Tag Archives: debt

The German Debt

A Greek person smirks as they tell a German person that "a debt is a debt." The German person is worried and nervously clutching Drachma bills that Greece wants Germany to hand over.
A Greek man smirks as he tells a German man in a military uniform that “a debt is a debt.” The German man is worried and nervously clutching Drachma bills that the Greek man is nonchalantly telling him to hand over.

The London Debt Agreement in 1953 consisted of twenty countries (including the United States, Britain, France, and Greece) who wrote off about half of Germany’s World War I and World War II debt as well as installed a payment plan (Dearden, “Helped Postwar Germany”). As Germany began to prosper in the years following the debt relief, Greek debt and unemployment continued to rise. Economist John Milios states that Greece should receive a debt write off similar to what Germany received in the London Debt Agreement (qtd. in Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). However, Greece’s political and economic circumstances vary greatly from Germany so it is unlikely that they will receive such help. This cartoon, “The German Debt,” by Miguel Villalba Sánchez (Elchicotriste) portrays the complicated relationship between the two countries and their debt problems through the use of visual exaggeration, irony, and historical allusion.

In this cartoon, Germany and Greece are personified and visually exaggerated in order to convey the strain that debt relief has put on their relationship. Germany is portrayed as an old, pale, sweaty, and almost sickly looking man dressed in combat gear. This rendering of Germany evokes a negative connotation; his pallor and old age represent weakness and intimidation. The German man is wearing a military uniform in which the helmet closely resembles the helmets that Germans wore in World War II (Antill, “German Army Equipment”). The uniform provides Germany with a false sense of safety and authority. By contrast, Greece is portrayed as a young, smiling, and healthy looking man who is at ease dressed in a stereotypical Greek outfit. This shows how Greece is pleased by the German struggle. Germany used to be Greece’s major enemy, however, now the tables have turned and Germany is now Greece’s largest creditor (BBC News). Greece claimed that Germany owed them billions of euros in order to repay the Nazi occupation of Greece during which about 250,000 people died, a forced loan was taken from the Bank of Greece, and infrastructure was destroyed (BBC News). Greece is satisfied with Germany’s struggle because they see justice being exacted.

This cartoon relates to the historical cartoon “Going Down Third Time” by John Knott because it shows how German debt problems in the past led to even worse debt problems. According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, half of German debt came before World War II and the other half came after (“Cancelled Germany’s Debt”). The first half was incurred by loans as Germany tried to pay off their insane World War I debt charges. The second half stemmed from reconstruction following the end of World War II (“Cancelled Germany’s Debt”). After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany’s debt problems continued to worsen. This was foreshadowed in Knott’s cartoon because he made it evident that Germany was drowning and no one was willing to help. However, Germany’s economic trajectory changed for the better in 1953 because of the debt pardon that was an “economic miracle” (Becker, “German Economic Miracle”).

There is irony in Greece chiding Germany by saying “a debt is a debt” because Greece is having problems paying its own massive amounts of debt. After the debt write off, Germany began to slowly but surely recover from their rough past as Greece fell further into recession. Greece feels that they should receive a debt write off similar to Germany, however, the creditors are not inclined to offer the same relief.  The crediting countries see that Germany is trying to “expiate its past” whereas Greece is accumulating debt by “unsustainable socialist benefits” (Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). Some of these socialist expenses include higher pensions, universal healthcare, a large government, and salaries for Orthodox priests (Bershidsky, “Debt Relief”). The difference between German and Greek debt is seen in how each country acquired their debt.

According to Leonid Bershidsky in his Bloomberg View column, “Germany Deserved Debt Relief, Greece Doesn’t,” Greece caused deficits by continuing these socialist fiscal practices for three decades, borrowed to cover them, and then lied about them to the Eurostat so they could adopt the euro in 2001. Bershidsky emphasizes the fact that Germany is taking on debts made by previous, corrupt governments whereas Greece carelessly and secretly accumulates debts of their own. On the contrary, the cartoon shows Greece smirking at Germany as if the Greeks didn’t have any debt problems of their own. Therefore, the cartoon is ironic in that both countries have debts to pay and no matter how that debt was incurred, neither Greece nor Germany should be reprimanding the other.

