From the AGI Bookshelf: 1913: The Year Before the Storm, Florian Illes

Jackson Janes

President Emeritus of AGI

Jackson Janes is the President Emeritus of the American-German Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and is Honorary President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics .

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and American Purpose. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, and the Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS). He serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.


Amidst the wave of historical works appearing around the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, one finds repeated reference to the web of accidents, intentions, personalities, and polemics, which led to August of 1914. Capturing the mood in Europe—and in Germany in particular—in the years before that descent into the killing fields has long been linked to Thomas Mann’s the Magic Mountain, the Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinksy, or the paintings of Picasso. The mix of intellectual promiscuity, cross border political incest, and rampant ethnic antagonism plunged Europe into a war, which seemed to serve as an outlet for a kind of nationalist organism across the continent.  And yet, the pre-war populations all seemed to be in denial about the price it was about to pay for its arrogance as they paraded, partied and postured among themselves before beginning to kill each other.

Florian Illes’ 1913: The Year Before the Storm—either in German or in its splendid English translation—offers a tour of that atmosphere just before the lights started going out. Reading it is like watching a play when you know the catastrophic finale and watch the actors walk slowly, but inevitably, into it without being able to detect their fate. He offers a kaleidoscope not of facts, but rather of iconic figures, writing and reading their respective scripts, talking with but also past each other. One might be reminded of the opening pages of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or Tuchman’s The Guns of August. For those interested in what will be part of the debate about lessons learned from a hundred years ago, Illes will disappoint. However, he offers a journey through that landscape which just might be familiar to those a century later.


The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.