The Treaty of Versailles

From Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld (hat tip: Vox Day):

The Treaty of Versailles, the hundredth anniversary of which will be remembered in June of this year, has attracted more than its share of historical debate. What has not been said and written about it? That it did not go far enough, given that Germany lost only a relatively small part of its territory and population and was allowed to continue to exist as a unified state under a single government (French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau). That it went much too far, thus helping lay the foundations of World War II. That it imposed a “Carthaginian Peace” (the British economist John Maynard Keynes in his 1919 best-seller, The Economic Consequences of the Peace). That it was “made in order to bring twenty million Germans to their deaths, and to ruin the German nation” (according to a speech delivered in Munich on 13 April 1923 by a thirty-four year old demagogue named Adolf Hitler). All these views, and quite some others, started being thrown about almost as soon as the ink on the Treaty had dried. In one way or another, all of them are still being discussed in the literature right down to the present day.

But what was there about the Treaty that was so special? Was it really as original, as unique, as has so often been maintained? Was the brouhaha it gave rise to justified?

Read the whole thing.

1989

First Things looks back on the year that Communism died, thirty years ago now:

It was like a graduation party. So says the historian Philipp Ther, who joined the protests in Prague’s Wenceslas Square during those momentous days of November 1989. “We had passed the test,” Ther writes. “The old authorities had no more to say; the world was our oyster. It seemed as if anything was possible.” In their memories of communism’s collapse, the revolutionaries of 1989 often describe the joy and relief, the instant brotherhood, the feeling of riding the wave of history.

Naturally, it didn’t last. In Berlin, where Ther travelled soon after, elation was followed by resentment, with West Germans muttering about the Easterners cramming the roads and emptying the supermarket shelves. Across Europe, meanwhile, the messiness of post-communist politics “engendered disenchantment and cynicism.”

Disillusionment is the usual sequel to political victory, but 1989 especially seems like a revolution with a hole in it. The evil of communism is beyond words—the mass graves it filled, the lies it spread through the world—and we ought to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its defeat. It is more difficult to say what actually did the defeating.

Read the whole thing.

Bauhaus

Bauhaus Building, Dessau, Germany. Wikipedia.

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, an influential school of architecture and design that was located first in Weimar, then in Dessau, and finally in Bernau, a suburb of Berlin. It became a byword for the experimentation (or decadence) of the Weimar Republic, and was accordingly shuttered by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933 – which meant that their faculty, some of them quite famous, spread throughout the world, preaching the Bauhaus message of form following function.

Sotheby’s Magazine has a short article on museums hosting centennial exhibitions this year, including at Munich, Rotterdam, Weimar, and Dessau. Click the link to see some interesting images.

I wrote a paper on the Bauhaus in college that I’m proud of, and the only time I was in Berlin I made sure to see the Bauhaus Archive (currently closed for renovation). I certainly enjoyed walking around the White City, a neighborhood of some 4000 Bauhaus and Bauhaus-inspired buildings in Tel Aviv, built by Jewish architects who migrated to British Palestine after the rise of the Nazis.

Dartmouth Seal

Dartmouth is gearing up for what it calls its sestercentennial, that is, a celebration of the granting of its charter on December 13, 1769, 250 years ago. An elaborate, double-issue of the alumni magazine just arrived, which included this item:

My scholarship lives! (Although it would have been nice of them to actually state who the author is.) 🙂

In honor of the sestercentennial, allow me to post a graphic that adorns the title page of a book entitled simply The Dartmouth, by “Students of Dartmouth College,” which was given to me this Christmas by my classmate Ken Bower. The Dartmouth claims to be “America’s oldest college newspaper, founded 1799”; this is bogus, but it was going by 1840, when this book was published (at the time The Dartmouth was a literary magazine, and the book comprises all the numbers of volume 2). The illustration is of the four buildings lining the east side of the Green, with the three on the left comprising so-called Dartmouth Row, and the fourth being Reed Hall. (You can remember their names by the mnemonic “When Green Turns Red,” that is, Wentworth, Dartmouth, Thornton, and Reed.) Nowadays they are all in brick, painted white, with dark green shutters, but this wasn’t always the case, as the graphic illustrates.

Here’s a view of Dartmouth Row as it appeared in March of 2011, the last time I was on campus.

November 9

This day is an important one in German history:

• On November 9, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated in favor of a provisional government, later termed the Weimar Republic. It was this regime that signed an armistice with the Allies, ending the First World War, before Germany was actually invaded by them. This allowed the promulgation of the Dolchstoßlegend by the German Right following the war: that we could have won the war, but we were “stabbed in the back” by Jews and Socialists, the “November criminals” who deserved a terrible fate.

