German intellectuals’ World War I collaboration with militarism


This video about Belgium is called The last survivor of the destruction of Louvain in WW1 | Channel 4 News.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

German intellectuals in World War I

20 October 2014

The current revival of German militarism has won the enthusiastic support of considerable sections of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia and academia. Since German President Gauck proclaimed the “end of military restraint” at the beginning of the year, many journalists and academic “experts” have called for the dispatch of German soldiers to combat zones in eastern Ukraine and the Middle East. While the majority of the population rejects militarism, these academics bang the drum for war and support rearmament.

A review of the behavior of the educated elites at the time of the outbreak of World War I a hundred years ago reveals many disturbing parallels to what is taking place today.

On October 4, 1914, some two months after the outbreak of the war, there appeared what came to be known as the “Manifesto of the Ninety-Three.” [1] Ninety-three signatories, including artists and writers, attempted to justify the bloody crimes of the German forces in Belgium and glorify the war as a struggle for culture. The manifesto first appeared in German (under the title “Appeal to the Civilized World”) and then in ten translations over the following days, sparking furious responses from scientists in England and France, who published their own fierce denunciations of the “German barbarians.”

Among the signatories of the “Appeal to the Civilized World” were many outstanding scholars, such as Wilhelm Röntgen, Max Planck (who later withdrew his signature), Wilhelm Foerster, Ernst Haeckel, Paul Ehrlich and Emil Fischer. Several were Nobel Prize winners.

The declaration was also signed by famous artists such as Max Liebermann, Max Reinhardt, Engelbert Humperdinck, Gerhart Hauptmann and Max Halbe. The signatories also included the architect and precursor of the Bauhaus, Bruno Paul, expressionist poet Richard Dehmel, and Max Klinger and Maximilian Lenz, members of Gustav Klimt’s Vienna Secessionist circle.

The text had been composed in September by the playwright Ludwig Fulda and the nature poet and playwright Hermann Sudermann. It was approved by the German Imperial Naval Office and the Foreign Office.

At the time, German troops were already committing war crimes in Belgium, which Germany had invaded despite the country’s declared neutrality. German forces demolished the old town of Leuven (Louvain) together with its medieval library. They shot hostages, terrorised the civilian population and burned down villages. Some 674 civilians were murdered in the Belgian town of Dinant on August 23. In total, approximately 6,000 people were killed by the German army.

This did not prevent the manifesto’s signatories from heralding the war as a defence of culture. Mimicking the style of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, they wrote: “It is not true that our troops treated Louvain brutally. Furious inhabitants having treacherously fallen upon them in their quarters, our troops with aching hearts were obliged to fire on a part of the town as punishment.

“It is not true that our warfare does not respect international laws. It knows no undisciplined cruelty. But in the east, the earth is saturated with the blood of women and children mercilessly butchered by the wild Russian troops, and in the west, dumdum bullets mutilate the breasts of our soldiers. Those who have allied themselves with Russians and Serbians and present such a shameful scene to the world as inciting Mongolians and Negroes against the white race have no right whatever to call themselves upholders of civilization.”

The appeal culminated in the glorification of German militarism—“Were it not for German militarism, German civilization would long since have been extirpated”—and an invocation of the unity of the people and the army—“The German Army and the German people are one. Today this consciousness fraternizes 70,000,000 Germans, all ranks, positions, and parties being one.”

The document closes with the cynical claim that it speaks for “a civilized nation, for whom the legacy of a Goethe, a Beethoven and a Kant is just as sacred as its own hearths and homes.”

The appeal was the best known of many similar declarations, letters and speeches by academics. Following the Kaiser’s declaration of war, a veritable spiritual mobilisation was launched. “German artists, writers, journalists and academics were some of the most jingoistic Germans in August 1914,” writes historian Jeffrey Verhey. [2] Wolfgang Kruse stresses that “A real flood of appeals, sermons, speeches and writings on the part of theologians, poets and thinkers attempted to define the significance of the war and justify the war policies of their own nation.” [3] This was particularly the case in Germany. Ernst Piper and Volker Ullrich have given similar accounts. [4]

The “Appeal to the Civilized World” was followed less than two weeks later on October 16, 1914 by the “Declaration of University Teachers of the German Empire,” which states: “In the German army there is no other spirit than that of the German people, for both are one, and we are also a part of it.” It goes on to declare that the “very culture of Europe” depends on “the redeeming victory… for which German militarism will fight.” This declaration, initiated by Berlin classicist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, was signed by about 4,000 tertiary-level teachers, i.e., almost the entire teaching staff of the German Empire.

