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German Cartoonists and the Peace of Versailles

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German cartoonists, explains W.A. Coupe, told in stark visual language of the growing bitterness felt by their countrymen at the terms of the 1919 Peace Treaty.

In November 1919 the SPD journal, Der wahre Jakob , commented on recent German history with a double cartoon . In the upper picture, under the title 'In Brest-Litovsk' , two high ranking German officers are seen sitting at the negotiating table. A third officer is on his feet and is about to thump heavily on the table with an exaggeratedly large fist, while shouting that 'We are the victors'. The second picture shows Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson sitting at a similar table in Versailles, while the standing Clemenceau hits the table with an even bigger fist than his German counterpart to the cry, 'No, we are the victors'. The paradoxical title of the cartoon, 'When two (parties) do the same thing, it is not the same thing' , expresses succinctly the enormous sense of disillusionment that many Germans had experienced in the bare twelve months that had elapsed since the signing of the Armistice. If injustice had been done at Brest-Litovsk by the Germans, who had exploited the weakness of a Russia worn down by a disastrous war and torn by internal strife to deprive the Russians of vast tracts of territory in order to create the 'cordon sanitaire' demanded by the General Staff, if the exaction of six milliard Goldmarks by way of indemnity in the supplementary treaty was unjust, how much more unjust was the 'rectification' of that injustice, as Lloyd George had been pleased to call it, when introducing the Commons debate on the Versailles Treaty on July 3rd, 1919. Just as the German Reichstag's 'Peace Resolution' of July 19th, 1917 – which called for peace without annexations or economic or financial penalties – had proved to be a dead letter in the heat of victory in the East, so too the basis on which the Germans had, with some justification, expected peace to be concluded in the West, was forgotten in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.


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