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What if Germany had returned to war in 1919?

Alex Richards

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I think the hardest aspect of this is managing to make that leap from 'German militias fighting Polish militias' to 'the hardliners make a last bid for conquest in a country that's really not in a position to keep fighting', but if you did manage to square that circle through a mixture of pig-headedness, incompetence and just plain stupidity, yeah a relatively quick war which sees the Germans utterly defeated and harsher conditions imposed seems the most reasonable outcome. Especially when you remember that the allies are already occupying the Rhineland.

The difficulty I can see with the rest of the outcomes postulated is that I'm not entirely certain there's going to be a Germany left after this. There were already calls from Paris to dismantle the country at Versailles- something that both London and Washington were against (not least because of the difficulty of imposing it) but in a circumstance where the apparent situation is 'we beat them, we tried to sort out a peace treaty and despite everything they still just want to start wars again', that calculus may well change.

There were already divisions during the war between the Prussians and the other Germans in the German army, and I can easily see this being spun as 'Prussia lost and just wanted to drag everyone else down with them' in both a significant amount of popular sentiment and allied propaganda. Bavaria probably declares independence about the point when the French have reached Stuttgart. The Saar is getting annexed to France outright. Baden and Wurttemberg likely 'declare independence' once the French military move in (they may not survive that long of course). Those vague plans to annex land to Belgium and the Netherlands probably get brought out. There'll probably be talk of resurrecting Hanover, though nothing may come of it.

Oh and whatever's left of Germany- even if it's just the north- absolutely will see the state of Prussia utterly dismembered.
 

Yokai Man

Well-known member
I think the hardest aspect of this is managing to make that leap from 'German militias fighting Polish militias' to 'the hardliners make a last bid for conquest in a country that's really not in a position to keep fighting', but if you did manage to square that circle through a mixture of pig-headedness, incompetence and just plain stupidity, yeah a relatively quick war which sees the Germans utterly defeated and harsher conditions imposed seems the most reasonable outcome. Especially when you remember that the allies are already occupying the Rhineland.

The difficulty I can see with the rest of the outcomes postulated is that I'm not entirely certain there's going to be a Germany left after this. There were already calls from Paris to dismantle the country at Versailles- something that both London and Washington were against (not least because of the difficulty of imposing it) but in a circumstance where the apparent situation is 'we beat them, we tried to sort out a peace treaty and despite everything they still just want to start wars again', that calculus may well change.

There were already divisions during the war between the Prussians and the other Germans in the German army, and I can easily see this being spun as 'Prussia lost and just wanted to drag everyone else down with them' in both a significant amount of popular sentiment and allied propaganda. Bavaria probably declares independence about the point when the French have reached Stuttgart. The Saar is getting annexed to France outright. Baden and Wurttemberg likely 'declare independence' once the French military move in (they may not survive that long of course). Those vague plans to annex land to Belgium and the Netherlands probably get brought out. There'll probably be talk of resurrecting Hanover, though nothing may come of it.

Oh and whatever's left of Germany- even if it's just the north- absolutely will see the state of Prussia utterly dismembered.
Rhineland and Saxony also become independent,Denmark gets its lost territories back and Poland gets everything it wants.

Not sure what happens to the rest of Germany though.
 

Lord Roem

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Very good essay that I vaguely remember reading many moons ago.

I agree with @Alex Richards that there'd probably have to be some concerted de-Prussiafication in a way that was not the case in OTL. If there's been a significant presence of the far-right ultra-nationalist Junkers within this new German dictatorship (and there will have been) then Prussia as an entity will probably be one for the history books as ended up being the case after OTL World War II. The issue is exactly how this happens - very hard to achieve without a significant foreign occupation force and given how exhausted everyone will be by the end of 1919, there simply might not be the public confidence for it, perhaps the UK will be more willing to do so, but I can't see the Americans having the desire to do so unless there's been a significant shift in public opinion (perhaps Wilson gets the League of Nations through Congress? He made a lot of fairly obvious mistakes OTL so it's easy to butterfly in this scenario, perhaps he takes a Congressional delegation to Versailles after all?).

Of course, a lot of this is moot if there is enough pressure from within Germany proper? The idea of German nationhood is still going to be very strong ITTL and in some cases may have become even firmer depending on how the war goes - I can't see the entire country being dismembered even if it's only fifty years old at this point, but it will presumably be a lot less focused on Prussia - there may even be calls for the capital to be moved somewhere less revolutionary and connected with the old regime (Frankfurt? Hannover?).

