Contrary to popular belief, Germany had entered World War One only reluctantly, and as a result of its mutual-assistance pact with Austria-Hungary. When it became obvious that the Kaiserreich could not defeat the Allies – especially after the entry of the United States, with over a million fresh troops, and in light of the “November Revolution” that resulted in Bolshevik (Marxist / Communist) takeovers of several major German cities – its representatives sought to negotiate, in good faith, a treaty to end the war.
Those negotiations were intended to be conducted on the basis of Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points,” which “called for the victorious Allies to set unselfish peace terms with the vanquished Central Powers of World War I, including freedom of the seas, the restoration of territories conquered during the war and the right to national self-determination in such contentious regions as the Balkans.”
Those reasonable hopes did not take long to be dashed:
“After the devastation of World War I, the victorious powers imposed a series of treaties upon the defeated powers. Among the treaties, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for starting the war. Germany became liable for the cost of massive material damages. The shame of defeat and the 1919 peace settlement played an important role in the rise of Nazism in Germany and the coming of a second “world war” just 20 years later…
“The harsh terms of the peace treaty did not ultimately help to settle the international disputes which had initiated World War I. On the contrary, the treaty got in the way of inter-European cooperation and intensified the underlying issues which had caused the war in the first place… [And] The difficulties caused by social and economic unrest in the aftermath of World War I and its peace undermined democratic solutions in Weimar Germany…
“Revision of the Versailles Treaty was one of the platforms that gave radical right-wing parties in Germany such credibility to mainstream voters in the 1920s and early 1930s. Among these parties was Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. Promises to rearm, reclaim German territory, remilitarize the Rhineland, and regain European and world prominence after the humiliating defeat and peace appealed to ultranationalist sentiment.
“These promises helped some average voters to overlook the more radical tenets of Nazi ideology.”
The seeds of Nazi Germany, and of the Second World War, were sown in the conclusion of the “Great War.” This is something it might be wise for us to recall, on this Centenary of the Armistice ending that war – and also in light of our seemingly intractable political differences in the U.S. today.
The radical Left in the U.S. seems sadly bent on pursuing a course of action toward those with whom they are in ideological conflict that is little different – in intention if not specifics – to that pursued by the French following WW I. Those who do not learn from history, and all of that…….