The bar-code mustache and Drachma bills allude to World War II and how it affected Germany’s relationship with Greece. The bar-code mustache on Germany not only alludes to Hitler’s infamous mustache, but it represents a price. In general, we scan bar-codes to get the price of an item. This shows how Hitler’s rule created a huge price that Germans would have to pay for a long time. Not only was previous debt ignored and new debt obtained, but the cruelty of Hitler’s Germany will always be remembered and felt across the world. The bar-code mustache emphasizes the price that Germans are still paying for World War II. This leads to the allusion and symbolization of the Drachma bills.

The Drachma was Greece’s currency until they adopted the euro in January of 2001 (“Greek Drachma”). In 2000, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that Germany “should pay €28m to the relatives of those killed” in the Nazi massacre in Distomo in 1944 (BBC News). There were several other massacres in which hundreds of people died as well as war crimes, a forced loan, and the destruction of infrastructure (BBC News). Because of this, Greece rightfully deserves compensation for the Nazi occupation during World War II. This is a central idea in the cartoon as it shows Germany unwilling to give Greece its own currency. However, Germany is disinclined to settle these reparations because they claim that the issue was settled in 1990 and Greece keeps changing the figure. It also raises questions as to why Greece did not negotiate these repayments before entering the Eurozone (BBC News). This explains why Germany is reluctant to give the Drachmas to Greece, however, Greece feels like the money is rightfully theirs.

Furthermore, relations between the two countries continue to worsen. When discussing a bail out for Greece’s debilitating debt in 2015, Germany approached the topic with what many perceived as a harsh sternness. This view was reinforced when Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, suggested that Greece temporarily exit from the euro (Eddy, “Greek Debt Crisis”). The two countries have to deal with the exasperating problem of getting rid of old debt without incurring new debt.

Miguel Sánchez’s cartoon relates to John Knott’s political cartoon, “Going Down Third Time,” because it shows the results of what happened due to German debt after World War I. The debt problems Germany had with France led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, which then led to more debt, which led to the London Debt Agreement, which led to further tensions between Greece and Germany. Not only do Greece and Germany have their individual problems with debt, but they are still trying to settle conflicts that happened over half a century ago.

Works Cited

Antill, P. “German Army Equipment of the Second World War.” German Army Equipment of the Second World War. N.p., 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Becker, Andreas. “German Economic Miracle: Thanks to Debt Relief? | Germany | DW.COM | 27.02.2013.” DW.COM. N.p., 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Bershidsky, Leonid. “Germany Deserved Debt Relief, Greece Doesn’t.” Bloomberg.com. Ed. Cameron Abadi. Bloomberg, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Dearden, Nick. “Greece and Spain Helped Postwar Germany Recover. Spot the Difference | Nick Dearden.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Eddy, Melissa. “Germany’s Tone Grows Sharper in Greek Debt Crisis.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 July 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

“Greek Drachma.” GRD. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

“How Europe Cancelled Germany’s Debt in 1953 – Jubilee Debt Campaign UK.” Jubilee Debt Campaign UK. N.p., 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Knott, John. “Going Down Third Time.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News 15 July 1931, sec. 2: 2. Readex: A Division of Newsbank. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

News, BBC. “Does Germany Owe Greece Wartime Reparations Money?” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Sánchez, Miguel Villalba (Elchicotriste). “Pitch THE GERMAN DEBT.” Cartoon. Cartoon Movement – THE GERMAN DEBT. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.



