JF Ptak Science Books 1174
The newly-elected NSDAP government lost little time in putting forward a case to the German people that the Treaty of Versailles left Germany in a defenceless postion, surrounded by forboding armies and air foprces of its neighbors, the forces of France, Italy, Czecholovakia, Belgium and Poland forging a tight and formidible strangelhold on the weakened Germany. This image comes from the late November 1933 issue of the Illustrite Zeitung1 (Leipzig), and its relates to the casual and general reader the de-militarized and tenuous situation of the country--its design is effective enough so that the voice of he illustrations is well heard even if no on actually bothered to stop and read its legend--it was all about threat and impending doom, and the words for those emoptions weren't necessary in this artwork.
Campaigns like this were a first step in the Nazi consolidation of the public spirit, attempting to unify the population under Hitler and the NSDAP by presenting a threat so common that it could not help but to draw everyone into the big tent. This was a simple message of natural survival, a wide threat to the German state, a threat that was so simple and so devastating and so opaque that there would be virtually no resistence to unifying against it. (J.W. WHeeler-Bennet wrote about this in his superb and still-classic book The Nemesis of Power, the Germany Army in Politics, 1918-1945, published in 1954.)
Here's another example from about the same time, again showing the devastating effects of imagery--this displays the non-existent threat from Czechoslovakia:
And another, showing the encircling imagery again:
Getting back to the first image--curiously Great Britain and Russia don't make the Enelmies Liest here, though in 1933 they certainly loomed as an enemy as much as any other. (Well, perhaps not neessarily so for the Soivet Union, but close.)
Someone who actually read the article and looked closer at the full-page ilustration would see the details of t he European threat, like this for France (and Belgium), with bloated figures for WWI-era ordnance and an extremely effectively articiulated represntation of what was seen as the standing army:
And this for Poland:
Among other things the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 limited the German armed forces to less than 100,000; limited the Navy to 15,000; prohibited the manufacture of submarines, armed aircraft, tanks, armored cars, Maxim guns and of course poison gas. There was assignment of guilt, heavy reparations (in what today would translate into something like a half-trillion dollars, without though translating buying power), and much more that was aimed at keeping Germany vanquished if not somewhat pastoral. Many have seen the Treaty as being the bridge and greatest impetus to WWII, an opportunity lost and squandered by the Allies–maybe so. A year after the end of the incredibly violent and ripping four-year onslaught in which millions were killed and so much destroyed it would’ve been difficult for all parties to the Treaty to have a great forward vision in how to best deal with Germany.
The Treay did provide a unifying front for Hitler; the Nazi Party using choice aspects of it in hearts-and-minds propagandizing methods like the one above: the military restrictions were true, but the portrayed threat of attack from Poland and Czechoslovkia and Belgium and Italy and even France were part of the building of the Big Lie. The "Big Lie" was something that Hitler identified in his 1925 Mein Kampf, and then used in his own terror campaigns--it is a lie so colossal and so impudent, so fantastic, that it is perceived as being true because no one would lie so gigantically. As George Orwell put it in his 1948 novel 1984, the Big Lie was "...to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed...." The perception of imminent threat was one of the starting points for the Big Lie; the mechanics and people behind the manufacture of the invasion, of the Treaty of Versailles, of the German economic meltdown, and so on was already laid down in Hitler's ridciulous book, and much of that lay at the feet of the Jewish people.
But first the Nazis needed to address the issue of their entirely weak and vulnerable military position by proposing the threat from much of the rest of Europe, this in order to rail against Versailles and break the German obligations to non-militarism. The foundations for rebuilding the German war machine started in earnest in 1933; by 1935 most of the restrictions of Versailles had been broken, and Germany (which in 1933/4 had bene secretive about it) had gone public with its new obligations to itself (introducing the Luftwaffe to the rest of the world in March1935). Reactions from the Allies to generating the new war machine were weak, and Germany rolled right into WWII.
1. I've written many times here about the Illustrirte Zeitung--it was basically the German equivalent of the Illustrated London News, Paris Match, and LIFE magazine, a better, mid-level weekly magazine that was well-written, very-well illustrated, approachable and affordable to folks of nearly all classes. It was an expedient way of sending across the government's message from te beginning of the Nazi ouccpation of German politics.