History Highlights, Notes on German Culture

This 1919 poster proves that fighting terrorists and anarchy is nothing new

Fighting Terrorists is nothing new…just look at this 1919 German postwar poster…We won’t tolerate anarchy! We’ll protect women and children. The image shows a veteran soldier standing in front of his wife and children…in the lower left-hand corner is a bloody hand holding a bomb. It puts into perspective the revolutionary chaos that existed in Germany at the end of WWI.

Things got worse after the Kaiser and his government were forced to abdicate on November 9th. Although the war ended 2 days later, the harsh conditions of war did not end. Allied forces still blocked shipments of food and supplies from entering Germany and so in late 1918 and early 1919 violent revolutions spread throughout Germany.

The power vacuum that existed created opportunities for communists and anarchists to preach their doctrines and threaten the population. In January 1919, the Spartacist Uprising by the German Communist Party threatened Berlin. In April 1919, in the southern region of Bavaria, a communist state was established in Munich.

Added to this mix were the angry veterans who felt betrayed by unpatriotic leftists in the home front, who now controlled the new weak central government in Weimar. As soon as the undefeated WWI veterans marched back home, they began to form militias that successfully fought communists and terrorists in Germany. Even Baltic Germans, who lived outside Germany’s borders, formed militias to successfully fight the communist threat in newly formed Latvia and Estonia.

German Frontline Veteran in Baltic States…Freikorps von Brandis 1919 recruiting poster for fighting communists in the Baltic states …the German veteran has an Iron Cross 2nd class ribbon and a Wound Badge. His collar emblems are the Freikorps unit’s moose antler symbol of Kurland in Latvia

The major communist uprisings were soon defeated but still a major threat. Then in June 1919 the Versailles Treaty was signed. Germany had assumed that the 14-point Plan, set out by President Woodrow Wilson of the USA in January 1918, would form the basis of the peace treaty. However, Britain and France ignored Wilson’s Points and replaced them with such harsh terms that Germany would never have agreed to an Armistice in November 1918.

Germany lost 13% of its land and 12% of its population to the Allies. This land made up 48% of Germany’s iron production and a large proportion of its coal productions limiting its economic power. The German Army was limited to 100,000 soldiers and the Allies also demanded large amounts of money known as reparations. The payment of exorbitant reparations led to economic distress and hyperinflation and more social unrest.

These tough economic and political circumstances made people susceptible to extreme political views.

In order to keep control and peace in the early 1920s, the government relied heavily on the traditionally right-wing army and veteran Freikorps groups. One of the veterans working for the army had the job of encouraging nationalism and anti-communism amongst soldiers and to infiltrate small political parties. As conditions in Germany got worse and worse, this veteran was asked to join a group of national socialists. By 1933 he rose above the fray of left and right political parties to create the Third Reich. The rest is history.

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