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World
War 1 continues to prove itself as one of the most dynamic fields of study for
historians1. As commemorations for the centenary of the
First World War continue to flow, the following academic journal offers
detailed insight into the influence of WWI on the Home Front in Britain from
1914 to 1918.

 

Total war
and the social and economic impacts on Germany

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World
War 1 saw Germany implement a condition of ‘total war’2. Total war, a new kind of warfare3, involved the
governments, economies and people, dedicating the nation’s resources and
services in pursuing the war effort4. Right from the
start, Germany accepted the need for total war,5 with the German
government taking urgent steps to control and direct industry, labour, food production and
distribution and financial resources6. The government had subordinated every
activity to pursuing victory in the Great War as the home front was mobilised
to an unparalleled extent.7

 

Germany
faced acute shortages of vital war products as a result of the blockade imposed
by Britain8.This took away 80% of Germany’s exports9 forcing the nation to rely on its domestic
production of food.10 The longer the blockade11, the more effective the impacts
were12 as 772 736 Germans ultimately
died from starvation. 13
As other
food sources grew scarce imperial officers were set up to regulate potatoes,
sugar, meats, fats, spirits, vegetables and fruit14. Between 1914 and 1916 food prices rose by
446%.15 Thus, Autumn of 1915 saw food riots become
common as women protested inflated prices and food shortages16. The government controlled the allocation of
the scarce resources, 17 with the distribution of essential household
produce controlled by a war food office.18

 

By December 1914, unemployment was three
times as high as normal.19 The
growing effectiveness of the blockade20 and the emergence of new war techniques and
weaponry began to exert pressure on Germany’s resources.21
Early on, an economic upswing attempted to adjust to the dynamic nature of war22. By 1915, the most fundamental shortage was labor23. Dissatisfaction was widespread in
management as the high wages offered in the munitions industry attracted
workers lacking in skill.24 The surplus of 2 million women by 191825, living on meagre government pensions26 bore the brunt of the social and economic
difficulties27. By 1918, a third of the workforce was women28, reversing the labour shortages, stabilising
the economy and creating income for their family29. The absorption of women into the war effort
reshaped the role of women in the social structure.30

 

By 1915, 16% of the $3 billion needed to fund
the war was received from taxation.31 In order to finance an increasingly costly
war32, the German government borrowed money from
the public through the investment of war bonds.33 The economic strains of total war were also
increasingly palpable34 as the use of war bonds resulted in a
massive national debt35. Therefore, economic hardships were
increasingly evident on the German home front.36

 

Recruitment,
conscription, censorship and propaganda in Germany

As a result of conscription being introduced
in 187137 and it still being in force in 1914 when the
Great war broke out,38 recruitment propaganda was not necessary.39 By the start of the war, Germany already had
a standing force of 750,000 men and 4 250 000 reserves. The wide-spread belief
that war would be over by Christmas was a driving factor for Germany’s fervour.40 The realities of war were misunderstood by
the censored nature of German newspapers. Romanticised beliefs of service and
valour, as a result of the pro-war press outlets, can account for the enthusiasm
at the outbreak of war.

 

Propaganda
actively justified the actions of the Government41, mobilising hatred against the enemy,
convincing the nation of their cause, and enlisting support42.
German propaganda was marked by technical innovation, in the use of film43. By 1918, ‘mobile cinemas’ became the usual
vehicle for political information44. Initially, German propaganda harboured
anti-British tones.45 Germans were encouraged to greet each other with ‘Gott strafe England’46. The promotion of the anti-British attitudes in German
propaganda were used to account for the increasing social and economic
difficulties faced on the Homefront. Germany’s invasion on Belgium47 and France, created a medium for British and
French propagandists to illustrate Germany’s aggression.  From this, German propaganda became highly
reactive48, tending to portray themselves as victims of
abuse, disrespect and greed on the part of the Allied powers.49

 

Censorship
was Germany’s indispensable war weapon50, used to make up for the ineffective
propaganda. The ignorance of the German people allowed for their indoctrination
which aided the German government to extended the efforts of the Homefront.51 Criticism of the army and unauthorized
publications about military operations, casualty statistics, soldier accounts
and information about peace movements were censored in order to keep the
citizens and soldiers of Germany united and positive in the war effort.52 The Berlin peace demonstrations in 1915 were
censored from the German Homefront in an attempt to limit any discussion of
peace movements.53 The extent of German censorship compounded
the shock of the citizens after they discovered the scale of Germany’s losses
at the end of the war.54

 

 

 

 

The
variety of attitudes to the war and how they changed over time in Germany

As war broke out in 1914, a feeling of
euphoria spread throughout Germany55.
Opposition to war was minute and limited as a result of the active support from
the German citizens and the authoritarian nature of the German government56.
The beginning of the war developed feelings of unanimity and patriotism57.
Germans opposed to the war based on religious and intellectual basis were in an
extreme minority58, and
were easily silenced imprisonment59.
As the war continued, political unity began to weaken60.
By 1916, anti-war protest begun to take swing, with 60 000 anti-war protesters
initiated the opposition on 1 May 191661.
Turnip winter of 1916-1762,
a period of profound civilian hardship increased the social and economic
burdens of war as well as the German discontent63.
This worsened the strike situation as people continued to rally for civilian
liberties64. War-weariness65
became endemic; developed because of the longevity of war, shortages in food
and services, inflation reaching 250%66,
working class mortality rates and the deterioration of quality of life67.
Between 1914-1916, the wages of the working class dropped by 42%68
with the loss of purchasing power and the growth in food scarcity.69
By 1917, 562 strikes involving 668 000 workers occurred70.
The increasingly political strike movements depicted the increasing hostility
between classes. Political chaos in Germany was due to socialist groups
demanding peace, and claims of the government making false promises regarding
post-war Germany71.
Society was becoming polarised and the government resorted to martial law as a
response to this opposition.72 Although opposition was palpable, large-scale opposition
didn’t develop until late 191873
as the German people were willing to continue as long as victory was achievable74.
As Germany’s defeat became both imminent and evident the public attitude became
more aggressive with increased mutinies75.
The impending failure of Germany’s war effort was believed to be the
responsibility of the government, not the military, thus accounting for the
high levels of discontent towards the government.76

German
propaganda used elitist figures to transmit its message. This was problematic
as it limited connections between the civilians and the propaganda, unlike
Britain who used sentiment and ordinary citizens in their propaganda. 

