The year 1914 saw “the outbreak of war on a scale unknown and undreamed of in all history” ( The Book of Knowledge, Vol. 7, 1954, p. 478).
Less than one 14th of the world’s population escaped the greatest conflict in history.
Known as the Great War until, 25 years later, a second world war followed, the 1914-18 war saw the end of the old order. A world that had been dominated for four centuries by European empires witnessed the collapse of most of them. Only the British and French empires survived. These two powers were among the victors. But even they lost their empires in the aftermath of the second conflict that inevitably followed the first.
The central power that was their adversary was Germany, a country that did not even exist at the end of the Napoleonic period a century earlier.
At the Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon was exiled to Elba, leaders of over 200 different sovereign European countries laid the foundation for a century of relative peace on the continent. This century coincided with the Pax Britannica , the century of British dominance that came about largely due to Britain’s command of the seas. British dominions and colonies scattered the globe forming the “multitude of nations” that was promised to Joseph’s son Ephraim in Genesis 48. It was also the period of American expansion westward as the United States fulfilled the birthright promise to Ephraim’s brother Manasseh to become a great single nation (verse 19).
The Congress of Vienna met in 1814. In the following year, Napoleon was to return from exile and once again embark upon his military adventures. His final defeat came in June 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. The fifth attempt at reviving the Roman Empire had ended. It was to be a century before another power would rise, set on uniting Europe by conquest.
Before Napoleon, there were 360 German states. These were not states like the American states. The United States is a federal republic. The 360 German states each had their own sovereign: a king, duke or prince. Many of them owed nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman emperor. Napoleon abolished the empire in 1806. A few years later, the Congress of Vienna established a German Confederation (or Deutscher Bund ) under the presidency of Austria. The number of sovereign German states was reduced from 360 to 39. German unity remained elusive, leaving Austria as the dominant German-speaking power.
But Austrian ambitions were soon challenged by Prussia, the other powerful German nation. The Prussians, under King Frederick the Great (1740-86), had become a major rival to Austria for domination of the rest of Germany. In 1834 Prussia set up a German customs union called the Zollverein, effectively creating a free-trade area among all the German states. This also had the effect of undermining Austrian ambitions over the German lands. It was the first step on the road to German unification.
A little over a thousand years earlier, Charlemagne had united the French and the Germans in one kingdom, the second revival of the Roman Empire. After Charlemagne, France and Germany gradually developed their own separate identities, but, as neighbors, their destinies were set to be entwined.
In the aftermath of Napoleon, the French were to struggle through decades of political uncertainty. The dynasty overthrown in the Revolution of 1789 was restored to power in 1815, but remained unpopular and fell 15 years later. The new king, the duke of Orleans, was popular at first but was himself overthrown in 1848, when France’s Second Republic was established.
Three years later, a coup led to the restoration of the empire under Napoleon III. In turn, he was also overthrown in 1871. Ironically, in view of the long conflict with England during the time of Napoleon, the three monarchs who lost their thrones in 1830, 1848 and 1871 all went into exile across the Channel.
Napoleon III had the misfortune to rule France when the German states united under Prussia, making Germany a formidable European power at the very center of the continent. Germany was to defeat France three times in 70 years. Some people lived to see German troops arrive in their country three times!
It was Otto von Bismarck who successfully and skillfully united the German territories under the Prussian dynasty of the Hohenzollerns. Bismarck was popularly known as the Iron Chancellor following a speech he gave at the outset of his premiership. He said, “The great questions of our day cannot be solved by speeches and majority votes, but by blood and iron.”
Bismarck expanded Prussia’s military in preparation for war with Austria. The Seven Weeks’ War in the middle of 1866 saw the Austrian Habsburgs defeated, resulting in Prussian domination of Germany. Following Prussia’s victory, the German states north of the Main River formed a confederation (the Norddeutscher Bund ), with Berlin as the capital. Four large southern German states formed a separate confederation but were in alliance with Prussia.
In defeat, Austria’s ruling dynasty established a dual monarchy, which encompassed the empire of Austria and the kingdom of Hungary under one hereditary sovereign. The two nations were independent of each other under the Habsburgs.
When a German prince was offered the vacant Spanish throne in 1870, France objected. Bismarck skillfully raised tensions between France and Germany, with France declaring war on July 19. The northern and the southern German states fought side by side against the French. The French were defeated at the Battle of Sedan on Sept. 1, 1870. Paris fell to the Prussians in January of the following year.
During this war a strong desire grew in the north and the south for a fully united Germany. On Jan. 18, 1871, just 10 days before German troops entered Paris, King William I of Prussia was proclaimed emperor (kaiser) of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at the French palace of Versailles. After a peace treaty in which France lost territory to Germany, German troops withdrew back to their own borders.
