A Hundred Years After the Armistice . . . .

A Hundred Years After the Armistice . . . .

Postby Oscar » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:37 am

A Hundred Years After the Armistice

[ https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018 ... ab9_ePlu9c ]

If you think the First World War began senselessly, consider how it ended.

By Adam Hochschild November 5, 2018 Issue

(PHOTO: A hundred years after the Armistice, we have yet to reckon with its true legacy. Photograph from AKG Images )


Traditionally, the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June of 1919, has been blamed for the war’s disastrous aftereffects. Schoolbooks tell us that Germany was humiliated: forced to give up territory, pay huge reparations, and admit guilt for starting the war. Hitler did indeed thunder a great deal about Versailles. But, two years after the treaty was signed, the amount of reparations was significantly but quietly reduced. The territory that Germany lost contained only about ten per cent of its people, many of whom were not ethnic Germans. Despite its flaws, the treaty was far less harsh than many imposed on other nations that had been defeated in war. The problem was something else: when the war came to an end, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, few Germans considered themselves defeated. The resentment that led to a new cataclysm two decades later was really forged by the Armistice.

To begin with, the Armistice was not an armistice; the Allies, in effect, demanded—and received—a surrender. Yet German civilians had no idea their vaunted military was starting to crumble. Their ignorance was a fateful result of unrelenting propaganda. This was the first war in which both sides invested huge resources in whipping up patriotic fervor with posters, films, pamphlets, postcards, plays, children’s books, and more. The German military controlled press censorship, keeping all word of mass desertions, for instance, out of the papers. As the tide turned against Germany, in the second half of 1918, the country’s propaganda for home consumption fully parted ways with reality, remaining relentlessly triumphal to the last. The apparent German retreat? A mere temporary setback. Even a few weeks before the Armistice, the country’s newspapers were still running stories about an imminent final victory.
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