World War 2 National Socialism and the Holocaust

Chapter 4: Decent into Chaos :: The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “’For thirty years the army was my pride. For it I lived, upon it I laboured, and now, after four and a half brilliant years of war with unprecedented victories, it was forced to collapse by the stab- in- the- back from the dagger of the revolutionist, at the very moment when peace was within reach!‘”
  • “No enemy has overcome you!”
  • “Moreover, the American President Woodrow Wilson had declared, in his celebrated ‘Fourteen Points’ which he wished the Allied powers to be working for, that every nation should be able to determine its own future, free from interference by others. If this applied to the Poles, the Czechs and the Yugoslavs, then surely it should apply to the Germans as well? But it did not. … The Austrians wanted union; the Germans were prepared to accept union; the principle of national self- determination demanded union. The fact that the Allies forbade union remained a constant source of bitterness in Germany and condemned the new ‘Republic of German- Austria’, as it was known, to two decades of conflict- ridden, crisis- racked existence in which few of its citizens ever came to believe in its legitimacy.”
  • “Versailles was condemned as a dictated peace, unilaterally imposed without the possibility of negotiation. The enthusiasm which so many middle- class Germans had demonstrated for war in 1914 flipped over into burning resentment at the terms of peace four years later.”
  • “On 15 November 1918 I was on the way from the hospital at Bad Nauheim to my garrison at Brandenburg. As I was limping along with the aid of my cane at the Potsdam station in Berlin, a band of uniformed men, sporting red armbands, stopped me, and demanded that I surrender my epaulettes and insignia. I raised my stick in reply; but my rebellion was soon overcome. I was thrown (down?), and only the intervention of a railroad official saved me from my humiliating position. Hate flamed in me against the November criminals from that moment. As soon as my health improved somewhat, I joined forces with the groups devoted to the overthrow of the rebellion. … I shall never forget the scene when a comrade without an arm came into the room and threw himself on his bed crying. The red rabble, which had never heard a bullet whistle, had assaulted him and torn off all his insignia and medals. We screamed with rage. For this kind of Germany we had sacrificed our blood and our health, and braved all the torments of hell and a world of enemies for years.”
  • “The First World War legitimized violence to a degree that not even Bismarck’s wars of unification in 1864-70 had been able to do. Before the war, Germans even of widely differing and bitterly opposed political beliefs had been able to discuss their differences without resorting to violence.”
  • “It was in this atmosphere of national trauma, political extremism, violent conflict and revolutionary upheaval that Nazism was born.”
  • “provided the spur to translate extreme ideas into violent action.”

Thought Questions

  • What were the consequences of defeat for Germany?
  • How did Germans react to the consequences of defeat?
  • In what ways did defeat specifically impact German nationalists and conservatives?
  • In what ways did defeat specifically impact German Social Democrats?
  • In what ways did gender impact the experience of defeat?
  • Explain and Expand: “In November 1918 most Germans expected that, since the war was being brought to an end before the Allies had set foot on German soil, the terms on which the peace would be based would be relatively equitable. … Given the extent of what Germans had expected to gain in the event of victory, it might have been expected that they would have realized what they stood to lose in the event of defeat.”
  • What were the circumstances and terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
  • What were the circumstances and terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 which ended the military conflict and how did it impact the eventual treaty
  • What were the circumstances and terms of the Treaty of Versailles and how did it start a political and social conflict
  • What is the “Stab in the back” myth?
  • Explain and Expand: “principal aim was to make the world safe for democracy.”
  • Explain and Expand: “As a far from incidental by- product, Ludendorff also reckoned that if the terms were not so acceptable to the German people, the burden of agreeing to them would thereby be placed on Germany’s democratic politicians rather than on the Kaiser or the army leadership. … The army simply melted away as the Armistice of 11 November was concluded, and the democratic parties were left, as Ludendorff had intended, to negotiate, if negotiate was the word, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.”
  • In what ways did the union of Germany and German- speaking Austria impact the post war situation?
  • Explain and Expand: “The idea took root in Germany that the whole concept of war crimes, indeed the whole notion of laws of war, was a polemical invention of the victorious Allies based on mendacious propaganda about imaginary atrocities.”
  • What was the purpose of Article 231 in the treaty and how was it interpreted by the German public and misrepresented by German nationalists
  • Explain and Expand: “In many ways, the peace settlement of 1918- 19 was a brave attempt at marrying principle and pragmatism in a dramatically altered world. In other circumstances it might have stood a chance of success. But not in the circumstances of 1919, when almost any peace terms would have been condemned by German nationalists who felt they had been unjustly cheated of victory.”
  • Who were the “Pan- Germans”
  • Who was Wolfgang Kapp?
  • Explain and Expand: “What transformed the extreme nationalist scene was not the war itself, but the experience of defeat, revolution and armed conflict at the war’s end. A powerful role was played here by the myth of the ‘front generation’ of 1914- 18, soldiers bound together in a spirit of comradeship and self- sacrifice in a heroic cause which overcame all political, regional, social and religious differences.”
  • How did the experience of defeat in 1918 shape German nationalism?
  • What role did paramilitary organizations fill for German World War I veterans
  • What role did paramilitary organizations fill for German men who were too young to participate in World War I?
  • Explain and Expand: “Germany failed to make the transition from wartime back to peacetime after 1918. Instead, it remained on a continued war footing; at war with itself, and at war with the rest of the world”
  • What paramilitary organizations identified with particular political parties?
  • How did the existence and activities of paramilitary organizations impact German democracy?
  • Who were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht
  • In what ways did the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia impact the German revolution in 1918-19
  • Explain and Expand: “These events left a permanent legacy of bitterness and hatred on the political left, made worse by another major outbreak of political violence in the spring of 1920.”
  • Explain and Expand: “shot while trying to escape”
  • Explain and Expand: “Political violence reached fresh heights in 1923, a year marked not only by the bloody suppression of an abortive Communist uprising in Hamburg but also by gun battles between rival political groups in Munich and armed clashes involving French- backed separatists in the Rhineland.”

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading