100th Anniversary of WWI and Germany Has No Plans

The Local reported on January 13, 2014 a story regarding Germany’s official plans to commemorate the century anniversary of World War One. Although most of Europe prepares for the event, Germany remains the only country that has no plans as of yet. The German government has issued a statement where it said they were not planning a large public ceremony for national remembrance; however, they would give some financial backing to a few of the events during the year.

“There are an abundance of civil society and international events,” said Martin Schäfer, spokesman for Germany’s foreign office, during a press conference on Wednesday. “We see our role very strongly as encouragement, support and co-ordination, where there is a wish for us to do so.”

2014 marks 100 years since the beginning of World War 1 which began on July 28th, 1914. The war lasted four years and ended on November 11th, 1918. The war caused over 37 million casualties from both the Allies and the Central Powers.

Though there is conflicting stories about what actually began the war, Germany has been labeled as the primary antagonist and has been under a lot of scrutiny because of their lack of plans for the anniversary.  But Schäfer pointed out that the centenary was not solely a German occasion, although it had “a lot to do with Germany”.

“What went massively wrong in 1914 also had a lot to do with Europe,” he added  Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said there were a few activities and events that should be held throughout the year. Some of the activities were being directly supported by the German government. One of these activities includes an exhibition called “1914—100 Years Afterwards: at the German Historical Institute in Berlin.

In a press conference, Siebert mentioned that Germany, memorial events are generally hold the tradition of being organized by civil societies at a local level, rather than on a national level. Schäfer said that although the foreign ministry was not involved in any event planning that involved President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Merkel or Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, it was still too early for the government to make concrete statements whether there would be events occurring in the latter part of the year; especially since the government had been closed for three weeks.

A spokeswoman for President Gauck’s office did confirm there were events that are being held outside of Germany that the President would be attending. One of these events included a commemoration of the victims of WWI with French President François Hollande in eastern France on August 3rd. There was a British-German memorial ceremony that is to be held at the St. Symphorien military near Mons, Belgium on August 4th.

The German President will also attend an event on September 23rd in Berlin on the meaning behind memorials.

The German War Graves Commission will also be supporting a handful of events that are set to take place throughout the year.

2014 not only marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning  of WWI, but for Germany, it also marks the 75th year of the outbreak of WWII and 25 year anniversary since the Berlin Wall had fallen.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE