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

  • “It was in this atmosphere of national trauma, political extremism, violent conflict and revolutionary upheaval that Nazism was born.”
  • “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.”
  • “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!”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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 Steel Helmets proclaim the battle against all softness and cowardice, which seek to weaken and destroy the consciousness of honour of the German people through renunciation of the right of defense and will to defense.”
  • “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”
  • “Their affinities with the hard right became closer from the middle of the 1920s, when they took a more radical stance, banning Jews from membership despite the fact that the organization was intended to provide for all ex-front-soldiers, and there were plenty of Jewish veterans who needed its support as much as anyone else did.”
  • “Bands of uniformed men marching through the streets and clashing with each other in brutally physical encounters became a commonplace sight in the Weimar Republic, adding to the general atmosphere of violence and aggression in political life.”
  • “the ‘November criminals’ or ‘November traitors’ as they were soon dubbed, the men who had first stabbed the army in the back, then in November 1918 committed the double crime of overthrowing the Kaiser and signing the Armistice.”

Thought Questions

  • In what ways did chaos envelop Germany immediately after World War I?
  • In what ways did fascism appeal to German conservatives?
  • 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.”
  • Compare and Contrast: The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the Treaty of Versailles
  • Describe the military circumstances of Germany and the Central Powers at the end of World War I
  • Describe the “Stab in the Back” myth
  • Who was Richard Wagner and what was his significance to the history of Germany
  • Explain and Expand: “No enemy has overcome you!”
  • Who was Friedrich Ebert
  • What was the significance of Friedrich Ebert referencing the Entente Powers as “enemies” to German troops
  • Describe the creation of Weimar Germany
  • In what ways was making “the world safe for democracy” contradicted by elements of the Treaty of Versailles?
  • Explain and Expand: “Just as significant, and just as much of a shock, was the refusal of the victorious powers to allow the union of Germany and German- speaking Austria, which would have meant the fulfilment of the radical dreams of 1848.”
  • In what ways did Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” impact the development of the Treaty of Versailles
  • React and Respond: “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 “Article 231” of the Treaty of Versailles, what was its purpose for the Allied powers and how was it interpreted by Germans
  • React and Respond: “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.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Although the British and the Americans stationed troops in a large area of the Rhineland, it was the French, both there and in the Saar, who aroused the most resentment.”
  • Explain and Expand: “The Pan- Germans had greeted the outbreak of war in 1914 with unbounded enthusiasm, verging on ecstasy. For men like Heinrich Class, it was the fulfilment of a lifetime’s dream.”
  • How did the Prussian military class contribute to the “decent into chaos”
  • Who were Wolfgang Kapp and Alfred Hugenberg and how did they impact the Weimar Republic?
  • Describe the founding and significance of the German Fatherland Party
  • Explain and Expand: “Those who were already politically socialized into conservative and nationalist traditions found their views radicalized in the new political context of the 1920s. On the left, too, a new willingness to use violence was conditioned by the experience, real or vicarious, of the war.”
  • Describe the ‘Steel Helmets: League of Front- Soldiers’ and their significance to Weimar Germany
  • Who was Theodor Duesterberg and how did he contribute to the development of fascism in Germany
  • Explain and Expand: ““Both men therefore believed that the Steel Helmets should be ‘above politics’.”
  • Explain and Expand: “For most Germans, as for the Steel Helmets, the trauma of the First World War, and above all the shock of the unexpected defeat, refused to be healed.”
  • 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 was the significance of “Military models of conduct had been widespread in German society and culture before 1914; but after the war they became all-pervasive; the language of politics was permeated by metaphors of warfare, the other party was an enemy to be smashed, and struggle, terror and violence became widely accepted as legitimate weapons in the political struggle.”
  • What was the significance of: Free Corps, Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold, the Red Front- Fighters’ League, other “combat leagues”
  • Who were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg?
  • Explain and Expand: “the Free Corps, egged on by the mainstream Social Democrats, reacted with unprecedented violence and brutality.”
  • 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: “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.”
  • Explain and Expand: “provided the spur to translate extreme ideas into violent action.”

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