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II. Mobilization of the Home Front
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Overview: Wilhelmine Germany, 1890-1914   |   I. Economic Development   |   II. Society and Culture   |   III. "Modern Life": Diagnoses, Prescriptions, Alternatives   |   IV. State and Society   |   V. Politics   |   VI. Germany in International Affairs   |   Germany at War, 1914-1918   |   I. Battle   |   II. Mobilization of the Home Front   |   III. Privation and Ferment on the Home Front   |   IV. Seeking an End to the War

Reactions to the outbreak of war were a great deal more complicated and ambivalent than the famous scenes of resolve and enthusiasm that were celebrated early on in print and image (Docs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Historical scholarship has shown that many of these scenes represented at most the experience of select groups of people, and that they took on heavy ideological significance in retrospect. In any case, enthusiasm over the war soon waned everywhere, as the vast effort to mobilize Germany's material and moral resources began. The army, which had been a pervasive presence in German politics and society before the war, now became the principal agent of mobilization. Soldiers enjoyed near-dictatorial powers on all levels of government, to the point where something similar to a military dictatorship settled in during the later years of the war, when Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff took over the supreme command (Docs. 6, 7, 8). The army was the driving force in the mobilization of German industrial resources and in the channeling of German labor into industries that manufactured the tools of war (Docs. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13). Meanwhile, the mobilization of morale and the attempt to maintain popular support, if not enthusiasm, for the lengthening war also required the systematic intervention of military authorities, both as censors and purveyors of "patriotic instruction" (Docs. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). The soldiers could, however, also appeal to the efforts of leading German scholars and intellectuals, who offered their own visions of why various constituencies of Germans were fighting (Docs. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25). The tensions, not to say contradictions, among these visions were symptomatic of the growing challenge of maintaining popular confidence in the war effort.

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