CLIO BERLIN-(http://clioberlin.de/) Florian Müller-Klug, historian, Birgit Stigter, artist (www.birgitstigter.com) and Nadja Raabe (mothersfinest.biz) created a workshop around the Belgium trip of the B.I.S. ninth graders in October 2015. The tour ended at a guided tour inside the DHM (German Historical museum) and a documentation of the children’s perspective: What do we learn from this war one hundred years ago?
Florian Müller-Klug led us through a guided tour from the REICHSTAG (parliament) to the SCHLOSS (castle).
It seems that the history of the first world war from the Berlin perspective can be told from only one street: Unter den Linden.
We were accompanied by two students from the ERASMUS program: Davide and Michele from Italy. Davide wrote:
Yesterday we attended a tour through the Berlin city´s history about the First World War with 9 students from the B.I.S. School.
The tour started in front of the Reichstag (Parliament) where we met Florian, the tourist guide.
He explained the historical importance of the Parliament during the Great War, as it is called in France and England.
The second point of interest was the Brandenburg Gate: In different periods of time were contradicting celebrations of victories: With changing enemies within the last 100 years. “ Unter der Linden”, the big boulevard in the Mitte district of the city has many stories to tell. The fourth point of interest was the Humboldt University (Friedrich Wilhelm University at the time), a place-were there were several conflicts fought through singing (!), or among intellectuals through manifestos and newspapers.
The last point of interest was the Neue Wache, where the “Hero´s Day” for the fallen soldiers was celebrated as a form of propaganda during the Third Reich. Now it is a place of remembrance for the victims of both wars. And Käthe Kollwitz sculpture reminds us of the nonsense of her own son`s death.
While we were explaining the topic to the student, we both felt a little bit tense. But it was an important experience for us and we have learned a lot from it.
Humboldt University – The “war of minds”
In the wake of the German invasion of neutral Belgium at the beginning of the
First World War there were numerous attacks from the German military
according to the Schlieffen Plan against the Belgian civilian population.
Special dismay to indignation aroused even in neutral countries, it was one of
the reasons for Great Britain to enter the war, The large scale destruction in
the ancient university city of Lauven, in which an irreplaceable stock of
medieval books and manuscripts of the University were destroyed, was only
one example of the Barbarian way, how the Germans started the war.
The Library Lions went up in flames. The German armies were therefore
presented as destructive culture barbarians and “Huns” especially in the
English-speaking world, in the press and among intellectuals.
In response to these allegations, leading German publicists and intellectuals
drafted a manifesto in which the allegations were called unjustified and the
German measures and tactics were portrayed as self-defense.
Most famous remains the call of the so called
“to Civilized World”, Manifesto 93: which 93 prominent German
intellectuals have signed and which was published on October 4th 1914 with a
six-fold “it’s not true” at every beginning of a phrase.
These professors and students wanted to raise their voices loud and “against
the lies and slander with whereby our enemies seek to misinterpret the
Germany’s pure way in the severe struggle for existence”.
Among the signatories were numerous professors from the Humboldt
University of Berlin, then Friedrich Wilhelm University. The teaching at the
Friedrich Wilhelm University philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf
authored and initiated the “Declaration of university teachers of the German
Reich” of 16th October 1914 of more than 3000 German university teachers,
so almost the entire teaching body of the 53 universities and technical colleges
in Germany signed. Followed by the “Manifesto of the 93” and justified this war
as a defensive struggle of German culture.
The authors in collaboration with The Berlin doctor George Friedrich Nicola at
The same time “Appeal to The Europeans” who turned against the war, was
only signed by Albert Einstein, Otto Buek, and Wilhelm Foerster, while the vast
majority of intellectuals refused any support in public for their move, so that
Nicolai renounced their swift publication in Germany.
Unter den Linden – The berlin Sängerkrieg- challenge of the singers in 1914
Unter der linden was The avenue of The German Empire. It leads from The City Palace of The Emperor to The Brandeburg Gate and vice versa.
In the weeks before the first world war, here daily enthusiastic young men -often students or civil employees- came together and sang some patriotic songs, singing trough the streets to express their assent to The Emperor and the upcoming war.
In labor circles, which represented the largest part of the urban population, war supporters were relatively rare. In Berlin the SPD called their followers to antiwar demonstrations.
More than one hundred thousands followed it on 28th July 1914, 4 days before the outbreak of war.
However, they must have realized that their demonstration was immediately banned by the Chief of Police, Traugott von Jagow. He enforced the ban, which was established at all the major intersections around The downtown roadblocks near Unter den Linden. Nevertheless , tens of thousands of social democrats supporter were able to penetrate through these barriers to the Unter den Linden boulevard.
Here they fought a remarkable duel with war supporters. On the sidewalks of the boulevard blared countless citizens patriotic song like” Die Wacht am Rhein” or “Deutschland über Alles”, often also The unofficial Hohenzollern hymn “Heil dir im Siegerkranz”. On The median strip and The two lanes on The other hand stood SPD supporters, The other hand, held with The workers’ Marseillaise and other songs of The labor movement.
Initially, The Police turned out to be powerless against this ” Berliner Sängerkrieg” because The skeptics were simply too numerous. Only after more than an hour the crowd dispersed.
Portal IV of the City Palace – The “balcony speech” Wilhelm II
On the occasion of the outbreak of the First World War almost exactly 101 years ago, the German Emperor Wilhelm II twice turned from the balcony of the Berlin palace to a previously assembled crowd. He returns with the so-called “balcony speech,” a timeless example of political propaganda in wartime.
On 30 July 1914, the Russian general mobilization had been announced in the evening, the day after German ultimatums were issued to the Tsar, to undo this, and to behave in Paris neutral. On the same day Wilhelm II came for the first time on the occasion of the current crisis out on the balcony over the Portal IV of the Berlin City Palace, and turned to the assembled population of Berlin in the Lustgarten – a first match on the war, which was at the edge of an outbreak. “A heavy hour today has come for Germany. Enemies and hostile forces everywhere force us to defend our fatherland. Men push the sword into our hand. […] We will show the opponents, what it means to irritate Germany. ”
On August 1, it was finally time: the German Empire declared war on Russia: Accompanied by a renewed appearance of the Emperor Wilhelm II on the balcony. “If it comes to a fight, so listen- all parties! […] I know no parties and no more opinions; today we are all German, brothers and only German brothers. Our neighbor does not leave us a chance otherwise, he did not begrudge us peace, so I hope to God that our good German sword emerges victorious from this difficult struggle”. Across the street Unter den Linden and on other central areas of the city now flown the extra papers from all the newspapers,
It was a common sense of mobilisation running through all German media, printed in bold type on its front page of all newspapers.
Contrary to still prevailing opinion, there was in August 1914 in Germany, as well as in Berlin a general enthusiasm for the war. There was rather a wide range of very different reactions, ranging from a denial about helplessness and shock up to patriotic exuberance and hysteria.
The support of a broader public for the war, including the Social Democratic labor movement, was only possible, if the Emperor succeeded to portray the war as a purely defensive war. On the evening of August 1, Chief of the Naval Cabinet, Admiral von Müller wrote in his diary: “The morning papers bring the speech by the emperor […] to the gathered in front of the castle […] enthusiastic people. Wonderful mood among the people. The government has had a lucky hand to introduce ourselves as the attacked nation.“