War and Social Upheaval: World War I--Neutrality


Figure 1.--American public opinion from the onset of war sided with the Allies, primarily because Germany invaded neutral Belgium. British propaganda was effective in painted the Germans as brutal and uncivilized. Even so, American public opinion was strongly opposed to involvement. Only incredibly inept German policies such as ignoring American mediation efforts, the renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare, and the Zimmerman Telegram gradually changed public opinion.

Several countries remained neutral. America maintained its neutrality for much of the War until the Germans in 1917 declared unrestricted submarine warfare. An important neutral country was the Netherlands. A significant portion of the population was pro-German as a result of British brutality in the Boer War (1899-1902). The Dutch strongly sympathized with the Afrikaners. There still was a strong anti-British feeling in the country. The Dutch opened its doors for Belgian refugees when the Germans occupied the country in 1914. The Dutch also sent food and clothes to the remaining Belgians as far as the Germans allowed it. Immediately after the war Holland took in hundreds of starving Austrian children. Some of them stayed in the country and later married Dutch citizens. Also the German Kaiser was granted asylum in 1918 and was offered to live in a castle at Doorn while his compatriots had to endure extremely hard times after Germany had lost the war. Kaiser Wilhelm II died in 1941, ignored by the NAZI authorities. The Dutch during the World War II German occupation could not help but reflect that their compassion with the Austrians and Germans was repaid by a brutal occupation administer by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian. The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norways and Sweden) all remained neureal during the War. Switzeland was another important neutral country.

America

When Europe went to War, America remained neutral (1914). British command of the seas meant thatv the Allies had access to American industrial and agricultural resources, as long as they could pay. The Central Powers blockaded by the Royal Navy could not impprt. Thus American neutrality favored the Allies. Peace groups in America launched efforts in 1915 to bring about a negotiated peace. The principal beligerant powers, however, wanted victory and not peace. President Wilson launched a major peace initiative in 1916. Wilson sent Colonel E.M. House to Europe. After the immense casualties and destruction, neither the Allies nor the Central Powers were willing to forgo the achievement of their war aims. Kaiser Wilhelm dismissed Wilson as naive. Neither the Kaiser or the German general staff appreciated the importance of America. The British on the other hand did. They mantained a major propaganda effort to portray the Germans as war criminals. It was based in part on fact and in prt on exageration. It was extremely effective in shapeing American public opinion. Americans in 1916 still did not want war, but they clearly saw Germany as the agressor nation. America maintained its neutrality for much of the War until the Germans in 1917 declared unrestricted submarine warfare. This the British war propaganda and extrodinarily clumsey German diplomacy finally brought America into the War. The Germans decided that they could force a decesion in the West before American could effectively intervene. This proved to be one of the most misguided a decesions of the 20th century and one that the Germans would repeat again in World War II.

Belgium

Belgium is a small country located between France and Germany. It had a policy of strict neutrality and that neutrality was guaranteed by internatiinal treaty. All the importaht European countries invluding Britain France, and Germany sigbed the treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality. The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) was fought out on the Franco-German border. Both countries respected Belgian neutrality. Before the War the German Dchlifen Plan foresaw bypassing the French bordervforts and attacking Frabce through Belgian. The French were outraged. King Leopols complained, "Belgian is a country, not a hihjway." It almost worked, but thanks to a brave stand by the small, outgunned Bekgian Army abd British Expeditionry Force, tghe French were able to stop the Germabs ion the Msrne. It thus ptoved to be a terrible mistake. It brought Britain into the War and firmly set public ioinion in America against German inspite of a large German minority. Kaiser's bombastic behavior, submarine warfare, and Zimmermann Telegram, and would confirm the initial impression of lawlessness. This would be stoked by British propganda. The Germans could reply on some of these chrges, but there was no gettung sround the invasion of Belgium with which Germany launched te War.

