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Nicholas Haller
Dr. Anderson
HST 275 – A
12 March 2019
The German Problem Following the First World War

On November 11th, 1918, the guns of the first world war fell silent. What would follow Commented [1]: Here and elsewhere, this should be
was a diplomatic puzzle unlike any other Europe had faced before. On one hand, the allies

wanted to ensure that there was a new “long peace” on the European continent. On the other

hand, they wanted to make sure Germany was properly punished for the war and destruction that

it had caused. Comparing and contrasting two sources, A Stillness Heard Round the World by

Stanley Weintraub, and System Building 1919-1939 by Gordon Craig, I will outline several of

the historical controversies surrounding the Allies’ uneasy peace at the end of the first World

War. Commented [2]: Consistency is important, see above.

As the first world war came to an end in November of 1918, it had become clear that Commented [3]: Became -- avoid passive voice

Britain and France would be the two major countries to lead Europe in creating a new peace.

While these two countries certainly wanted a peaceful end to the war, taking revenge against

Germany soon became top priority. This would be accomplished through the armistice terms that

Germany would be forced to sign. According to Gordon Craig, reconciliation was off the table

entirely, and instead, a system of punishments would take its place. Craig says “When it was

over, there was little sentiment among the victors for reconciliation with a beaten foe. The

impulse was rather to punish him, to place burdens upon him that would prevent his recovery or

delay it for an indefinite period of time.” (Craig 44) This idea of revenge was certainly echoed

throughthough the writings of Stanley Weintraub as well. In his book A Stillness Heard Round

the World, Weintraub uses many primary sources to better understand the armistice that ended

the first world war. One such primary source that he uses is Matthias Erzberger, who was a Commented [4]: Erzberger himself is not the source.
Is it a speech, an article, etc.?
German politician who was authorized by the Reich government to sign the armistice. Erzberger

understood that the documents he would be signing were designed to punish Germany. Author

Weintraub says Erzberger knew that “execution of the armistice conditions could drive his

prostrate nation into famine without adding allied security.” (Weintraub 157) In this respect, the

works of the two authors are similar. Craig is looking at the events from a broader perspective,

while Weintraub is looking at the decisions and thoughts made in the moment. Each author

would agree that the armistice terms were written with the intention to harm and punish


One of the larger historical controversies of this treaty was how the defeated powers were

never allowed to join in on the negotiations that would decide their fate. Both of the authors echo

this controversy as well. The Germans certainly knew that they were intentionally being left out

of the peace-making process. Weintraub describes this German perspective when he says that

“Erzberger and his compatriots understood they were not parties to real negotiations, but

protentional signatories to an imposed peace”. (Weintraub 152) Even from the beginning, the Commented [5]: Is this the right word?

Germans understood that this would be a peace that they would be forced to agree with, evenif

though the terms were designed to punish their country. This was a perspective that author

Gordon Craig shareds as well. Looking back on the events that transpired, Craig says “The

enemy powers were not given a chance to express their views during the deliberations, and in the

end, they were simply handed peace terms . . . and told to accept them” (Craig 45) As Craig later

points out, this lack of cooperation between nations was a large reason why Europe would be

dragged into a second world war two decades later. HeThe author says that “In large part, the

failure to build an effective international system after 1919 was due to the absence of any real

measure of collaboration between the powers that had won the war.” (Craig 50) It is hard to say

whether or not history would have been different if Germany had been allowed to join the table

as the allies were discussing the armistice. Both Craig and Weintraub agree that it certainly was a

mistake not to include Germany since it may have led to the peace in Europe lasting much longer

than it actually did.

In their books, both authors touch on the long-term impacts of the armistice that was Commented [6]: This paragraph is rather long, it's
essentially a page in length. Here and perhaps
elsewhere, you may consider breaking them up so that
signed on that November day in 1918. Author Gordon Craig does not draw a direct connection you can trace the flow of your argument better.

between the way France and Great Britain handled the armistice and the rise of Hitler, but he

does allude to such a relationship. He says, “These French and British experiments in system-

making did not restrain the aggressive tendencies of Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany

after 1935”. (Craig 49) He means that the French and British system of enacting harsh

punishments on the defeated Germany, in reality did little to actually prevent the German rise to

power in the 1930s. The system that the victorious countries had hoped would subdue Germany

would eventually fail. Author Stanley Weintraub goes into further detail about this issue. He

believes that the armistice was actually good for Germany in several ways. First, he makes the

point that limiting Germany’s military capabilities actually benefited them in the long run. The

author says, “Enforced disarmament freed the military from the burden of weapon obsolesces

which might have bound Germany to old methods and traditional strategies.” (Weintraub 164)

For France and Britain, their military capabilities were frozen after the first world war. The old

military generals were still in control when the second world war began. Their strategies and

weapons were outdated. This was much different for Germany. Since they had been disarmed,

Germany would be able to acquire the newest technology in weapons, and new general had taken

over which provided fresh insight on how to wage war. The second point that Weintraub makes

is that the armistice was not as harsh on Germany has the victorious powers had expected.

“Germany would be pruned, plundered, and punished, but as long as the nation and its

infrastructure remained largely intact it could begin the process of circumvention”. (Weintraub

160) Here, the author is pointing out that the armistice did not limit Germany’s economic output,

so they were still able to run a fairly successful economy (excluding the self-inflicted economic

depression of the 1920s). Overall these authors are saying that the armistice signed in November

of 1918 had many long-term effects that would have a huge impact on Europe in the following


In conclusion, the two authors, Stanley Weintraub and Gordon Craig look at the signing

of the armistice that ended the first world war from two different perspectives. Gordon Craig

looks at the events through a wider lensfrom a wider over-view. On the other hand, Stanley Commented [7]: You've used this transitional
comparison already--and there is no first hand in the
Weintraub looks at the events from a much closer perspective, often times using first hand

accounts. Even though these two sources are quite different in perspective, their major arguments

about the effect that the armistice had on Europe are remarkably similar.