Wednesday 6 August 2014

First World  War  caused by  five  bungling  fools                   

August 1, 2014 was the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War One. It is unfortunate that mistakes (some outright bumbling) were made just before the war began by various royal personages in those nations that prompted the war in the first place. 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

This man was the  Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1896 until his death on June 28, 1914, he was the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The German historian, Michael Freund described Franz Ferdinand as “a man of uninspired energy, dark in appearance and emotion, who radiated an aura of strangeness and cast a shadow of violence and recklessness, a true personality amidst the amiable inanity that characterized Austrian society at this time.” unquote   

The Italian historian Leo Valiani provided the following description. “Francis Ferdinand was a prince of absolutist inclinations, but he had certain intellectual gifts and undoubted moral earnestness (sincerity).” unquote

It was because of his humanistic concern for the wellbeing of others on the day of his death; his murder was the fuel that eventually brought the war into existence. 

On Sunday, 28 June 1914, the Duke was visiting Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the open car he and his wife were in was being driven in what was then a small city, the couple had been attacked by Nedeljko Čabrinović, (a member of the terrorist organization called the Black Hand) who had thrown a grenade at their car. However, the bomb detonated behind them, injuring the occupants in the following car. On arriving at the Town Hall, Franz angrily shouted, “Mr. Mayor, I came here on a visit and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous. So this is how you welcome your guests.” Then the speeches began.

After Čabrinović's bomb missed the Archduke's car, four other conspirators, including Princip, lost an opportunity to attack because of the heavy crowds and the high speed of the Archduke's car. To avoid capture, Čabrinović swallowed a  cyanide  capsule and jumped into the River Miljacka to make sure he died. The cyanide pill was expired and made him sick, but failed to kill him and the River Miljacka was only 10 centimetres (4 in) deep. A few seconds later he was hauled out and detained by police.

After a short rest at the Town Hall, officials and members of the Archduke's party discussed what to do next. Baron Rumerskirch who was traveling with the royal couple proposed that the couple remain at the Town Hall until troops could be brought into the city to line the streets for his safety. The Archduke decided not to follow the Baron’s advice and instructed his driver drive to the hospital so that he could visit those who were victims of the bomb fragments.

On the way to the hospital, the driver took a right turn into Franz Josef Street. Nineteen-year-old Gavrilo Princip (a member of the Black Hand) was standing near Moritz Schiller's cafe, (now a small museum) when he spotted Franz Ferdinand's car as it drove past, having taken the wrong turn. After realizing the mistake, the driver put his foot on the brake, and began to reverse the car. In doing so the engine of the car stalled and the gears locked, giving Princip his opportunity to kill the royal couple. Princip stepped forward, drew his pistol (a .380 caliber FN Model 1910), and at a distance of about 1.5 m (five feet), he fired twice into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie (who instinctively covered Franz's body with her own after the first shot) was shot in the abdomen. They both died before 11:00 am. Before the archduke died, he cried out to his dying wife, “My darling. Stay alive for the children.” They both died before 11:00 am.

Now the fatal mistake that Ferdinand made was not adhering to Baron Rumerskirch’s suggestion of waiting until the streets of his route were lined with troops. By inadvertently returning to the bomb scene, he placed himself and his wife in harm’s way.

Now you may ask, “Why would his death be the cause of the First World War?” Now I will describe to you the bumbling of the four fools, all of them being royals.

Emperor Francis Joseph (Austria)

The Austro-Hungarian (A.H.) Chief of staff of the military, General Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf wanted a war. He said that it would provide an opprtunity to keep Serbia in check so that  A.H could assert its dominance in the Baltic Region. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy led by the emperor of the dual monarchy previously blamed Serbia for the assassination of Ferdinand so it made 31 demands in which Serbia agreed to but one was outrageous—the Serbian government was to dismiss any officials to whom the Austrian government might object serving in the Serbian government. Needless to say, Serbia had no intentions of adhering to that demand.  

The Austrian government might not have made such demands as they did if they had not been assured of German support especially since Serbia had an alliance with Russia. In any case, Austro-Hungarian government declared war on Serbia when Serbia refused to honour the demands. The emperor could have stopped this but chose to acquiesce to the decisions of his minions in his government. 
Austro-Hungarian ministers and generals by then had already convinced the 84-year-old Franz Joseph I of Austria to sign a declaration of war against Serbia. As a direct consequence, Russia began a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia.

Emperor Nicholas II (Russia)

Russia began to mobilize its forces on its southern borders using a German military plan previously created.  Subsequently, Russia’s war with Germany had been set into motion. It was Russia’s mobilizing that with the intention of invading Serbia that led to the war with Germany. Nicholas could have stopped the mobilization but he didn’t because he actually encouraged it.  

