War and peace

100 years after Versailles

The tasks of the historical sciences

by Wolfgang van Biezen

Anyone who seriously cares about why and what for there are still wars in this world, although it has long been clear that the past and present wars have not brought humankind one millimetre further, will sooner or later deal with history. For example, the sad story of the Congo or how over the centuries the people of the Swiss Confederation have succeeded in resolving conflicts peacefully. One can also begin with the history of Russia or with that of Israel, which is closely related to that of Germany. Or with the history of China, in which a great, millennia-old culture becomes visible before it was destroyed from within, especially in the 19th century by European “merchants of death”. For a hundred years, these “merchants of death” violently forced Bengali (British) opium into Chinese society with the help of their gunboats. This kind of genocide was paid for with Chinese silver until China became poor and England rich.

1919: Europe is redevided. British geographers draw new borders in Versailles
(picture Nicholson)1

Contexts – we almost inevitably end up with the British

No matter where we start, if we want to deepen our understanding the contexts of the present, we almost inevitably end up with the British and their more than five hundred years old colonial history.
Thomas Morus (1478–1535) was in close contact and often in line with the most outstanding European philosophers and theologians of his time. Already around 1500, in his work “Utopia”, he gave the British King Henry VIII a “God-wanted” justification for the occupation of foreign lands that is still valid today for colonists. For example, it is stated that natives have an abundance of farmland and would “possess it without meaning and purpose”. Therefore, they do not cultivate this farmland. Thus, there is a quite legitimate reason to expel the natives and/or acquire the land.2

The division of the world since the 15th century

Why not, because a few years earlier, in 1494, in the Treaty of Tordesillas, Pope Alexander VI had given his ecclesiastical blessing, so to speak, to the Portuguese and Spanish dynasties to divide the whole world from now on – according to papal demands. From then on, for the first time in human history, there were global claims of ownership legitimised by the Church – Portugal in the eastern hemisphere and Spain in the western hemisphere. However, once in Europe, the knowledge of the spherical shape of the earth had hardly been established to some extent in intellectual and thus also in ecclesiastical circles, when the raid, which continues to this day, began.
As we have learned in school, Henry VIII did not recognise the Pope also because of his affairs with women. As an absolute ruler he has founded his own church. Since then, the British royal family and thus the reigning monarch is head of the Anglican Church for all times. This is still the case today.

Who wrote the history of the 20th century so far?

Looking at modern history, broadly speaking, there are two approaches regarding Europe and the World Wars. The prevailing and still valid doctrine among academic historians today is that Germany bears sole responsibility for the two world wars. No wonder that this understanding of history is also part of the public and published opinion among non-academics.
Willy Wimmer3 states that the history of Germany is still written by the Allies today. Thus, it is a history of the winners, namely the winners of the First and Second World War. He considers that until today an objective history based on facts has not yet been allowed to be written.
Otherwise, it would not have been possible for Germany to pay its reparations payments, imposed after the First World War, properly with a final payment of 200,000 euros to France just in
2010 (!).4 Even after the German war debts had been paid off by various cessions of territory (about one third of the national territory went to other states), followed by the expulsion of the German people, destruction of the fleet, confiscation of industrial plants and goods, etc., the Allies hesitate to allow a fact-based historiography.

What about Christopher Clark?

Therefore,  the German media were delighted, when the book by Christopher Clark entitled “the Sleepwalkers” was published just before the centenary of World War I in 2013. This book was praised as encompassing, promising a new perspective. However, what is allowed here in search for causes 100 years after the terrible world war is old wine in new wineskins. “Sleepwalkers” staggering into a war? That is unrealistic. Not a word about the fact that the First World War was preceded by extensive (not only, but above all) British planning. Nevertheless, the celebrated Christopher Clark was ennobled for his point of view by Queen Elizabeth II. Why and for what becomes slowly clear when you read the book. Clark teaches his readers by claiming that the First World War was not an Agatha Christie thriller. The investigators in search for guilt tended to construct decision-makers’ actions as “planned and driven by a coherent intention.” There was “no evil plan” (!).
Anyone who takes the trouble to struggle through this especially in Germany praised book to page 716, learn in all seriousness “that the available sources do not substantiate such an argumentation [that there would be such a plan]”.5 You can only wonder what kind of information Christopher Clark has on his desk. The available sources …! That really is something to be savoured. Of course, In Germany it is still a matter that the winning nations drive through the country with their tanks or jeeps. The Russians have already left. However, without the slightest hint of indignation, American President Trump, for example, recently visited US troops still stationed in Ramstein.
In a chapter in his book, “England, die Deutschen, die Juden und das
20. Jahrhundert” (England, the Germans, the Jews, and the Twentieth Century), Peter Heisenko aptly described this repression of history – and thus the present – as a collective and socio-psychological phenomenon of the Germans.6 He called it national masochism.

Connections are hidden

Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers” turns out to be another spin-doctoral work. As a historian, he sticks to the 100-year-old reading; he makes use of, albeit linguistically honed, the long refuted “Fischer controversy,” according to which German historians prove that the Prussian militarists absolutely wanted the war before the First World War. He lays wrong tracks and portrays the British Empire and its politics in the most harmless light. The reader is imperceptibly captivated by banalities or slippery portrayals.
There is an overwhelming abundance of individual events that miss the whole context. The misery of historical sciences seems to be once more that through the intended abundance, atomisation and marginalisation of events, a coherent continuity of events is not or insufficiently worked out.

