Bernhardi

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Latest revision as of 22:52, 15 July 2009

WWI Document Archive > Alphabetical Index of WWI Biographies > B-Index > Bernhardi



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BERNHDI.GIFSPACER.GIFBernhardi, General Friedrich von. (1849-1930). An outspoken military writer of his day. His most famous work was Germany and the Next War, (1911).

Serving as a young officer in the Prussian cavalry, he is claimed (by Barbara Tuchman) to have been the first German to ride through the Arc de Triomphe when the Prussian army entered Paris in 1870. From 1898 to 1901 he was chief of the war historical section of the General Staff; in 1909 he became the commanding general of the Seventh Army Corps. Bernhardi did not rise to great military or political position, but rather, is most famous as a military commentator and author.

His most remembered work, Germany and the Next War , (1911) was the second volume of Vom heutigen Kriege (On War Today). Bernhardi was hardly an official spokesman of German policy, but his hawkish and right-wing views did reflect a constituency within the Kaiserreich.
He wrote Germany and the Next War , at the height of the Agadir Crisis in 1911 -- in which Bernhardi and others thought the German government had backed down and settled too quickly for scanty compensation when (they thought) Germany's opponents in the crisis (France and Britain) were not prepared to act as tough as they sounded.

Germany and the Next War , contains criticism of the existing government policy and preparedness of the Army and Navy. Early chapters set forth arguments for the "Right to Make War" (Chapter I), "The Duty of Make War" (Chapter II), and most famous, "World Power or Downfall" (Chapter V). Bernhardi's views revealed the influence of social and economic Darwinism, which were pervasive at the time (and not just within Germany). Biological evolutionary theories, with such notions as 'survival of the fittest' and 'only the strong survive,' were extrapolated up to nations as entities struggling for survival. War, according to social-Darwinists, was just a natural part of the struggle for survival.
His arguments seemed aimed at countering foreign opinions that Germany had no legitimate 'right' to a share of the world stage, or to use 'might' to get her way. He also seemed to be addressing a contemporary pacifist philosophy, which at times also relied on evolution theories to define "old man" and the "new man" which was supposed to have evolved above such things as war.
Germany and the Next War , was well received by Germany's rightist nationalists, but ironically, found its greatest popularity in England. British Germanophobes had frequently fanned anxiety into invasion scares. Bernhardi's assertive views were elevated as proof of German national ill intent towards England. By 1914, his book was enjoying its ninth edition in English.



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General Friedrich von Bernhardi, Germany and the Next War, Translated by Allen H. Powles, Longman, Green and Co., New York, 1914.

Richard S Levy, Introduction to H-German's electronic text of Germany and the Next War.

J.A. Cramb, Germany and England, E.P. Dutton and Co., New York, 1914.

Barbara Tuchman, The Proud Tower, MacMillan Publishing Co., New York, 1966.



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