1 Sheffield, G.
(2011). The Great War and the Making of
the Modern World. (on line). Available: http://www.historytoday.com/blog/2011/10/great-war-and-making-modern-world

2 McAndrew, M, Thomas, D & Cummins, P. (2001). The Great War and its Aftermath 1914-1921. Cambridge
Senior History. Cambridge University Press; 2 edition. p213

3
McCallum, A. (1996). Evidence of
War: Studying the First World War through Sources. Heinemann Educational
Publishers. Pg.46

4 Llewellyn, J. (2014) Total War. Accessed: http://alphahistory.com/worldwar1/total-war/

5 Webb, K. (2012). World
War One: From Sarajevo to Versailles. Cengage Learning Australia. Pg. 77

6 Williams, J. (1972). The Home Fronts: Britain, France and Germany 1914-1918. Constable;
First Edition. P22

7 Ibid

8 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 78

9 Williams, J. Op Cit. Pg. 45

10 Llewellyn, J. (2014) World War I and Germany. Accessed: http://alphahistory.com/weimarrepublic/world-war-i/

11 Armeson, R. op cit pg 2

12 Janicki, D. (2014) The British Blockade During World War I: The Weapon of Deprivation. Accessed:
http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/899/4/the-british-blockade-during-world-war-i-the-weapon-of-deprivation

13 Janicki, D. Op Cit.

14 Ibid

15 McAndrew, M, Thomas, D & Cummins, Op Cit. Pg. 186

16 Sass, E. (2016) Starvation
Stalks Europe. Accessed: http://mentalfloss.com/article/85224/wwi-centennial-starvation-stalks-europe

17 Tooley, H.
(2016) The Great War London,
Palgrave; 2nd ed. Pg. 34

 

18 Herwig, H
(1996.) The First World War: Germany and
Austria-Hungary 1914-1918, Bloomsbury Academic. Pg. 78

 

19 Armeson, R. Op Cit. pg 7

20 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 78

21 Armeson, R. op cit pg 7

22 Ibid

23 Bourke, J. (2008). Another Battle Front: World War 1. (on line). Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/11/first-world-war-changing-british-society

24 Armeson, R. op cit Pg. 7

25 Bourke, J. op cit.

26 Grayzel, S. Women
at Home in the War. (on line). Available: http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/women-at-home 

27 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 90

28 Williamson,
D. (2016) Germany Since 1789: A Nation Forged and
Renewed. Palgrave.
Pg. 289

29 Herwig, H. op cit. Pg 68

30 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 18

31 Ibid

32 Tooley, H op cit. Page 115

33 Ibid

34 Armeson, R. op cit pg 18

35 Bruendel, S. (2015) War Bonds. Accessed: https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/war_bonds

36
McAndrew, M, Thomas, D & Cummins, P. op cit. Pg. 86

37 Tooley, H op cit. Page 89

38 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 90

39 Tooley, H op cit. Page 89

 

40 Ibid

41 Malone, B. (2004) World
War 1, at home and in the Trenches. Accessed: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-037/?action=more_essay

42 Welch, D. (2014) Depicting
the Enemy. Accessed: https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/depicting-the-enemy

43 Schlenoff, D. (2017) Starvation and Propaganda as Weapons of War, 1917. Accessed: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anecdotes-from-the-archive/starvation-and-propaganda-as-weapons-of-war-1917/  

44 Pickard, A. (2002) World War I And Its Aftermath. Phoenix Education Pg. 93

45 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 45

46 Translation: God Punish English Unknown (2017) Gott Strafe England. accessed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_strafe_England

47 which was a neutral country Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 45

48 Epstein, J. (2000) German and English Propaganda in WW1. Accessed: http://bobrowen.com/nymas/propagandapaper.html  

49 Tooley, H op cit. Page 63

50 Demm, E. (2017) Censorship.
Accessed: https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/censorship

51 ibid

52 ibid

53 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 46

54 Tooley, H op cit. Page 63

55 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 50

56 ibid

57 Pickard, A. Op Cit. Pg. 172

58 Tooley, H op cit. Page 63

59 Ibid

60 Southy, Jim (2014) World War 1 and Germany Access: http://alphahistory.com/weimarrepublic/world-war-i/

61 Pickard, A. Op Cit Pg. 55

62 Mallinson, A. (2017) Turnip Winter brings Germany to her knees. Accessed: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/turnip-winter-brings-germany-to-her-knees-62pggpp22

63 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 80

64 Gilbert, M. (2004) The First World War; A Complete History. Holt Paperbacks pg. 445

65 Kitchen, M. (2011) The German Front Experience. Accessed: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/german_experience_01.shtml

66 Pickard, A. Op Cit Pg. 56

67 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 40

68 Tooley, H op cit. Page 189

69 Williams, J. Op Cit. Pg. 78

70 ibid

71 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 40

72 McCallum, A. (1996). Evidence of War: Studying the First World War through Sources. Heinemann
Educational Publishers. P194

73 Williams, J. Op Cit. Pg. 80

74 Tooley, H op cit. Page 199

75 ibid

76 Webb, K. Op Cit. Pg. 40

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