One could argue that Russia’s mobilization was not necessarily for war purposes; instead it was merely for defensive purposes.  However their plan made it impossible for Germany to wait for Russia to invade Germany because of its fear of a "two front war" with Russia and Austria.

King George V (Great Britain)  

This man sent a stupid message to the German Kaiser in which he said that Great Britain may be able to remain neutral if Germany declares war on another country. That message was an incentive for the German Kaiser to attack France. 

Kaiser (emperor) Frederick Wilhelm II (Germany)

When it became clear that Germany would experience a war on only one front (France) if the United Kingdom didn't enter the war if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium.  Then the panic-stricken Wilhelm attempted to redirect his initial attack against Russia. For this reason, he declared war on Russia first. That was a dumb move on his part. In 1941, Hitler made the same dumb move. By the time World War Two was coming to an end, the Russian soldiers were  a mere few blocks from his bunker in Berlin. 

The Kaiser later said, “I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves—knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria—to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us.” Those countries had no intention of trying to annihilate Germany. 

Two days later, Germany then invaded Belgium and also declared war against France. The Kaiser intended to go to war with France because he knew that if he attacked Russia (which he did) France would come to the aid of Russia.

On August 4, 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany and Canada followed suit that same day.  

Now the First World War was in full swing thanks to the four royals and the assassin who murdered Archduke Ferdinand.

The Kaiser sent a ridiculous message to the Emperor of Russia on July 31, 2004 just before Germany attacked Russia. "The responsibility for the disaster which is now threatening the whole civilized world will not be laid at my door." In 1922, Wilhelm published the first volume of his memoirs—a very slim volume in which he wrote that he was not guilty of initiating the Great War, and he defended his conduct throughout his reign, especially in matters of foreign policy. His statements of course were pure hogwash.

The war was called the First World War even though most of its battles occurred on Belgium and French soil with some skirmishes in four small countries in West Africa. 

Strong feelings of nationalism throughout Europe prior to The Great War created an atmosphere in Europe which made war a likelihood. 

In January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare. At first, American president Wilson tried to maintain neutrality while fighting off the submarines by arming American merchant ships with guns powerful enough to sink German submarines on the surface (but useless when the U-boats were under water). After submarines sank seven U.S. merchant ships Wilson went to Congress calling for a declaration of war on Germany, which Congress voted its approval on April 6, 1917.        

All told, as many as 11,016,000 people were killed during the First World War. Of those killed, the largest number of fatalities was from Germany. As many as 1,800,000 Germans were killed. The second number of fatalities was from Russia. As many as 1,700,000 were killed. The third number of fatalities were those of France. As many as 1,385,000 were killed. The fourth number of fatalities were from Austria. As many as 1,200,000 were killed. The fifth number of fatalities were from Great Britain. As many as 947,000 were killed. The sixth number of fatalities were from Japan. As many as 800,000 were killed. Why was Japan in that war? When the war began, the Japanese military took the opportunity to seized German possessions in the Pacific and East Asia. The United States lost 137,000 and Canada lost 69,000.

As many as 17 countries were involved in that war compared with the 27 countries involved in the Second World War. That second war was really disastrous.  As many as 59,078,000 people were killed in that war.

Now I will tell you of the fate of the bungling fools that brought about the war. I have omitted naming Archduke Ferdinand as he was killed before the war began.

Franz Joseph died in the Schönbrunn Palace on the evening of 21 November 1916, aged 86, while the war was still going on. His death was a result of him developing pneumonia of the right lung several days after catching a cold while he was walking in Schonbrunn Park with the King of Bavaria. He was succeeded by his grand-nephew Karl. But two years later, after Austria’s defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved.

Nicholas II abdicated following the February Revolution of 1917 during which he and his family were imprisoned first in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, then later in the Governor's Mansion in Tobolsk, and finally at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, Siberia. In the spring of 1918, Nicholas was handed over to the local Ural soviet by commissar Vasili Yakovlev who was then presented with a written receipt as Nicholas was formally handed over like a parcel. Nicholas II; his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna; his son, Alexei Nikolaevich; his four daughters, Olga Nikolaevna, Tatiana Nikolaevna, Maria Nikolaevna and Anastasia Nikolaevna; the family's medical doctor, Evgeny Botkin; the Emperor's footmanAlexei Trupp; the Empress' maidservant, Anna Demidova; and the family's cook, Ivan Kharitonov, were all executed by being shot in the same room at the same time by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16/17 July 1918.

