First World War: Germany’s Forgotten War

Germany strikes back after blames that the German government tried to convince the British government not to put too much effort into organizing events to commemorate the First World War. The representative dealing with the centenary said it is not true that the German government asked for the war not to be mentioned.

Following the visit of Andreas Meitzner, the organizer of the centenary in Germany, at the Foreign Office in London, the British media came up with several accusations, including the fact that Meitzner tried to teach Britain how to remember the fallen.

“I didn’t propose anything to the British side. Who am I to propose anything to the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence?” the German official told BBC, talking about his amicable meeting with the British. Apparently, there is one event Germany is invited to and also expected to attend, although a confirmation that the German president will be there has not arrived yet, the BBC News reports.

The tone for the centenary of the First World War beginning this year has been set as “not jingoistic”. “Official Germany appears to be burying its head in the sand, hoping the anniversary will quickly pass,” said Sonke Neitzel, Professor at London School of Economics, who said he can only expect  “an insipid approach” with “cliche-ridden speeches by German politicians”.

It is true though, that Britain and Germany experienced the war in a different way, and we are not talking about who won the war and who lost the war, but who fought the war. Both German and British people engaged in the conflict and millions died on both sides, but it doesn’t seem that Germany is currently experiencing the same feeling of national commemoration, of remembrance of the people from all walks of life, who risked it all for their.

There is a grave located in Berlin, where the remains of 7,200 soldiers are buried. They all died during the First World War, after they were brought wounded from the front. Some of them don’t even have a name, just a stone on which is written  “unbekannte” – unknown. The sad thing about this cemetery is that very rarely you see people visiting this place. While British people insist to take long bus trips to Belgium to visit the cemeteries, German people wouldn’t go to pay tribute to their own dead, on their own doorstep.

“All that happened in World War One was subsumed by World War Two. When I went to school here in Berlin in the 60s and 70s, we heard something about World War One but it didn’t take place in Germany. It was far away,” Dr Ingolf Wernicke told BBC.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE