Back   People's Feelings after the War 

The 'Great War', as it came to be called, had destroyed a generation, and it is understandable that it raised high emotions in those who went to the peace conference:


Source 1

Germany's Fault - Official

The War was premeditated by the Central Powers... and was the result of acts deliberately committed in order to make it unavoidable. Germany, in agreement with Austria-Hungary, deliberately worked to defeat all the many peaceful proposals made by the Entente Powers.

Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War: 

Report  to the US Secretary of State (1918)


Source 2

Emotional Trauma

The war evoked pity and terror like no other, and when peace was declared there was an almost animal venting of emotion in the streets of Britain.   It toppled some monarchies and shook other nations to their roots.   And of course, when it was all over, the world had been made safe, and the war to end all wars had been fought.

Martin Stephen, The Price of Pity (1996) 


Source 3

A Cry for Revenge

The country was indeed at this time swept by a sudden, vehement cry for revenge. ......   The war had brought suffering of a scale and intensity which the harshest pessimist could not have prophesied, and for which Britain, after a century of peace and progress, was, psychologically speaking, peculiarly unprepared.   The interminable casualty lists, the row upon row of beardless faces in the `Roll of Honour', the rattle through a thousand letter-boxes of the same War Office telegram all this produced a stunned sense of disbelief at the annihilation of so much youth and promise.   When, with the peace, people began to come to terms with what had happened, it was not to be expected that they would rise overnight to the serenity of saints or sages.   Even if they wished to forget, the press would not let them.   As a Cambridge newspaper put it, `Somebody has got to be hanged.'.

Antony Lentin, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and the Guilt of Germany (1984)


Source 4

The Preconditions for Peace

In December 1916, president Wilson of American tried to broker a peace between Germany and the Allies.   Mr Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, replied:


Though the people of this country share to the full the desire of the President for peace, they do not believe that peace can be durable if it be not based on the success of the Allied cause.  For a durable peace can hardly be expected unless three conditions are fulfilled:

1.   The first is that the existing causes of international unrest should be, as far as possible, removed or weakened.

2.   The second is that the aggressive aims and the unscrupulous methods of the Central Powers should fall into disrepute among their own peoples.

3.   The third is that behind international law and behind all the treaty arrangements for preventing or limiting hostilities some form of international sanction should be devised which would give pause to the hardiest aggressor.

This note formed the basis of the principles which the British government demanded at Versailles - the defeat of Germany, self-determination, reparations and some mechanism to prevent a repetition of the outrage of 1914.


Source 5

Kamerad!  After 4 Years of Fighting!

A cartoon by WK Heselden (11 Nov 1918)

This cartoon was drawn on the day of the Armistice.   It shows a German soldier against the background of ruins, trying to be friends again (Kamerad = 'friend').   

The attitude of the cartoonist is clear in the caption - 'after 4 years of fighting!'


Source 6

Pledges made in the 1918 General Election

The Times summed up the issues into these headings:

1.   A War issue: "The outstanding feature of the campaign has been almost universal determination to ensure that Germany shall pay the cost of the war, that the Kaiser shall be brought to trial, and that no opportunity shall be afforded for any future peaceful penetration of this country".

2.   A Peace issue: "Almost as keen as the demand for a strong policy abroad has been the call for radical reform at home on the subjects of land, housing, health and conditions of labour".

Stephen King-Hall, Our Own Times 1913-1934 (1934)


Source 7

The British Position

When they were given the draft Treaty in May 1919, the Germans at first protested and asked for them to be changed.  On 16 June 1919, Philip Kerr (Lloyd George's secretary) gave Britain's reply:


In the view of the Allied and Associated Powers the war which began on August 1, 1914, was the greatest crime against humanity and the freedom of peoples that any nation calling itself civilized has ever consciously committed...   Germany's responsibility however is not confined to having planned and started the war. She is no less responsible for the savage and inhuman manner in which it was conducted...

The conduct of Germany is almost unexampled in human history. The terrible responsibility which lies at her door can be seen in the fact that no less than seven million dead lie buried in Europe while more than twenty million others carry upon them the evidence of wounds and suffering because Germany saw fit to gratify her lust for tyranny by resort to war.

The Allied and Associated Nations believe that they will be false to those who have given their all to save the freedom of the world if they consent to treat this war on any other basis than as a crime against humanity and right...

Justice, therefore, is the only possible basis for the settlement of the accounts of this terrible war. Justice is what the German delegation asks for and what Germany has been promised. Justice is what Germany shall have. But it must be Justice for all. There must be Justice for the dead and wounded and for those who have been orphaned and bereaved that Europe might be freed from Prussian despotism. There must be Justice for the people who now stagger under war debts which exceed thirty thousand million pounds, that Liberty might be saved. There must be Justice for those millions whose homes and lands, ships and property German savagery has spoliated and destroyed. ..

Not to do justice to all concerned would only leave the world open to fresh calamities.

Quoted in Andre Tardieu, The Truth about the Treaty (1921).