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Armistice Day




Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day.

So many different names. So many different things to honor and remember. All the same day. 

It started after the end of WWI – 100 years ago today. “On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” A day to remember those who died in the line of duty. Today, we honor everyone who ever served with the U.S. military. (Not to be confused with Memorial Day, in which we actually do remember those who fell).

On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 AM an armistice was signed. It marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. In it, both sides agreed to end the fighting while terms of peace were negotiated. But that’s just it. It was not an actual end to the war. It was an agreement to put a pause on the fighting, until further notice. This further notice just happened to last 21 years. The time it would take to raise an entire generation of young men (and women) who would face battle. Or, the continuation of a great war.

“An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, since it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace. It is derived from the Latin arma, meaning “arms” (as in weapons) and -stitium, meaning “a stopping”.[1]



“The Armistice was designed to end the fighting of WWI, and the terms of it would make it impossible for Germany to restart the war, at least in the short term… . If Germany broke any of the terms of the Armistice … fighting would begin again with 48 hours notice” ( “The armistice initially ran for 30 days but was regularly renewed until the formal peace treaty was signed at Versailles the following year. Before the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies kept their armies ready to begin hostilities back again within 48 hours” (Source). Apparently by Nov 5th, after a month-long attempt at peace negotiations, during which time Germany agreed to negotiate Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points only to then threaten resuming war when they found the Allies’ negotiations unacceptable, the Allies agreed to take up negotiations for a truce, now also demanding reparation payments from Germany. [Above is the only picture of the signing ceremony] 

Some scholars argue that WWI and WWII are, essentially, the same war. On the same note, some also believe (a historian friend of mine included) that The Treaty of Versailles lead to WWII. The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to accept full responsibility for the damages of the war and forced them to pay reparations to the tune of 132 billion gold marks (US 33 billion dollars). This led to wide-spread poverty and unemployment (as noted in an earlier post) and made it easier for Hitler to claim power (also noted earlier). Actually, Germany did not completely pay off their debt until 2010! (source same as above). So the Allies claim victory because Germany was forced into negotiations or else lose the war. We had temporary peace on the Western front. But left Germany in such tight straights that, really, another war was almost inevitable. So much for a victory, huh?

In another note: WWI left nine million soldiers dead, 21 million wounded, and another five million civilians dead from “disease, starvation, or exposure” (Source).

If anyone is interested in WWI historical fiction, let me first recommend All Quiet on the Western Front (coincidentally given to me by Michael (yeah, I got sick of mentioning him by his major!)) by Erich Maria Remarque. It tells the story from the German perspective and was, interestingly enough, on Hitler’s banned books list.

I also recommend:

  1. The Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd – a British WWI mystery series about an army nurse
  2. When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer (A Dear America book published by Scholastic) – Simone Spencer goes off to war as a switchboard operator. It’s YA (or rather children’s, maybe) but I still highly recommend it.
  3. Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)by Jacqueline Winspear – Another WW1 mystery series about an army nurse. This is another series, though only book #1 takes place during the war. It follows through the 20′s & 30′s and currently, I believe, is starting on WWII.

And well! Remember our vets today – both fallen or still with us. Wear your poppy with pride and, if possible, thank a veteran for the freedom you have today. Lest We Forget.

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The Anschluss

A little late, admittedly, but I feel like things are (at least starting to get) back on track!!

On March 12, 1938, Hitler announced the Anschluss – or the “union” with Austria, successfully annexing the country. In other words, Hitler made Austria a subordinate addition to Germany.

Since 1919, a union between Germany and Austria had long been a dream of Austrian Social Democrats. It’d also been a major goal of Hitler’s, who was a native Austrian. However, in an ironic twist, such a proposition seemed much less attractive to the Austrians, following Hitler’s rise to all-powerful authoritarian rule in 1933. However, despite the lack of full support within Austrian Social Democrats, “the rise of a pro-Nazi right-wing party within Austria in the mid-1930′s paved the way for Hitler to make his move (Source). 

As with many European countries after WWI, Austria was “weakened by a period of economic stagnation and political strife” (Source). Because of this, as early as a year and a half after Hitler came to power, Nazis attempted to take control of the Austrian government. They only managed to assassinate the chancellor. Kurt von Schuschnigg was named in his place. His reign as chancellor was not necessarily  successful, thanks in part to the Nazis, and made supremely worse by Germany’s pact with Italy (who, up until this time, had been aiding Austria).

Of course, Hitler’s goal all along had been to unite the two countries. But, in order to do so, he had to play his game carefully, since the Treaty of Versailles forbade any such maneuvers. So, he directed his Nazi party leaders in Austria to reek as much havoc as they could: “His Austrian Nazis held parades and marches, set buildings on fire, let off bombs and organized fights” (Source).

It was on February 12, 1938, then, that Austrian Chancellor von Schuschnigg, reluctantly not only agreed to “a greater Nazi presence” in Austria, but also agreed to appoint a Nazi minister of police, and even went so far as to announce “an amnesty for all Nazi prisoners” (Source). 

Like many others before and after him, von Schuschnigg believed that appeasing Hitler would help prevent future invasion. But as seems to always be the case with Hitler, this was only the beginning.

See, shortly after von Schuschnigg made this agreement with Hitler, he attempted to deny any agreement signed at Berchtesgaden, “demanding a plebiscite [vote] on the question” (Source). This failed, and von Schuschnigg was forced to resign.

Von Schuschnigg claimed Austrians wanted a “free, independent, social, Christian united Austria” (Source).

However, even the Austrian President, Wilhelm Miklas, refused to cooperate. Desperate, Hermann Göring was forced to fake a crisis within the Austrian government. 

[Below: Cheering crowds greet the Germans in Vienna.]