Germany’s Christmas Tree

A very meager and sad looking Christmas tree sits behind a broken window. The ornaments are chain links, solders fighting depciting communism and fascicm, and presents with the words reparations, debt and unemployment written on the outside. A candle of "hope" sits at the top of the Christmas tree.
A very meager and sad looking Christmas tree sits behind a broken window. The ornaments are chain links, solders fighting depicting communism and fascism, and presents with the words reparations, debt and unemployment written on the outside. A candle labeled “hope” sits at the top of the Christmas tree.

Description: This political cartoon from the early 1930s, depicts a Christmas tree with ornaments of war, but with one small glimmer of hope – that of a candle topping the tree. It is referring to the hope that France and Germany will work out their differences regarding reparations in the post WWI landscape.

This cartoon is humorous because of it’s contrasts between the usually happy celebrations of Christmas time with the sad, meager tree and the angry, combative “ornaments that are hung on the lowest branches – perhaps implying the lowest hanging fruit and thus  the most likely to occur.


John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook, [ca. 1930-1942], 1952, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Reparations.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2205-2209. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

If They Would Exchange Presents

Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.
Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott mocking the predicament of U.S. and European relations post-World War I. It depicts “Europe” giving the gift of disarmament to the U.S., represented by Uncle Sam, in exchange for war debt revisions. The cartoon implies that Europe would disarm if the U.S. would revise, or essentially decrease, European war debt; likewise, the cartoon suggests that the U.S. would gladly decrease European war debt if Europe were to disarm first (Knott 2). The accompanying editorial titled “The Reparations Problem” summarizes the context of the cartoon. It explains that by the end of 1931, the U.S. Congress finally gave approval for a one-year postponement of German reparations, acknowledging a proposal made in the previous year by then President Herbert Hoover. The U.S. Congress did not want to cancel war repayments, as it strongly indicated to the International Committee on Reparations, but instead wanted to suspend payments. The reason for Germany’s inability to pay was that it could only pay from borrowed money that it was no longer able to obtain or from money made off of exports that were heavily tariffed (“The Reparations Problem” 2).

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian nationalists in 1914 catapulted Europe into the First World War. The assassination set off a domino effect, causing country after country to get involved in the escalating conflict that eventually developed into World War I. What ensued after the war was the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, a meeting that established the terms of peace after the war, and during this conference the Treaty of Versailles was established (Cochran). The reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was to take responsibility for the damages caused by World War I and that it must adhere to a payment schedule to pay back the cost of those damages. The mindset of the United States and its allies was that they were essentially dragged into the war out of obligation, and therefore should be repaid for everything lost in the war. However, it was known that Germany could not pay the entire costs of the war and that it was nearly impossible to create a realistic repayment schedule in 1919, the year that the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Versailles did not have a definitive reparation settlement (Merriman and Winter 2207). Therefore, naturally, Germany wanted debt revisions. Germany, however, wasn’t the only European country in debt. For example, in 1934, Britain still owed the US $4.4 billion of World War I debt (Rohrer). For this reason, Knott’s cartoon depicts “Europe” in need of war debt revision and not just Germany.

The disarmament portion of the cartoon pertains to the U.S.’s insistence on worldwide disarmament, highlighted in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal that said, “All countries should reduce their armed forces to the lowest possible levels (Multilateral disarmament.)” (Fuller). The Treaty of Versailles initiated the notion of disarmament by targeting Germany in particular, forcing them to take full blame for World War I and to disarm. “The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men and conscription proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force” (“Treaty of Versailles, 1919″).  The Treaty’s main concern was the disarmament of Germany. Politicians, journalists, and academics argued at the time that the naval race for arms was one of the major causes of the war. Based on this idea, the victors of the war decided to force Germany to disarm due to its previous invasion attempts toward France. It was thought that by forcing its disarmament, Germany was being stripped of its power to wage war (Merriman and Winter 856). Soon, this philosophy was expanded to include all European nations. “Following the atrocities of World War I, both nations [the U.S. and Great Britain] hoped to avoid any future conflicts, and both faced difficult economic times that restricted military spending. As a consequence, the two governments were willing to consider serious limits on offensive weapons” (World History Encyclopedia 593).

