Otto Von Bismarck, the ambitious prime minister of Germany was and remain to be the frequent target of the castigation of various historians for both the wars. Hence, was he the real culprit?
Why is he a controversial figure in junction with his influential intelligence? How is he distinguished from Hitler in terms of infuriating other nations and instigating them for war? and most impotantly did his attitude in the 19th and 20th century deserved the treaty of verailles for Germany?
Bismarck's entire philosophy may be summed up in his own words:
...it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by blood and iron.
Bismarck was prone to making hot tempered speeches and ignored those who disagreed with him, as he was possessed of a singleminded determination. He deliberately provoked wars with Austria and France to not only secure the new Germany's borders but also to promote German nationalism and eliminate Austria from the united Germany. He caused a tremendous furor by the seizure of Alsace-Lorraine in the Franco-Prussian war, which the French neither forgave nor forgot. His aggressiveness was a substantial factor in the alliances that led to World War I, even though he had earlier proclaimed himself "satisfied" with Germany's acquisitions. His coronation of Wilhelm I at Versailles hardly won him any friends among the French, one of several acts by which he deliberately humiliated and alienated them. As far as a comparison to Hitler, Bismarck's goal was to unite Germany under Prussian rule, and make the country secure. There was nothing racist in his philsophy. Hitler, on the other hand, attempted to conquer all of Western Europe and a substantial portion of the East. It was his overreaching that led to World War II, a mistake that Bismarck would never have made.
I do not really think that Bismarck is seen in this way. Things I have read portray Bismarck as the one who really kept Germany as a relatively calm and peaceful member of the European "family of nations." It was after Kaiser Wilhelm fired Bismarck and took more control of German policy for himself that problems really started.
As one text that I teach from says,
As long as Bismarck held power, Germany was secure, and there was peace among the great European powers. (Source: Kagan, et. al, The Western Heritage 8th Edition, p. 895)
From this, you can see that Bismarck was actually seen as the elder statesman who maintained European peace while the Kaiser is seen as the hothead who caused the problems that led to the world wars.