german war guilt

German War Guilt for WWI is Misplaced; A Historian Explains How France was Responsible

This is a guest post written by Todd Lewis, who graduated from Malone University with a degree in history and philosophy. He has extensive knowledge of history, theology, philosophy, and libertarian theory, with a special focus on Church History, Anabaptist Theology, New Testament Exegesis, and practical Christian living, as well as why libertarian Christians should be minded toward pacifism. 

German War Guilt for WWI is Misplaced

Who is Responsible for WWI?

The dominant myth of the First World War is the myth of German war guilt.  The allies, in a self-serving spirit in the 231st article of the Versailles Treaty, stated that:

“The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”[1]

Since that time countless court historians and self-seeking shills have repeated this pabulum. There are many aspects of this narrative that are in need of revision, but I will restrict myself to two points: (1) the naval arms race with Britain and (2) French Revanchism. In both cases I will show that it was not the Germans that escalated the conflict, but the French and British which rendered the war inevitable.

A rather conventional account of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany can be seen in the Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare :

“It is hard to see much purpose in the policies pursued by Germany over the next two decades.  In 1894 the Kaiser read the work of the American prophet of naval power, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and immediately concluded that Germany’s rise to the status of a world power could only occur through creation of a grand fleet. The Kaiser’s enthusiasm was undoubtedly fueled by his love-hate relationship with his British cousins. Not until 1897 did he find an admiral, Alfred von Tirpitz, who possessed both the ambition and political acumen to carry out his dreams. …

“He (Tirpitz) argued both that construction of a great fleet would force Britain to respect the Reich’s worldwide interests and that, because Britain and the Frenco-Russian alliance held mutually hostile interests, Germany could create such a fleet without fear of British interference. …

“Tirpitz’s greatest mistake lay in his failure to recognize that geography had given Britain an almost unassailable naval position: the British Isles lay astride Germany’s path to the Atlantic, and it would be an easy matter for the Royal Navy to block Germany in the English Channel and across the exits from the North Sea, whilst Britain’s position also shielded its own trade routes. But nothing deterred the Germans from their course. …

“The continuing German naval build-up prompted Britain to form an entente with France in 1904 that resolved outstanding disagreements between the two countries. The Germans replied by causing a major diplomatic crisis over Morocco, intended to break up the growing Anglo-French friendship; instead, they only drove the two powers more closely together. … None of this caused the Germans to desist from an armaments program that endangered the Reich’s long-range strategic interests, but the increasing tense European situation did lead in 1912 to a change in emphasis.”[2]

This nauseating self-congratulatory propaganda is par for the course when it comes to the history of the First World War. In reality, rather than an evil and/or incompetent German cabal seeking to find a cause for war against Britain, it was an ugly British triumvirate of business, politics and the navy. The whole naval arms race was a premeditated deception on the part of this triumvirate to do three things:

  1. ensure British economic dominance,
  2. increase naval funding and
  3. enrich well-connected businesses.

Naval Defense Act of 1889 Committed to Conflict

Firstly, we must understand that after the Naval Defense Act of 1889, whereby the Royal Navy was pledged to have as many as or more battleships than the next two powers combined, and that the British were committed to a conflict with any rising naval power, no matter how irenic their intentions.

Secondly, the sheer idiocy of claiming that German expenditures drove the arms race can be debunked by this graph:

Year Great Britain France Russia Germany
1909 £11, 076, 551 £4, 517, 766 £1, 758, 487 £10, 177, 062
1910 14, 755, 289 4, 977, 682 1, 424, 013 11, 392, 856
1911 15, 148, 171 5, 876, 659 3,215, 396 11, 701, 859
1912 16, 132, 558 7, 114, 876 6, 897, 580 11, 491, 187
1913 16, 883, 875 8, 093, 064 12, 082, 516 11, 010, 883
1914 18, 676, 08 11, 772, 862 11, 098, 613 10, 316, 264


JFC Fuller offers a fine commentary on these figures:

“When the cost of Austrian and Italian new construction for 1914, respectively £4,051, 976 and £3, 237. 000, is added, to the last on the above German figures, it will be seen that when war broke out the Triple Entente was spending on construction two and half times the amount spent by the Triple Alliance, and when France and Russia approximately two and a half times as much as Germany. How anyone could say that German naval expansion threatened England is difficult to understand; yet from 1909 on it was said again and again.”[4]

The commentary provided by Francis Neilson, British Liberal MP provides more insight:

“Now, no fair-minded Britisher can look at these figures and say that they prove in the slightest degree that Germany intended to smash Britain. The wildest notions of German naval expansion have been sedulously sown in this country for years.”[5]

As we can see from the production figures, any claim that Germany was trying to challenge the Royal Navy is ludicrous. The question then arises: how did the arms race begin? As was hinted at above it was the result of a criminal triumvirate of Lord Balfour, Milliner and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna.