Reduction of conflict, however, wasn’t the only motivation behind disarmament. The Great Depression diverted attention from the issue of disarmament to debt and unemployment. In 1932, everyone owed America money, but because of the depression, few countries could repay their loans. The U.S. decided that if nations didn’t spend money on arms, they would be able to repay the United States; therefore, the U.S. called for worldwide disarmament (Bradley 38).

Knott’s cartoon represents a very circular predicament. The two entities were at a stalemate. The U.S. was the world’s major creditor nation, and in order to get paid back, it insisted on worldwide disarmament so that funds could be redirected to debt repayment. Europe, however, would only disarm if war debts were lowered and revised first. It was as though this political stalemate could only be resolved by some miracle.

That is exactly the point Knott wants to impress upon his audience. The illustration of the Christmas tree, along with the fact that the cartoon was being published on Christmas Eve, gives the cartoon an air of Christmas spirit. The term “Christmas Miracle” is typically used to emphasize how unlikely an event is to occur, and that seems to be what Knott is implying as the only solution to this conflict – a Christmas Miracle – given how unlikely a compromise seemed in 1931.  What is also humorous is how nonchalant the gift exchange is, almost trivializing the damages and lives lost in the war. It is as if there is no rivalry or conflict of interest between the two parties; it’s not as aggressive, or desperate, or even as somber as one would expect. It is definitely not a gift exchange of good will either; Christmas is regarded as a time of selfless generosity and community, a time of giving rather than receiving without the expectation of anything in return. However this is a very self-interested exchange, defying the traditional, selfless ideals of Christmas. These contradictions serve as indirect attacks on the U.S. and Europe’s inability to reach an agreement.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Knott that focused attention on and mocked the diplomatic gridlock between the U.S. and Europe. It uses the setting and themes of Christmas to criticize the two sides’ uncompromising stances toward disarmament and war debt revisions, comparing the successful exchange of “presents” to a Christmas Miracle. The cartoon serves as political commentary on post-World War I negotiations and ranks as one of Knott’s many politically motivated cartoons.

Works Cited

Bradley, F. J. He Gave the Order: The Life and Times of Admiral Osami Nagano. Bennington: Merriam Press, 2014. Google Books. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Cochran, Philip. Austin Community College. Austin, Texas. 27 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Fuller, Richard. “The Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 1919.” rpfuller. rpfuller, 3 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Disarmament.” Child Care to Futurism. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 855. Print. Vol. 2 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Reparations.” Nagy to Switzerland. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2206. Print. Vol. 4 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

“The Reparations Problem.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, 85th ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Rohrer, Finlo. “What’s a Little Debt between Friends?” BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 10 May 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Watch Out for Greek Debt!

The cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus by Myron with “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus symbolizing debt at other, cowering European countries.
The cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus by Myron with “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus symbolizing debt at other, cowering European countries.

The political cartoon Watch Out for Greek Debt! depicts the famous Greek statue Discobolus, with the word “Greece” written on it, ready to throw a discus, which symbolizes debt, at other cowering European countries (Sooke). The statue is posed as if it is about to hurl the discus, and all of the statues around it are ducking to avoid getting hit. This cartoon symbolizes how the other countries are avoiding getting “hit” by the negative consequences of Greek debt and having all of their political-economic progress regress (“Watch out for Greek Debt!”). The cartoon emphasizes the potentially devastating effects of Greek debt for other European countries in the Eurozone.

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership between twenty-eight European countries that was created in the aftermath of World War II. The intent behind the creation of the EU is that countries that trade with each other become economically interdependent and therefore more likely to avoid conflict. The establishment of the EU brought about the creation of the euro, the single currency used across the twenty-eight countries (“The EU in brief”). Greece is one of the many members of the EU, along with Ireland, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Portugal, to name a few (“Countries in the EU and EEA”). Greece in particular, however, is singled out in this cartoon as the most vulnerable as well as the most threatening member of the bunch.

