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11-08-2015, 16:20

The Collapse of the Central Powers

The signal for Germany's defeat was Ludendorff's loss of heart. Pushed toward resigning by the dismal situation in France, he became even more disheartened by equally catastrophic news from other fronts. Germany's allies—Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria—had been worn down even more brutally than Germany by the years of fighting. Their home fronts were even more dejected, and in the Austro-Hungarian case more divided, than Germany's. Under General Louis Franchet d'Esperey—Americans who could not pronounce his name called him "Desperate Frankie"—the Allied army broke out of its pen at Salonika and produced a series of thumping victories. Franchet forced Bulgaria to ask for an armistice on September 25, liberated Serbia during October, and threatened to march on Vienna. Ludendorff stepped down on October 26, a sign that Germany was nearing the end of its role in the conflict. With the Habsburg Empire's Slavic nationalities in full revolt as well, the government in Vienna sought an armistice on October 29. The Turks found themselves in the path of a victorious British army, under the command of General Edmund Allenby, advancing northward from Palestine. After the fall of Damascus on October 1 , Allenby seemed unstoppable, and on October 30 the Turks signed their armistice. With the western front collapsing as well, Germany was now exposed to invasion from the south. The ultimate blow, although hardly the only one, came when the military calamities evoked political calamity on the home front. Told to prepare for a hopeless assault on the British fleet, the battleship sailors of the German navy at Wilhelmshaven began to mutiny on October 3 1 . The revolt spread to Kiel, then became an urban political rebellion as hungry workers joined mutinous sailors in the first days of November. Under the weight of Allied demands, shaped by President Woodrow Wilson, Germany had already established a constitutional form of government. In the midst of the political upheaval. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. Socialist leader Friedrich Ebert became Germany's prime minister, and a republic was declared. Two days later, on November 11,1918, German delegates signed the armistice ending the war. Germany, defeated but not invaded, plunged into political turmoil. Austria- Hungary had dissolved into smaller states based on its subject nationalities, and Ottoman Turkey was in chaos. The war was over; the uncertainties of a postwar world had already appeared.