Imperial fleet
Imperial fleet

Colonial empires. The great powers divided the world among them.

[USA and Europe, around 1910]  Germany wanted to have her “Place in the Sun” just as Britain and France, and behaved like the emperor of a World Power, relying on Germany’s military and economic strength. In spite of the tense political situation in the world, he proclaimed Germany’s claims loud and saber-rattling. His pithy, often overstepping speeches created the ugly image of the aggressive German Emperor, and Germany was rejected as ally. The Boxer Rebellion in China 1900 had been bloodily crushed.

In 1904, the Herero and a little later the Namaqua had risen, German settlers were murdered and settlements were burnt down. The German troops had cruelly retaliated, it had been a campaign of racial extermination. When the Reichstag was discussing a supplementary budget for the war, against the Herero and Namaqua, the roman catholic Centre Party and the Social Democrats voted against it. Matthias Erzberger MP of the Centre Party excoriated the German colonial policy. Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow had dissolved the Reichstag. Running on the slogan “Against Centre and Social Democrats”, his coalition had triumphed in the next elections, whereas the Social Democrats had suffered heavy losses.

Jacob had voted for the Centre Party too. He liked this upright Erzberger who condemned the colonial scandals in Africa. “Hottentots elections” one had called this election 1907. This sounded very disparaging in his ears.

Triple Entente and Dreibund

The German foreign policy got the country more and more in isolation. Great Britain was considered Germany’s “natural” ally, because Great Britain was in conflict with both Russia and France over colonies. But at the same time, a program of warship construction under Admiral von Tirpitz began, and the Foreign Office did not see that it aroused suspicion in Great Britain.
Finally, Great Britain and France compromised over their colonies in Africa and formed the “Entente cordiale” in 1904. In 1907, after setting aside differences with Great Britain over territories in Asia, Russia joined them and the “Triple Entente” was formed.
Two blocks all armed to a maximum stood against each other: England, France and Russia (“Triple Entente”) on one side, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (“Dreibund”) on the other. Austria-Hungary, the Habsburg Empire, the multi-ethnic-state, was quite an anachronism, and about to fall apart.

The pictures are from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.

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