I'm more familiar with Eastern Europe and I very much concur with an independent Ukrainian state being pretty inevitable in this situation. It very nearly happened in OTL and it was only the rapid rate of regime change that allowed the Soviets to end up in power basically by default. You'll likely to have a disagreeable but fundamentally united government in Kyiv at this point (one far more pushed towards the west and with a focus on the right-bank) - a large and probably quite nationalistics Ukrainian government is going to be a significant player in Eastern European politics in the decade to come and it would be a very big player in any sort of post-war alliance system, it's likely to be strongly pro-German and anti-Polish. If WWII does break out in whatever form, the South-Eastern Front would be a very bloody place indeed.

I still cannot see the Reds losing the Russian Civil War even in this scenario, but again, a lot can happen and it's likely to be a much more evenly-matched conflict than it was in OTL. Lenin and the rest of the Bolsheviks are likely to have to be a lot more pragmatic than in our timeline and a post-war government in Moscow is likely to have a very strong Menshevik/Right-Bolshevik tendency. Trotsky is probably still seen as a successful leader, but not to the extent he was OTL. Let's assume Lenin is incapacitated earlier than he was OTL owning to the additional stresses of the civil war, and that probably puts Bukharin in a stronger position to succeed him. This version of the USSR probably enters the 1930s with a firmly NEP-bent to it. That's unlikely to shift the nature of the world economy much compared with OTL, but it probably lessens the impact of the Depression whenever it turns up if the Soviet Union is more involved in world trade than it was.
 

History Learner

Well-known member
It's an interesting scenario, like all of the works by @DaleCoz, but I find this one unrealistic. Had Germany refused the Treaty, there would've been no resumption of the war because the Entente by the Summer of 1919 were in no position to resume fighting.

The French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Pages 375:



Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World by Margaret MacMillan largely concurs with such analysis. From Page 159:

And the Allied forces were shrinking were shrinking. In November 1918, there were 198 Allied Divisions; by June 1919, only 39 remained. And could they be relied upon? There was little enthusiasm for renewed fighting. Allied demobilization had been hastened by protests, occasionally outright mutiny. On the home fronts, there was a longing for peace, and lower taxes. The French were particularly insistent on the need to make peace while the Allies could still dictate terms.​
Further on, same page:

While his pessimism was premature, it is true by the spring of 1919 Allied commanders were increasingly doubtful about their ability to successfully wage war on Germany. The German Army had been defeated on the battlefield, but its command structure, along with hundreds of thousands of trained men, had survived. There were 75 Million Germans and only 40 million French, as Foch kept repeating. And the German people, Allied observers noticed, were opposed to signing a harsh peace.​
Previously on Page 158:

Among the Allied leaders only General Pershing, the top American military commander, thought the Allies should press on, beyond the Rhine if necessary. The French did not want anymore of their men to die. Their chief general, Marshal Foch, who was also the supreme Allied commander, warned that they ran the risk of stiff resistance and heavy losses. The British wanted to make peace before the Americans became too strong. And Smuts spoke for many in Europe when he warned gloomily that "the grim spectre of Bolshevist anarchy was stalking the front."​

Overall, the Entente were just as exhausted as the Germans and by the timeframe in question lacked the material edge that forced the Germans to the peace table six months earlier. It was also not coming back, as Turkey overturning its own treaty with force Post-War showed in the Chanak Crisis. Still, that does leave the question of what does happen then to formally end the war? I think it's likely everyone returns to the peace table and something gets hashed out on the basis of the Germany May 1919 counter-offer, which was privately well received by the Entente officials; John Keynes called it the best treaty he had ever seen.
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
It's an interesting scenario, like all of the works by @DaleCoz, but I find this one unrealistic. Had Germany refused the Treaty, there would've been no resumption of the war because the Entente by the Summer of 1919 were in no position to resume fighting.