Greece

The Allies and Central Powers offered enducements for the Balkan countries to enter the War on their side. The Balkan countries had fought wars just before World War I. The principal targets were Turkey and Bulgaria. Thus when those two countries joined the Central Powers it helped build support for the Allies in Serbia and Romania. Serbia of course had already been attacked by Austria. This World War I in the Balkans was a continuation of the wars begun earlier, but on a wider scale. Greece which had participated in the Balkan Wars, was more reluctant to enter World War I. This was primarily because of King Constantine. Border disputes with Bulgaria meant that there was support for the Allies in Greece. There were also historic ties with Britain because the Royal Navy had played a role in Greek independence during the 19th century. Primeminister Eleftherios Venizelos wanted to join the Allies. King Constantine was against this. The royal family had ties to the Germans. His wife was German, but the King also thought entering the War was not in Greece's interests, especially as it was not at all clear who would win the War and fighting the Turks, Bulgarians, and Austrians seemed a dangerous undertaking. The King even began negotiations with Germany. Primeminister Venizelos resigned (March 5, 1915). About a month later Venizelos won a substantial mandate in national elections (June 1915). Venizelos then persued efforts to join the Allies. He also wanted to support Serbia. King Constantine continued to oppose this. Venizelos resigned again (October 5, 1915). The Bulgarian army moved into northern Macedonia, at the time occupied by Serbia (October 1915). Venizelos saw this an act of war. He formed a government in Crete and challenged the King. The opposition government consisted of Eleftherios Venizelos, Panagiotis Daglis and Pavlos Kountouriotis. The Venizelos Government began recruiting volunteers. An estimated 20,000 men enlisted to fight the Bulgars. The fighting proved difficult in tough mountenaous terraine. As the King anticipated, the Allies provided only limited support. The Allies continued to try to convince King Constantine to formally enter the War. When he refused, French Admiral Dartigue du Fournet blockaded Athens. The King abdicated and left Greece (June 11, 1917). Prince Alexander became king and agreed to work with Venizelos who formed a new government. Greece declared war on the Central Powers Germany (June 29). This opened a newcfront in the war. The Greeks deployed 250,000 men in Macedonia.

(The) Netherlands

An important neutral country was the Netherlands. A significant portion of the population was pro-German as a result of British brutality in the Boer War (1899-1902). The Dutch strongly sympathized with the Afrikaners. There still was a strong anti-British feeling in the country. The Netherlands were not occupied by either the Allies or the Germans. The Allies maintained a strict naval bloclade on Germany. As part of that blockade, the Allies established a tight quota for shipping to pass through the blockade. The Netherlands Trust was set up to monopolize and administer the rigid quota of imports allowed into Holland through the Allied Blockade. The Trust was created to prevent the Germnas from importing War supplies through Dutch ports. The Allies tried to prevent all Dutch trade with the Germans, but were unsucessful. Germany saw no real advantage in invading the Netherlands. There in fact some advantages in not doing so such as access to the port of Rotterdam. The Dutch opened its doors for Belgian refugees when the Germans occupied the country in 1914. The Dutch also sent food and clothes to the remaining Belgians as far as the Germans allowed it. Immediately after the war Holland took in hundreds of starving Austrian children. Some of them stayed in the country and later married Dutch citizens. Also the German Kaiser was granted asylum in 1918 and eventually moved into a castle at Doorn while his compatriots had to endure extremely hard times after Germany had lost the war. Kaiser Wilhelm II died in 1941, ignored by the NAZI authorities. The Dutch during the World War II German occupation could not help but reflect that their compassion with the Austrians and Germans was repaid by a brutal occupation administered by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian.

Scandinavian Countries

The Scandinavian countries were once important European powers. This was no longer the case at the time of World War I. All three countries (Denmark, Norways and Sweden) remained neureal throughout the War. While World War I reflected thge heighth of natiinalist furvir in Europe, the Scandinavian countries were generally imune from this. The crise of democracy and scialism both played a factor in this. The pro-German Swedish monarchy might have taken Sweden into the War o, but public opinion was more dibided and stringly agaist entering the War, There was more pro-Allied feeling in Norway and Denmark. There was considerable anti-German sentiment in Denmark as a result of the Prusso-Danish War and seizure of Schleswig-Holstein, but the public in both countries were strongly opposed to entering the War.

Denmark

Denmark had been a major European power. The Danish war (1864) was the last war fought by Denmark. Danish forces were overwealmed by Prussian and Austrian forces. When Prussia later defeated France in the Franco Prussian War (1870-71) it became clear to Danish officials that Denmark could not militarily resist the Germans. Thus the only viable option was neutrality. A debate began among right-wing and left-wing Danish leads as to what form Danish neutrality should take. The conservatives wanted a strong defense, a kind of armed meutrality and fortifications were built in Copenhagen. Left-wing parties had no agreed view, but some wanted complete disarmament. Danish Goverments attempted to convince the Germans to recognize German neutrality. This was complicated by differences of opinion in Denmark and the anti-German sentiment resulting from the Danish War. Here the most antiGerman Dane was the young Princess Alexandria who married the British Prince of Wales. She would do her part in changing public opinion in Britain toward the Germans. Reports of the mistreatment of the Danish population in Schleswig further fueled anti-German sentiment. German when the World war broke out did generally recognize Danish neutrality, except that they insisted the Danes lay mines in the Great Belt (August 1914). The Danes complied being unwilling to resist a German invasion. The British did not react militarily as they understood the Danish position and were not significantly affected by the action. The kings of the three Scandinavian countries met in Malmö to make a joint declaration of absolute neutrality (December 1914). The War created export markets for the Danes although the British naval blockade and the German U-boat campaignmade it difficult for Danish companies to obtain raw materials. As a result, the Danish Government had to ration some consumer goods. The Government also had to take a range of economic steps to deal with the adverse conditions created by the War.

