Tag Archives: Great War

Advance, Work, Fight, If Necessary

Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932
Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932.


Telling the World by John Knott depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during his 1932 address in the city of Turin, Italy. The speech occurred in the midst of the tenth anniversary of the Fascist Party’s March on Rome in October 1922, when Mussolini was appointed as Italy’s fascist head of government by King Victor Emmanuel III (De Grand 513). The Italian dictator’s balcony, illustrated in Knott’s cartoon, evokes the baroque architectural style of Turin’s buildings. As Mussolini stated in his speech, “Turin is a Roman city,” and according to his regime, 1932 was Year X of “The New Era” in the “Third Rome” (“Benito Mussolini” 273). However, by the time of Mussolini’s visit to Turin, Europe was still reeling from the consequences of World War I. Despite fervent calls by European allies for the cancellation of German war reparations, emphasized at the Lausanne Conference in the summer of 1932, the United States refused to accept the mandatory condition that all European debts to the U.S. be cancelled as well (Bemis 55). This decision, combined with the League of Nations’ insistence that Germany was to be denied juridical parity, only served to aggravate tensions in the region. Furthermore, looming over the world and compounding the western dilemma was The Great Depression, a burdening force which would not cease for a decade.

In Knott’s cartoon, Mussolini is holding a globe before him as he asserts his position on the world’s affairs. His discontented expression and clenched fist indicate that he his making demands to resolve conflicts threatening his regime. Depicted on the globe, Africa and Europe face the audience, as North America is subjected to the Italian dictator’s scrutinous glare. This scowling expression carries a direct challenge to the United States, “. . . the ship of reparations and war debts entered the port of Lausanne. Are the great people of the star-spangled republic going to send this vessel, which was filled with sorrow and blood of so many peoples, back to the open waters?” (Mussolini 1932). In this statement he addresses the imperious nature of the U.S. pursuit of war reparations from Europe, and its significance in impacting western politics. Mussolini’s Turin speech took place only a month prior to the US Presidential Election of 1932. According to “Mussolini and the Crisis,” the Dallas Morning News editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, then-candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt was thought to have been more sympathetic toward the idea of debt cancellation than his opponent, Herbert Hoover. Mussolini appeared to time his appeal to the US in order to influence the vote of Italian Americans toward Roosevelt (Dallas Morning News 2). The Lausanne Conference was a pivotal point in the decision to end or continue war debts, and the United States was the eminent faction in determining the outcome. Unfortunately, The Great Depression was well entrenched in America during this time, leading the struggling nation to assert its demands for reparations to a continent likewise hindered by economic downturn.

The historically industrial city of Turin was home to many unemployed and disgruntled labor workers at the time of Mussolini’s 1932 address. As the Dallas Morning News editorial begins, “Premier Mussolini took his life in his hands when he addressed the semihostile citizens of Turin” (2). Workers throughout Italy directed their blame and animosity toward the current political institutions whose policies they believed were failing to remedy the country’s postwar ailments (Atkins 271). Adding more pressure to the desperate nation and to Mussolini’s government was The Great Depression, which had begun with the Wall Street collapse only three years prior.

Italy’s involvement in World War I came at an immense cost. Though neutral at its commencement, the Treaty of London eventually situated Italy in the conflict alongside France and Britain, with promises from the Entente powers that Italy would be compensated with sought-after territories in Austria-Hungary and Africa (Karabell 96). By the war’s conclusion, however, Italy’s military was nearly decimated; and the country was economically, politically, and socially ravaged (Atkins 270).  Further deteriorating postwar conditions in Italy, its efforts as one of the Allies against the Central Powers were minimized at the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and Italy received meager recompense for its losses (Atkins 271). Postwar debt, high inflation and unemployment, as well as low morale resulting from enormous war casualties, left the population embittered and desperate for change (Atkins 271). Hostility and violence in the country, along with radical war-induced nationalism, instigated the formation of an aggressive political party grounded in Mussolini’s fascist ideology (“World War I” 2765).

Although he did not explicitly mention France, Mussolini certainly held a vendetta against the country, as evident in his Turin speech. As “Mussolini and the Crisis” editorial points out, Turin is located near the Italian border with France, and Mussolini appeared to choose this city for his address in order to send a provocative message (Dallas Morning News 2). Much of Italy, including its head of government, still resented France for the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles. France gained a great deal of territory while Italy received little of what it was promised in comparison. This issue was also of great concern for Mussolini when considering the state of Germany in the European scene.

The League of Nations, founded by the Treaty of Versailles, was hesitant to grant Germany juridical parity within the organization, despite that it was a member. Its most prominent and influential member, of course, was France. Mussolini feared that France sought hegemony in Europe through its recent territorial acquisitions and its refusal to treat Germany as an equal country. In his Turin speech, he emphasized the importance of German parity in the League of Nations as necessary to prevent hegemonies in Europe, and indicated that Italy was prepared to resist any attempts by France to establish hegemony over another European country. This decision to side with Germany was a prelude to the fascist alliance that would form between the two countries in the second World War.

The complexities of western political affairs in the 1930s cannot be understated. By October 1932, Europe had already begun to brew a second world war. The Allies refused to acknowledge the impact of their decisions in formulating the rise of the fascist dictators Mussolini and Hitler. Poor and desperate populations suffering from economic depression rallied behind the aggressive, nationalistic political parties that sought to take advantage of power vacuums left by World War I. At that time, Fascism was a promise to put the unemployed to work, but also an engine of resentment fueled by losses in the Great War. In time these factors would culminate in a conflict far more catastrophic than the one that caused it.


Works Cited

Atkins, William Arthur. “Strike Wave: Italy.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 2, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 270-273. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3408900274/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=6601c1eb. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. “Lausanne Agreement.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 55. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3401802329/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=8407df53. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

“Benito Mussolini.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 11, Gale, 2004, pp. 272-274. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404704665/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=98c7abb0. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Comparison with the League of Nations.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, edited by Melissa Sue Hill, 14th ed., vol. 1: United Nations, Gale, 2017, pp. 7-9. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3652100020/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=7a09ea1b. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

De Grand, Alexander. “Fascism and Nazism.” Encyclopedia of European Social History, edited by Peter N. Stearns, vol. 2: Processes of Change/Population/Cities/Rural Life/State & Society, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001, pp. 509-517. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3460500112/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=5c8cbac6. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Fascism.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 102-105. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3045300802/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=f4ab522f. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018.

Karabell, Zachary. “London, Treaty of (1913).” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 1446. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3424601697/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d1d0e452. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John. Telling the World, 25 Oct. 1932.

“Mussolini and the Crisis.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Oct. 1932. Page 2.


“Mussolini’s Speech, Turin 1932.” Readable, www.allreadable.com/1267LckD.

Mussolini’s Turin Speech, 1932. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgmcoUjHNBU.

STRANG, G. (2001). IMPERIAL DREAMS: THE MUSSOLINI–LAVAL ACCORDS OF JANUARY 1935. The Historical Journal, 44(3), 799-809.

“World War I.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2751-2766. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3447000917/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d2f9a9b5. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.


Going Down for the 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.
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.