The French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Pages 375:



Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World by Margaret MacMillan largely concurs with such analysis. From Page 159:

And the Allied forces were shrinking were shrinking. In November 1918, there were 198 Allied Divisions; by June 1919, only 39 remained. And could they be relied upon? There was little enthusiasm for renewed fighting. Allied demobilization had been hastened by protests, occasionally outright mutiny. On the home fronts, there was a longing for peace, and lower taxes. The French were particularly insistent on the need to make peace while the Allies could still dictate terms.​
Further on, same page:

While his pessimism was premature, it is true by the spring of 1919 Allied commanders were increasingly doubtful about their ability to successfully wage war on Germany. The German Army had been defeated on the battlefield, but its command structure, along with hundreds of thousands of trained men, had survived. There were 75 Million Germans and only 40 million French, as Foch kept repeating. And the German people, Allied observers noticed, were opposed to signing a harsh peace.​
Previously on Page 158:

Among the Allied leaders only General Pershing, the top American military commander, thought the Allies should press on, beyond the Rhine if necessary. The French did not want anymore of their men to die. Their chief general, Marshal Foch, who was also the supreme Allied commander, warned that they ran the risk of stiff resistance and heavy losses. The British wanted to make peace before the Americans became too strong. And Smuts spoke for many in Europe when he warned gloomily that "the grim spectre of Bolshevist anarchy was stalking the front."​

Overall, the Entente were just as exhausted as the Germans and by the timeframe in question lacked the material edge that forced the Germans to the peace table six months earlier. It was also not coming back, as Turkey overturning its own treaty with force Post-War showed in the Chanak Crisis. Still, that does leave the question of what does happen then to formally end the war? I think it's likely everyone returns to the peace table and something gets hashed out on the basis of the Germany May 1919 counter-offer, which was privately well received by the Entente officials; John Keynes called it the best treaty he had ever seen.
Cool point - I'll have to think about it.

Chris
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
I didn't think you wrote it, but you did host essays by other people didn't you - like that bloke in Australia who seemed convinced that Indonesia was about to invade any day now?
I don't recall if there was a continuation war story - it's been a long time.

That said, I did write a story in which the war does go on - it's in this collection.


Chris
 

Redolegna

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Rhineland and Saxony also become independent,Denmark gets its lost territories back and Poland gets everything it wants.

Not sure what happens to the rest of Germany though.
Yep. Industrial regions gone. End of.

It's an interesting scenario, like all of the works by @DaleCoz, but I find this one unrealistic. Had Germany refused the Treaty, there would've been no resumption of the war because the Entente by the Summer of 1919 were in no position to resume fighting.

The French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Pages 375:



Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World by Margaret MacMillan largely concurs with such analysis. From Page 159:

And the Allied forces were shrinking were shrinking. In November 1918, there were 198 Allied Divisions; by June 1919, only 39 remained. And could they be relied upon? There was little enthusiasm for renewed fighting. Allied demobilization had been hastened by protests, occasionally outright mutiny. On the home fronts, there was a longing for peace, and lower taxes. The French were particularly insistent on the need to make peace while the Allies could still dictate terms.​
Further on, same page:

While his pessimism was premature, it is true by the spring of 1919 Allied commanders were increasingly doubtful about their ability to successfully wage war on Germany. The German Army had been defeated on the battlefield, but its command structure, along with hundreds of thousands of trained men, had survived. There were 75 Million Germans and only 40 million French, as Foch kept repeating. And the German people, Allied observers noticed, were opposed to signing a harsh peace.​
Previously on Page 158:

Among the Allied leaders only General Pershing, the top American military commander, thought the Allies should press on, beyond the Rhine if necessary. The French did not want anymore of their men to die. Their chief general, Marshal Foch, who was also the supreme Allied commander, warned that they ran the risk of stiff resistance and heavy losses. The British wanted to make peace before the Americans became too strong. And Smuts spoke for many in Europe when he warned gloomily that "the grim spectre of Bolshevist anarchy was stalking the front."​