• Thus did the Nazis attempt their Beer Hall Putsch in Munich on November 9 in 1923. They were going to take over the Bavarian government, and then march on Berlin and take over the country, as Mussolini had the previous year in Italy. This was a failure, but it did win them a great deal of publicity.

• That Kristallnacht took place on November 9, 1938 was a coincidence, but I’m sure that for some people it was a gratifying one. On that day, Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat stationed in Paris died of having been shot two days earlier by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, who was protesting the treatment of his people by the Nazi regime. Goebbels took full advantage of the assassination to encourage the “spontaneous” uprising of Germans against Jews and Jewish interests – by the next morning, mobs had murdered some 100 Jews, smashed the storefronts of some 7500 Jewish businesses, and over burned over 1400 synagogues and prayer rooms. This exposed Nazi anti-Semitism for all the world to see, although by this point it was too late to do much about it.

• But in 1989, the date was redeemed, so to speak, when East German border guards, unsure of what they were supposed to do, opened the checkpoints between East and West Berlin, allowing the free movement of people across the border for the first time since 1945. Of all the events of 1989 representing the fall of Communism, fall of the Berlin Wall was probably the most significant.

But on account of Kristallnacht, the Germans do not celebrate German reunification on November 9, but on October 3, the day in 1990 when the West legally annexed the East.

Real Independence Day

Gail Heriot on Instapundit (emphasis added):

RIGHT SENTIMENT, WRONG DAY:  On this day in 1776 (and not July 4th), the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain.  The next day, in a letter to Abigail, John Adams rhapsodized:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Yes, we did eventually come to celebrate Independence Day with parades, bonfires and illuminations. But we chose the 4th of July (the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed) rather than the 2nd of July when the vote for independence was taken.

Here’s one way the difference might matter:  Choosing the 4th made Jefferson the most significant figure in the story, since he wrote the Declaration. If the 2nd had caught on as the day to celebrate, it would have put Adams more at the center, since he was the more important oral advocate for independence.

Margaret Thatcher

April 8, 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1979-1990. Two things to come up on my Facebook feed in observance.

1. Alex Pareene in Salon:

The woman who wrecked Great Britain: Margaret Thatcher earned every single cheer that greeted her death

 Aging punk rockerstrade-unionists and decent people around the world greeted the news of the passing of Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, with something less than respectful restraint. Millions of people had been looking forward to yesterday for years

Despite their quaint maintenance of a monarchy, British politics are less respectful than ours, and the prime minister is afforded much less regal deference than our president — though by the end of her reign Thatcher was always using the royal “we” — so the death of Thatcher has and will be debated in the United Kingdom much more critically than the death of her comrade-in-arms against the postwar liberal consensus Ronald Reagan was in the United States. The more cowardly American press, though, calls her time in office “controversial” and then moves on to the much more comfortable territory of her extraordinary ambition, forceful personality and skill with a cutting remark. (Our weird class of privileged British expat media leeches have also guided the discussion of the Iron Lady along those lines.)

It would be a crime to allow hagiography and personality to distract from what made her so deeply despised: She ruined Britain.

Let’s skip the rise-to-power biographical crap — if you care you can see it in the Meryl Streep movie, I assume — and get to the point. She intentionally immiserated millions of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people in order to carry out a liberalization of the British economy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of nearly everyone else. Decades after she left office, the country hasn’t recovered.

2. The Blaze offers sixteen memorable quotations:

On April 8, 2013, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the last of a Cold Warrior triumvirate that included President Ronald Reagan and Blessed John Paul II, died of stroke, leaving the world to reflect on her remarkable legacy.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We have lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister, and a great Briton,” said current British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Lady Thatcher didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.”

“With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend,” President Barak Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

And although she is remembered most for her political achievements and her steely resolve in bringing down the hated Iron Curtain, she was also know for her flair for rhetoric and her razor-sharp wit.

So, in honor of the passing of the great Iron Lady, here are 16 of the best Thatcherisms.

Read them at the link. My personal favorite: “The conference will go on.”

Irish Flag

The place of the Irish tricolor in Ireland was assured forever when it was flown by the rebels of 1916, but people forget that it is actually older than that. Ireland had its own unsuccessful Revolution of 1848, at which time the tricolor made its first appearance. The Irish Times reports this and fourteen other facts about the Irish flag, which turns 170 on March 7.

“Filial Correction”

From the National Catholic Register (via Instapundit), notice of a letter sent to Pope Francis last month, offering a “Filial Correction Concerning the Propagation of Heresies,” from 62 Catholic notables. The article claims that the last such correction was given to Pope John XXII in 1333. Correctio Filialis comes in three main parts:

In the first part, the signatories explain why, as believing and practising Catholics, they have the right and duty to issue such a correction to the supreme pontiff. Church law itself requires that competent persons not remain silent when the pastors of the Church are misleading the flock. This involves no conflict with the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, since the Church teaches that a pope must meet strict criteria before his utterances can be considered infallible. Pope Francis has not met these criteria. He has not declared these heretical positions to be definitive teachings of the Church, or stated that Catholics must believe them with the assent of faith. The Church teaches no pope can claim that God has revealed some new truth to him, which it would be obligatory for Catholics to believe.

