Inflation of Guilt Culture

1923. German youth with dragons made of Reichsmark bank notes
1923. German youth with dragons made of Reichsmark bank notes

On March 30, 2023, an article titled "1923 Toxic Papers" appeared in Germany's weekly magazine "Der Freitag." From Aufa100's perspective, this text by historian Rudolf Walther offers a highly simplified portrayal and interpretation of the lead-up to the end of hostilities after an increasingly exhausting global war.

Just a Russia was the first to announce mobilisation (1914), which caused the German adversary to follow suit, the end of worldwide warfare started with her being the first state to give up on it in 1917. The four-year stalemate on the westfront was successfully broken up by the fresh input of the United States expeditionary forces.

However, the framework of events surrounding Germany's debt and hyperinflation as a consequence of the dictated Treaty and "Bund (League) of Versailles", as presented by the Swiss author, lacks essential connections to the context. He wrote that in autumn 1918, "the armistice with France was negotiated." This perpetuates a widespread view that the United Kingdom, Georges Clemenceau's Entente partner, is of secondary importance. However, history clearly shows that the ceasefire was concluded between an imploding German Empire and an obviously London-led Entente. This was preceded by Berlin's request to US President Woodrow Wilson. On the world stage, Britain let Paris in a seemingly leading role, that is not only as the host of the 1919 peace conference. A similar development would occur almost 85 years later when Germany's government under Gerhard Schröder vehemently criticized the Anglo–American war course towards Iraq, with France following suit. History remembers the French government as the driving force behind this, with the media playing a tragic role in many respects.

In their relations with the indispensable junior partner since the third year of the war (1917), i.e. the United States, Great Britain and its one-sidedly invited colonists also did their utmost to retain supremacy. Representatives of three Dominions (colonies) of the southern hemisphere placed their war-related independence claims ahead of all shared interests in a peaceful solution (sustainable post-war order). As a result of the exemplary effect of their democracy, the US eventually withdrew from the imperialist-dominated conference (🇺🇸 Senate resolutions on November 19, 1919, and March 19, 1920).

From the outset, our initiative aimed to expose widespread amnesia regarding the events in the fifth and final year of World War I and its consequences. During the recent centenary commemorations, this memory lapse persisted across Europe. In 2019, when the Europeans were apparently consumed by the long-lasting anti-European Brexit chaos, there was little to no recognition or processing of the post-Armistice anniversaries, unlike in the United States. On June 28, 2019, not a single other nationality joined the Americans holding a grand commemorative ceremony in Versailles, complete with an educational program, marking the culmination of their remembrance efforts. This left the Europeans, who would not have had to undertake any overseas trip, exposed in the role of a negative exception. By late autumn 2019, further exhibits of US memorial culture were to be made publicly available. Another year and a half later, Sabin Howard's national monument was unveiled in Washington.

Another portrayal by Rudolf Walther should be adjusted. At the Paris Conference, all the other allies and their US associate retreated in the face of the overwhelming force of two delegations under the Union Jack. The British "double delegation" took all by surprise. In comparison, the influence of the heavily affected front-line state of Belgium paled against that of the British Imperial Delegation under the lead of David Lloyd George's colonial hero Jan Christiaan Smuts. The roots of the deadly dictate to "Weimar" lie not in Paris but in London and the Empire (e.g. Karlheinz Lüdeking 2019, Peter de Bourgraaf 2020, 2018, see Aufa100 founding manifesto). At the same time, for the red Russians, the harsh treaty conditions of their treaty with the German Empire would not spell the end.

The German taboo surrounding the outcome of this world war has largely persisted into the second century after the events. This is particularly tragic in light of the current war. Understanding Nazi conquests and crimes (1939 – 1945) is less relevant to its origins and comprehension than that of the "first post-war order." Mutual understanding clearly forms the basis for acceptable conflict resolutions.

In a third interpretation of the article, the reader should be skeptical when it is claimed that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk surpassed the later western treaty in "brutality". For one, the new Russia was not contractually banished from the world by its opponent, as happened to the similarly revolutionary Germans during the winter of 1919 in the totalitarian style of consecutive British-British exile acts. On the other hand, none of the French conference hosts were initially responsible for the secret dissolution of Germany's colonial empire, a blatant violation of the armistice agreement. Through a successful propaganda war, the causal double delegation absolved themselves of responsibility for this breach with far-reaching consequences. According to Mr Walther's inflation article, the Germans faced a single guilt clause, an argument that might go virtually unopposed. However, this overlooks the fact that the British line of argument regarding the colonial clauses that triggered the concept treaty would permanently stigmatize the people and nation of the dissolved mother country. The well-known "Kriegsschuldlüge" emerged a few months after this outcome of the prioritized colonial question before the one-month conference break in February and March. With this prioritization over Europe's "domestic affairs", Lloyd George managed to legitimize the arrival and prompt participation of extreme nationalist colonists. The so-called colonial guilt lie preceded the blame assigned in the first week of summer 1919 – coinciding with the total loss of Germany's seven-month interned navy on the 21st. Thirdly, a one-to-one constellation such as the 1918 Eastern Treaty is, particularly from the perspective of the ceasefire requesting party, fundamentally different from the dictate of a British-led alliance of thirty ratifying Versailles states respectively Empire colonies.

Lastly, it seems questionable whether the accumulating humiliations were largely accepted as being of a "symbolic nature" at the time. The historical amnesia, if not dementia, of a would-be decolonizing Europe explains the reluctance to accept certain facts. As a result, hardly anyone in the old world noticed that these were addressed by the United States World War One Centennial Commission in a fitting and orderly manner.

Peter de Bourgraaf

Many thanks to Theo Mayer, Program Leader and Chief Technologist of the Doughboy Foundation, for his promptly offered translation services  🇩🇪 > 🇬🇧

📑  See 🇩🇪 original 

The special “Zeit” issue of January 2019 says: “The peace negotiations at the end of World War I began in January 1919 in Paris. (...) Germany hopes for mildness, France demands harshness and America punts on democracy and national self-determination.” Comment: 🇬🇧 / 🇬🇧 ?! As a matter of fact, no peace for the world (Kein Frieden für die Welt)
The special “Zeit” issue of January 2019 says: “The peace negotiations at the end of World War I began in January 1919 in Paris. (...) Germany hopes for mildness, France demands harshness and America punts on democracy and national self-determination.” Comment: 🇬🇧 / 🇬🇧 ?! As a matter of fact, no peace for the world (Kein Frieden für die Welt)