On the other hand, a pacifist counter-manifesto, titled “An Appeal to Europeans” and written by physician Georg Friedrich Nicolai in October 1914, found only three signatories among German scientists—physicist Albert Einstein, philosopher Otto Buek and astronomer Wilhelm Foerster (who had previously signed the “Appeal to the Civilized World”). It ultimately failed to achieve publication in the German language.

In the spring of 1915, Albert Einstein commented on the behavior of scholars at the beginning of the war: “Will future centuries really be able to believe of our Europe that three centuries of assiduous cultural endeavor had brought no more progress than a transition from religious madness to national madness? Even the scholars of different countries are behaving as though their cerebrums had been surgically removed eight months ago.”

The struggle for “European culture”

The pathetic appeal to a “defence of culture” served to camouflage the promotion of German imperialist interests. This was very clearly demonstrated by the declaration of Bonn historians on September 1.

It proclaimed that Germany was called upon “to fight for the highest values of European culture” because the “principles of an intolerant Jacobinism, the self-seeking of predatory political parties and the control of political thought by an unscrupulous press” held sway in France. It charged that Russia wanted to liberate the Slavic peoples under Germanic rule and bring them under its protection, which offered only “mind-numbing, brutal and insidious despotism,” while England stood for “pure material egoism.” According to the Bonn historians, England wanted to destroy German naval and commercial power “so that the profit of world trade would fall alone to the British.”

The universities became a focus for pro-war rallies and a recruiting ground for volunteers among the students and younger teachers. This was where the ideological arguments for war were formulated. Berlin’s Friedrich Wilhelms University, the forerunner of today’s Humboldt University, distinguished itself in this respect.

The text of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s appeal of August 6, 1914, “To the People of Germany,” was drafted by Berlin theologian Adolf von Harnack together with historian Reinhold Koser. The appeal includes the infamous dictum: “I know of no political parties, only the German people.”

Among the intellectual “excellencies”—as the Berlin professors liked to be called—were theologians Ernst Troeltsch and Reinhold Seeberg, jurist Otto von Gierke, and historians Hans Delbrück, Dietrich Schäfer, Otto Hintze and Friedrich Meinecke. The latter, who in the course of the war became one of the more nominally liberal advocates of mutual peace, remarked in 1922 on the behavior of the Berlin professors (including himself) at the outbreak of war: “We are standing in the front, rather than before the front.”

Even after the horror of mass slaughter had long since extinguished the initial war euphoria, the majority of Berlin professors were still calling on the population to persevere. Thus, there appeared on July 27, 1916 the exhortative proclamation, “The Will to Victory.” [5]

The myth of the unity of the people

The much-touted “August experience” of 1914—i.e., universal enthusiasm for war—was a propaganda myth, as numerous studies now show. Even in the final days before the mobilisation, about three quarters of a million workers participated in anti-war rallies organised by the Social Democrats. The Kaiser’s declaration of war unleashed fear and shock, rather than enthusiasm, in the working class areas and the countryside.

It was only the historic betrayal of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which approved war loans and made a truce with the conservative parties on August 4, 1914, and the continuous war propaganda, which was now also being promoted by the SPD press, that influenced certain sections of workers to support the war. In contrast, the middle classes and especially the educated middle class enthusiastically welcomed the war and openly sided with the monarchy and the imperial government.

The industrial rise of Germany at the end of the nineteenth century had been accompanied by a sharp intensification of class antagonisms, and professors, school teachers, pastors and other academics felt increasingly threatened by the growing strength of the revolutionary workers’ movement. This drove the educated classes “to the right, onto the side of the old power elites, and made them ready to accept opposed ideologies such as nationalism and militarism,” writes Volker Ullrich.

