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For the first time since the Wilhelmine period, Germany became willing to recognize the existing frontiers in Europe and to pursue a policy of reconciliation toward those countries of eastern Europe that had suffered from German expansionism in two world wars.The lesson had at last been learned from the disastrous course that German foreign policy had taken in the first half of the 20th century.But in this centennial year Fischer's conclusions have in turn been challenged by historians claiming that Europe's leaders all ‘sleepwalked’ into the catastrophe.
The repercussions of Fischer's work upon the political development of postwar Germany have been his first lasting achievement.
His books helped to pave the way for West Germany's abandoning the territorial revisionism of the Adenauer era and to facilitate the emergence of Brandt's.
But if his more specific findings on who was responsible for the outbreak of World War I have been revised, very few people doubt today that, as Fischer had argued, the Kaiser and his advisors played a crucial role in the escalation of the international crisis of July 1914, although they were in the best position to de-escalate.
Nor does anyone deny that the exorbitant annexationist plans of the German monarchy in World War I were ominous harbingers of Hitler's ruthless imperialism 25 years later.
Some of Fischer's more radical hypotheses have been challenged and modified by subsequent research published after the heated arguments of the 1960s had subsided.
This time American and British historians had a major share in effecting this shift that has resulted in a more complex picture of Wilhelmine society and politics.
In the 1970s Fischer published further, shorter studies and essays elaborating on the myopia and political failures of Germany's elites.
He became one of the most explicit advocates of the thesis, i.e., the argument that Germany had taken a special path into the 20th century, and also threw himself into the controversy over the authenticity of diaries that Kurt Riezler, the private secretary of Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, had kept during the July Crisis of 1914.
Gerhard Ritter, the doyen of West Germany's historians, spoke of the "self-obscuration of German historical consciousness." He continued to hold that all powers were more or less equally guilty of pushing Europe over the brink.
Fischer held his ground against these attacks, repeatedly pulling from his pocket, during televised debates with fellow historians and journalists, yet another official memorandum or telegram proving his point.