In John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work (published March 15th, 1937), the intentions of France and Germany to sway Russia in their favor are depicted as climbers on a mountain. France is pulling Russia towards a renewed alliance with Britain, while Germany lies in wait to sever the ties between them.
“On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the presumptive heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. One by one, the European powers were dragged into the conflict” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). World War I, the international conflict between the Allied powers of France, Britain, Russia, Italy, and the United States and the Axis powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria would critically change relations between European countries. In 1907, Britain, France, and Russia had already formed an understanding known as the Triple Entente. Italy decided to join the Entente in 1915 instead of siding with Germany. Prior, France and Russia formed a cordon-sanitaire, or agreement, to protect one another in 1914. This group of nations was powerful opposition to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. The two opposing sides continued fighting until Germany signed an armistice in November of 1918 (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). Despite the agreement for peace, Germany remained bitter and relations between European nations became extremely strained.
A year after the close of World War I, tensions between countries remained high. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Allies and a reluctant Germany. The agreement dictated that Germany’s Rhineland region would be occupied by an Ally army in order to ensure French security. Angered with the troops stationed so close to home and a part of everyday life, German citizens grew tired of the presence of Allied troops. When these occupiers attempted to form separatist governments, German citizens began to passively resist. For instance, “workers stayed home, and the civilian population refused to cooperate with the French occupiers” (Merriman and Winter). As tensions rose between the two opposing forces, “the new German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann called off passive resistance and began negotiations with France” (Andrea and Neel). Members of the German foreign office laid the framework for Locarno, an agreement designed to drastically improve relations with the French. Stresemann improved the idea, expanding the pact to include Britain and Italy, guaranteeing the territorial status quo of western Europe. In addition to the peace agreement, there would be no German military presence in Rhineland as a gesture of goodwill. The Locarno agreements were enacted in London in December of 1926.
Despite these agreements temporarily pacifying the opposing countries, the new Nazi Germany and France again butted heads. “In March 1936 Germany sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles, declaring that the situation envisaged at Locarno had been changed by the Franco-Soviet alliance of 1935” (Britannica). While France argued that this was a direct violation of Locarno, nothing was done, for Britain did not share the same claim. Nazi Germany was a threat looming on the horizon and France’s hope for positive political negotiation was dim. In the accompanying editorial to Dirty Work entitled No Locarno, the desire of both France and Britain to form a new agreement with Germany is discussed as unlikely to come to fruition. Germany refused to put itself in a position to be so easily controlled. New leadership in Germany would not be so cooperative. Stresemann, who had facilitated the creation of Locarno, was replaced as German foreign minister by Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop and Hitler, referred to in the editorial as “fascist Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” looked to entice Britain and France into understandings that Germany had no intention of keeping. For Germany, however, the “bug under the chip,” or something undesirable subtlely attached to something valuable, was the French-Russian cordon sanitaire of 1914 (Editorial). If France was attacked, Russia would come to its aid and vice versa. While Nazi Germany was ambitious, it would not be able to survive an attack on two fronts from both Russia and France. Thus, the relations between Russia and France needed to be eliminated in the interest of Germany. Nazi Germany also had to entice Britain and France into an agreement OUTSIDE of the League of Nations, the international organization formed between countries after World War I. Both France and Britain wanted the backing of this organization and the countries that participated in it. Germany’s main goal then was to sever the ties between Russia and France.
John Knott’s political cartoon Dirty Work depicts the goals of the various nations through characterization of France, Russia, and Hitler as climbers on a mountain. While Hitler is portrayed as himself, France and Russia are sketched as what one might assume the typical Russian or French person to look like. France and Russia are tethered together with a rope that represents the cordon sanitaire between the two. Hitler, hoping to cut the tie between France and Russia, hides just around the corner with a knife. If the rope were cut, Russia would fall without something to support it. In 1937, Russia was going through the Great Purge, a period of political oppression under the Soviet Union. It was on the verge of collapse with no external stimulus (Rittersporn). Hitler’s knife would not only sever its ties but allow Russia to run itself into the ground. The knife, while not drawn to represent a physical act in 1937, eventually became the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, ending the cordon sanitaire as Russia and Germany promised to not counter the actions of one another. With this in place, Germany waited a single week before invading Poland, a country under the protection of France and Britain. Thus, World War II began.
It is evident that no treaty is perfect. There are always concessions to be made and hard lines to be drawn. What is vital to the future of peace between countries is understanding the balance between compromise, necessity, and the importance of working together as opposed to against one another. The inability of nations to bridge the gap between the goals and necessities of each country led to the death of millions. Unfortunately, this lack of meaningful and effective agreements between countries persists today. It is uncertain just how detrimental the effects of current decisions will be on the future of the human race.
Axelrod, Alan. “Ribbentrop, Joachim von (1893–1946) Nazi German foreign minister (1933–1945).” Encyclopedia of World War II, edited by Jack A. Kingston, vol. 1, Facts on File, 2007, p. 689. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4067800556&it=r&asid=eebdb853d57e8646f13df326a8a63383. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
“German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.” Encyclopedia Britannica, edited by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 Jul 2016. https://www.britannica.com/event/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact
Karabell, Zachary. “Eden, Anthony [1897–1977].” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 755. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3424600873&it=r&asid=8872902e8a07698ec62fcc7c67dcaa3b. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
Knott, John. “Dirty Work.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937.
“Locarno Pact.” World History Encyclopedia, edited by Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 583-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2458803623&it=r&asid=99045c1562ff275fc3e1c4c109a04b57. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
Mombauer, Annika. “Alliance System.” Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 47-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446900030&it=r&asid=023dc0910917a3301c8e3da5b6cffe43. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
“No Locarno.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937. p.5
“Pact of Locarno.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Pact-of-Locarno. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.
“Rhineland Occupation.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2217-2221. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3447000751&it=r&asid=ae5e37e051910a79f9c6de5a484271b2. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
Rittersporn, Gabor T. “Purges, The Great.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1247-1251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?
“World War I (1914–1919).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, vol. 1, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3048500018&asid=6aaa3eab990420667484bc968b96a420. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.