From the first major world war, a notable leader rose to take over the fallen Germany. Adolf Hitler is undeniably one of the most significant personalities at this period of human history – whether on a positive light or not. In his budding years as a political leader, he had shown an exceptional and charismatic skill as an orator, a skill part of his key points to climb up the political ladder. As a teenager and early adult, he has been an active participant in political movements becoming the main orator for the National Socialist German Workers Party where his speeches attracted many followers for the party and strengthened it.
The speeches of Hitler during this early period of his political career symbolized the birth of a strong advocacy that will incur a huge impact in the course of world history. The following discussion will center on Hitler’s earlier speech which he did on December 1919 in Munich during one of the party’s assembly. This particular speech is one of those considered to show the first sign of Hitler’s consistent attack on the minorities of Germany, more specifically the Jews.
However, it is necessary to look back at the preceding events which triggered the motivations behind Hitler’s speech. One such event is the Treaty of Versailles which is considered to be the major cause of the so-called German hate in history. To briefly describe the Treaty of Versailles, it was one of the first efforts in establishing peace more specifically within the European continent. It was a pact signed between the Allied Powers and Germany as a conclusion for World War I.
This agreement created the first short-lived group of countries for the aim of maintaining collective security namely the League of Nations. Negotiations centered on how the reparations should be made from the damage the war caused and from this angle, the Treaty eventually led Germany as the center of the blame for causing the war itself. This particular premise can be found on Article 231 entitled the War Guilt Clause putting Germany as the responsible for the world war.
The War Guilt Clause became the basis for issuing the sanctions and compensations which Germany should follow. The treaty was dominated by the decisions of the ‘Big Three’ which includes France, Britain, and the United States. These three allied powers shared the same sentiment in placing Germany as the main instigator of the war where both French and Britain leaders believed that the war was a “crime against humanity” and the Americans thought that the repercussion for this responsibility is through disciplinary actions (Steiner, 1998, p.
293). Perhaps this kind of judgment occurred because Germany has the most powerful military and economic might among the members of the Center Power (the opposing group of the Allied). Another aspect is that Germany was considered to be France’s rival in terms of acquiring domination throughout the European continent, and being the only strength of the opposing power Germany was appointed ‘mastermind’ in launching the war. As previously mentioned, the contents of the treaty were merely decided by the major participants of the Allied Power.
Hitler mentioned in his speech about Britain’s manner of diplomacy where it unilaterally behaves to be able to advance its own interests. Looking at the treaty of Versailles, though the British government actively supported the punishment of Germany its approach was more pragmatic as the concern grew for France’s aggressive pursuance of establishing its own security. Britain became agitated that the stability of Europe will be threatened if the whole aim of France will be granted and therefore feared to be overpowered (Steiner, p. 293).
Britain’s leader, Lloyd George was anxious to moderate the strong pro-league currents in Britain. Though he embraced the league, he had little affection for it and used other means of personal diplomacy to achieve his aims (Steiner, p. 292). Its pragmatic approach enabled Britain to enter in inter-state agreements to gain allies for its security and military purposes while engaging in secret naval blockades and treaties – which contradicts the ideals of the Treaty of Versailles – to pursue its own economic interests (Lee, 2004, p. 11).
The tone of Hitler’s speech when he mentioned the diplomatic ways of Britain gave an impression that it should be one aspect to be emulated to be able to drive Germany out of its humiliation and to take back what they have lost from the Treaty’s punishment. From this aspect Hitler emphasized the unfair decision from the treaty which gained sympathy outside the country and legitimized Germany’s noncompliance to the treaty. The unfair decisions of the treaty which Hitler focused to fight against were derived from the conditions of the War Guilt Clause.
Since it had been decided that Germany should be responsible in compensating for the damages which the war inflicted, the Treaty of Versailles consisted of different provisions to meet the demands of the countries which suffered from the war. In sum, Germany must pay in monetary terms and at the same time they have been deprived of their pre-war resources losing more than half of their area and removing them military capabilities. For the Germans, these conditions were deeply scarring and humiliating for their country and in sheer favor for the ones which spearheaded the treaty.
Included among these clauses was the withdrawal of German colonies under the German government. The colonies that Germany lost were Alsace-Lorraine (within Germany), Eupen and Malmedy (in Belgium), Northern Schleswig, Posen (Poland), West Prussia, parts of Southern Silesia, and all overseas colonies (Lee, p. 12). These colonies as part of the German Empire have been an important source for supply of natural and economic resources. Without these colonies, not only Germany was stripped off of its external power but it cut down half of its profit and source of living.
To add more insult to the injury, the treaty imposed the demilitarization of Germany which limited the number of 100,000 volunteer soldiers, as well as its naval army has been limited. Altogether, Germany lost 13 percent of her area, 12 percent of her population, 16 percent of her coal, 48 percent of her iron, 15 percent of her agricultural land and 10 percent of manufactures. The monetary compensation has been decided by the cost of 136,000 million gold marks. (Lee, 2004, p. 12)
The War Guilt Clause have enraged the Germans for they see the provisions as a means to remove the sovereignty of the German nation by restricting – if not removing – the vital source of a country’s capabilities for independent survival. These sanctions will inevitably force Germany to rely of more than half of its needs on other countries, more particularly with the Allied powers where Britain and France were Germany’s economic and military rival. The idea of reliance to the ‘enemies’ due to the provision of the treaty to make Germany helpless was utilized by Hitler in his brief speech in December 1919.
For this projected the idea of making Germany look pathetic without her power and the image of an empire to suddenly turn into a beggar was encapsulated in the speech. It can be interpreted that Hitler emphasized the war guilt clause as an unjust weapon to paralyze the power of Germany. With the formation of the Treaty of Versailles, it became a source of German hate which will later on develop into the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust, for Hitler have turned the blame of this clause to the so-called betrayal of the internal enemies mainly comprising of non-German minorities such as the Jews (Staub, 1989, p.
92). The December 1919 speech in Munich may not have explicitly expressed this perspective however, taking the events and contents forming the Treaty of Versailles, the speech served as a burgeoning ideology that will reign on the course of the development of German history. As an empire which relied heavily on the produce of its colonies, the War Guilt Clause does not endanger the German economy but inflicted the German pride to liken to a king with a torn crown.
By means of his speech, Hitler used these factors as motivators to ignite the rage of the German people and be ready to redeem the wounded Germany from the unjust clause.
Steiner, Z. (1998). The Peace Settlement. In H. Strachan (Ed. ). History of the First World War (pp. 291-304). New York: Oxford University Press. Lee, S. J. (2004). European Dictatorships, 1918-1945. New York: Routledge. Staub, E. (1989). The Roots of Evil. USA: Cambridge University Press.