Wilhelm II was at the Imperial Army headquarters in Spa, Belgium, when the uprisings in Berlin and other centres took him by surprise in late 1918. Mutiny among the ranks of his beloved imperial navy, profoundly shocked him. After the outbreak of the German Revolution, Wilhelm could not make up his mind whether or not to abdicate. Up to that point, he accepted that he would likely have to give up the imperial crown, but he still hoped to retain the Prussian kingship. Wilhelm finally consented to the abdication only after Ludendorff's replacement, General Wilhelm Groener, had informed him that the officers and men of the army would only march back in good order under Paul von Hindenburg's command and not the Kaiser’s command.

On November 10, Wilhelm—now Wilhelm Hohenzollern, private citizen— traveling by train crossed the border of Belgium and the Netherlands in which the latter which had remained neutral throughout the war. The winning countries wanted to extradite him and put him on trial as a war criminal but Queen Wilhelmina refused to extradite him, despite appeals from the Allies. 

Wilhelm first settled in Amerongen, where on 28 November he issued a belated formal statement of abdication as king of Prussia and released his soldiers and officials from their oath of loyalty to him, thus formally ending the Hohenzollerns' 400-year title as kings of Prussia. He purchased a country house in the municipality of Doorn, and moved in on May 15,  1920. This was to be his home for the remainder of his life. The Weimar Republic allowed Wilhelm to remove twenty-three railway cars of furniture, twenty-seven of the cars containing packages of all sorts, one bearing an automobile and another a boat, from his former palace at Potsdam.    

In the early 1930s, Wilhelm apparently hoped that the successes of the German Nazi Party would stimulate interest in a restoration of the monarchy, with his eldest grandson as the fourth Kaiser. His second wife, Hermine, actively petitioned the Nazi government on her husband's behalf. However, Adolf Hitler, himself a veteran of the First World War, like other leading Nazis, felt nothing but scorn for the man they blamed for Germany's greatest defeat, and the petitions were ignored. Though he played host to Hermann Göring at Doorn on at least one occasion, Wilhelm grew to mistrust Hitler. Hearing of the murder of the wife of former Chancellor Schleicher, he said, “We have ceased to live under the rule of law and everyone must be prepared for the possibility that the Nazis will push their way in and put them up against the wall!” Wilhelm was also appalled at the Kristallnacht of 9–10 November 1938, saying “I have just made my views clear to Auwi (Wilhelm's fourth son) in the presence of his brothers. He had the nerve to say that he agreed with the Jewish pogroms and understood why they had come about. When I told him that any decent man would describe these actions as gangsterisms, he appeared totally indifferent. He is completely lost to our family.” The ex-Kaiser also stated, “For the first time, I am ashamed to be a German.”

After the Nazi conquest of the Netherlands in 1940, the aging Wilhelm retired completely from public life. In May 1940, when Hitler invaded the Netherlands, Wilhelm declined an offer of asylum from Winston Churchill in Britain, preferring to die at Doorn.

Wilhelm died of a pulmonary embolus in Doorn, Netherlands, on June 3,  1941, aged 82, just weeks before the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the fate of Gavrilo Princip, the man who was the match that lit this conflagration in the first place.

After the shooting, Princip attempted suicide first with cyanide, then with his pistol, but he vomited the past-date poison (as did Čabrinović leading the police to believe the group had been deceived and bought a much weaker poison). The pistol was wrested from his hand before he had a chance to fire another shot. Princip was 19 years old at the time of the assassinations and too young to receive the death penalty, being only twenty-seven days short of the 20-year minimum age limit required by Habsburg law for the death sentence. Instead, he received the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. He was held in harsh conditions which were worsened by the war. He contracted tuberculosis. He died on 28 April 1918 at Terezín Fortress used as a prison 3 years and 10 months after he assassinated the Archduke and Duchess. At the time of his death, Princip, weakened by malnutrition and disease, weighed around 40 kilograms (88-4 lb). His body had become racked by skeletal tuberculosis that ate away his bones so badly that his right arm had to be amputated.

I am glad he wasn’t executed. His horrible end was far more fitting for a man who indirectly brought about the deaths of at least 100 million human beings.

It is a sad commentary of our times when one man is able to kill off 100 million humans beings by his one terrorist act. 

The current Canadian Prime minister, Stephen Harper made a stupid statement with respect to the First World War. He said that it was a noble conflict. A war that brings about a minimum of a hundred million deaths can hardly be referred to as a noble conflict. It was bloody and pointless. Admittedly, Canada and other nations entered the War in order to honour the pledges given to other countries.  That was by itself was an honourable act.  

Canada entered the war as a dominion of Great Britain and when the latter entered the War, Canada had to join her. The real advantage of Canada entering the War along side of Great Britain (notwithstanding that 69,000 Canadians soldiers died in the battles) was that Canada soon after gained its independence from Great Britain and as such, was no longer a dominion of Great Britain. 

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