Weimar or Britain: Can You Win an Interwar?
By Katie Jain
BERLIN / LONDON, 1926 (The London Gazette) - The Great War left seven million missing, eight million dead, and over 21 million wounded, making it the most expansive, most harmful modern war. However, as tensions within Europe arise, many are beginning to wonder if the War of 1914 really was the “war to end all wars.” While Weimar Germany and Great Britain both seem very confident about their ability to negotiate peace terms, they are not entirely on the same page, which could cause ensuing conflict. Currently, both the Weimar Reichstag and the British Parliament are meeting to discuss a renegotiation of the Treaty of Versailles.
In Germany, extremist groups are on the rise and there is much dissent against both the communist and the fascist leader running for president, causing significant domestic divide within the Weimar committee. Nevertheless, all members present agreed that the Treaty of Versailles is now meaningless, that Germany will be paying no reparations, and that their military needed to grow. One delegate even pointed out that “Britain should be paying us reparations!” In addition, the committee has already funded terrorist groups and annexed a part of Poland. As they are receiving very little pushback for these actions, they continue to take land—drawing a map to signify what they annex—and increase their military and power as they continue negotiations with Britain.
On the other hand, Britain is doing very little to prevent this, instead hoping to ally themselves with the Weimar Republic, even as Germany continues to disregard the Treaty of Versailles. In the UK, the primary fear is communism infiltrating their nation. As such, Britain is hoping to very loosely align with Germany, and has already agreed to allow the League of Nations to handle Germany’s annexation of areas in Poland. Though Oskar Hergt, Co-Chairman of the Reichstag, claims that “the Treaty of Versailles basically doesn’t even exist anymore,” the British delegates seem to believe their referendums to the Treaty are reasonable and continue to support its existence.
Even so, when asked how Britain would react should Germany yet again break the Treaty of Versailles, every single member in the room responded by emphasizing the need for peace and negotiations, which—it should be noted—are exactly what is occurring now to no success for England.
The British currently believe that their main enemy is the rise of communism, not Germany’s defiance of the—albeit unfair—Treaty of Versailles, and Home Secretary Hicks even said that if Germany decided to “annex the Soviet Union, we would support them.”
While technically it is a time of peace, and technically Britain and Germany are tentative allies, both sides have very different intentions. Germany’s goal is to annex all the land they can, to build up their army, and—for some delegates—to “make Germany great again,” while Britain solely wants to stop Communism, preferably for an alliance tipped in their favor; however, if they continue as they have, completely appeasing Germany’s wishes, allowing them to break treaty after treaty and anex country after country, England is going to lose its secure footing in Europe.
Germany is divided and at an inherent disadvantage due to their losing the Great War, and yet if the interwar was a real war, they would be winning. Britain is planning on letting them keep the Rhineland, is refusing to involve themselves in Poland, and are allowing Germany to break every clause of the Treaty of Versailles—all because the West is too focused on fighting the spread of communism.
During negotiations, these contradictions and weaknesses reared their heads when, upon being asked for their demands, the Reichstag requested the Treaty of Versailles be abolished because, as a member of the Weimar Republic noted, “at this point, it’s pretty much useless, and it’s more of a symbolic move really.” In response, the British cabinet continued to demand reparations until one representative from Germany said, “I’m not sure you’re in a position to bargain, as your navy is faltering while our army is on the rise. We’re basically threatening you.”
Tensions continued to increase throughout the whole negotiation process, as it became abundantly clear that the nation holding the power was not the one that had won the Great War. The British cabinet tried to stand up for itself, with Hicks even claiming that France would follow Britain into war and “a two pronged war is not what you or anyone here wants,” but Germany was adamant about scrapping the Treaty of Versailles and starting from scratch.
Something the majority of the committee could agree on, however, was their hatred of communists, and Hicks at one point even tried to silence a German communist member, claiming that due to its stance on communism, Britain would prefer to, “talk to the real men at the table,” and that “half of the British cabinet was already jailed for being Communist.”
Despite its weakness, sexism, and alleged totalitarian policy of jailing people for their beliefs, Britain did have one trick up their sleeve: they had already used a spy, posing as a member of the press, to infiltrate the German committee, though that didn’t seem to help significantly during negotiations.
In 1922, philosopher George Santayana said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” which when looking at the Great War and the interwar period, is abundantly true. The Great War never truly ended, as now there remains fighting, there remains annexing, and there remains threats. In fact, the only difference is that now, Germany is more powerful and fighting with a vengeance. As the British Parliament and the Weimar Reichstag follow only their own agendas and accomplish solely their own goals, they continue to bring our society ever closer to another war, to another 8 million deaths. The war is not over, and Germany is evidently winning the interwar period.