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Alfred von Tirpitz and German
Right-wing Politics, 1914-1930

Alfred Tirpitz contributed to the disaster called World War I. He was an admiral and Germany's secretary of the navy in 1900, when he encouraged his king, Wilhelm II, to pursue what became an arms race in warships. Tirpitz wanted his country to have its proper place in the sun and to be second to none as a military power, which meant competition with the world's greatest naval power, Britain. He was optimistic that Britain would not be able to keep up with Germany in a naval arms race. Tirpitz contributed to winning the support of a large segment of public opinion, and he won the support of Germany's parliament, the Reichstag. The naval arms race began. Tirpitz did not want war. He believed that making Germany's navy superior would discourage Britain from going to war, but it did not work out that way.

During the war, Tirpitz led in opposing the restrictions on submarine warfare -- restrictions created by the German government and favored by Kaiser Wilhelm. With other rightists in Germany he believed that anything that did not leave Germany with gains would be a defeat. He opposed any compromise and favored all those positions that contributed to failures in negotiations during the war.

After the war he was unhappy with the moderate government of the Social Democrats. He disliked the compromises of Germany's centrist politician, Gustav Stresemann. He failed to blame rightists like himself for Germany's failures, despite their contribution, and he sought redemption for Germany in a leader with exceptional charisma and the will to make Germany a great power again. He did not think Hitler was that man, and he died in 1930, before his fellow rightists, who also had not cared much for Hitler, handed Hitler power as an alternative to the Social Democrats.

Too bad for the world that Tirpitz did not see benefit in compromise and strength in cooperation. Germany would have been better off focusing on ground defense, on economic and technological advancement and a more modest approach to its neighbors – similar to Norway, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Belgium.

The book is 218 pages, scholarly and easy reading.

Paul Kennedy of Yale University describes the book as follows:

"...a most important contribution to our understanding of German right-wing politics in the aftermath of the First World War and through the 1920s."