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The Nationalists Mobilize on Behalf of the Army: An Appeal by the German Army League (February 1912)

The German Army League [Deutscher Wehrverein] was founded to promote the expansion of the German army. It had a loud voice in the parliamentary debates of 1912 and 1913, during which significant increases in the size of the German army were decided upon. These increases, however, highlighted Germany’s growing budgetary difficulties, for they could only be funded with an enormous direct levy on capital gains—a measure that Conservatives had long resisted but which now enjoyed the support of the Socialists in the Reichstag.

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The German Army League [Deutscher Wehrverein] was founded on January 28 in Berlin. The 700 individuals who have already registered to join and the 500 local chapters that are currently being set up testify to the fact that a broad cross-section of the German populace perceives the league as a national necessity. Without a doubt, all this was influenced by the growing conviction that, in view of the current international situation, it is urgently necessary to strengthen our armed forces, particularly the army, since Germany’s fate in the next war will be decided primarily on land. A lost war will have incalculable economic, political, and social consequences. These possibilities were previously ignored, since the nation, focused on the successes of 1870-71, had overlooked the fact that world politics and military conditions have changed over the years to Germany’s detriment. In the interests of the nation, though, one cannot tolerate a national proclivity toward self-deceit in crucial matters. In his speech to the German people one hundred years ago, Fichte called this “a cowardly escape from one’s own thoughts.” In the eyes of the Fatherland’s concerned friends, these thoughts comprise the inner life and character of our people. There are forces at work here that want to loosen the structure of the nation, undermine our military prowess, place us at the mercy of a materialistic ideology, and convince us that national pride and the love of the Fatherland are obsolete concepts—all in pursuit of the dream of world peace and international brotherhood. It is time to mount a defense against these forces; and this is why the statutes of the German Army League state: “The association endeavors to strengthen patriotism and to preserve the manly spirit of the German nation.” This is followed by the sentence: “In particular, it is committed to making the Germany army so strong in terms of both internal cohesion and size that it will always be able to protect the Reich and safeguard its international power.”

But this absolute security is no longer guaranteed if one considers that Germany, due to its unfavorable geographic and strategic location, could be threatened from all sides in the next war, which would result in an extraordinarily difficult military situation. It is imperative to restore the confidence that existed a few years ago and to make it a strong pillar of our foreign policy. Yet, like the belief in our superiority abroad, we can only restore this confidence if, in peacetime, we shrink from no sacrifice or effort to bolster our military. No time must be lost, for a military law will soon be introduced in France that will strengthen the French army. In the event of war, France has more trained soldiers than Germany, although it has 26 million fewer inhabitants.

With only 0.94 percent of our population in the military, we have not been able to claim the glory of being a “nation in arms” for some time now. For its part, France has 1.4 percent of the population under arms, and in the event of war, it will have almost twice as many soldiers as Germany when measured as a percentage of the population. On top of this, some of the main branches of its military are better organized. These and many other facts remain largely unknown to the German people, even in those circles which have a duty to take such matters seriously. As for the Triple Alliance, it must be noted that the size of peacetime forces in Russia and France exceeds those in Germany and Austria-Hungary by some 700,000 men—in the event of a war, by some two million trained soldiers. Our ally Austria-Hungary has not significantly increased the size of its army in the last thirty years.

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