The root cause of England’s warrantless provocation of Germany is found in the private writings of the US diplomat Henry White and his conversation with Lord Balfour in 1907:

“Balfour (somewhat lightly): “We are probably fools to not find a reason for not declaring war on Germany  before she builds to many ships and takes away our trade.”

White: “You are a very high-minded man in private life. How can you possibly contemplate anything so politically immoral as provoking a war against a harmless nation which has as good a right to a navy as you have? If you wish to compete with German trade, work harder.”

Balfour: “That would mean lowering our standard of living. Perhaps it would be simpler for us to have a war.”

White: “I am shocked that you of all men should enunciate such principles.”

Balfour (again lightly): “Is it a question of right or wrong? Maybe it is just a question of keeping our supremacy.”[6]

This view that England wanted to eliminate a trade rival was accepted by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes:

“The politics of power are inevitable, and there is nothing very new to learn  about this war or the end it was fought for; England had destroyed, as in each preceding century, a trade rival; a mighty chapter had been closed in the secular struggle between the glories of Germany and France.”[7]

It should not be forgotten that after the end of the First World War, a massive trans-Atlantic revisionism took place in the US, UK and France thoroughly debunking many of these myths, only for those same myths to re-entrench themselves in the post-World War II era.

Hysteria Directed Against Germany Began in 1909 with the Great Naval Scare

When First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna made ludicrous claims that Germany was intending to build eight dreadnoughts rather than the four stated in the April 1908 German Naval Law[8],  he spread hysteria throughout the British Isles. He claimed that Germany could build dreadnoughts faster than the British and would outstrip them in naval production at current rates. The heights of hysteria can be seen in the twin predictions made by McKenna and Lord Balfour in April 1912; the former claimed Germany had 17 dreadnoughts and the latter 21-25. The ridiculousness of these estimates can be seen by the fact that at the onset of the First World War in 1914 Germany had only 13 dreadnoughts[9].

The ‘evidence’ for these fantastic figures came from H.H. Mulliner. Mr. Mulliner was the managing director of Coventry Ordnance Works. Desiring more orders from the government he fabricated a series of hysterical predictions that Germany would rapidly outpace Britain in dreadnought production. Due to the slump in naval production, a result of the détentes with France and Russia, a new foe had to be manufactured to ensure government orders. The information of Germany’s feverish buildup came from one of H.H. Mulliner’s employees, a certain Mr. Carpmael. Mr. Carpmael claimed to have visited the Krupp Works and saw five to six large machines of varying degrees of competition and assumed that Germany was building or capable of building six dreadnoughts a year.[10] While Mr. Carpmael’s intentions are unknown, they were grist for Mr. Mulliner’s mill.

Yet as these fabulous predications were being made, the truth was well known by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the King. John ‘Jack’ Fisher wrote:

“I might say “The unswerving intention of 4 years has now culminated in two complete Fleets in Home Waters, each of which is incomparably  superior to the whole German Fleet mobilized for war. Don’t take my word! Count them, see them for yourselves!  You will see them next June. This can’t alter for years, even were we supinely passive in our building; but it won’t alter because we will have 8 dreadnoughts a year.  So sleep quiet in your beds!”[11]

To King Edward he wrote:

“In March of this year, 1907, it is an absolute fact that Germany had not laid down a single “Dreadnought,” nor had she commenced building a single Battleship or Big Cruiser for eighteen months.”[12]


“There is one more piece of information I have to give: Admiral Tirpitz, the German Minister of Marine has just stated, in a secret official document, that the English Navy is now four times stronger than the German Navy. Yes that is so, and we are going to keep the British Navy at that strength, with ten “Dreadnoughts” commenced last May. But we don’t want to parade all this to the world at large.”[13]

The bold text is added for emphasis, but as we can see that the British, with cold and malicious intent, lied about an irenic neighbor in order to build up the Royal Navy for war with Germany in order to remove a trade rival. Admiral von Tirpitz claims that the British led by “Jack” Fisher compared the projected size of the Germany Navy of 1920 with the then contemporary British Navy of 1908, this bait and switch being impossible for the British people to have known about.[14]

The question then arises: why did Germany seek a blue water navy? It seems it was a geo-political decision to combat the growing strength of the Franco-Russian navies as the two nations were joined as allies. We see from JFC Fuller:

“The crux of the naval question was that it had been the policy of successive British governments to concentrate popular attention on British and German expansion alone; they did not take into account the fact that Germany had other naval considerations than war against England. Her naval situation in a war against France and Russia was overlooked; yet it was the situation which was, and had been, the governing factor in her naval policy since 1900, when Admirals Tirpitz said: “We should be in a position to blockade the Russian fleet in the Baltic ports, and to prevent at the same time the entrance to that sea of the French fleet.””[15]

As to the nature of this second nefarious alliance that we will turn to next, but suffice it to say Britain recklessly provoked an unnecessary conflict with a nation that was acting in a perfectly rational way i.e., expanding its global markets and seeking to produce a navy able to protect its merchant marine.

