Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Historical Snippets

I'm reading Adam Fergusson's "When Money Dies" (pdf), about the Weimar inflation, and a few new facts (new to me, anyway) stand out :

1) Germany had been printing or borrowing money (from its citizens in the form of War Loan) all through WWI - in contrast to the British emphasis on taxation. While this printing increased as they headed towards the cliff-edge in 1921 and 1922, to an extent forced by the Allies' unrealistic reparation demands, it was in line with what had gone before. Dr Hjalmar Schacht :

"Germany tried to meet the colossal costs of the war by an appeal to the self-sacrificing spirit of the people. 'I gave gold for iron' was the slogan for the surrender of gold ornaments and jewellery. 'Invest in War Loan' ran the appeal to the patriotic sense of duty of all classes. Issue after issue of War Loan transformed the greater part of German private fortunes into paper claims on the State. Our enemies, especially Britain, took another line. They met the cost of war with taxes aimed primarily at those industries and groups to whom the war spelled prosperity. Britain's policy of taxation proved socially more equitable than Germany's policy of War Loans which lost their value after the war was over …"
And those paper claims on the State proved valueless.

2) The central bankers and politicians seem to have been unaware that the rapid depreciation of the Mark might have anything to do with their printing, while industrialists welcomed currency depreciation as improving their export potential (shades of Darling and Bernanke), but simultaneously moved as much of their wealth as possible either overseas or into hard assets.

Dr Rathenau did his best to explain to the Reichstag what was happening to the mark by alluding lengthily to the vicious circle of an adverse trade balance, the consequent necessity to sell German currency abroad, and its resulting depreciation, followed by the fall in the exchange rate and inevitable rise of home prices, leading to increased costs of materials and labour and so to new rifts in the budget. He expressly and publicly denied that the printing press had any role to play in that permanently spiralling sequence of events ...Most successful businessmen, however, stuck happily to the heresy that only by a continually falling exchange rate could Germany compete in neutral markets.

3) the money-printing, while impoverishing those on fixed incomes, did keep employment up when in the UK two million men stood idle. Basil Blackett, Treasury Finance controller :

In spite of his robust common sense, the man in the [German] street is beginning to believe what some interested industrialists are telling him, so that he seems almost readily to subscribe to the false doctrine that it is good for trade that a government, by inflationary finance, should habitually spend more than its income… Even the German industrialist knows that the present activity of German industry (destroying the export trade of its neighbours) is a sign of fever and not of prosperity. But, as usual, each class in Germany thinks that the burden of taxation should fall on some other class or classes … Even the best disposed are inclined in a fatalistic way to let things take their course and wait for the world to recover its reason. The big industrialists are attempting to save something from the wreck by turning all the paper marks they can into foreign currencies or, failing that, into real things — land, machinery, and so on, which have an independent value … The incentive to saving is gone just when saving is of vital necessity to the State...

The one real temporary advantage is that Germany's workmen are in employ, but even this is mainly due not to successful exporting but to the misdirected consumption of holders of paper marks who want to get rid of them, and therefore to misdirected production, which actually interferes with the proper flow of exports and to some extent increases the amount of luxury imports. That the government has been or is deliberately pursuing a policy of inflation so disastrous for any government that adopts it is sufficiently disproved. It is partly weakness and inexperience which have prevented greater success.

3) I hadn't realised quite what a very bad way immediate post-war Germany was in. Years before Hitler's Munich putsch, right-wing ex-soldiers were attempting coups - and there was a steady drip of right-inspired assassinations, reminiscent of the left-inspired assassinations of late Republican Spain :

One Herr Harden, whom Lord D'Abernon (British Ambassador) described as an acute if somewhat acid observer, explained to him that 'the followers of the Right were perpetually hunting for the old culprits responsible for the downfall of the empire and the old system, but instead of attacking the generals — Ludendorff and company — who were really the cause, or the old gang of princes and sycophants, they reviled the Jews and assassinated the leaders of the Left together with those who did not take their own perverted view.' More than three hundred assassinations among the leaders of the Left had been perpetrated since the Armistice, Herr Harden said, 'and no one is punished.'
All this while hardly anyone had heard of Hitler. The DNVP was the party trebling its vote, and the rhetoric of the right didn't need much tweaking for when people had heard of Hitler.