More than “sleepwalkers”

In contrast, geo-strategists such as George Friedman, Obama’s adviser and former head of the private news service Stratfor, are able to explain complex contexts and Anglo-American military doctrines to laypersons in just thirteen minutes on YouTube: That it has been American
geostrategy for 100 years that Germany and Russia cannot go together. The US will  continue to wage wars in the future. The United States should follow the example of the British, who let others lead their wars. Now it would depend on Germany! Germany is still hesitating.7 Thus, if Germany is currently credited with strong leadership on the continent, every citizen should see the warning signs. NATO is at the Russian border.
However, if Germany wants to become a truly sovereign state, its history must be worked up truthfully and without taboos.
That’s why I’d like to draw attention to two new booklets that deserve attention for precisely this reason.

Two new books by Wolfgang Effenberger

Wolfgang Effenberger8, as a representative of a historiography committed to the facts – and more than sufficient in terms of the sources meeting the demands of professional historiography – knows how to convincingly present the read thread in brief. This means that these books are particularly worth reading both for further research and for interested laypersons, due to the extensive literature used.
He points out, who had an interest in the new order of Europe at the end of the 19th century, who laid the fuses in the background, since when this war was planned, why it was necessary for the British Empire and how the planning was prudently, perfidiously and almost imperceptibly launched. Which role Iswolski played as a diplomat for the Pope in mediating between Republican France and the Czarist Empire. And last but not least, which promises were made in advance to many European states in order to make this armed engagement palatable to them.
The Pope, for example, was to have his own state again. Russia was offered Istanbul and the much-needed Dardanelles. France should be rewarded with the western part of Africa and areas in the Middle East. The Poles were promised a new state in the territories of the German Reich and Austria-Hungary was promised Italy the Dalmatian coast, Bulgaria ..., Romania ..., Hungary ... and so on. The British themselves took care of filleting the Ottoman Empire.

How the First World War was planned

Reading Wolfgang Effenberger’s book this becomes evident: people with motifs also planned and carried out this armed engagement. These people have names. It is proven that a group around the “Prince of Wales”, the later King Edward VII, consisting of British high and financial nobility, made the plan in 1887 to ally Russia and France and to start a war against Germany. Immediately after planning, secret diplomacy began its work under British control.9
In each of these exciting booklets, Wolfgang Effenberger takes the reader on a geopolitical journey of the time before the First World War. The conception of his books are very clear and easily to understand. It is to his credit that he refers to the present at appropriate points every now and then and impresses with many literature references.
He describes the role of American high finance, especially that of the bank J.P. Morgan, during the war, and why the course of the First World War was the opportunity for the USA, as a neutral state, mind you, to position itself as the only world power with British know-how. Arthur Ponsonby and the principles (still valid) of war propaganda complete the booklets.10
Even today, enemy images trickle into our brains through various channels every day. In fact, such reading invites each of us to reflect on how, in a world that is anything but peaceful, every citizen could contribute to sustainable peace-building.•

1    Nicholson, Harold. Friedensmacher 1919. (Peacemaker 1919), Berlin 1934. Harold Nicholson had to map in Versailles as British Secretary of State of Foreign Minister Sir Edward Gray, the border shifts negotiated in ever-emerging secret treaties.
2    Presented excellently in: Munier, Gerald. Thomas Morus, Urvater des Kommunismus und katholischer Heiliger (Thomas Morus, forefather of communism and catholic saint), Hamburg 2008, pp. 136 and the original text: Morus, Thomas. Utopia – Lateinisch/Deutsch (Utopia – Latin/German), Stuttgart 1964, pp. 129
3    Wimmer, Willy. Deutschland im Umbruch (Germany in Upheaval), Höhr-Grenzhausen 2018, p. 133
4    Kellerhoff, Sven Felix. Deutschlands Reparationszahlungen laufen aus (Germany’s reparation payments expire). In: “Die Welt” from 28.09.2010.
5     Clark, Christopher. Die Schlafwandler (The sleepwalkers). Munich 2015, p. 716
6    Heisenko, Peter. England, die Deutschen, die Juden und das 20. Jahrhundert. (The Germans, the Jews and the 20th century). Munich 2010, p. 297 et seqq.
7    Friedman, George. Rede beim Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Anfang 2015 (Speech at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in early 2015), You Tube
8    Effenberger, Wolfgang. Europas Verhängnis 1914/18, Die Herren des Geldes greifen zur Weltmacht. (Europe’s doom 1914/18, The masters of money reach for the world power). Höhr-Grenzhausen, May 2018
9    Riemeck, Renate. Mitteleuropa – Bilanz eines Jahrhunderts. (Central Europe – The balance of a century). Freiburg 1965
10    Effenberger, Wolfgang. Europas Verhängnis 1914/18, Kritische angloamerikanische Stimmen zur Geschichte des ersten Weltkrieges (Critical Anglo-American voices on the history of the First World War.) Höhr-Grenzhausen, November 2018