Overall, the Entente were just as exhausted as the Germans and by the timeframe in question lacked the material edge that forced the Germans to the peace table six months earlier. It was also not coming back, as Turkey overturning its own treaty with force Post-War showed in the Chanak Crisis. Still, that does leave the question of what does happen then to formally end the war? I think it's likely everyone returns to the peace table and something gets hashed out on the basis of the Germany May 1919 counter-offer, which was privately well received by the Entente officials; John Keynes called it the best treaty he had ever seen.
This is so much tosh and it gets trotted every so often with utter confidence, usually by you. The Kaiserliche Marine is gone, interned or scuttled. Plenty of the heavy guns and machine guns and planes and trucks gone by the armistice, though Erzberger saved a hell of a lot, for all the good it did him when his assassins came. The blockade has barely been lifted and can be reimposed again. The food situation is dire, the country at war with itself. Remember the food? One of the most contributing factors to that little thing, the revolution? that and that other factor, wanting to commit national suicide through war? The only Entente country where the situation is remotely equivalent is Italy. The Americans are still partly there. The demobilised troops can be be mobilised again. Yes, the people won't like it but it's the equivalent of the 1917 strikes: they're not against all forms of war, just those that seem senseless to them, so no to going fighting far abroad against Russian Bolsheviks when many sympathise with or are Communists, yes to war with Germany which resumes the war. Anyway, resume the war where? with what allies left? with what plans? Any brilliant invasion of Belgium this time around? France has recovered its industrial regions, even though they're not fully back online yet, thanks to the campaign of destruction by the retreating Germans, but guess what? the Rhineland is occupied since the days of the armistice. It's German territory that's under occupation, the most productive parts, the one that kept the Reich from keeling over for nearly four years. Grain gone, coal gone, steel gone, weapons gone no civilian population available to enslave or commit war crimes against the best to loot the place. No lines of defence readied. Hello, flat, flat Northern German plain! Against armies that have now been able to hammer together a working united command and working tactics, operations and strategy against the Germans that have worked and now the Germans without any heavy material left. Enough with the apologism for those German übermenschen who'd spring from the ground and be the only ones that do. Where were they in 1923? in 1919 in the West, for that matter? You'd have thought the treaty as it was, so intolerable as it was described by all who bemoaned having to sign it, would trigger that giant uprising against perfidious Western powers? What's that? No? Just okay with gunning down communists and fighting in the East? Fancy that.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
The blockade has barely been lifted and can be reimposed again. The food situation is dire, the country at war with itself. Remember the food? One of the most contributing factors to that little thing, the revolution?
I can't emphasise enough how dire the German situation was with regard to food. It had improved marginally from the Turnip Winter, but it was still a huge problem. Like starvation and hunger-related disease was rife and accelerating.

To describe the French and British as war-weary in one breath, and the Germans as anxious for Round 2 in 1919 is such a load of tosh that it's hard to take seriously.
 

History Learner

Well-known member
This is so much tosh and it gets trotted every so often with utter confidence, usually by you.
Because it's not by me, but instead by Margaret MacMillian, who won the Duff Cooper Prize, the Hessell-Tiltman Prize, and the Samuel Johnson Prize for her book which I cited from. Clearly, her academic peers find her work historically compelling based on the evidence; what problems then do you have with it? If you instead feel I am misrepresenting her work, I have provided the page numbers in question, from which I more than welcome your scrutiny to confirm or deny that which I posted.

The Kaiserliche Marine is gone, interned or scuttled. Plenty of the heavy guns and machine guns and planes and trucks gone by the armistice, though Erzberger saved a hell of a lot, for all the good it did him when his assassins came. The blockade has barely been lifted and can be reimposed again.The food situation is dire, the country at war with itself. Remember the food? One of the most contributing factors to that little thing, the revolution? that and that other factor, wanting to commit national suicide through war?
The blockade was continued unchanged until March of 1919 and then on a still restricted basis until July of 1919; said restrictions included the need for any food imports to be done on German vessels and paid for with gold. I'd also like to take the time, since later in this post you talk about German übermenschen, to point out the last 40-50 years there has seen much academic pushback on the point of the blockade because of Post-War propaganda by the Germans seeking to inflate it. Avner Offer's The First World War, an Agrarian Interpretation, for example, found that even with the Spanish Flu raging, the crude death rate merely reverted to the levels prevailing in the years 1901-1905. This makes sense, given we know food rations actually were on the increase at this time:

The blockade of Germany did not end with the armistice. The Allies maintained it to ensure that Germany was in no position to resume warfare. Working-class families in urban Germany suffered famine conditions for many months. Yet German claims that the Allies were deliberately starving German children out of vindictiveness were propaganda intended to continue the mobilization of hatred; they concealed the fact that the army held one and a half million tons of food and controlled 60 percent of the meat supplies, while farmers and large companies hoarded stocks of food.[96] Undoubtedly, the revolution, demobilization, and social conflict hindered a return to normal commerce and distribution. But that was only part of the story. Allied troops entering the occupied zones of western Germany in November-December 1918 reported that food in the countryside was plentiful, though there were shortages in the cities. The condition of the people was “better than German propaganda indicates”, and food was cheaper than in France or Belgium. As the American Third Army reached the Rhine on a stretch north and south of Koblenz, its units consistently reported that the fields were “well cultivated” and that “the people are not in want but on the contrary seem well fed and well clothed.”[97] This indicates continued wilful neglect of the needs of the urban population and misallocation of resources by the German political authorities. Some historians have suggested that the government and the military authorities imposed an internal blockade against working-class regions engaged in social and political protest, above all in the Ruhr and central Germany.[98]

The only Entente country where the situation is remotely equivalent is Italy. The Americans are still partly there. The demobilised troops can be be mobilised again. Yes, the people won't like it but it's the equivalent of the 1917 strikes: they're not against all forms of war, just those that seem senseless to them, so no to going fighting far abroad against Russian Bolsheviks when many sympathise with or are Communists, yes to war with Germany which resumes the war.
The Americans have already reduced themselves down to a handful of divisions and would later go on to reject the Treaty of Versailles themselves in favor of signing their own Treaty with Germany. Why then, would we expect them to die for such a Treaty? This also wasn't limited to them, as Margret MacMillian notes; I'm including a direct screenshot, lest you think I'm misquoting or misrepresenting her:


As for everyone else, remobilization was out of the question given the immense pressure to demobilize; even France had only been able to halt demobilization in April of 1919 when it became a concern the Germans might refuse the treaty, but not recall troops to the colors.

Anyway, resume the war where? with what allies left? with what plans? Any brilliant invasion of Belgium this time around? France has recovered its industrial regions, even though they're not fully back online yet, thanks to the campaign of destruction by the retreating Germans, but guess what? the Rhineland is occupied since the days of the armistice. It's German territory that's under occupation, the most productive parts, the one that kept the Reich from keeling over for nearly four years. Grain gone, coal gone, steel gone, weapons gone no civilian population available to enslave or commit war crimes against the best to loot the place. No lines of defence readied. Hello, flat, flat Northern German plain! Against armies that have now been able to hammer together a working united command and working tactics, operations and strategy against the Germans that have worked and now the Germans without any heavy material left.
For one, I do not believe you actually read what I previously stated. To re-quote myself:

Had Germany refused the Treaty, there would've been no resumption of the war because the Entente by the Summer of 1919 were in no position to resume fighting.​

While a formal state of warfare is possible, I think it would rather resemble the Phoney War of 1939-1940; there might be skirmishes and sporadic clashes, but the end result would be the Germans forming on the right bank of the Rhine and the Allied forces holding on the left bank. There is no longer any "working united command" and the tactical prowress of the Allied armies, just as with the Germans, is much diminished because of demobilizations sending the veteran troops home. From there, we'd simply get a new treaty drawn up which formally ends the war.

As for everything, I've already addressed a lot of these points, but specific to material conditions the Ruhr and Silesia remain German at this time, and they were the main industrial areas of Germany. Even Foch was keen to point out that Germany held 75 million people to France's 40 million and, as I previously cited, he did not have good expectations about the resumption of the conflict given the balance of power on the ground. Are we to assume Foch was an incompetent coward or, as the historians I've cited from show with the benefit of hindsight, he was more correct then you assert here?

Enough with the apologism for those German übermenschen who'd spring from the ground and be the only ones that do. Where were they in 1923? in 1919 in the West, for that matter? You'd have thought the treaty as it was, so intolerable as it was described by all who bemoaned having to sign it, would trigger that giant uprising against perfidious Western powers? What's that? No? Just okay with gunning down communists and fighting in the East? Fancy that.
For one, let's flip this around: Why did the French agree to the treaty given Foch viewed it as merely an armistice for 20 years? Why not solve the issue right there and then, when the advantages for the Entente were as great as you are asserting here? Now, with that question put forward, let's turn to the fact that an increasing trend in Historiography since the late 20th Century has been to argue the Versailles Treaty was not as bad as often claimed, which could explain a lot. If we do take the argument that Versailles was a "diktat", there's also just the simple fact that we have hindsight and the Germans did not; it wouldn't be the first time a nation misread the strategic situation to sign a peace.