On August 24 1921, Ludendorff took the march-past of 2,000 war veterans headed by the 39-year-old Prince Eitel Friedrich, second son of the Kaiser. They marched under an archway bearing the inscription 'In Kriege Unbesiegt' (unbeaten in war), and past the royal box in Paradeschritt, Prince Eitel Friedrich throwing his heels as high as anyone else. Then in front of 20,000 spectators there followed a sermon by the Army chaplain which suggested that Germany's greatness could only be recovered by military power, through the monarchy and the Hohenzollerns. There were speeches in the same strain by the three generals present, Ludendorff, Graf Waldersee and von der Goltz. Von der Goltz, who had commanded the Baltic Free Corps, was at pains to attack the 'Jew Government', and thus caused some anti-Semitic incidents in the crowd; but he stole the limelight in any case by producing telegrams of congratulations not only from Admiral Scheer and Grossadmiral von Tirpitz, but from Hindenburg and the ex-Kaiser himself.
I'm also reading Lord Carver's history of the Turkish Front in WWI - in which the author wonders what would have happened had Churchill not decided to requisition (or pinch) two ships being built for the Turkish Navy. Up to that time the Ottoman Navy had been trained by British officers, but the Germans seized the opportunity to offer two similar ships to them - under a German Admiral. Admiral Souchon, doubtless prompted by Berlin, then attacked Britain's ally, Russia, in the Black Sea - and Turkey was in the war on the German side.

At the time Ottoman Turkey had de jure sovereignty over Egypt (in fact British-controlled), Persia, Syria, Palestine and Iraq - in fact the whole Arabian peninsula. Profitable neutrality - and the maintenance of oil supplies to whoever could collect them - in practice Britain - might have made the Turks very rich indeed, and perhaps enabled the Sick Man of Europe to recover his health. Instead, despite the quality of their fighting troops, they lost what was left of their Empire, the last Caliph lost his job and title, the Brits got all the oil (for a time, anyway) and immigration to Palestine began that was to lead to the founding of the State of Israel.


dearieme said...

Why do you believe that the Allies' reparation demands were "unrealistic"?

Moriarty said...

Years before Hitler's Munich putsch, right-wing ex-soldiers were attempting coups...

And communists too. Civil war in Berlin, and Munich was a 'soviet' state for a short while.

staybryte said...

Alan Bullock's "Hitler: A Study in Tyranny" is good for this Laban, particularly the chapter: "The Years of Waiting."

Brian said...

Compare the Versailles Treaty with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the Versailles Treaty after the Franco-Prussian War by which Prussia received 5 billion gold francs and Alsace-Lorraine. Why shouldn't the FRench have demanded compensation for the wilful destruction of property by the German Army before its withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line?
With the series of Allied victories from July 1918 onwards and the German High Command request for an armistice to prevent total collapse of the army on the Western Front, I have never understood the Freikorps etc's claim to have been unbeaten.

Edward Spalton said...

I have been discussing our present situation with a German friend and pointing out the Weimar parallels.

The allied governments after the Great War had stirred up expectations of "squeezing Germany until the pips squeak" and "Hang the Kaiser". From my shallow reading, it appears that the French were the most determinedly vengeful and that hardly anybody at all (apart from back room technocrats like Keynes) realised it would a good idea for stability to get the German economy up and running.

I understand that the French (and Allied) Supreme Command was reluctant to accept the order for an armistice on November 11th, as they were planning a new offensive on 14th which would have carried the war decisively onto German soil and demolished the German claim to have been "unconquered in war", the first part of the "stab in the back" theory which undermined the Weimar republic. Returning German regiments marched home,as if in triumph - although some carried the colours of their princely states of origin rather than the Imperial German ones.

LoveFreedomTruth.Com said...

It's a good book. More on the subject is available from:


It includes links to online material on great inflations - of which there have been a few.

Anonymous said...

But surely the Allies wouldn't have wanted to accept reparations in an intentionally devalued currency?

So they should have put a stop to the madness straight away and maybe allowed the Germans to pay back over a longer time-frame.

Hexe Froschbein said...

dearieme: because theose demands could never be repaid and in effect, the Treaty was modern slavery which would have still been in place even to this day had Germany not broken out of those contracts.

Laban: Regards Hitler being 'right' -- he was a national socialist, and the political philosophy was collectivist, national socialism was a classic left-wing movement.

Please read the NSDAP's 25 point manifesto: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSDAP_25_points_manifesto

Sorry, but this is a bugbear with me, I and many other right wing folks are sick and tired to be assumed to be the Nazi vom Dienst and to be confused with our (inter)national socialist 'friends'.

dearieme said...

"the Treaty was modern slavery": how does it compare with the reparations that Germany imposed on France after the war of 1870? Or the looting of Germany by the USSR after WWII?

I'd say that it's trouble was that it was far too weak. The French border should have been moved to the Rhine and Germany split up again.

Anonymous said...

" The French border should have been moved to the Rhine and Germany split up again."

Thank God this senseless conflict is history.

AgainsTTheWall said...

