Tag Archives: Treaty of Versailles

Going Down for the Third Time

Going down third time
A German man is drowning and needs help. A French man is in a boat and says, “Sign, first” while extending a paper labeled “Conditions” to the German man. Presumably the French man will help once the conditions are signed, however, the German will most likely drown in trying to sign the paper.

After World War I, the Big Four (United States, France, Italy, and Great Britain) met in Paris in 1919 to negotiate a peace treaty, known as the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty charged Germany with a vast amount of war reparations and economic restrictions. Ironically, it is this treaty and French modifications to it that led to the second World War. In John Knott’s political cartoon, “Going Down Third Time,” Knott used drowning as a metaphor to illustrate Germany’s debt, its relationship with France, and how German animosity toward the French could (and did) lead to further conflict.

In the cartoon, the image of Germany drowning is a metaphor that portrayed their asphyxiation by war debt. The title “Going Down Third Time” alludes to the saying, “going down for the third time.” This idiom means that if someone is drowning and they go underwater for a third time, they supposedly won’t come back up (Babylon’s Free Dictionary). Therefore, this saying can be used out of the context of drowning in order to portray failure or death. Knott’s title was an effective representation of Germany’s economic state as they tried to deal with their overwhelming amount of war debt; the debt made it impossible for their economy to resurface and swim. However, this was the main reason France wanted such strict contingencies on Germany. They hoped that Germany would remain bankrupt and “drowning” so that it may not rise back up to power (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). Because of the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans had their boundaries reassigned, restrictions placed on their military and weaponry, and they were charged with a reparations bill of 6.6 billion pounds (History.com Staff and “War Reparations”). Ironically, these actions were taken to avoid war, yet they only succeeded in kindling the events in years to come.

Water is a well-fitted symbol for Germany’s war reparations. Not only is it dense and seemingly limitless, but water stays on clothes and skin even after someone gets out. This represents how even if Germany could repay this debt (get out of the water) they would still feel the lasting effects of debt. Their clothes would still be drenched with water, that is to say, the German economy would be further destabilized and in need of reconstruction. It could also be seen that Germany floundering in the water (debt) generated splashes that affected those near, such as the French. France got splashed which wet them with debt as well. War with Germany caused France to be indebted to other countries, such as the United States, after World War I (“War Reparations”).

In the cartoon, the depiction of the French withholding help and saying “sign, first” as Germany drowned illustrated the tensions that were drawn taught between the two countries. Germany’s war ridden land and economy was incapable of fixing itself so Germany needed assistance from other countries. However, they owed other countries mass amounts of money or gold in order to pay off material damages caused by the war (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). When they signed the Treaty of Versailles, Germany unhappily acknowledged that they were the sole cause of World War I and agreed to the stringent obligations set by the Big Four (“WWI: Treaties and Reparations”). German bitterness deepened toward the French because they thought France held almost all of the responsibility for charging Germany with an outrageously high reparations bill (“War Reparations”). This was depicted in Knott’s cartoon because Germany drowned under the French conditions, but France required Germany to sign their conditions before they offered help. However, if Germany didn’t sign, it would still drown. Paradoxically, Germany had to hurt itself in order to potentially save itself. Signing acknowledged responsibility for the war, loss of land, loss of military, and insurmountable reparations yet Germany retained hope that the economy and political relations would be repaired. However, things would get worse before they got better. Due to the debt and unnecessary stipulations, the tensions between France and Germany continued to tighten putting Europe on the brink of World War II.

The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is more easily recognized than the German man in the cartoon. This is most likely because Clemenceau was known for his austerity in exacting revenge on Germany (“Treaty of Versailles,” sec. 1). The German man was not so easily recognized because Germany had nine different chancellors from 1917-1920 (during which Clemenceau held office in France), not to mention all nine chancellors had bushy mustaches like the man Knott depicted (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). The editorial mentions Chancellor Bruening of Germany, however, Clemenceau died before Bruening held office so it’s unlikely that Bruening is depicted here (“Georges Clemenceau” and Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica).

Without prior knowledge, it can be deduced simply from Knott’s cartoon that this situation wasn’t handled efficiently. Standing by and letting someone drown unless they agree to ridiculous conditions is a fast and sure way to make enemies. The prevention of war simply cannot be executed by repressing a country and limiting its resources. Clemenceau’s strict demands did anything but smooth tensions and ease these countries out of a post war period. The cartoon showed that no matter what Germany did, it drowned in debt and desperately needed a savior. The attempted repression of Germany caused animosities toward the French that only built as Germany struggled to make payments. This is the beginning of how and why Hitler and his National Socialist, or Nazi, Party rose to power (“Treaty of Versailles,” sec. 1.1).

The editorial for “Going Down Third Time” is titled “Hitler to the Rescue!” While praising Adolf Hitler seems facetious in this time period, he had serious leadership potential in the years following World War I. Hitler was seen as an eloquent public speaker and his platform rejected the Versailles treaty, aimed for Germany to return as a military power, and suppressed communism (“Hitler to Rescue!”). Because Germany struggled to stand on its own feet, Hitler’s policies were enticing to many people. He asserted that he was “ready to take charge of the Government and to resist communism by force of arms,” however, the French were ready to invade Germany “to restore order” once revolution broke out (“Hitler to Rescue!”). Germany was on the brink of World War II and all it needed was a nudge before crisis hit. It’s odd to think that World War II could have possibly been avoided had France given Germany a little room to breathe after World War I.