The failure of the German states’ revolution of 1848 and the eventual violent unification of Germany in the German-French war of 1870-71 had converted many former liberals into enthusiastic supporters of Otto von Bismarck.

Towards the end of the First World War, the historian Friedrich Meinecke declared in retrospect: “The university educated middle class—once on the offensive against the old ruling classes, then joined and almost merged with them to form something of a co-regency—now feels on the defensive against all the social layers created by the transition from an agricultural to an industrial state, i.e., against the broad masses of workers and employees.”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the nobility played a leading role within military and political circles, as well as among the academic elites. Those in educated middle-class circles, who saw themselves as the “intellectual aristocracy,” tried to adapt their lifestyle to that of the nobles—from aping their clothes and allegiance to reactionary student fraternities to embracing the feudal tradition of the duel. Their militaristic mindset was accompanied by an elitist rejection of democratic demands, such as the abolition of the Prussian three-class franchise.

In 1895, the historian Friedrich Paulsen had already complained about the “inhumane arrogance” of the educated middle classes. It led them, he wrote, to promote their own superiority at the expense of those less fortunate via “the noisy, narrow-minded nationalistic conceit that parades as patriotism.”

The war propaganda promoted by today’s academic elites is likewise marked by an “inhumane arrogance.” The only difference is that they invoke “human rights” instead of “culture” to justify the return of German militarism.

However, it is not the conservatives—those die-hard fossil elements still boasting of their student fraternity dueling scars—who now stand at the head of war propaganda. Instead, the tone is set by numerous veterans of the 1968 student revolt such as the Greens’ Joschka Fischer and Ralf Fücks, who once protested against the Vietnam War, and German university professors trying to hide their Nazi past.

What remains is their class conceit—their “inhumane arrogance”—in relation to the working class. In 1968, this had its roots in a distrust of any kind of mass movement, which drew from the ideology of the Frankfurt School, or took the form of a glorification of Stalinism in the form of Maoism. Today, many of the leading lights of these movements are in the forefront of the campaign to revive German imperialist war policy.

**
Notes

[1] Manifesto of the 93 here.

[2] Jeffrey Verhey: The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth, and Mobilization in Germany, CUP 2000

[3] Wolfgang Kruse: Eine Welt von Feinden. Der Große Krieg 1914-1918, Frankfurt a.M. 1997

[4] Ernst Piper: Nacht über Europa, Berlin 2013; Volker Ullrich: Die nervöse Großmacht 1871-1918, Frankfurt a.M., 1997, 2013

[5] Quote from Aufrufe und Reden deutscher Professoren im Ersten Weltkrieg, Reclam, 1975, 2014

Belgian king shoots elephants and deer


This video is called The Elephant Documentary.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands:

September 30, 2014 18:06

Again, the Belgian King Philip is under fire. He was first the subject of a public debate because he hunted elephants, now it’s because he wants to shoot sixty hinds. These animals run around in a field in the Ardennes that is his property. The Belgian authorities apparently have given him permission for that.

On Monday, the Belgian monarch, incognito, took a look in a gun shop to buy a new weapon. His visit, after it was recorded by a photographer, led to a stream of criticism.

Global awareness of animal welfare or not; Philip must and will organize his traditional hunts each year. Mid-October is the time, and his guest list consists entirely of family.

Tropical butterflies in the botanical garden


This video is called Butterfly ‘Morpho peleides’ in the Botanic Garden of Belgium.

Today, to our botanical garden.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, we met the garden’s beekeeper. Two months ago, he was put in charge of the garden’s butterfly breeding program as well.

Various South and Central American butterfly species live in this hothouse. Including Dryas julia. One individual sat on top of a plant. However, another one had died of old age, and drowned. Fish had eaten parts of its wings. The Dryas butterflies lay their eggs on Passiflora plants in the hothouse.

Two beautiful blue freshly hatched Morpho peleides butterflies took off for a flight together over the Victoria amazonica pond. Mating takes about 30 hours. Females lay their eggs only on Mucuna atrocarpa plants, of which there is only one in the hothouse. So, the beekeeper knows where to look for eggs to bring to safety in the caterpillar box. Next to the caterpillar box is a pupa box, which is opened when butterflies hatch.

