Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Day in History: Post WWI "Peace" Conference Begins

A few years ago, I chose to write about a polio epidemic because the other option staring me in the face was a war story. I didn't want to write a war story.

Guess what! BLUE turned out to be a WWII homefront story which led to COMFORT and post-war trauma and suddenly I find that I cannot stop writing about war.

This quiet anti-war passion in me has been called forth and I am daily reminded that war is dangerous to humans and other living things.

Post-WWI Peace Conference led to the Signing of the Treaty of Versailles
President Woodrow Wilson is seated at the table, 5th from left.
Image shared via wikimedia commons

Today's "This Day in History" feature at History.com is yet another example that one war leads to another and that revenge is a very bad idea.

The Great War is over.  Germany has surrendered.  Peace Talks begin on January 18, 1919. President Wilson has assured Germany that the Allied Powers will not deal too harshly with her.  But Wilson, whose philosophy is "peace without victory" is outnumbered in this approach.  So, in order to get the other allied leaders to form The League of Nations, he compromises, agreeing to make Germany take sole responsibility for the war and also to pay heavy reparations.

The idea is to keep Germany on her knees.

It was a very bad idea.  The German people were demoralized and frustrated. They were also ripe for a political hero.  I'm not sure why Adolf Hitler captured their hearts.  I can't comprehend the social and spiritual blindness he put over on the people - especially the blantant racism.  But,  historians seem to agree that the Treaty of Versailles with its heavy penalties to Germany, led directly to the rise of Hitler and World War II.

It's heartbreaking to think about - the knowledge that a bit of grace could have prevented so much tragedy.  If only we'd been willing to extend it...

Forgiveness is an upsidedown and backward idea.  It doesn't come easier to me than it does to anyone else.  But I believe it works.  I believe that individuals and nations who exercise unexpected compassion can change the world.

Gail Halvorsen who I blogged about a few days ago, is a clear example of someone, who after World War II, offered unexpected sweetness to the enemy.  Our relationship to Germany hasn't been the same since.  And that's a good thing!


  1. Thank you for these links. My oldest DD started her research two days ago on the Holocause and Hitler's rule. *sigh*

    We discussed Hitler's early life yesterday...and how it led to bitterness. That bitterness led to hate. It is a horrible circle.

  2. Donna, have you seen James Cross Giblin's biography of Hitler? I remember hearing him talk about having to take out the picture of Hitler kissing a child because the world doesn't want to see Hitler as someone capable of tenderness. Of course it may well have been propadanda anyway.

    Yes, vicious circle. Bitterness, hate, war, bitterness, hate, war - Who will stop it?

  3. We watched a video yesterday that showed pictures of the holocaust victims and then pics of Hitler interacting with little blonde haired children. He was kissing them, holding their hands, etc. Then more pics of the holocaust.

    It was horrible.

    How can you act that way toward one group of children...and then murder thousands of others?

  4. As I read your post I am haunted by "Someone Named Eva" which my daughter and I just finished reading. It's just so hard to fathom that things could get that crazy. Perhaps the best way to avoid it happening again is to expose children to these stories.

  5. Jill, I hope the stories help.

    Will have to look up Someone Named Eva. I haven't read it.

  6. In Eric Metaxas new book, "Bonhoeffer" Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - I read yesterday how Hilter's power in March 1938 was gained so rapidly it takes ones breath alway. What had been taken from Germany through Versailles he brought, for example Austria, into the Nazi fold with anexation (Anschluss). Their benevolent Fuher gave them a giddy moment with Anschbluss. In a single stroke he ereased the War Ministry by making himself its head. April 1938 Hilter published in the Legal Gazette a sweeping ordinance demanding that every single pastor in Germany take an oath of obedience to Adolf Hilter, with unswerving loyality, and anyone who refuses to take the oath of Allegiance is to be dismissed. With each of his truimphs, the pressure to join increased. Hilter in the beginning appeared tolerant especially while hosting the Olympics. But shortly thereafter he began to reveal his true beliefs and goals.

  7. Wow! Thank you, Anonymous for that historical info. Amazing!

    I'll have to look up Metaxis book!

  8. I was just reading a bio on Bonhoeffer yesterday. From what I understand, he wanted the church to take a stand because of the horrible things Hitler was doing...and not just b/c Hitler was sticking his nose in the Church's business.


  9. Oh yes,wordwranglernc, Bonhoeffer saw from the very beginning what Hitler was about. The Holocause was not a surprise to Bonhoeffer and he tried to stop it in the very beginning. His twin sister married a Jew and he helped get them out of the country in 1938. Hilter had to start by taking over the church and then the military before he could begin his horrid holocause.

  10. P.S. Besides Bonhoeffer, W. Churchill from the beginning saw the evil in Hilter and he told the German Generals in 1938 when they came to him for help; "England will help you in anything you want but bring me Hilter's head first"
    Anonymous - my name is Judy but I'm not a blogger

  11. Judy, Donna, Jill, Carol, thanks for this discussion.

    I just saw a documentary about a Christian who refused to participate in Hitler's army. He was killed as a result.

    I will blog about it soon!

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