No "apologism" for the Germans is required to say any of this when we have access to decades of non German scholarship to find out these historical facts. Indeed, many of the points you've actually presented here are based in Post-War German propaganda, in actuality. If you feel I am wrong, I have provided my citations and explained my reasoning, you're more than welcome to cite countering resources or show I have misrepresented them.
 
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David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
Avner Offer's The First World War, an Agrarian Interpretation, for example, found that even with the Spanish Flu raging, the crude death rate merely reverted to the levels prevailing in the years 1901-1905. This makes sense, given we know food rations actually were on the increase at this time:
In which case, Avner Offer's analysis is, to put it mildly, flawed.

Food rations were on the increase, from 800 calories per day to 1000 calories per day. Which translates as "not starving quite so fast".

The crude death rate was by no means that prevailing in 1901-1905. There was around 1 million deaths attributable to food shortage in 1919.
 

History Learner

Well-known member
In which case, Avner Offer's analysis is, to put it mildly, flawed.

Food rations were on the increase, from 800 calories per day to 1000 calories per day. Which translates as "not starving quite so fast".

The crude death rate was by no means that prevailing in 1901-1905. There was around 1 million deaths attributable to food shortage in 1919.
Offer's analysis held under reviews by his academic peers, so you need to be more specific; what exactly is he, in your opinion, flawed upon and what is the supporting evidence for such a claim? I'm all for a debate, a spirited one if need be, but let's proceed in good faith here because making undefined claims with no supporting evidence is neither academic nor does it serve to move forward the conversation.

As for the rest of this post, you're very much going to need to provide some citations, because your claims are beyond what even the Germans claimed the blockade caused. The highest figure came in the immediate Post-War era and placed starvation/malnutrition deaths at 763,000 in total, with a follow on study in 1928 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace finding it was actually only 424,000 including the 1919 year.
 
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History Learner

Well-known member
Given the Allies warned they would invade across the Rhine within 24 hours if the Germans did not sign and the Germans believed them I think that's a citation in itself that the German situation wasn't considered rosy by either side.
I usually don't like to reply to comments not directly addressed to me, but I do think this point deserves response.

In the Fall of 1941, Hitler, Goebbels and co spent much time publicly exclaiming the fall of the USSR was nigh and discussing the implications of what that coming victory would entail; it ended in all of them dead and the Red Army in Berlin. About a generation later, Nikita Khrushchev exclaimed before the United Nations that the verdict of history was that the Soviet Union would bury the West; the end result of that was the USSR is gone and until recently modern Russians were eating McDonalds. All this to say that that diplomatic threats should not be taken as a statement of intent, nor especially as one of means. Indeed, in international relations we have the existence of entire concepts based on this understanding, from saber rattling to "Mad Man" theory.

In particular, I think in this case you're leaning far too closely on the German interpretation while ignoring the massive amount of evidence modern historians have unearthed in considering the Entente side, which was certainly not rosy either. In private, we have the documentation to prove they were very scared the Germans would refuse the Treaty, with no less than Marshall Foch himself casting doubt on the ability of his formations to force the Germans under. As I said before, Foch famously intoned the Treaty was merely an armistice for 20 years; clearly, he was under no allusions about it crippling Germany, possibly the same as the Germans themselves realized, but it also begs the question of why then didn't the Allies utilize the immense advantage being suggested here to eliminate the possibility of German recovery. Why didn't the French seek to have their victory parade in Berlin instead of Paris? Clearly, the fact they didn't would suggest there was very valid reasons as to why such was rejected which I think my sources are able to demonstrate in full detail.
 

Charles EP M.

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The MacMillan and Greenhalgh quotes quotes seem to be about the Allied leaders worrying it would be quite difficult, rather than how it was not possible for it or anything else to be done if they decided "sod it". If the general public revolted against keeping the blockade going that would be a major problem but that's assuming that if Germany doesn't try to go to war again, the general public don't change their mind and blame the German army/government for forcing a blockade again ("look how little the Germans care about their starving kids").
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
I usually don't like to reply to comments not directly addressed to me, but I do think this point deserves response.

In the Fall of 1941, Hitler, Goebbels and co spent much time publicly exclaiming the fall of the USSR was nigh and discussing the implications of what that coming victory would entail; it ended in all of them dead and the Red Army in Berlin. About a generation later, Nikita Khrushchev exclaimed before the United Nations that the verdict of history was that the Soviet Union would bury the West; the end result of that was the USSR is gone and until recently modern Russians were eating McDonalds. All this to say that that diplomatic threats should not be taken as a statement of intent, nor especially as one of means. Indeed, in international relations we have the existence of entire concepts based on this understanding, from saber rattling to "Mad Man" theory.

