Why didn't they use camouflage before WWII

Paris Peace Order

Eckart Conze

To person

is Professor of Modern History at the Philipps University of Marburg. In 2018 he published "The Great Illusion. Versailles 1919 and the New Order of the World". [email protected]

"Now - when the period of fatigue is over - peace will be discredited, not war." [1] Max Weber, the sociologist who spent a few days in Versailles as an advisor to the German delegation in May 1919, was proven to be right. Not only the Treaty of Versailles, but also the documents of Saint-Germain, Trianon, Neuilly and Sèvres were considered bad treaties by contemporaries. There were hardly any defenders in the victorious states either. One of the most prominent critics was the Cambridge economist John Maynard Keynes, who belonged to the British delegation in Paris and who in Germany became the key witness of all those who considered the Versailles Treaty to be unacceptable. Even the former Italian Prime Minister Francesco Nitti, who had personally signed the Versailles Treaty in 1919, could see nothing more in the peace agreement two years later than a "means to continue the war". [2]

Deterministic historical narrative

In the decades that followed, little changed in the negative judgment of contemporaries. The victorious powers, especially Great Britain, but also France, reacted cautiously to the aggressive German foreign policy after 1933 because they considered it legitimate for Germany to free itself from the "chains of Versailles" - and failed to recognize that Hitler was not only concerned with Versailles but rather about hegemony and expansion determined by racial ideology.

After the Second World War, the assessment of German foreign policy changed, but not the image of Versailles. In 1984 the American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan wrote in the "New York Times" that the "vengeance of the British and French peace conditions" had prepared the ground for National Socialism and another war. The Second World War was the result of "the stupid and humiliating penal peace" that was imposed on Germany. The British "Economist" ruled in its 1999/2000 millennium edition that the last crime in World War I was the Treaty of Versailles, the harsh conditions of which made another war inevitable.

The end of the Weimar Republic, the rise and takeover of power by the National Socialists and finally the Second World War severely discredited the Versailles Treaty and the Paris Peace Order of 1919/20. The treaty and its consequences were associated with National Socialism and its crimes: in 1933 and 1939, the view of the peace treaty was determined, which in this light hardly had a chance of impartial judgment. Just as November 9, 1918, until recently, was not perceived as a real revolution and the hopeful beginning of a democracy, but only as the beginning of a development that led to the destruction of the republic and the Nazis' seizure of power, the Treaty of Versailles also became an integral part a deterministic historical narrative. There was little room in it for the openness of the future, the perception of contemporaries of 1919.

This narrative offered all the more space for exculpatory arguments after 1945. As early as the 1930s, many Germans had declared their great support for National Socialism with Versailles. Now former supporters of the regime justified why they had joined the NSDAP: not out of ideological conviction and anti-Semitic zeal, but because the National Socialists were trusted to overcome the unpopular Versailles Treaty.

But was the treaty really that bad, if you look at it impartially from its time and not immediately put it in the perspective of National Socialism and World War II? In the years after 1919, the emotionally charged perception blocked the view of the possibilities that the Treaty opened up for peaceful development in Europe. In fact, he gave the German Reich a chance. Versailles was not a mild, but also not a "Carthaginian peace", as it was called again and again after 1919. Despite all territorial losses and reparations, all economic weaknesses and burdens, Germany remained not only as a state, but - unlike in 1945 - also as a European power, as a potential great power.