Norway

Norway declared its independence from after a referendum (1905). This was a reflection of the rising nationalism in Europe. The kings of the three Scandinavian countries met in Malmö to make a joint declaration of absolute neutrality (December 1914). Norway like the other Scndinavian countriesc remained neutral in World War I. The Royal family had ties to the British royal family, but there was some public sympathy for the Germans. Norway being the most westerly Scandinavian countr with a North Sea coast was most exposed to the War. Norway was an important maritime nation and its shipping industry was heavily damaged.

Sweden

The kings of the three Scandinavian countries met in Malmö to make a joint declaration of absolute neutrality (December 1914). While neutral, the Swedish public had considerable sympathy for the Germans. King Gustav V in particular favored the Germans. He delivered a speech written by explorer Sven Hedin which seem to favor entering the war on Germany’s side (February 6, 1915). The Swedish public, however, had no desire to enter the War and thus Sweden remained neutral. Sweden had significant trade links with Germany. Sweden in particular shipped iron ore to Germany which supported the Grman armaments industry. The Baltic was essentially a German lake and the Royal Navy could not interdict these shipments. Some of the ore shipments, however, were shipped through Norwegian ports. The Royal Navy could interdict these shipments. Diplomatic pressure from Britain and France had some success in reducing other Swedish shipments to Germany.

Spain

Spain at the turn of the 20th century had the reputation as a backward unstable country. The Spanish-American War (1899 had exposed Spain's military weakness. As a result neither of the two military alliance systems extended a real effort to obtain Spanish adherence. Prime Minister Dato declared Spanish neutrality when the war broke out. Public opinio was split. The leftist groups generally pro-French. Conservatives generally favored the Germans. I am not sure if they were really pro-German or were reacted to the pro-French, anti-clerical feeling among left-wing groups. Some Spanish companies benefitted by expanding export demand. The Allied blockade cut Spain off from German markets, but shipments were possible to Britain and France. The country was adversely affected by reduced imports. This adversely affected the underprivileged. War profiteers in particular pushed up grain prices. Radical gains in Catalonia (Catalonian Lliga Regionalista) destabalized the political system. Rising prices as well as news from Russia led to strikes. King Alfonso XIII declared his support for Germany (1917). This caused widespread disorder and strikes. Prime minister Count Romanones resigned. A General Parlimentary Assembly met in Barcelona to consider major constitutional reforms (1917). Conservative elements and the army objected to the Assembly. A general strike failed (Summer 1917). The Army and conservative elements became increasingly popular. A group of army officers fearing civil war demanded that a cabinet be appointed that would support constitutional reform (October 1917). This began a period of significant reform in Spain that was not decisively interupted until the Spanish Civil War (1936).

Switzerland

Switzerland by the time of World War I had a long tradition of neutrality. The Swiss military was decidedly pro-German. The Swiss passed military intelligence to the Germans. The country, however, remained neutral throughout World War I (1914-18). The War had, however, a significant impact on Swiss society and the economy. Existing tensions in Swiss society were exacerbated. Swiss neutrality was an armed neutrality. Many of the men mobilized for active military service were workers. These conscripts recieved very low wages. As a result their families suffered and often went they returned home they found that their employers had replaced them. This created considerable resentment among workers. Switzerland's population is mostly French or German speaking. These two communities generally favored the German and French sides and divisions between the two communities developed. The French community was outraged at the Government's pro-German bias. The Swiss foreign minister had to resign when the press reported that he was trying to negotiate a peace settlement between Germany and the revolutionary regime in Russia that replaced the Tsar (1917). The cost of supporting a substantial military force on the border was a burden to the economy as were refugees from the beligerant countries. Discontented workers were radicalized by the Russian socialist revolutionaries (Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev) who received asylum in Russia. Workers were also incouraged by the news of the successful Revolution in Russia. A general strike fueled by worker resentment occurred at the end of the War (November 11). The Federal Council finally deployed the army and the strike failed (November 13). The Government rejected the workers demands. Political changes resulted from fear of another general strike. The workers had demanded proportional representation. A system of majority voting effectively excluded the pro-worker Socialist Party from real influence. This was finally adopted by a 1919 referendum. As a result of greater worker influence, the Swiss Government began to adopt important welfare programs as well as a 48 hour working week.






HBC







Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Aftermath] [Alliances] [Animals] [Armistace] [Biographies] [Causes] [Campaigns] [Casualties] [Children] [Countries] [Declaration of war] [Deciding factors] -------[Diplomacy] [Economics] -------[Geo-political crisis] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [Neutrality] [Pacifism] [People] [Peace treaties] [Propaganda] [POWs] [Russian Revolution] [Terrorism] [Trench warfare] ------[Technology] [Weaponry]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]





Created: October 19, 2002
Last updated:1:50 AM 8/27/2012