At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. Germany signs an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. It should have been the end of the Great War. It was in fact the beginning of more troubled times.
In January of that year, US President Woodrow Wilson wrote a document in fourteen points which he hoped could be the base for a peace treaty. He foreshadowed the birth of the League of Nations, a brotherhood of European nations that would foster understanding and hopefully prevent the breaking of another war. It stated the self-determination of all European countries and lay the ideas for an agreement between enemies after the war.
When the war ended, Germany was greatly destabilized, both politically and socially. Crown Prince Max von Baden persuaded Keiser Wilhelm to abdicate. But when his attempt to turn the Empire into a parliamentary monarchy failed, he placed the power in the hands of the SPD, the largest German party. He knew a drastic change was necessary because the Empire was always going to be seen as the instigator of a horrible war. But all his good-will was doomed to fail.
The declaration that the war had ended, with the acknowledgement that Germany had lost – while the population had been led to believe a victory was only a matter of time – caused rebellion and fight all over the country and a hasty declaration of a new political entity: The Weimar Republic.
These revolutionary events and the changing of government prevented Germany from actually participate in the Armistice discussion. But Germany knew of Wilson’s document, and when her representatives joined the Armistice congress, they expected the treaty to be along the same lines. They also hoped the new political entity would gain a more favourable agreement. After all, it wasn’t the republic who first entered the war.
It was not to be.
WWI had been too horrible a war, an unthinkable carnage that no one had ever foreseen coming. All nations had suffered. Germany too. But she was the one who had attacked Belgium and France, which was what had effectively initiated the conflict. And now she was on the loser’s side, cut off from all agreements. A few of the Allies – France first of all having suffered the most damage – were less than willing to give Germany any opportunity to raise its head again.
The Weimar Republic went to the Armistice meeting thinking the aim was – as it had been for one hundred years – to find a new balance that they would have negotiated. But the Allies didn’t want a new balance. They wanted to be sure a new Great War never happened again.“This is not peace; it is an armistice for 20 years.” German Golden Twenties would bloom and died in the shadow of the Armistice #history #Germany #WWI Click To Tweet
Many of the provisions of the Armistice – and later the Treaty of Versailles – rested on the ‘Guilt Clause’, the idea that the Great War was to be blamed on Germany alone.
German people never accepted it. They blamed the republic for accepting that clause. They hated the Treaty for forcing impossible war reparations on them and the Allies for their intransigency. These hard feelings led to a surge of hyper-nationalism which entrenched itself into the political and social life of the Weimar Republic and was ultimately the republic’s doom fourteen years later.
“This is not peace; it is an armistice for 20 years.”
– Marshal Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch
History – This Day in History: 1918 World War I Ends
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – World War I Trieties and Reparations
Walter Laqueur, Weimar, A Cultural History 1918-1933. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Ltd. London, 1974
Hi Sarah – interesting … and thanks for reminding me and updating with some of the information I hadn’t been aware of – a great start to your A-Z … I shall enjoy it – cheers Hilary
So much fo this period was a discovery for me too. The two world wars are always just touched in school. Which is crazy. They are so important for the people we are today.
JOHN T. SHEA
Thanks for this excellent summary of a pivotal Twentieth Century event, Sarah!
I really enjoyed researching this subject. Such an important time in the shaping of the people we are today.
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au
That was really interesting – especially the effect it had on Germany – which would have made them more susceptible to Hitler and his extreme views. It’s nice having a refresher on the History lessons from long ago in my high school days.
Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
A for Avoid Negativity
What happened at the Armistice sure had great importance to what happened in Germany between the wars. And I think we should always remember that the need to find a guilty part, although humanly understandable, probably let to even more horrible events.
I will be learning so much from your posts! I only know the basics about WWI. Great start! (for us, not for Germany…)
Happy A to Z! 🙂
The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales
Me too. We only touched on the Warls Wars in school and I never guessed what shame it was until I researched this stopic. We are children of the World Wars and we should know – and remember – a great deal more of what we normally do.
Great start Sarah. Looking forward to this, my tour of Europe touches on the world wars and some of the time in too, which shaped our modern world so much. Look forward to more.
