Root Causes and the Lesson of History

On June 28th 1919, Britain, France, Italy and the United State of America force upon Germany what ultimately turned out to be the most inequitable, humiliating and downright stupid political treaty of the 20th Century, the Treaty of Versailles.

This one single treaty, which was devised in the mistake belief that it oudl prevent Germany from ever again threatening peace and order in Europe, turned over large parts of what had previously been German territory to, amongst others, France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Japan.

It placed strict limits on Germany military capacity and capabilities and held Germany sole responsible for the entire loss and damage caused by World War I, extracting financial reparations of 132 billion Marks from the German economy.

The Treaty of Versailles, as it later transpired, created the social, economic and political conditions which led to the rise of Naziism and ultimately to World War II and is widely acknowledged as one of the root causes of that war.

Around the beginning of 1945, the three great allied powers – this time Britain, Russia and the United States – met once again, with the tide of war having turned against Nazi Germany, to consider what could be done this time to prevent any further German aggression after the war was won…

…and once again, a plan was put forward which proposed the hiving off of large chunks of German territory to its neighbours, crippling its industrial economy and humiliating the German people. The vision of Germany in this this plan was a picturebook version of Germany made up entirely of peasant farmers – no threat to anyone.

Roosevelt supported this particular plan…

…only for it to be vetoed out of hand by Winston Churchill.

You see Churchill, fascism’s most implacable enemy, understood all too well how the Treaty of Versailles had shaped Germany after World War I and how this had, in turn, given rise to Naziism. Churchill understood root causes and how, by addressing and dealing with them, it was possible to prevent further German aggression.

So instead of a Hansel & Gretel theme park, we got the Marshall Plan and the rest, as they say, is history…

The ‘moral’ of this story, as George Santayana pointed out, is simply that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Or not, in Churchill’s case.

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