The symbols and portrayal of the issue in the cartoon is humorous in a sense that it is utterly ridiculous. Obviously, someone can’t sign a document if they are drowning. However, as one begins to process this humour, a more somber tone is evoked because of the realization of this fundamental problem. Knott’s cartoon showed that Germany’s post World War I debt was an indomitable obstacle. It not only struck the German economy harder as the world entered the Great Depression, but it created tensions between countries, specifically France, that led to conflict. Furthermore, the cartoon was published in 1931, however, it depicted circumstances that occurred in 1919 and throughout the 1920’s. This emphasizes how issues regarding debt and unfriendly political relations  festered for over a decade and led to the problems they faced as World War II drew nearer.

Works Cited

Alphahistory.com Staff. “War Reparations – Weimar Republic.” Weimar Republic. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

“Definition of Go down for the Third Time.” Go down for the Third Time Definition by Babylon’s Free Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Georges Clemenceau.” Georges Clemenceau – New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 28 May 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Hitler to the Rescue!” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News 15 July 1931, sec. 2: 2. Readex: A Division of Newsbank. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Treaty of Versailles.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 08 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.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “List of Chancellors of Germany.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 31 May 2016. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“Treaty of Versailles.” Treaty of Versailles – New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

“World War I: Treaties and Reparations.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 02 July 2016. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

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.

Germany’s Christmas Tree

A desolate Christmas tree without pine needles garnished with the burdens of Germany and strung together with thick chains.  Ornaments labeled with terms such unemployment, reparations, hunger, debts, communism, fascism, and revolution threat. Instead of a star, the top of the tree is decorated with small lit candle labeled hope.
Germany’s Christmas Tree

 

Germany’s Christmas Tree

John Francis Knott- December 23, 1931

This political cartoon, published on December 23, 1931, depicts the economic crisis Germany faced due to reparations after World War 1. The Treaty of Versailles, negotiated among the Allied Powers and Germany, stated that Germany would agree to pay reparations under the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan. Germany’s paramount issue involved foreign debts with the United States. During the 1920’s, Germany’s government borrowed excessive amounts of money abroad in order to fulfill reparations payments to France and Great Britain. In the summer of 1931, various German banks began to close while the percentage of bankruptcy and unemployment continued to increase at an alarming rate. Germany’s economic struggle ultimately became a catalyst for voters to consider political parties such as fascism and communism. The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party reached its peak during this particular era. Hitler promised to end reparations, eliminate unemployment, overturn the Treaty of Versailles, eradicate debts, and lay the foundation for a strong national government thus recovering Germany’s sense of authority and pride.

The article associated with this cartoon titled “Center of Interest” capitalizes Germany’s strategy to rebuild its infrastructure and reputation. Hitler is confident that his Fascist party will be in power in Germany and Premier Laval loudly proclaims that France will never permit reparations to be sacrificed to private debts or permit the tampering of the Young Plan (“Center of Interest”). The economic interests of the French and United states would be jeopardized if Germany were to disclaim reparations and decide to pay short term credits instead. Ultimately, refusing to pay reparations could potentially lead to another war. President Paul von Hindenburg would no longer be a candidate for re-election in the spring due to his old age which leaves Germany with an unanswered question of who would obtain power. Hitler’s political claims for the economic stability of Germany are beginning to appear much more attractive to voters. Author John Hartwell Moore suggests that many in the international community such as British general Henry Wilson and economist John Maynard Keynes believe that reparations authorized under the Treaty of Versailles were unreasonably disciplinary, stripping Germany of its dignity which ultimately created geopolitical circumstances that aided Hitler’s rise to power in Germany (“Reparations for Racial Atrocities).

The humor conveyed in this political cartoon derives from an ironic representation of how a Christmas tree should be decorated. Instead of a beautiful arrangement of ornaments and bright lights wrapped around a healthy pine tree, the Christmas tree portrayed in the political cartoon illustrates a desolate tree without pine needles garnished with the burdens of Germany and strung together with thick chains. Ornaments on a common Christmas tree consist of ornaments and decorations that represent the Christian religion. Christmas is usually perceived as a holiday involving an abundance of gifts yet there are no gifts under Germany’s Christmas tree. Christmas lights which signify hope, happiness, and safety is substituted with thick chains representing bondage and enslavement. Germany’s Christmas tree vividly epitomizes Germany’s economic well-being at that time.  A small candle lit on the top of the tree labeled “hope” exemplifies Hitler’s proposal for safety, strength, and renewal for Germany utilizing fascism as a catalyst.

Works Cited:

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

Author Not Listed. “Center of Interest.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 23 Dec. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “Germany’s Christmas Tree.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 23 Dec. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

“Reparations for Racial Atrocities.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. Ed. John Hartwell Moore. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 490-493. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.