In less than a century, dominance of Europe had passed from France, under the Bourbons and later Napoleon, to the Germans. The title of kaiser was derived from caesar. The kaisers of both Germany and Austria and the czar of Russia all followed in the traditions of imperial Rome. Bismarck became the reich chancellor of Germany’s Second Reich, the successor to the First Reich abolished by Napoleon earlier in the century.
In 1871 Bismarck was given the title prince. Having united Germany, he was also appointed imperial chancellor the same year. He had been prime minister of Prussia from 1862 and remained in that office until 1890. He served under all three kaisers of the Second Reich.
World War I
Under Bismarck, Germany continued to get stronger and stronger. When Kaiser Wilhelm II came to the German throne in 1888, he was jealous of his chancellor and dismissed him from office. Wilhelm had great ambitions for Germany, wanting to see his German empire become as great as the empire of his grandmother Queen Victoria (the kaiser’s mother was the eldest daughter of the British monarch). It was rather late for Germany to acquire many overseas possessions, as most had been taken, but building up the greatest army in Europe gave it opportunities closer to home.
War became inevitable and was finally triggered by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914. Within weeks Europe was at war. As most of the world was under European domination, the war was a world war. The United States entered the war in April 1917.
No war in history has ever seen so many casualties. By the end of the four-year conflict, the German, Austrian, Russian and Ottoman emperors had all lost their thrones. The old order had ended, and the world had now entered a totally different phase. Whereas, prior to 1914, many ethnic groups were united under one empire, in the aftermath of war many ethnic groups sought independence, a universal trend that continues down to this day.
It can also be said that, aside from minor conflicts in South America (one continent that was largely unaffected by World War I), every war in the world, wherever and whenever it has taken place, can be traced back to the war of 1914-18. Recent conflicts in the Persian Gulf, for example, owe their origin to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Even the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a direct consequence of World War I.
The kaiser’s abdication and the creation of a German republic in November 1918 did not bring closure. The Second Reich had fallen, but the Paris peace treaty resulted in a great deal of resentment among the German peoples. Reparations left the country much poorer with punitive damages having to be paid. Economic problems in the aftermath of the war continued on and off through the Great Depression of the 1930s.
By this time, many Germans had had enough of democracy and voted Adolf Hitler into power. Hitler restored Germany’s economy and pride. His Third Reich was to last a thousand years. It collapsed in ruins after only 12!
Perversions of the Millennium
Hitler’s planned thousand-year reich (empire) was intended to be the successor to the First Reich, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which lasted for a thousand years. Both were satanic perversions of the biblical Millennium, the prophesied period of rule by Jesus Christ, which will start at His second coming (Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×; Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×; 20:6).
The First Reich was a union of church and state where the church was supposedly the Kingdom of God on earth. The emperor was considered the temporal authority appointed by God. In reality, between them, the temporal and spiritual authorities kept the people in ignorance and bondage.
Hitler’s Third Reich was even worse. An estimated 20 million people died and 90 percent of Europe’s heritage was destroyed by Hitler’s military machine. The Jews were singled out in Hitler’s “final solution,” and 6 million died in concentration camps across Europe.
Like the Holy Roman Empire before it, the Third Reich was a revival of the Roman Empire. Hitler’s ally, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, leader of the Fascist Party, proclaimed the revival of the Roman Empire in 1922, prior to Italian invasions of other countries in pursuit of a global empire.
Their mad dream of universal conquest almost succeeded. Again, there was a spiritual element. The church was involved (which will be covered in the next installment), but, more importantly, Satan was behind this revival of the Roman Empire, as he was the other revivals. “The dragon [Satan] gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2 Revelation 13:2And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
American King James Version×).
The three great powers that presided over their defeat were the British (who were in the Second World War from September 1939 until its European end in May 1945), the Soviet Union (June 1941 until the end) and the United States (December 1941 to the end). At the end of six years of conflict, Britain was broke and was soon forced to begin dismantling its empire.
With Germany’s defeat and most of Europe in ruins, Europe’s ascendancy was effectively over. The two great powers were now the United States and the Soviet Union. The latter, although partly in Europe, had always been out of the mainstream of European civilization. Under communism, the Soviet Union had cut itself off from the rest of Europe. At the end of World War II, Moscow had taken control of most of Eastern Europe, dividing the continent with what Winston Churchill described in 1946 as an “Iron Curtain.”
But Europe soon rose from defeat. The sixth revival of the Roman Empire—these attempts by the central European powers led by Germany to achieve world conquest—may have ended, but a new chapter was beginning, with a totally different approach to achieving the elusive unity of the ancient continent. WNP