French Motivated by Revenge over Alsace-Lorraine

The French motivation for war was simple revanchism or revenge over their defeat in 1870 and restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. John Maynard Keynes explains it thus:

“So far as possible, therefore, it was the policy of France to set the clock back and to undo what, since 1870, the progress of Germany had accomplished.  By loss of territory and other measures her population was to be curtailed; but chiefly the economic system, upon which she depended for her new strength, the vast fabric of iron, coal, and transport must be destroyed. If France could seize, even in part, what Germany was compelled to drop, the inequality of strength between the two rivals for European hegemony might be remedied for many generations.”[16]

The effectively unknown work of George Frost Kennan, The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia and the Coming of the First World War, is the most thorough work on the Franco-Russian alliance in the English speaking world. His account of a vengeful France and expansionist Russia colluding to plot a World War is a very dark read.

Russian Expansionism Contributed to World War I Plot

The essentials are this: (1) in 1890 the Kaiser did not want war with any of his neighbors, (2) certain Generals and Politicians in France wanted war to regain Alsace-Lorraine, (3) Russia wanted to settle old scores with Austria and Turkey, but needed Germany out of the picture first and (4) both sides sought the complete dismemberment of the German nation.

As to the alleged bellicosity of the Kaiser, Mr. Kennan has this to say:

“Such expressions of peaceful intent were all right in their way, and they were probably quite sincere on the part of the Kaiser, who, while he liked to boast about Germany’s military strength, did not actually wish to see it employed in a highly destructive war between great powers. But (as Caprivi should have known, for Schweinitz had repeatedly emphasized the point in his dispatches) these expressions failed completely to satisfy Gier’s need for something more specific, in writing – something that would have committed not only Caprivi’s successors but, by implication, those of the Tsar and Giers as well, to the continuation of the recent relationship.”[17]

While one can charge the Kaiser of a grave diplomatic error and ignoring the wisdom of Otto von Bismark to court Russia in order to isolate France, he was neither guilty of deliberately fomenting hostile feelings with Russia nor responsible for the wider European conflict at large.

The two chief architects of this general European conflagration were the Frenchman Boisdeffre and the Russian Obruchev. In the July 1891 meetings between these two men on the possibility of an offensive alliance between France and Russia, a very revealing comment was made by both men.

“And what, he (Obruchev) then asked would be the equivalent aims of the French?

Boisdeffre’s answer was instantaneous: the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine.

Obruchev was suspicious. “Would you not also,” he asked, “wish to extend your bourders to the Rhine and to break up Germany?” (One sense here the effects of Gier’s warnings against Russia’s associating herself with any such far-reaching aims.)

Boisdeffre, in response to this sally, was evasive. One would first have to know what success one had on the field of battle. “Let us begin by beating them; after that it will be easy.”[18]

We see clearly the intentions of France and Russia to form a coalition that, they hoped, would lead to the dismemberment of Germany. Such thoughts of dismemberment were also shared by Tsar Alexander III who said, after being confronted by Gier’s over the new alliance with France:

“We must correct the mistakes of the past and destroy Germany at the first possible moment.” With Germany broken up, he agreed, Austria would not dare to move.

Giers, gathering his courage in the face of this unexpected statement, put the question: “But what would we gain by helping the French destroy Germany?”

“Why, what indeed?” replied the Tsar. “What we would gain would be that Germany, as such, would disappear. It would break up into a number of small, weak states, the way it used to be.”[19]

The aggressive intentions of this treat were seen by the Russian diplomat Lamsdorf who wrote:

“This commitment they are demanding of us would give the French a carte blanche for adventures and for the provocation of conflicts in which it would be hard to distinguish who had really started the affair; and then we are obliged to support them with an army of 800,00!” [20]

From these secret communiqués it is clear that French and Russian governments sought, without any legitimate recourse or prior precedent, the total annihilation of a fellow great power. While one can sympathize with France’s desire to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine, the fact that lunatics like Boisdeffre and later Poincaré would plan a World War of annihilation as a means to regain this land is insanity of the first degree.