On March 12, “German troops entered Austria, and one day later, Austria was incorporated into Germany” (Source).

The evening of March 12, (after a stop in his birthplace, Braunau), Hitler was “enthusiastically welcomed” at the Linz city hall (Source). Here, he finally named Arthur Seyss-Inquart the governor of Austria, something he had tried and failed to do earlier, thanks to von Schuschnigg and Miklas. 

Surprisingly, the Nazi presence was greeted with “enthusiastic support” and when von Schuschnigg’s earlier-planned plebiscite was carried through in April, the Anschluss was approved. Admittedly, the results were manipulated to give the Anschluss “more than 99%” approval – that, and both Jews and Roma were forbidden to vote (Source).

Immediately, antisemitic actions spread throughout the country, coupled, of course, with political violence. Those who had previously held government positions were arrested, along with anyone who opposed Hitler and his Nazis, as well as Communists and Social Democrats. As always, the Jews took the brunt of the humiliation and violence. Gestapo and Nazi sympathizers “looted Jewish belongings, seized Jewish businesses, and arrested those who refused to surrender their property. Furthermore, anti-Jewish legislation was in place almost immediately, forcing Jews from their positions, and essentially expelling them from the country’s economic, social, and cultural life” (Source). 

On March 13, Hitler announced that Austria was a province of Ostmark. On the 15th, he travelled to Vienna, where he gave a speech declaring that Germany was Austria’s “liberators.”

Even then, he did everything in his power to suppress opposition, and as many as 70,000 people were arrested. At this time, thousands of German troops moved into the now German-controlled Austria. There was no Allied military action to oppose this move. 

This was only the first step to combine all ethnic Germans into one, large German-controlled country. “Having succeeded in gaining Austria, Hitler then used similar tactics to gain the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia that contained over three million Germans” (Source).

[Below: Members of the League of German Girls wave Nazi flags in support of the German annexation of Austria in Vienna, Austria, March 1938]



Up Next: 

Austria in WWII

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Hitler’s Violation of the Treaty of Versailles


In 1930, Hitler began an era that would break the treaty that had put an end to WWI.



WWI came to an unofficial end on November 11, 1918 with the Armistice – the agreement to lay down weapons and cease fighting. The war officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles. This treaty was negotiated by the Allied Powers at the Paris Peace Conference. In short, it “required Germany to accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage during the war” (Source). Similar articles were signed by the other members of the Central Powers. This was called the War Guilt Clause.

The Treaty of Versailles, however, required Germany to pay reparations for these damages. And to prevent another similar war, Germany was also forced to disarm and “make substantial territorial concessions” (Source). But, because these provisions were later deemed unsatisfactory, later treaties were signed in an effort to amend these problems.

In September 1924, the Dawes Plan went into effect, providing an end to the Allied occupation in the Ruhr. It also set forth to stagger Germany’s payment plans and, hopefully, to boost their economy. Then, on December 1, 1925, the Locarno Treaty was signed, dividing Europe into two categories: East and West. It was hoped that this would prevent Germany from going to war while also trying to normalize relations with them. The Dawes Plan failed, and so in 1929, the Allies once again set to work, hoping to fix it. In January 1930, the Young Plan was signed, effectively reducing Germany’s payments again.

All of these plans were cancelled by 1932, “and Hitler’s rise to power and subsequent actions rendered moot the remaining terms of the treaty” (Source).

In March of 1935, Hitler announced his new and improved Luftwaffe, but in the name of appeasement, no one reacted. Goaded to push the boundaries even further . . .

[Below: The public announcement of Germany’s Re-Armament.]



On March 16, 1935, Hitler introduced conscription and began building up Germany’s air force and navy. Of course, by this point, Hitler had long since been ignoring the rules set into place by the Treaty of Versailles.

See, in 1934, he began secretly giving orders to triple the size of their army to 500,000 men and to build bigger and better planes and submarines. At the same time, Göring was beginning to train air force pilots. Furthermore, Hitler began making speeches about a war in Europe, though claiming to be opposed to the idea of war.


Hitler’s not-so-secret rearmament did help to pull Germany out of her own depression by way of putting factories back into business. For example, shipyards “created branches that began to design and build aircraft” (Source). Plus, while other countries were practicing appeasement, Germany was busy building and experimenting with new weapons – these “advanced and sometimes revolutionary, technological improvements” left England and other countries even further behind. As Hitler later bragged: “We rearmed to an extent the like of which the world as not yet seen” (Source).

These new weapons would then be tested on Spanish soil during the Spanish Civil War with Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

On of the reasons many other countries stood back and allowed Hitler to rearm Germany was because many saw this as the “potential bulwark against the emergence of the USSR which, under Stalin, had successfully undergone a late military-industrial revolution” (Source). Of course, the two countries would later join hands instead – all while planing to invade one another. (And, can I just point out that pre Operation Barbarossa that Stalin was considered the supreme evil? And then we somehow forgot that? Hmm?)

While France and Britain (and to a greater extent America) did not want to rock the boat with Germany, France did take action by building the Maginot Line between themselves and Germany. At the same time, the Stresa front was “formed between Britain, France, and Italy (Italy had not at this time fully invaded Abyssinia and was not yet a German ally) in April 1935” (Source).

Britain went so far down the appeasement path, that she even made an agreement with Germany under the Anglo-German Agreement, effectively enlarging the number of submarines Germany was allowed to have. England hoped this would ease up the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles “and help assuage Germany’s anger towards Europe and reduce the chances of further conflict” (Source). Of course, though, Hitler would only push the boundaries even further . . .

[Below: Pre-war German re-armament produces the Heinkel He 111.]



Up Next:

The Nuremberg Laws & Beyond

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