In particular, I think in this case you're leaning far too closely on the German interpretation while ignoring the massive amount of evidence modern historians have unearthed in considering the Entente side, which was certainly not rosy either. In private, we have the documentation to prove they were very scared the Germans would refuse the Treaty, with no less than Marshall Foch himself casting doubt on the ability of his formations to force the Germans under. As I said before, Foch famously intoned the Treaty was merely an armistice for 20 years; clearly, he was under no allusions about it crippling Germany, possibly the same as the Germans themselves realized, but it also begs the question of why then didn't the Allies utilize the immense advantage being suggested here to eliminate the possibility of German recovery. Why didn't the French seek to have their victory parade in Berlin instead of Paris? Clearly, the fact they didn't would suggest there was very valid reasons as to why such was rejected which I think my sources are able to demonstrate in full detail.
Because they won the war and got mostly what they wanted out of the treaty they wrote. I believe we can take the victors of the world war at their word that they were willing to fight the war until they won it.

Ultimately that is what it comes down to. The Germans Army was defeated on the battlefield and had to hand over or destroy large quantities of heavy weapons and aircraft, its allies had collapsed on every front and were in the process of disintegration, its Navy had mutinied and then been handed over to the Allied powers including every submarine. It had ceded hundreds of miles of territory and now had Allied Armies on German soil with bridgeheads across the only natural obstacle in their path. Its people were on starvation rations and and major industrial areas were going to be under threat from within days of the war resuming.

The Germans themselves did not think a victory was possible. The Allies might have misgivings but they'd had misgivings in 1917 and 1918 and pushed on through, the Germans had reached their breaking point already and broken. Now they would have to rally a depleted and exhausted army and at best stall an Allied advance on German Territory whilst its economy goes into another tailspin with a government and military barely on speaking terms with each other and a populace that has already had multiple revolutions within Germany itself including armed clashes some of which were ongoing well into 1919.

The Allies aren't going to just shrug and go home. OTL they they fought the war until the Germans caved in, when the Germans threatened to restart it the Allies promised and the Germans caved in a second time. I don't see any reason to imagine a more stubborn Germany not dealing with an equally stubborn Entente which still have most of their allies, unbeaten armies and a larger economic and manpower base now on German soil with bridgeheads across the Rhine.

All resuming the war would do for the Germans is bring 1945 twenty-five years forward.
 

iainbhx

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Published by SLP
If you actually want to understand the German food shortages for WWI, I recommend the following

Haupt, Heinz-Gerhard and Torp, Claudius (eds.): Die Konsumgesellschaft in Deutschland 1890-1990, gives a good understanding of the background to the food crises of 1915-1919 as well as a specific article on the subject by Belinda Davis - Konsum im ersten Weltkreige within that.

The situation had been for some years that like Great Britain, Germany with its increased industrialisation and the mass movement to urbanisation could no longer feed itself without imports. Its farming was often backward even by the standards of the time, with land laws in many places making farms uneconomic and higher levels of production dependent on no longer obtainable fertilsier. Much German land was not suitable for the production of food staples and in other places only relatively low yields of some crops could be grown. The breadbasket of the Reich was Provinz Posen, where despite the growth of the Landesbahnen, distribution was weak and production relied on the old three-field system. Of course, by the start of 1919, Posen was in the hands of the Polish rebels as part of the Posener Aufstand - the province being massively polish (and many of the "Germans" in some areas were actually Yiddish-speaking Jews). There were a number of policy mistakes early on, some dating back to the start of the decade (the SPD's success in 1912 was partly down to the price of bread), the lack of control of prices until 1916, the call up of agricultural workers in some areas, the enforced slaughter of livestock in areas where even potatoes and turnips wouldn't thrive. Hindenburg's use of Wer nicht arbeitet der soll nicht essen had impacted the morale not just of civilians but of military forces which received news of near starvation at home. There were also internal issues, such as the difference in rations between forces on the front, the Bavarians had much better (although still poor) rations than Prussians due to agricultural Bayern holding food back.

Frankly, the Germans did well to keep a lid on it until November 1918.
 
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