The Spirit of England - England and Germany - 1918-1945

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
It should noted that the actual outcome of the First World War was a near thing, a far nearer thing than was the outcome of World War II.
While it is true that the United States entered the war on the Allied side in 1917, thus providing vast new potential sources of men and material, it is also true that Germany had knocked Russia out of the war at about the same time. 
This gave the Germans access to the resources of Eastern Europe, and freed their troops for deployment to the West. 
The German 'Spring Offensive' of 1918 actually succeeded in rupturing the Allied line at a point where the Allies had no significant reserves.

(At about this time, British Prime Minister Lloyd George was heard to remark, "We are going to lose this war."  He began to create a record which would shift the blame to others.)

The Germans were defeated by exhaustion, and this could as easily have happened to the Allies. 
Although today it is reasonably clear that Germany fought the war with the general aim of transforming itself from a merely continental power to a true world power, the fact is that at no point did the German government know just what its peace terms would be if it won.
From England they would probably have demanded nothing but more African colonies, and the unrestricted right to expand the German 'High Seas Fleet'.
In Eastern Europe, they would be more likely to have established friendly satellite countries in areas formerly belonging to the defunct empires than to have directly annexed much territory.
However, Germany capitulated (but without the allies entering German territory), and an Armistice was signed.

Signing the Armistice
The Armistice - an agreement to stop fighting - was signed between France, Britain, and Germany on 11th November 1918, bringing four years of fighting in the First World War to an end. 
The Armistice began at on 11th November 1918 at 11am (French time) - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The Armistice itself was agreed 6 hours earlier at 5 am with the first term of it being that fighting would end at 11 am.
The Armistice was an agreement to end fighting as a prelude to peace negotiations. 
The Armistice was designed to end the fighting of World War One, and the terms of it would make it impossible for Germany to restart the war, at least in the short term. 
Undefeated German Troops Return to Berlin - 1918
They were ordered to give up 2,500 heavy guns, 2,500 field guns, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 aeroplanes and all submarines they possessed (they were originally asked to give up more submarines than they actually had !). 
They were also asked to give up several warships, and disarm all of the ones that they were allowed to keep. 
If Germany broke any of the terms of the Armistice, such as not evacuating areas they were ordered to evacuate, not handing over weapons or prisoners of war in the time-scales given, or causing damage to any individual or their property, fighting would begin again with 48 hours notice. 
The Treaty of Versailles signed six months later would act as the peace treaty between the nations.

 Treaty of Versailles
Article 231, of the Treaty of Versailles, - often known as the War Guilt Clause, - was the opening article of the reparations section of the treaty, which ended the First World War between the German Empire and the Allied and Associated Powers.
The article served as a legal basis to compel Germany to pay reparations.
Article 231 required
"Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war.
Germans viewed this clause as a national humiliation, forcing Germany to accept full responsibility for causing the war.
German politicians were vocal in their opposition to the article in an attempt to generate international sympathy, while German historians worked to undermine the article with the objective of subverting the entire treaty.
The Allied leaders were surprised at the German reaction; they saw the article only as a necessary legal basis to extract compensation from Germany.
For Germany the Versailles Treaty was a disaster, and was a major contributor to period of political instability in Germany, which involved the rise of German Communism, and the development of  the National Socialist Movement.
In England, the 1920s and 30s ushered in a period of political instability which was in many ways the result of the economic problems caused by the huge debts inured by England during the Great War.
In 1926 the General Strike brought home to the middle and upper classes the imminent danger of a left wing, Communist workers revolution.

The 1926 General Strike
The 1926 General Strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted 10 days, from 3 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the general council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for 800,000 locked-out coal miners. Some 1.7 million workers went out, especially in transport and heavy industry. The government was prepared and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence, and the TUC gave up in defeat.

Street violence and strikes in Germany also alerted the ruling classes to a similar possibility  - and, in fact, there had already been a Soviet republic (Bayerische Räterepublik) declared in Bavaria in 1918, which had only been successfully suppressed by the use of the German army.

Members of the Bayerische Räterepublik Government
The Bayerische Räterepublik or Münchner Räterepublik was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a Communist state in the form of a Soviet workers' council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed Weimar Republic. Its capital was Munich. On Sunday, April 12, 1919, the Communist Party seized power, with Eugen Leviné as their leader. Leviné began to enact communist reforms, which included forming a "Red Army", seizing cash and food supplies, expropriating luxurious apartments, and placing factories under the ownership and control of their workers. Leviné also had plans to abolish paper money (?) and reform the education system, but never had time to implement them. At the suggestion of Vladimir Lenin, Leviné took hostages from among the Munich elite. On 30 April 1919, eight men, including the well-connected Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis, were accused as right-wing spies and executed. The Thule Society's secretary, Countess Hella von Westarp, was also murdered.