We see that only a lunatic could perceive Germany’s actions as aggressive and threatening, given the great press of foes at gathering around her, France and Russia were plotting a war of annihilation and eventually dragooned Britain into their skullduggery and yet all of this and more has been kept hidden from the public.

Source of this Blackout is the Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations

While the original intent of the blackout was to cover up the true history of the Second World War, a concomitant result was that the First World War was covered up as well.

“The Committee on Studies of the Council on Foreign Relations is concerned that the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I should not be repeated and believes that the American public deserves a clear and competent statement of our basic aims and activities during the Second World War. What is contemplated is not a nationalistic treatment, but rather a history, with the issues and problems presented by an American historian for an American public.”[21]

What the Rockefellers call “journalistic debunking” most call the truth telling, and whoever thinks that the history written under the CFR-Rockefeller cabal is not nationalistic and hagiographic needs to have their head examined.  The fact that the list of ‘respectable historians’ to be utilized in this revisionist cabal excludes both Charles Beard (the most respected US historian of the first half of the twentieth century and American Historical Association Member) and Charles Tansill, shows these men for what they are: charlatans. Why would two of the most qualified historians in the US not be consulted on so august an endeavor? Only if the intent was to deceive and obfuscate. Such an end was seen by Charles Beard who wrote in the Saturday Evening Post:

“The Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations…intend to prevent, if they can, a repetition of what they call in the vernacular “the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I.” Translated into precise English, this means that the Foundation and the Council do not want journalists or any other persons to examine too closely and criticize too freely the official propaganda and official statements relative to “our basic aims and activities” during World War II. In short, they hope that, among other things, the policies and measures of Franklin D. Roosevelt will escape in the coming years the critical analysis, evaluation and exposition that befell the policies and measures of Woodrow Wilson and the Entente Allies after World War I.”[22]

The Damage of Woodrow Wilson’s Lies

Sadly Beard was right: not only has Roosevelt escaped the net of truth, but Wilson’s lies were placed back in as well.

I have endeavored to cite and reference men of the highest echelons of power and reputation: economists, men of letters, statesmen, generals, etc. to show that many thoughtful men have given careful thought to the origins of the First World War and that if anybody should bear the sole weight of war guilt it should be France, with Russia as a close second. Yet the hacks and quacks who teach history jealously guard the true secrets of the war and through a complex system of filtering and disinformation spread, known as “peer review,” this cabal of silence is maintained at the expense of both posterity and more importantly the truth.


In conclusion I want to summarize this paper. I discussed the secret history of the Dreadnought arms-race and what truly motivated it; I discussed France’s secret plans for revenge;  finally the suppression of the historical record by certain powerful people. Much more could be said about all three categories, but for the sake of space I only sought to give a brief introduction.

This article was originally posted at Praise of Folly.

[1] Treaty of Versailles

[2]  Geoffrey Parker,  Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare  (Cambridge University Press, 1995),  257-8.

[3] * this is a reproduction of a graph found in JFC Fuller, Military History of the Western World, Vol. 3: From the American Civil War to the End of World War II  (Da Capo Press, 1956),  177.

[4] Ibid

[5] Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (B. W. Huebsch, 1915), 146.

[6] Alvin Nevins, Thirty Years of American Diplomacy (Harper & Brothers, 1st edition 1930), 257-58.


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[7] John Maynard Keynes,  The economic consequences of the peace (Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920), 33.

[8] Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (B. W. Huebsch, 1915), 135.

[9] Bertrand Russell, Prophesy and Dissent, (Academic Division of Unwin Hayman Ltd., 1988),  263.

[10] “Background to the Dreadnought Panic – enter Mr. Mulliner.”, accessed October 2, 2014

[11] Baron John Arbuthnot Fisher, Memories (Hodder and Stroughton),189-190.

[12] Ibid pg 14

[13] Ibid pg 16

[14] Admiral von Tirpitz, My Memoirs (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1919),  269.

JFC Fuller, Military History of the Western World, Vol. 3: From the American Civil War to the End of World War II  (Da Capo Press, 1956), 176-7

[16] John Maynard Keynes,  The economic consequences of the peace (Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920), 36.

[17] George F. Kennan , The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World  War,  (Pantheon Books, 1984), 44.

[18] Ibid pg 95

[19] Ibid pg 153-54

[20] Ibid 153

[21] The Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report 1946, 188-89.

[22] Charles Beard, former president of the American Historical Association Who’s to Write the History of the War? Saturday Evening Post, p. 172. October 4, 1947.)

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