Other species in the hothouse are Caligo owl butterflies, even bigger than Morphos. And glasswinged butterflies (Greta oto).

The best season for butterfly reproduction in the hothouse is summer. They are sensitive to temperature change.

Years ago, there were smaller butterflies from Africa in this hothouse. That did not work well: sometimes, the hothouse windows were open and the butterflies escaped. Now, when windows are open, there are butterfly nets to prevent escapes.

In the Victoria pond are a Pangasius shark catfish, at least one goldfish, and various small fishes.

Outside, two ring-necked parakeets on a tree in the fern garden. Great tit sound.

A pondskater in the stream.

Two butterflies, not as big or spectacular as their relatives in the hothouse, but still beautiful: speckled wood.

In the water near the exit of the garden, two coots feeding on duckweed.

Rare subtropical butterfy and moth in Belgium and the Netherlands


Oleander hawk-moth

The Butterfly Foundation in the Netherlands reports today about two subtropical insect species, seen recently in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The oleander hawk-moth was seen in Ostend in Belgium.

This video is about a geranium bronze butterfly (Cacyreus marshalli).

The geranium bronze butterfly is originally from South Africa, but was transported to the Mediterranean region. On 27 August Frank van der Putte saw it on an allotment near Middelburg in the Dutch Zeeland province.

Colourful Dutch beetles, new book


This video from North Dakota in the USA is called Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Chrysomelidae: Cassida rubiginosa) on leaf.

Dutch entomologist Jaap Winkelman has published a new book. It is available here.

The name of the book is De Nederlandse Goudhaantjes. The word goudhaantje in the title stands for two small bird species living in the Netherlands, goldcrest and firecrest (‘vuurgoudhaantje’).

However, Winkelman’s book is not about birds. As goudhaantje is also the name of a family of mainly colourful beetles, Chrysomelidae or leaf beetles. There are over 35,000 leaf beetle species, according to Wikipedia. About 38,000, according to Winkelman’s book. Of these, 59 species live, or have lived in earlier times, in the Netherlands.

With Winkelman’s book, people will be able to discover all Chrysomelidae of Belgium and the Netherlands.

This video is called Scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii); a leaf beetle species living in the Netherlands.

German militarism reviving


This video, recorded in Belgium, says about itself:

The last survivor of the destruction of Louvain in WW1 | Channel 4 News

5 August 2014

It was in Belgium where the Germans inflicted collective punishment on civilians 100 years ago. Channel 4 News correspondent Lindsey Hilsum speaks to the last known survivor of the sacking of Louvain.

By Elizabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

German commission undermines parliametary approval requirement for military operations

9 August 2014

Largely unnoticed by the public, a commission of former defence politicians as well as military experts has been working to repeal the requirement that Bundeswehr (armed forces) operations abroad obtain parliamentary approval.

The commission is headed by former defence minister Volker Rühe (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), his deputies are Walter Kolbow (SPD, Social Democratic Party), former parliamentary undersecretary of defence and Wolfgang Schneiderhan, former Bundeswehr inspector general.

Their activity is closely related to the campaign to revive German militarism, and the stated aim of the government and the president that Germany must take on a greater role and responsibility in the world, including through the use of military means.

After the Second World War, in response to the war crimes of the Wehrmacht (Hitler’s armed forces), the role of the Bundeswehr was constitutionally enshrined as a purely defensive army. The constitution expressly prohibits the preparation of aggressive military interventions. After German reunification in 1991, the then CDU-led government urged, however, that the Bundeswehr also participate in armed foreign missions of the UN and NATO. In 1991 and 1992, without the consent of parliament, German soldiers were sent on UN armed “peacekeeping missions” to Somalia and Cambodia. In 1992, the German armed forces participated in NATO surveillance flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The same year, the SPD, which was still in opposition and had previously criticized such missions, undertook a foreign policy reversal and called for the legal situation to be clarified.

The Supreme Court finally ruled in July 1994 that the deployment of the German armed forces abroad was in principle constitutionally permissible, however each mission needed the approval of the Bundestag.

Subsequent governments, in particular the former SPD-Green government led by Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer, have systematically expanded Bundeswehr missions abroad. The Bundestag has regularly given its blessing to such missions, from the war in Yugoslavia to the Afghanistan mission.

