germany seems not to have entered the war in order to conquer specific territories. The Kaiser and his government were primarily concerned about preserving German and Austro-Hungarian great power status and, in the long run, about remaining competitive with the first-rate powers of the near future, Britain, Russia, and the United States. In the first months of the war, with German troops advancing toward Paris and defeating the first Russian armies, however, victory seemed within reach, and immediately politicians and economic interest groups started thinking about the terms of peace.
In early September 1914, while the German armies still seemed victorious, Bethmann drafted a list of war aims. He invited interest organizations and the military to voice their demands, and what came out of this was a long “shopping list” of expansive goals. Industrialists, in particular, wanted to annex parts of Belgium and Northern France for economic reasons. The French part of Lorraine and Belgium had coal and large iron ore mines. These regions formed an ideal economic unity with the huge coal fields and steel-producing areas in West Germany. Before the war German industry had imported much iron ore from Belgium and France to produce steel by using German coal. Many of the areas from which the industrialists in the Ruhr had imported their raw material now were occupied by German troops, and heavy industry wanted to keep them.
German Conservatives were more interested in Eastern expansion. They hoped to drive Russia back from the German border and to create a belt of buffer states in Eastern Europe. The army leaders, still in shock about the fast Russian advances into German territory in August 1914, supported these aims. The Conservatives also hoped to resettle Polish farmers further east in order to stop the growth of the Polish population in those parts of Poland that belonged to the German Empire. To the Conservatives an overwhelming victory with large annexations further promised to fan nationalism to such a degree that the existing social and political order could be stabilized.
Business circles, moreover, wanted to establish a huge customs union reaching from defeated France through Belgium and the Netherlands to Austria, Hungary, and the future Eastern European buffer states. Eager colonialist circles in the German administration also hoped to establish a large Central African empire under German control. In all these plans, France should be reduced to the status of a middle power, while Russia should be pushed far back into the east. This so-called September Program remained more or less unchanged throughout most of the war.
Its extreme expansionism has led historians to believe that Germans went to war in order to realize it, but there is little evidence for this. It rather seems as if the German power elites came to the conclusion that the outbreak of the war had shown how vulnerable their state was and that it needed extensive territorial guaranties to avoid being isolated and face strong enemies on two sides ever again. In the Darwinist thinking of the period, moreover, many Germans were afraid to lose out against the huge potential of the British overseas empire and Russia’s vast land empire, not to speak about the still partly dormant potential of the United States.
Although the aggressiveness of this program is beyond dispute, several arguments must be considered. Since the military leaders kept information about the real situation to a minimum, those who advocated it had no realistic image of Germany’s potential for winning the war. This is not an excuse for the character of the annexationist program, but it explains its lacking realism. Moreover, many Germans opposed such far-reaching war aims and preferred to end the war even if the result would not bring large expansion. The Social Democrats, the Left Liberals, and later in the war the Catholic Center Party challenged the aggressive war aims of the industrialists and the Right. The government, finally, never committed itself to anything. It had ordered the September Program as an informal hearing in order to learn about the opinion of the economic and military elites.
Bethmann for a while even repressed the public discussion of war aims through stricter censorship because it undermined the Burgfrieden and threatened to limit his latitude, should a real opportunity for negotiated peace arise. This caused widespread irritation in right-wing circles. Pan-Germans and conservatives were not used to seeing censorship applied to them rather than to the Left. From late 1914 on, the Right saw Bethmann as a weak leader who could not be trusted as an effective representative of conservative interest. Rightists repeatedly tried to induce Wilhelm II to dismiss him and appoint a more aggressive nationalist in his place (such as Tirpitz, Falkenhayn, or Ludendorff).
Finally, war aims existed on both sides and made a compromise peace nearly impossible for all sides. By the Germans and their enemies alike, the situation before August 1914 was regarded as highly unsatisfactory and as a cause of the war. Both sides needed victory to remove or even reduce the threats that had supposedly made life uncomfortable before the war. The Germans did not want to go back to diplomatic encirclement and to the threat of a two-front attack. The French did not want to back out of the war without having at least won Alsace-Lorraine and weakened Germany. The British remained concerned about the German fleet and would in any case have demanded complete restoration of Belgium. Russia had been promised huge areas in the Balkans and the right to occupy the Dardanelles. Italy wanted territory from Austria, some of which was not inhabited by Italians. Britain and France promised independence to almost all minorities of the Habsburg monarchy. After the Russian Revolution had broken out they promised a future Polish national state including German territory settled by Poles and some areas settled by Germans. The British and French also made arrangements for Jewish and Arab autonomy in Palestine, a Turkish province. None of these goals could be reached before the enemy was defeated.
War aims had a peculiar dynamic. Italy, for instance, negotiated with both sides before entering the war in 1915 and — naturally — decided to ally with those countries that could promise the maximum. In order to keep Russia fighting and in order to help stabilize the democratic system arising in the spring of 1917 against leftist revolutionaries, the western powers promised first the Tsar and later the democratic governments more and more territory at the expense of the Central Powers. The Entente’s assurances to the Austro-Hungarian nationalities were a special case of war aims: they belonged to the same kind of revolutionizing strategy as the dispatch of Lenin to Russia by the German High Command or German support for Irish independence fighters. The longer the war lasted, the more national governments emphasized that the enemy would have to cover their own astronomic war expenses through reparations and territorial losses. “Le Boche payera tout,” (“the Boche [derogatory term for German] will pay for everything”) said the French, while the Germans wanted industrial and economic advantage to the same effect. These plans were short-sighted, however, because the enemy would be bankrupt in any case.
Needless to say, the military situation did not make the German plans for the domination of Continental Europe a realistic option. The victories in the east, however, enabled the German army in 1918 to build up a vast network of buffer states that claimed independence from the crumbling Russian Empire (such as Ukraine and the Baltic states). The Germans tried to secure badly needed supplies in those areas, and Ludendorff dreamt of a vast Germanic colonial empire in Eastern Europe that smacks of later plans by the Nazis. But nothing of the sort was realized, and it is doubtful whether Ludendorff would have found enough support for his extreme plans. It was also clear that Germany in the long run would have become the dominant power on the Balkans; the Austro-Hungarian army since 1914 fought with massive German help; if the war had ended with a draw in the west the Habsburg monarchy as well as most Balkan states might soon have become militarily and economically dependent of Germany.
Go on to C.3.