Did Germany lose the war? Those who were enthusiastic to annex the Flemish coast and the Briey Basin will have to say yes. But even those who believed in the status quo (and who didn’t?) must conclude, after hearing the Chancellor declare that justice should not stop at our borders, and the subsequent declaration by Dr. Solf that Alsace-Lorraine and Poland will be discussed as international issues at the peace conference, that we didn’t actually win it. Did it have to end that way? We would like to argue that a different end was most unlikely. From the beginning of the war there were men, and they weren’t the worst of men, who desired such an end, because it was the only way in which our country could become healthy and achieve political profundity and intellectual maturity. Just imagine what would have happened to Germany if we had conquered Europe in a single victorious push. With the greatest respect for our officers, would it then have been even remotely possible for a civilian to encounter a man in uniform without falling to his knees? Germany was not mature enough to rule the world. We have pointed out repeatedly that Germany’s internal structure does not entitle it to claim even equality with Britain. The plans of all those who wanted even more, had to fail. A later world-historical assessment will certainly confirm the justice of the result of this war by pointing out how terrible it would have been had Germany been able to impose its will on the world. Whoever believes in the logic and justice of history must now recognize that the reasons for Germany’s fate lie in Germany’s nature and dimensions. Wilhelmine Germany started this war. One must take a good look at these thirty years of aimless baroque to realize that Europe deserved better than to become the victim of such a romanticism of the law of force, and deranged imperial fantasies. Just read, as far as you can bear, the speeches of Wilhelm II, published by Reclam, and you will understand everything which has happened. The German people have been presented with the bill for standing idly by while adventures were undertaken in its name which were no longer worthy of a people who were approaching emancipation. The German people is now being punished for its lack of will to achieve domestic maturity, but self-awareness came in the moment of its deepest humiliation. German democracy was very expensive, but at least it has come to pass. It was, and history will also establish this, at least one of the aims of this war. Germany has now become mature. Mature, and at the same time capable of taking a modest but forward-looking part as a junior partner in ruling the world. It has been driven back a considerable distance, but through this has gained domestic clarity, capacity and realistic expectation of success. Germany lost the war, but it has also profited from it immeasurably.
Published in: Weltbühne Reader