Greece is in the midst of a debt crisis that could potentially crumble the economies of its European neighbors. After Wall Street crashed in 2008, Greece became the center of Europe’s debt crisis. Greece admitted that it had been understating its deficit figures for years and suddenly found itself shut out from borrowing in financial markets, leading the country toward bankruptcy. This sudden decline put Europe on the verge of a new financial crisis. To avoid collapse, the financial troika – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission – issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece, which would eventually total more than $264 billion in today’s exchange rates. “Greece’s relations with Europe are in a fragile state, and several of its leaders are showing impatience” (“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained”).

The other countries depicted in the cartoon are not chosen at random either. Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain – collectively called “The PIGS”– are known for having “binged on cheap debt” and “allowed citizens’ benefits to go well beyond the means of their governments.” In 2010, the PIGS were going bankrupt at a fast rate and threatened the continued existence of the euro and the entire European project. However, since then, all of the PIGS except for Greece are returning to economic health (Dawber). Now Greece is putting them at risk of relapsing into economic instability, threatening the euro in the process. This is symbolized in the cartoon as “Greece” throwing a discus of “debt” at its neighboring European countries.

There is coincidental irony in the name of the statue, Discobolus, and the subject matter involved. The suffix “obolus” means “a silver coin or unit of weight equal to one sixth of a drachma, formerly used in ancient Greece” (“obolus”). It is ironic that a discus that symbolizes a Greek drachma has “debt” written on it, as if foreshadowing that Greece being a part of the EU and using the euro as its currency has a formidable future of debt crisis.

The issues illustrated in Watch Out for Greek Debt! have a lot of similarity to the issues depicted in the political cartoon If They Would Exchange Presents by John Knott (Knott 2). Published on Christmas Eve 1931, Knott’s cartoon shows Uncle Sam of the United States offering a Christmas gift of war debt revisions to a queen representing Europe; and in the generous spirit of the season, she is offering the gift of disarmament in exchange.

In the twenty-first century, Greece is in debt to other countries much like Germany was in the aftermath of World War I. In the 1930s, the United States wanted Germany and the rest of Europe to disarm so that the funds going toward armament could instead go toward debt repayment; thus, in If They Would Exchange Presents, Europe’s gift to the U.S. was disarmament. In Knott’s cartoon, Germany, along with the rest of the indebted European nations, was asking for war debt revisions so that their debt load wasn’t so crippling. Germany was blamed for the damages and costs of World War I and was required to pay back the costs to the Allied nations. Repayment obligations were so onerous that they needed a moratorium and debt revisions to ever back on their feet. Similarly, in Watch Out for Greek Debt!, Greece is held responsible for threatening Europe’s economy, and needs bailouts for its crippling debt like Germany was asking for war debt revisions. “The bailout money mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. And the government still has a staggering debt load that it cannot begin to pay down unless a recovery takes hold” (“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained”).

The humor of comparing these two cartoons, and particularly comparing twenty-first century Germany and Greece, is that Germany is now the poster-child for Greece to model itself after. “Germany has fewer outstanding tax debts than any other country in Europe, while Greece has more than any other. That difference not only helps Germany enjoy a far more fiscally sound position than Greece, but it offers a stark contrast between a disciplined government and one that historically has been hardly disciplined” (O’Brien). It is ironic that Germany, which once was economically unstable and deeply indebted to other countries, is now an example of European economic health, the example to which Greece aspires.

Lastly, in Watch Out for Greek Debt!, Greece has the potential of putting contemporary Europe in as much debt and economic instability as in the 1930s because of the region’s shared economic interdependence on the euro. The Knott cartoon shows Europe of that era requesting war debt revisions because it is in an economic rut. Contemporary Europe could potentially descend into similar economic turmoil because if Greece were to collapse, then the euro could collapse with them, causing a domino effect.