Seems like Fergusson might have a slanted view of German history. As Moriarty points out the Left were leading the way in violent disorder and revolution. Does Fergusson not refer to the Left's attempts at coup d'etats or murder of thousands? He probably does nt mention the overrepresentation of Jews amongst the Communist leadership either (a characteristic in other European Communist Parties then and since). The actions of the 'right' and indeed the rise of the Nazis were but reactions to the antics of the Jewish-Bolshevik scum and the Treaty of Versailles.

staybryte said...


Apologies, the relevant chapter in Bullock for the 1918-24 period in Germany is: "The Years of Struggle."

KB said...

With the ECB camped out in the treasuries of Athens and Dublin, running the show from the Aegean to the Atlantic, thank goodness that the EU has finally lifted the threat of a dark, thousand-year shadow falling across Europe.

How different things looked in 1939.

Anonymous said...

"With the ECB camped out in the treasuries of Athens and Dublin, running the show from the Aegean to the Atlantic, thank goodness that the EU has finally lifted the threat of a dark, thousand-year shadow falling across Europe."

This is a joke right? The ECB is in the process of wrecking the economy of and bankrupting the entire continent. Remember? Also the EU is in the process of starting a civil war owing to it's support for mass immigration. Remember?

Rachel Leah said...

I resent your remark. I am Jewish and my family were never Communist.
They were always very anti Communist and many of them fled communist countries.
On top of that Communist ideology goes against Judaism in that it outlaw relgions and also believes in equal wealth for everyone. The Talmud says that there will never be equality of wealth for everyone and calls wealth a blessing while in Communism "property is theft".
Bear in mind that all Jews who were/are in communist leadership were atheist Jews who had very little or no connection to their religion.

Stalin was planning to murder the Jews before he died. He perpertrated the doctor's plot where he falsely accused and tortured a number of high ranking doctors just because they were Jewish.
If I were as offensive as you I would say that Communism ideology was much nearer to Christian ideology and all the countries starting it were Christian...but I know that follows the same idiotic logic you used.
As for your " antics of the Jewish-Bolshevik scum" phrase - what is that other than pure antisemitism.

LoveFreedomTruth.Com said...

How exactly did the National Socialist German Workers Party become right?


Don’t let the Left continue with its Orwellian use of language. It perverts the prism through which we view the world.

AgainsTTheWall said...
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Anonymous said...

I'd say that it's trouble was that it was far too weak. The French border should have been moved to the Rhine and Germany split up again.

Or you could just as easily say the 1870 settlement was far too lenient. France should have been split up into smaller units to stop it threatening its neighbours. No more France after 1870 means no WW1 and therefore no WW2.

Anonymous said...

On top of that Communist ideology goes against Judaism in that it outlaw relgions and also believes in equal wealth for everyone.

Spare us this nonsense Rachel, please.

Who were the majority of the Bolshevik leadership? The leftist agitators in Germany after WW1? Remind us, what were Marx's origins? Then ring leaders of the '68 unrest in France? The list goes on and on.

H said...

A minor correction - Turkey did not have de jure sovereignty over Persia, which had been its rival pretty well ever since the Ottomans occupied Mesopotamia. Regardless of this, had the Turkish Empire remained at its 1914 extent, it would have enjoyed the oil reserves of modern Iraq and Kuwait, whilst its control of the Hedjaz (modern western Saudi Arabia) would no doubt have made it influential in that part of the region too. I somehow think that the impulse to meddle in Turkey's affairs would have been too much for the other great powers to resist under those circumstances and the Ottomans were probably doomed anyway.

If you are in the market for further reading, I recommend the Richard Evans book, 'The Coming of the Third Reich', which describes excellently the enormous mess that Germany was in. It is first in a trilogy which runs to the collapse of the Third Reich, but is very good as a stand alone book.

I see that staybryte recommends the Alan Bullock 'Hitler: A Study in Tyranny'. Now, fine book though this is, it was one of the earliest serious books about the Nazis and a great deal of research has taken place since. I think the Kershaw two volume biography has now superseded it as the best on Hitler.

staybryte said...


I shall look up the Evans book, thanks, and will get round to Kershaw when I get the chance.

Rachel Leah said...

I'm not even going to bother with againstthewall's comments. There is so much obvious nonsense there I do not know where to start ...and anyway he says that he does not give a stuff about being antisemitic... So that's that then.

But to annoymous: I already answered that all the communist people who happened to be Jewish were either completely atheist or very disconnected to their relgion to put it loosely. Many Jews suffered and died from Communist rule as much as many other faiths if not more. (As I said, My own family were among many Jews who fled Communism and were very anti Communist.) Therefore it is logically wrong to associate Judaism with Communism.
That is all.

Anonymous said...

Just because most Catholic priests don't support paedophilia and are infact probably very much against it, doesn't mean that the scandal of Catholic paedophiles didn't exist...

What is so wrong with seeing a pattern of behaviour? of particular groups or subgroups of people?
Why do we have to check or insist that everyone is involved or none.