I can’t wait to read for those stories. I agree. The two World Wars are far more relevant to us today than we normally think.
Fab start to your A-Z. Love the detail and in-depth treatment. Looking forward to more. Happy A-Zing!
Thanks for stopping by. I’m happy you foudn it interesting 🙂
Sadly, the failure to forge effective peace treaties is often the path to the next war. Great start!
I thing, one hundred years later, we can at least see why it was like that.
Your posts will be enlightening ones for me. Looking forward to more. 🙂
So glad you liked it 🙂
Great post! I don’t remember ever learning about the “guilt clause.” No wonder people weren’t happy…
You know, on a human side, I understand that people wanted to know whose fault it was that horrible carnage WWI had been. It was still a very bad idea. But maybe we think especially so because we know what happened next.
It’s always amazing how often in an effort to do what we think is best we plant the seeds for more conflict and destruction to come. WeekendsInMaine
That is sadly true.
Very interesting! You’re off to a great start.
Thanks Dena 🙂
Wow! That’s some in depth research you have done for this and how amazingly you have portrayed it too. Loved what I got to read today.
I’ll admit I did a lot of research for this challenge. I’ll also admit that I loved doing the research 😉
This was a very well thought out post. So much of history is being swept away or rewritten to make it more acceptable. I like how you’ve taken your time and looking at the subject from all sides. Looking forward to more
That is really what I’d like to do: looking at what happened from all sides. Because I think this is something that WWI taught us: it was nobody’s fault, it was everybody’s fault. As history often is.
Great way to start the challenge–with the end of WWI. It’s pretty clear it wasn’t the end to anything. Nice post.
Indeed it wasn’t.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Great lead in for you’re a to Z posts. I love learning about history. Thanks for sharing.
Happy you found it interesting 🙂
This is such a timely topic. Blame, guilt, and divisive posturing cannot build peace nor a better world. This is one of the truly classic examples the more people should know of as a basic element of history. Punishment does not work.
The 1920s are relevant to our times any way and from many perspective you watch at them. That’s why I love them 🙂
This is interesting bit of hostory which I would otherwise have not known. Well researched too
Thanks. Happy you found it interesting 🙂
I studied much of this in college (years ago) and it’s great to revisit. The hard lessons learned were applied post WWII but so much pain preceded. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s post! Ambitious topic. Well chosen!
I’m not familiar with WWII, but I’m happy to learn some lessons were learned. There’s still hope for the human race, then.
A sobering beginning.
Indeed it was. But luckily, there was also lots of fun in the Weimar Republic 😉
This post hits home, Sarah. Very much. As you know since you kindly visited my blog, I was born and brought up in France. So wars are sadly part of my background and also my backyard. More WWII than WWI since I grew up in Normandy. But I heard stories about WWI and it certainly was an horrific war.
Good luck for the A to Z Challenge!
I’m from Northern Italy, so I don’t live very far from what was the war front in WWI. And I think you’re right, the world wars are still part of us Euroepen’s daily life mor ethan we normally realise. That’s why I’m loving researching this topic.
Roland R Clarke
Excellent post, Sarah. I’ve always felt that Germany dot a ‘raw deal’ at the end of WW1, especially as the causes of WW1 were far more complex than Germany invading neighbours. And I often wonder if it might have sparked off somewhere else.
One of the hardest things for me, regarding this challenge and the research that went into it, was wrapping my head around why WWI even broke out. It’s not hard to understand why WWII brok out, but the reasons behind the First World War, as you say, are so complex that even getting them straight isn’t all that easy.
But even the way it ended and influenced all the involved nations’ life is very complex.
Jamie Lyn Weigt
Great start, and I’m looking forward to learning more.
Jamie Lyn Weigt | Theme: Odds and Ends Dragons | Writing Dragons
Happy you found it intersting, Jamie. And thanks for dropping by 🙂
It’s amazing how what is seen by one side as justice is seen by another as revenge. Great posts, thank you for all the details.
Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters
True, eh? Especailly when there is no ‘right’ side.
