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Germany’s Industrial Leaders on War Aims (1915)

Annexations were part of the Right’s underlying assumptions about German victory. In the occupied territories to the West, the opportunities for exploitation were lavish, ranging from rich reserves in raw materials to modern plant capacity. Here, important representatives of German industry discuss the legal framework for protecting their gains after the war.

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The following gentlemen took part in the conference on war aims of May 17 in the Chancellor’s Palace in Berlin:

Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg
Under Secretary of State Wahnschaffe
Privy Financial Councilor [Geheimer Finanzrat] Hugenberg
District President [Landrat] Roetger
Corporation Lawyer [Syndikus] Hirsch
Baron [Freiherr] von Wangenheim
Dr. Roesicke
Commercial Councilor [Kommerzienrat] Friedrichs
Dr. Stresemann
Mayor Dr. Eberle
Mr. Wachhorst de Wente
Baron [Freiherr] von Twickel
Mr. Wallenborn

As the deputation’s first speaker, Baron von Wangenheim noted that the associations that were represented at this conference demonstrate the unity of economic sectors that are usually antagonistic to one another. This unity has been achieved because the plight of the Fatherland has brought even former economic and political opponents together. After the Christian Farmers’ Associations recently joined the corporations represented here, industry and agriculture stand united behind the demands that have been made by these corporations and are contained in the memorandum that has been presented to the Chancellor. Two factors have brought these groups together and are basic to their wishes. On the one hand, all sectors of industry have recognized the importance of agriculture to the economic and political existence of Germany. Without our agriculture to feed our people, this war simply could not be fought. The ideal of autarky is shared by all sectors. On the other hand, agriculture has recognized that German industry is likewise of paramount importance, that we would have collapsed militarily had German industry itself not been able to secure the extraordinarily large, direct and indirect requirements of the army with indigenous products. Strengthening and maintaining these two basic pillars of the German economy must therefore be the starting point for the Germany that we wish to construct after the war. From this premise, industry demands that Germany acquire the large deposits of iron ore in France, that the ore basins of Longwy and Briey, as well as the coal fields in the Pas de Calais and in the Department du Nord, must in the future belong to Germany in order to damage the enemy economically and to make us independent. In the interest of striking a balance between industry and agriculture, it is also necessary to demand that we obtain new territory in the east – land for settlement – in which new farms could be created for German settlers and land could be provided as well to German workers who might arrive from Russia. These demands will initially bring about economic balance in the new Fatherland. Additional demands have been set down in the memorandum that has been presented. If at the moment heavy clouds are again appearing on the political horizon, and if one can expect that new enemies will join the old, let the Chancellor be convinced that the economic sectors that stand behind the associations represented here are ready and willing to persevere economically, and that they are fully convinced that perseverance will be possible, just as they entertain no doubts about our military success.

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