Works Cited

“Countries in the EU and EEA.” GOV.UK. Gov.UK, 24 July 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Dawber, Alistair. “While Greece Flails, Are the Rest of the Stricken Pigs Taking Off?” Independent. Independent, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“The EU in Brief.” Europa. European Commission, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

“Greece’s Debt Crisis Explained.” The New York Times. New York Times, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

“Obolus.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. N.p.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. The Free Dictionary. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

O’Brien, Matt. “7 Key Things to Know about Greece’s Debt Crisis and What Happens Next.” The Washington Post. N.p., 5 July 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Sooke, Alastair. “The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the Body Beautiful.” BBC. BBC, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Watch out for Greek Debt!” Cartoon. Enikos. N.p., 16 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Urgent Letter to Santa Claus

John Knott, "Urgent Letter to Santa Claus"  A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit "or else".
John Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”
A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit “or else”.

“Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”

December 21, 1931

John Knott

Following World War I, Germany was asked to pay reparations to Britain and France; however, Germany was reluctant given the staggering sum requested and the inevitable financial distress associated with paying such reparations.  Germany’s reparation bill seemed so incredibly outrageous that it was almost impossible for the struggling country to pay for the large sum (Schuker, 542) . A 1931 Los Angeles Times article supported the notion that, “Germany [would] simply not pay, [because] no party and no government…willing to agree to payment [could] possibly stay in power” (“Germany and Reparation”, 4).   At the same time they also accumulated a large amount of international debt.  Consequently, the public lost faith in the German currency, and hyperinflation took over the country.  In 1931 the German government battled high unemployment, plunging farm income, and political unrest as economic depression enveloped the country.  To combat the deflated currency and economic distress, Germany continued to borrow capital and placed a massive strain on its banks.  The German debt spiraled to an unsustainable level while debtors became increasingly concerned about recovering their capital.  It was important to note that forty percent of those debts were owed to Americans (Fearon, 510) .  By the summer of 1931, the banking system of Germany began losing when “Germany introduced exchange controls and froze foreign-owned credits, [which made] it impossible for US citizens to withdraw their capital (Fearon, 510). Similarly, that consequential loss of economic confidence could also be traced back to modern economic dilemmas, such as the 2008 Credit Crisis (Stewart).  Those measures set the stage for heated foreign relations and an international credit crisis, because most countries were occupied with their own domestic economic difficulties in the midst of The Great Depression.

The 1933 editorial in The Dallas Morning News, “Panic or Prosperity,” underscored the bleak economic outlook for the world and emphasized the necessity for international cooperation to resolve the crisis.  “Panic or Prosperity” explicitly highlighted a suggestion for an international conference on debt as recommended by Great Britain, “in order to restore confidence and credit relations among the states of the world” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2).  The editorial also articulated concerns regarding restrictions on the war debt revisions due to the Hoover Moratorium. The Hoover Moratorium was a proposal by President Herbert Hoover to postpone all intergovernmental debt payments and reparations, excluding governmental obligations held by the general public (Fearon, 511).  The moratorium was an attempt to alleviate some of the financial turmoil and depression that plagued Germany due to their massive debt after World War I (Robinson, 456).

“Panic or Prosperity” claimed that the ratification of the moratorium would hinder war debt revision as well as the global discussion required for effectively combating the German credit crisis. The article supported its plea for international collaboration by referencing the thoughts of world-renowned economist, Sir George Paish of England, who predicted, “a speedy breakdown in world credit [would occur] unless an international conference is held” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2). Moreover, there was concern that the strong financial interdependence between nations would serve as a catalyst for global economic decline. Reliance on the stability of other foreign nations directly impacted the economic condition of the United States. Such economic dependence rendered the U.S. more vulnerable to the Great Depression due to international instability and the inability to withdraw U.S. capital from Germany. Accordingly, Germany left other nations susceptible to poverty, unemployment, and overall economic instability. The editorial concluded that passing the moratorium and ignoring the need for an international debt conference could have dire consequences. Such actions, therefore, should not be viewed from an isolationist perspective since putting the needs of a single country or political party above the collective need for international collaboration would result in global economic chaos.