That type of severe punishment on a nation, or anyone, never really works, but it backfires. Worse is that we don’t seem to learn from history. Great post.
I think we don’t learn because, when something as horrible as WWI happenes, we are not content with it being over. We need to know who is responsible so that they will pay.
It’s a very human reaction… though, as you say, it’s hardly the best.
Awesome topic! I love seeing things from different points of view and learning new history.
My stories set in the Weimar Republic stand, of course, on the German POV. So I tried, in my research, to watch at the reasons of all parts involved, because Germany had her faults, but she wasn’t the only one.
This period is so complex. But that’s why I love it 🙂
This is such an interesting topic, I remember finding it fascinating when we studied it at school. The way Germany was treated and forced to pay reparations had such a knock-on effect and you can understand why feelings of bitterness and hostility arose in that climate. I wonder what would have happened if the other nations had been more forgiving and tried to work with Germany rather than blaming everything on them.
Many historian have speculated about it. Someone above commented that the lesson was learned and the aftermath of WWII was very different.
Unfortunatly, life (and history) is never easy. I think the situation in Europe today is a great example: we do know what happens when we don’t work together, still working together doesn’t come easy.
Imam looking forward to your posts. This is an excellent start and it was a horrible ending and a horrible beginning to what was to come. My mom was born in Wittenberg in 1928 and my Oma and Opa has to deal with huge issue of money since the mark would drop so fast. When he got paid, Oma met him at his work and they would dump the marks into a baby carriage and run to the store to buy bread and butter before the mark dropped and they couldn’t even buy that
Hi Brigit and thanks so much for that real-life memory.
There will be a post about the hyperinflation, of course, and while researching it, I read many stories like this one.
It sounds so crazily incredible that money shoudl become so worthless. But maybe the is a more profound meaning there, after all 😉
The Armistice was so damaging to Germany and the German people, in so many ways. If only things had gone differently, history might’ve unfolded in a far happier way.
That’s quite hard to say. May have been, but it wasn’t just about the Armistice. The world was changing at a mindblowingly fast pace, and people had a hard time keeping up.
It was happening in America too, and – although there was not a war there – many bad things happened nonetheless (gangsterism, disregard for the law, gorvenment poisoning its own citizens, corruption, among others). In addition to the difficulty to deal with the kind of dramatic changes the Western War was facing, here in Europe we had to deal with a horrible war that had distroyed the mind and body of millions of people.
I don’t really see this going in any positive way. But it might have not gone as bad as it did.
What a great place to begin and so good that the alphabet starts with “A” and made “Armistice” a perfect choice
True, eh? But I notched that last year too: letters seem to have a habit of allowing some form of structure 🙂
Thanks for stopping by.
I look forward to the old pictures
Catching up on some posts. This is a great topic, looking forward to read the rest.
Getting to the end
Thanks for stopping by, Josefine, and sorry for the late reply. These last couple of week of the challenge had been very demanding on me and I lost track of all networking. But I’ll catch up soon 🙂
Fascinating. Since Germany was a monarchy, you can’t blame the everyday person, even a soldier for involvement in the war, just because they’re German. They could’ve even been conscripted into war, and still as monarchy, most men wouldn’t have a Choice. And I remember studying Wilson’s 14 points a great deal. It seems tha the League of Nations greatly misused these points. Wilson sought better negotiations for all, and to avoid another Great War, but maybe in certain areas he wasn’t specific enough. And if your French, English, Canadian etc, it’s hard to see that the soldiers who tried to kill you, were not responsible for the war, they were following orders. Or Not to have harsh feelings after losing family members and friends. I don’t know what choice the common person, who suffers these reparations most had. Germany siding with the Ottoman Empire (which was dwindling) was probably also not the smartest allies to have. Sorry, I won’t comment on every piece. I’m just catching up 🙂
My impression – but I’m still a newbee to WWI research – is that Wilson, as an outsider, wrote down the 14 points with his clear mind but he failed to realise Europeans didn’t have a clear mind at the end of the war. They couldn’t have. WWI was too massy, too horrible, too long, too demanding, too devastating, for being settled with clear mind.
Shame, I know. But people are people.