However, with the foreign policy change since the last federal election, and the tense political situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the existing procedures are regarded as too time consuming by leading politicians and military brass. They want a free hand for quick-armed interventions. Emphasizing NATO treaty obligations, they argue that a mandatory requisite to seek a parliament decision for Bundeswehr missions poses an obstacle to Germany’s reliability as an ally and for its leadership responsibilities in NATO.

On July 29, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the last meeting of the commission on July 8 in Aachen. The paper cites political scientist James Davis, a professor at the University of St. Gallen and a member of the commission, saying that Germany was among the group of countries, “in which the parliamentary right of consultation [was] particularly pronounced.” This would make deployments as part of multinational alliances more difficult.

It was along these lines that Volker Rühe, who was defence minister from 1992 to 1998 in the governments led by Helmut Kohl, also spoke. “We already no longer have national armed forces, but armies operating at European level increasingly in a division of labour. …This will be further consolidated. But this also means that it must be sure that their contribution is available.”

Calls for a softening and undermining of the need for parliamentary approval have long been made. For example, according to Walter Kolbow (SPD), the deputy chairman of the Commission: “We will not get far in an international context with a military constitution from 1955. It is about creating reliability for the allies.”

Before their meeting in Aachen, members of the commission visited the European aviation transport command in Eindhoven, Holland, the headquarters for the “Allied Joint Force Command NATO” in Brunssum and the base for AWACS reconnaissance aircraft in Geilenkirchen.

A total of 440 of 1,300 Bundeswehr soldiers used for the AWACS system are based in Geilenkirchen. Germany finances a third of the annual AWACS budget, to the tune of about 250 million euros. When the German government abstained in the vote in the UN Security Council on the bombing of Libya by NATO in March 2011, German crew-members on the AWACS aircraft that were circling over Libya had to be withdrawn.

Proponents of stronger military engagement by Germany repeatedly cite this abstention, which is now regarded by German politicians, in particular representatives of the Greens, as a serious foreign policy error that must never again be repeated.

Rühe said that this was an essential part of the job of the commission headed by him: “We need to find a way that protects confidence, so that European countries also engage in such a division of labour of military structures.”

Of the 800 soldiers at the NATO command post in Brunssum, 90 are from Germany. They are currently lead by the German General Hans-Lothar Domröse. Some military figures stressed during the commission visit that this command post would be almost paralysed if in an emergency the German forces were withdrawn from the operations staff.

This question arose three years ago, in the operations against Libya. However, German officers were ultimately not withdrawn from the NATO command post, despite the fact that Germany had abstained from voting in the UN Security Council for the mission. This fact too was concealed from the general public.

According to Rühe, a commission proposal to bypass parliamentary approval might look like this: Once a year, the government allows parliament to grant it so-called general “transnational powers,” in other words to issue a blank check for international military operations. The Bundestag should “affirmatively note” that other nations can rely on the Germans in these areas. In the case of a concrete deployment, the Bundestag would still have to agree, but the political threshold for rejection would be significantly higher.

However, the demands and wishes of the military leadership and also many politicians go much further. For example, some demand the replacement of the vote by the Bundestag before a Bundeswehr mission through a so-called call-back right. The Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: “The government decides on a deployment, the Bundestag can (theoretically) end it again. This is already possible for operations that cannot be delayed, but beyond that it will be impossible to enforce.”

The commission is to submit its proposals to the Bundestag by April next year. Its next meeting is scheduled for September 11. Despite being invited, the Greens and the Left Party have not sent any members to the commission, supposedly because they fear a weakening of the rights of parliament.

The Green defence spokeswomen, Agnieszka Brugger said: “We would really like to have cooperated, if the government parties were responsive to our suggestions.” In their opinion, the Parliamentary Participation Act in its current form already offers “rapid response” mechanisms. Parliament had “so far always shown great responsibility,” she said, alluding to the approval of the Greens to foreign Bundeswehr missions since 1998.

The drive to abolish parliamentary approval for foreign military missions makes clear that the revival of an aggressive German militarism goes hand in hand with the dismantling of democratic checks and balances.