 Kaiser Wilhelm II
King-Emperor George V
While the King-Emperor George V remained King-Emperor, his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate.
With Germany actively seeking an armistice and revolution threatening, calls for Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate grew in intensity. 
Wilhelm was himself deeply reluctant to make such a sacrifice, instead expressing a preference to lead his armies back into Germany from the Western Front. 
Upon being informed by his military advisers that the army could not be relied upon not to harm him Wilhelm abandoned the notion.

Philipp Scheidemann
Chancellor Prince Max von Baden
Wilhelm's abdication was announced by Chancellor Prince Max von Baden in a 9 November 1918 proclamation - before Wilhelm had in fact consented to abdicate (but after Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann had announced the Kaiser's departure from the balcony of the Reichstag). 
Faced with a 'fait accompli', Wilhelm formally abdicated and went into exile in Holland.
Having announced the Kaiser's abdication Prince Max resigned, handing power to incoming Chancellor Friedrich Ebert who, in statements issued on 10 November and 17 November, appealed for public calm, and reassured the German public that the incoming government would be "a government of the people".

Chancellor Friedrich Ebert
Feldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg
Prince Max, however, was not the actual instigator of the Kaiser's abdication - that person was Feldmarschall Paul Ludwig von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, the  Chief of the General Staff from 1916.
Hindenburg was a Prussian Junker.

Junkers were the members of the landed nobility in Prussia. They owned great estates that were maintained and worked by peasants with few rights. They were a dominant factor in Prussian and, after 1871, German military, political and diplomatic leadership. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Those in what became East Germany were expelled by the Soviets after 1944, and their lands confiscated.

Kaiserin Viktoria

There was no equivalent to the Prussian Junker class in England, despite the fact the Queen Victoria's daughter, Vicky (Kaiserin Viktoria - Kaiser Wilhelm II's mother), had married into the Prussian Royal family, who were descended from Prussian Junkers.
Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's German husband, of course, was not Prussian, and like most Bavarians and Thuringians, had a hearty dislike of Prussia and the Prussians.
So, the English/German Royal family were nice, gemütliche Bavarians, while the German/German Royal family were barbarian Huns.

Adler der Weimarer Republik
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Unfortunately, for those who were not enamoured of the Prussians, the new German Nation, usually referred to as the Weimar Republic, was led by a Prussian Junker, who for most of the Republic's life ruled by presidential decree. 
And that Junker, of course, was Paul Ludwig von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg - who had got rid of the Kaiser, and who had already been virtual dictator of Germany since 1916.

Weimarer Republik is the name given to the federal republic and semi-presidential representative democracy established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government. It is named after Weimar, the city where the constitutional assembly took place. During this period, and well into the succeeding era of the Third Reich, the official name of the state was Deutsches Reich, which continued on from the pre-1918 Imperial period.

This was all very dramatic, and very continental, but in England things carried on in the same old way, almost as if there hadn't been a war.
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The period of the 1920s and 30s  was, however, one of the strangest and most significant episodes in the whole of English history, but very few people living at the time realised that simple fact.
Robert Graves and Alan Hodge wrote a book about the period and called it 'The Long Weekend' - which in one sense was very appropriate, despite the fact that it was a period of unprecedented change.
People, of course, were well aware of what was happening on the Continent, and particularly in Germany.

Party Badge - NSDAP
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Fünfzig Millionen Mark
While the economy had been unstable, in England there had been no sign of the 'hyper-inflation' and unemployment that had ruined so many in Germany.
And it was during the economic turmoil of the 20s that the National Socialist Party began to gain support in Germany.
Right-wing politics, however, was not unique to Germany, and at precisely the same time right wing movements began to develop in Eggland, among them the British Fascists, the Imperial Fascist League, and probably best known, the British Union of Fascists.

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In England, however, right wing movements never gained a large following.
It has been suggested that this is related to certain aspects of the English character - but this is not the case.

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Sir Oswald Moseley
If England had been on the losing side in the Great War, and if England had lost all of its Empire, and if England had felt threatened by malign foreign influence, then undoubtedly England would have had a right-wing nationalist government, probably led by Sir Oswald Moseley.
But the English felt safe in the knowledge that they 'ruled the waves' and had an 'Empire on which the sun never set', and that they were a 'great power' - or perhaps the great power.
Of course they were not safe at all - and were living in a 'fools paradise', as the would soon discover after 1945.
In Germany, however, most people felt humiliated by the loss of the war, the loss of their Empire (and particularly their African colonies), and the destruction of their currency and economy.
Adolf Hitler, of course, promised to restore all these losses, and make Germany once again a 'great power', and possibly the great power.