An accompanying political cartoon by John F. Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, illustrated personification of the globe writing a letter to Saint Nicolas and demanding the receipt of credit. The sketch alluded to the growing tension amid world powers in 1931 and their impatience with Germany for causing an international credit crisis.

In his cartoon Knott highlighted these grievances against Germany and their freeze on global credit by addressing the problem to Santa Claus. The depiction of Santa Claus, universally known as a giver of gifts during Christmas, was incorporated within the illustration. The cartoon itself was drawn around the time of the holiday, a season that is known to encourage thoughts of generosity and hope. The character of Santa Claus or Saint Nicolas originated from Germany, therefore, it can be assumed that the cartoon was directly addressing Germany.

Worldwide dissatisfaction with the international credit freeze was apparent as the primary figure of the cartoon clearly expressed frustration with the international financial situation. Likewise, Knott’s use of “…or else” sardonically pokes at the destructive financial consequences following Germany’s actions in the summer of 1931 (“Panic or Prosperity, 2).

Furthermore, Knott illustrated the deteriorating nature of the financial condition within the U.S., depicted by broken windows, tattered clothing, and lack of shoes on the character. The use of these details emphasized the poverty and economic collapse that followed the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression era (Mcelvaine, 151).

Upon closer examination of Knott’s work, there was also a juxtaposition of the scribe with a lower body which resembled a young boy, while his hands were seemingly aged.  The depiction of the adult hands stressed the seriousness of the message and the threat of “or else”—i.e., the dire consequences of the credit crisis.  The kid-like aspects of the cartoon suggested a needy world looking, as children do, towards Santa to deliver wishes.  Through this contrast, Knott implied that even though the world powers were delivering a serious message to Germany, their requests could come across as foolishly desperate.

The congressional vote on the Hoover Moratorium was set to occur within days of the cartoon’s publication.  Accordingly, even the title, “Urgent letter to Santa Claus”, conveyed the pressing nature of the topic. As a final attempt to alter the impending ratification of the Hoover Moratorium, the cartoon directly addressed the readers of The Dallas Morning News as well as Congress to carefully consider the consequences of passing the bill.

John Knott’s, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the plummeting financial circumstances of countries directly involved with the debt that Germany owed. Knott acknowledged the frustration with Germany and the poverty and instability caused directly by their actions. As a way of combating the destruction created by Germany, Knott drew attention to the matter to fight for future economic restoration.

Both the editorial “Panic or Prosperity” and John Knott’s cartoon, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the need to reconsider the consequences of passing the Hoover Moratorium.  Knott’s cartoon placed the blame for the declining international economies on Germany and suggested that the primary solution to the problem was to coerce Germany to unfreeze repayment of foreign credit. Meanwhile, “Panic or Prosperity” highlighted that the true means of repairing the economic destruction would occur solely through international cooperation rather than isolationist actions. Differences aside, the two sources agreed that immediate action was required to restore the deteriorating financial situation and prevent further damage to the world economy.

Works Cited

“Panic or Prosperity.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed.,  sec. 2: 2. Print. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=U50X50WDMTQ0OTk1NjYwOC44ODgyODQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D221569F70FFE@0&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D22159BA346A4@9-104D2217C3412E7A>

Knott, John F. “Urgent Letter to Santa.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Robinson, W. A. “Moratorium, Hoover.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I.  Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 8. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

“War Reparations.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-  CLIO, 2011. 439-441. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

FEARON, PETER. “International Impact of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 510-516.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

MCELVAINE, ROBERT S. “Causes of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 151-156.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“GERMANY AND REPARATIONS.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File): 1. Jan 12 1932. ProQuest. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Stewart, Heather. “We Are In The Worst Financial Crisis Since Depression, Says IMF.”  Editorial. The Guardian. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.