Tag Archives: Hitler

Dirty Work

France (represented as a person) climbs up the side of a mountain, tethered to and pulling up Russia. Hitler hides nearby with a knife, eyeing the rope connecting Russia and France.
France and Russia, tethered together with a rope, climb up the side of a cliff while Hitler hides nearby, holding a knife.

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.

Works Cited:

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

Advice From a Neighbor

DOC016
As his neighbor, the fascist party of Belgium, is covered in a landslide of anti-fascist votes, Adolf Hitler gives friendly advice on how his political party wins elections.

John Francis Knott April 13, 1937

This political cartoon comes in reaction to the results of Belgian elections held in April of 1937. The Rexist party was active in Belgium from the early 1930s until their ban in 1944. The main focus of the Rexist party, or “Rex” as it was called, was a “moral renewal” of Belgium through dominance of the Catholic Church, which Belgian Cardinal Jozef-Ernest van Roey did not approve of. The party also advocated Belgian nationalism and Royalism, meaning they were for a monarch being the head of Belgium.

At the time of the election in 1937, Rex had 21 of the 202 deputies and twelve senators in the Belgian government as a result of the elections in 1936. Rex had just recently aligned itself with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party in Germany, adopting many of its characteristics. Rex was even able to force the Belgian government to resign in the spring of 1936, but the same government was restored shortly thereafter and Belgium was placed under martial law.

In the election of 1937, the Rexist party’s candidate Leon Degrelle competed with Paul van Zeeland, a member of the Catholic party, for the seat of prime minister. Upon winning his first election in 1935, van Zeeland was able to subside the economic crisis Belgium was going through at the time by devaluing the currency and implementing extensive budgetary policies. In 1937, van Zeeland won the seat of prime minister in a landslide with almost 80% of the vote, a crushing blow for the Rexist party and its momentum. One of the main reasons the Nazi party was able to maintain its dominance in Germany was because of laws that prevented many people apposed to fascism from voting in the national elections,  creating landslide victories for their own party.

The article accompanying this cartoon, “Non-Fascist Belgium”, made a statement about how difficult it is for fascism to spread, even when the non-fascist country is neighbors with a fascist country. The author is quick to point out that fascism has never had, “popular approval”, and cites Nazi Germany as an example. The author says that the Nazis, “never mustered more than 38 percent of the German electorate until they were able to master all forms of authority…”. Mussolini’s constitution is also cited, as well as Francisco Franco’s (at the time) on-going attempts to force fascism upon Spain. The article itself is aggressive at the end, with the author feeling a sense of pride in Belgium’s resistance. Calling Degrelle’s strategies “spell-binding”, the article concludes in conceding that Degrelle is a very good campaigner and speaker despite his loss.

This election proved to be the beginning of the end of the Rexist party and fascism in Belgium, and was a statement by the Belgian people of their opposition to a fascist government. When World War II started, Rex welcomed German occupation of Belgium, even though it had initially supported Belgian neutrality. When Belgium was liberated in 1944, the party was banned and many former Rexists were imprisoned or executed for their role in collaborating with the Nazi party.

The humor in this cartoon comes particularly from how it portrays Adolf Hitler. Most of the time  in history and in political cartoons, Hitler is shown as a ruthless, evil man who will stop at nothing to claim dominance of Europe. But, this cartoon shows Hitler as a friendly neighbor partaking in the neighbor cliche of peaking over the fence to say hello. He is even giving seemingly friendly advice and participating in friendly conversation. This contradiction creates the humor.

The cartoon also shows Hitler doing the Nazi salute, a common symbol of Hitler’s reign over Germany. In the context of the cartoon, this salute could be taken as Hitler waving to his neighbor, a much more friendly gesture than the Nazi salute. An exaggeration in the cartoon is the landslide of votes shown engulfing “Belgium’s fascist part”, or the Rexist party, is exaggerated to show how badly the Belgian fascist party lost in the election. Upon closer inspection of the cartoon, the man representing the Belgian fascist party has his own toothbrush mustache, just like Hitler’s mustache, showing that the Belgian fascist party is in part an extension of the Nazi party and its policies.

Citations:

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

Author Not Listed. “Non-Fascist Belgium” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 13 Apr. 1937: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

“Crushing Defeat Handed Fascism In Belgian Vote.” Chicago Daily Tribune 12 Apr. 1937, Volume XCIV – No. 87 ed.: 6. Chicago Tribune. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

“Rexist Movement.” 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. 2216-2217. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

De Grand, Alexander. “Fascism and Nazism.” Encyclopedia of European Social History. Ed. Peter N. Stearns. Vol. 2: Processes of Change/Population/Cities/Rural Life/State & Society. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001. 509-517. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.