Lord Sempill
And in England, many influential individuals felt that Germany had been harshly treated (particularly by the French - England's traditional enemy), and these individuals were not only right-wing agitators, but in many cases eminent members of academia, and members of the upper classes and the aristocracy.
Included among those sympathetic to National Socialism are such well known individuals as the 5th Duke of Westminster, the second Baron Redesdale (the father of the Mitford sisters - including Unity Mitford - see below) and the famous aviator Lord Sempill who was later suspected of spying for the Japanese.

William Francis Forbes-Sempill, 19th Lord Sempill AFC, AFRAeS, (24 September 1893 – 30 December 1965) was a British (Scottish) peer and record-breaking air pioneer.

David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford,
David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (13 March 1878 – 17 March 1958), was an English landowner and was the father of the Mitford sisters, in whose various novels and memoirs he is depicted. Redesdale was an instinctive xenophobe: he came back from World War I with a dislike of the French and a deep hatred of the Germans. Thus he was initially scornful of the enthusiasm shown by his daughters Diana and Unity for National Socialism and Adolf Hitler. In November 1938, however, the Redesdales accompanied their daughters to Germany, where they attended the Nuremberg Rally and met Hitler, with whom Unity and Diana were already acquainted. Both the Redesdales were immediately won over by Hitler's apparent charm and his declarations of Anglophilia. Redesdale later spoke in the House of Lords in favour of the Austrian Anschluss and of returning Germany's colonies, and became a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Germany. Lady Redesdale went further, writing articles in praise of Hitler and in support of National Socialism.

Diana Mitford and Sir Oswald Moseley
Diana and Unity Mitford
Unity Valkyrie Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948), styled The Hon. Unity Mitford, was an aristocratic English socialite who was a devotee of Adolf Hitler. In Britain and in Germany, she was a prominent and public supporter of National Socialism and from 1936, a part of Hitler's inner circle of friends and confidants for five years. Following the declaration of war on Germany by England in 1939 Unity Mitford attempted suicide. Her sister Diana married to Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. They married in secret in Germany on 6 October 1936 in the Berlin home of Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests.

Others include the Earl of Galloway, Lord Carnegie, Lord Ronald Graham and William Joyce.
The were numerous organisations set up to support the interests of the Third Reich in England; the most prominent being the Right Club, which was set up by Captain Archibald Ramsay MP, an outspoken anti-Semite, a few months before the war in May 1939, "to oppose and expose the activities of Organised Jewry".

Captain Archibald Henry Maule Ramsay 
Captain Archibald Henry Maule Ramsay (4 May 1894 – 11 March 1955) was a British Army officer who later went into politics as a Scottish Unionist Member of Parliament (MP). From the late 1930s he developed increasingly strident antisemitic views. In 1940, after his involvement with a suspected spy at the United States embassy, he became the only British MP to be interned under Defence Regulation 18B.

In meetings chaired by the Duke of Wellington it sought to influence government policy to stop war with Germany.
Unlike the populist British Union of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Oswald Mosley, the Right Club was exclusive.
Its members were aristocrats and Members of Parliament, academics, civil servants, clerics and the rich, wealthy and powerful.
Some of the men had distinguished themselves in the 1914-18 war, and saw themselves as patriots.
Members and benefactors included Princess Blucher, Sir Ernest Bennett, Prince Turka Galitzine, Sir Alexander Walker, then the head of the Johnnie Walker whisky dynasty, First World War military hero Commander E H Cole.
MPs included Sir James Edmondson, Colonel Charles I Kerr and John M'Kie.

King Edward VIII
At the time, from King Edward VIII downwards, there was a widespread view that only a powerful Germany could hold back the threat of Bolshevism, and that Britain should be supporting Hitler, and not preparing to attack him.

His Majesty, Edward the Eighth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India. (Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David; later the Duke of Windsor; 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Empire, and Emperor of India, from 20 January 1936 until his abdication on 11 December 1936. Edwards abdication had more to do with his 'style' of kingship rather than his decision to marry Wallis Simpson.

1st Earl of Halifax
This attitude is exemplified by the address given by Lord Halifax, the then British Deputy Prime Minister - and later Foreign Secretary - in 1937'
"Herr Chancellor, on behalf of the British Government I congratulate you on crushing communism in Germany and standing as a bulwark against Russia".

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, KG OM GCSI GCMG GCIE TD PC (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s. He held several senior ministerial posts during this time, most notably that of Foreign Secretary between 1938 and 1940.

Harold Sidney Harmsworth
1st Viscount Rothermere
As such, he is often regarded as one of the architects of the policy of appeasement prior to World War II. During the war, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.

And in November 1933  Lord Rothermore wrote that:

"The sturdy young Nazi's are Europe's guardians against the Communist danger."

Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, Bt. (26 April 1868 – 26 November 1940) was a highly successful British newspaper proprietor, owner of Associated Newspapers Ltd. He is known in particular, with his brother Alfred Harmsworth, the later Viscount Northcliffe, for the development of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. He was a pioneer of popular journalism.
During the 1930s, he was known to be a supporter of Germany, purportedly having become convinced that the National Socialist Party would help restore the German monarchy. He cultivated contacts to promote British support for Germany.

Neville Chamberlain
Not only were the aristocracy and the governing classes positive in their attitude towards National Socialism and the Third Reich, but during the 1930's the English public at large had similar views, and it was these views that and made Chamberlain an overnight hero.

Treaty of Versailles

To understand this one must look at the contemporary perceptions the English people had of the Treaty of Versailles, and the situation of post-World War I Germany in Europe.
It must be conceded that Chamberlain made, what seemed to be at the time, a sensible decision, not only as a democratically elected politician, but as the leader of a country which was starting to find itself entangled in the start of another European war for which, it was felt at the time, both of the major Western Democracies were not military, financially and psychologically prepared.

Joseph Stalin
Adolf Hitler
For a democratically elected politician, the policy which is now termed 'appeasement' made perfect sense.

It should be remembered that many people in England  sympathised with Hitler's claims and accepted that the
Treaty of Versailles was too harsh and that Germany should have been treated more fairly.
So they did not object too much when Hitler built up his armed forces, increased his navy and moved his troops into the Rhineland.
Also, in the 1930's, apart from the National Socialists, there was the threat of Stalin's Communist tyranny, which most English people feared (quite rightly as it turned out) far more that the threat of Hitler's Germany.

Royal Airforce

Royal Navy - Capital Ships
Another reason why 'appeasement' seemed such a credible choice at the time to Chamberlain was primarily the fact that England simply lacked the military capability to fight a land war in Europe.
The Royal Navy, which was far more powerful than any European navy, was of lesser use in fighting a continental war, and the army was generally trained to fight 'imperial wars' outside Europe.
Only the Royal Air-force could be seriously considered as being specifically designed to fight in European wars.
Another justification for 'appeasement' was that realistically, neither France or Britain could protect Czechoslovakia and Poland from attack  as they were too far away and they also felt that perhaps it was not altogether their business to interfere.
On the 15th of March 1935, Hitler announced the reconstitution of the Luftwaffe, even though he was acting directly in contradiction to the Treaty of Versailles.
On the 16th of March Germany introduced military conscription.
A year later, on the 17th of March 1936, German troops re-occupied the Rhineland, again breaking the Versailles Treaty.
The next step that would be taken concerned the Austrian Anschluß.
Again this was an extreme violation of section 80 of the Treaty of Versailles and, for Austria, section 88 of the treaty of St. Germain.

Adolf Hitler enters Braunau
The Anschluß is German for "connection" or union, also known as the Anschluß Österreichs, was the reunification of Austria into the Third Reich in 1938. This was in contrast with the Anschluß movement (Austria and Germany united as one country), which had been attempted since as early as 1918 when the Republic of German-Austria attempted union with Germany, but was forbidden by the Treaty of Saint Germain, and Treaty of Versailles peace treaties.

A strong central Europe under German rule, which the conference at Versailles had wished to avoid, was once again becoming a reality.
Any firm reaction from the international community did not really materialise.
On the 18th of March 1938 a request was made by the Soviet Union towards the Western Democracies for collective action against Adolf Hitler.
Prime-Minister Neville Chamberlain answered that he did not find it wise to form war coalitions at a time when this could increase the chance of, and hasten, a big military conflict.
This was a reply, which would later, with hindsight, be of great historic significance.

Liberation of the Sudetenland
Wappen Sudetenland
Hitler's demands with regard to the Sudeten Germans were legitimate - and the English government was undoubtedly right to allow the Sudetenland to be re-united with Germany. 

The Sudetenland is the name given to those northern, southwest, and western areas of Czechoslovakia which were inhabited mostly by Volksdeutsche, specifically the border districts of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia located within what was known as Czechoslovakia. The name is derived from that of the Sudetes mountains – featuring in Ptolemy's 2nd-century Geography as Sudeti montes.

Equally, Poland was abusing the Volksdeutsche and holding territory that had traditionally belonged within the borders of the German Reich.
Stadtwappen Danzig

In National Socialist thinking, Volksdeutsche were "German in terms of people or volk". The term is the nominalised plural of volksdeutsch, with Volksdeutsche denoting a single female, and Volksdeutsche(r), a male single. The words Volk and völkisch conveyed the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilisation and blood. These terms were used to define people in terms of their ethnicity rather than citizenship, and thus included Germans living beyond the borders of the Reich. This is in contrast to Imperial Germans (Reichsdeutsche), German citizens living within Germany.

Therefore, Germany was justified in re-taking the Polish Corridor and the German city of Danzig.