People blame the British or the English for the slave trade all the time in 'popular culture', yet only a tiny proportion of the population had anything to do with it.

It seems like some groups of people we are allowed to generalise over, while others we must close our eyes and cover our ears.

Peter Joseph said...
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Anonymous said...

We're asked to believe that the mass murder of Jews for merely being Jews (including women and children) was the result of a conflict existing only in the minds of certain German tyrants and a large section of the populace. This conflict is said to have been purely imaginary. I have never seen their core accusations against 'the jews' debunked i.e. that e.g. -
they did not prusue their own ethnic interest through the medium of finanacial/business influence and also through revolutionary or even liberal movements which swept away the old society of eastern Europe. Surely it is important to debunk it! I'd make no denial that the English e.g. pursued English interests by their involvement in the slave trade. Luckily Africans never had the power to round us up! No doubt the full panoply of 'racist stereotypes' would be used against us. Rachel please tell me if this is all so far off the wall that I'm entering the same imaginary world as the nazis. It should be amenable to rational debate. Or is the position of jews, being a smallish people, widely dispersed, so much more precarious than the English that rational debate cannot take place about people pursuing ethnic interests?

Anonymous said...

"Luckily Africans never had the power to round us up!"

erm, what?

Barbary corsairs
Thomas Pellow
Mulay Ismail
Lundy Island

Moriarty said...

Anonymous (8:19 PM) said...
What is so wrong with seeing a pattern of behaviour? of particular groups or subgroups of people?

The difficulty is in figuring out the cause & effect in the patterns. I think the best predictor of who gets involved in radical politics is to figure out which parts of the aspirational middle class feel despised by the establishment. Different groups in different times and places.

Laban said...

Aiieee ! This is why comments are off so often.

Againstthewall - "The actions of the 'right' and indeed the rise of the Nazis were but reactions to the antics of the Jewish-Bolshevik scum and the Treaty of Versailles."

Let's just agree to disagree, shall we ? But if you could drop the offensive language I'd appreciate it.

A few points

a) as pointed out, Germany was well beaten in WWI - a fact which the Armistice, arriving in time to save Germany from inevitable invasion, concealed from the mass of the German people.

b) by virtue of natural gifts and talents, as well as a work ethic and a culture that values education, Jewish people will proportionally be 'over-represented' in many elite areas of human endeavour, including politics. I give you Benjamin Disraeli. The one area where this will logically not apply is in political parties which are primarily or exclusively (non-Jewish) ethnically-based.
German Jews, as I noted here, were highly integrated into German society. To explain Nazi anti-semitism, against German Jews, as a reaction to the existence of Trotsky or Kamenev is a travesty of logic and history.

c) the Treaty of Versailles was indeed a factor in Hitler's rise, but was foolish rather than wicked (although the principle that the offender should pay is a reasonable one). In Churchill's words :

"The economic clauses of the Treaty were malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously futile. Germany was condemned to pay reparations on a fabulous scale. These dictates gave expression to the anger of the victors, and to the belief of their peoples that any defeated nation or community can ever pay tribute on a scale which would meet the cost of modern war.

The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them. The newspapers, after their fashion, reflected and emphasised the prevailing opinions. Few voices were raised to explain that payment of reparations can only be made by services or by the physical transportation of goods in wagons across land frontiers or in ships across salt water; or that when these goods arrive in the demanding countries, they dislocate the local industry except in very primitive or rigorously controlled societies. In practice, as even the Russians have now learned, the only way of pillaging a defeated nation is to cart away any movables which are wanted, and to drive off a portion of its manhood as permanent or temporary slaves. But the profit gained from such processes bears no relation to the cost of the war. No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy, or detachment from public folly to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorates; nor would anyone have been believed if he had. The triumphant Allies continued to assert that they would squeeze Germany "till the pips squeaked." All this had a potent bearing on the prosperity of the world and the mood of the German race."

Laban said...
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AgainsTTheWall said...

I used the term Jewish-Bolshevik to illustrate ONE of the drivers for 'anti-semitism' in Europe between the wars. This is a contemporary term. Whether you or I believe it has substance is neither here nor there. Many at that time felt it had.

Im guessing your are not really objecting to 'scum'. I assume most here think that is quite a mild adjective for the criminal claque who ran Russia and thought a bullet to the head the best way to win a political argument. And in any case worse has been written here in the past.

Anonymous said...

"by virtue of natural gifts and talents, as well as a work ethic and a culture that values education, Jewish people will proportionally be 'over-represented' in many elite areas of human endeavour, including politics."

You make my point Laban.
You could have said the same thing about the British, Germans, French, many others etc, but thats not allowed.
Different rules apply.

Laban said...

I am objecting to 'scum', actually. I wouldn't describe my worst enemy that way.