The second part of the letter is the essential one, since it contains the ‘Correction’ properly speaking. It lists the passages of Amoris laetitia in which heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged, and then it lists words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical. In particular, the pope has directly or indirectly countenanced the beliefs that obedience to God’s Law can be impossible or undesirable, and that the Church should sometimes accept adultery as compatible with being a practising Catholic.

The final part, called ‘Elucidation’, discusses two causes of this unique crisis. One cause is ‘Modernism’. Theologically speaking, Modernism is the belief that God has not delivered definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time. Modernists hold that God communicates to mankind only experiences, which human beings can reflect on, so as to make various statements about God, life and religion; but such statements are only provisional, never fixed dogmas. Modernism was condemned by Pope St Pius X at the start of the 20th century, but it revived in the middle of the century. The great and continuing confusion caused in the Catholic Church by Modernism obliges the signatories to describe the true meaning of ‘faith’, ‘heresy’, ‘revelation’, and ‘magisterium’.

I would really hate to hear what they think of postmodernism! I love how the article describes Martin Luther as a “heresiarch.”

By the way, to help celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the composition of the 95 theses next month, PBS premiered “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World” last week. I believe you can still see it on the PBS website. It was sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, so you won’t hear him described in such terms.

Lady Di

This day marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, at the age of 36 in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. Her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul also perished in the wreck. Paul had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and had been driving over 100 km/h, in an attempt to evade a number of photographers chasing them on motorcycles. 

Monogram of Diana. Wikipedia.

Lady Di’s relative youth and the violence of her death were shocking, of course, but what was most remarkable was the great outpouring of sympathy for the deceased. She had admitted to cheating on Prince Charles prior to their divorce and since that time had led a sort of Eurotrash lifestyle, but to a lot of people these things then became badges of “authenticity,” especially when compared to the rest of the allegedly stuffy, uptight royal family – her flaws became her virtues. Press coverage was nonstop, a great carpet of flowers and teddy bears appeared in front of Buckingham Palace, and even Prime Minister Jean Chrétien ordered flags to fly at half-mast in Canada. The Queen remained at Balmoral, her Scottish summer residence, in the week following the crash; by Thursday the headlines were reading “Show us you care!” – the idea being that King George VI had refused to leave London during the Blitz, so Her Majesty should come down to be with her people in their hour of need. I recall someone later writing that this drift “deserved a special Pulitzer for ass-saving improvisation,” as it usefully deflected peoples’ animosity away from the “paparazzi,” whom they blamed for Diana’s death.

Coat of arms of Diana during her marriage to Prince Charles – i.e. the Spencer arms, impaled with the arms of the Prince of Wales. Wikipedia.

There are theories that World War I started because all the Events of 1914 took place starting on June 28 – i.e. during the summer – and that people would have been a lot less hotheaded if the Archduke had been assassinated in January.* Summertime is the “silly season,” and my personal theory is that the higher temperatures and extended daylight hours made the reaction to Diana’s death a lot more intense than it otherwise would have been.

Coat of arms of Diana following her divorce – i.e. the Spencer arms, on a lozenge. Wikipedia.

Fortunately, it burned itself out. It reminded me of a medieval political assassination (e.g. that of Thomas of Lancaster or Simon de Montfort); often, such deaths were followed by a burst of miracles at the tomb of the deceased, but these tended to taper off as grief for him waned, and without the active involvement of interested parties, the initial sympathy generally did not evolve into a sustained saint’s cult. I seem to remember that a memorial march on the first anniversary of Diana’s death attracted much fewer people than anticipated, and two years ago the Express newspaper found her gravesite at Althorp, Northants., to be in an unkept state. Furthermore, I am really glad that the Queen has not abandoned her old-school reserve and devotion to duty, that she has not started oversharing her personal feelings with celebrity journalists or publicly working out at the gym, because that’s what people expect these days – and that she retains the respect and affection of her subjects for it. Christopher Hitchens was perhaps too harsh when he called Diana a “silly, trivial woman” and a “simpering Bambi narcissist,” but the revelation that she had borderline personality disorder in retrospect makes complete sense and suggests that she was not really someone worthy of admiration.

Royal Standard for members of the Royal Family without assigned arms (i.e. the royal arms, within a bordure ermine). This covered Diana’s coffin during her funeral, “the most hyped non-event in history” (Hitchens, again). Wikipedia.

* Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring (1989):

The days of that summer were long and full of sunshine; the nights were mild and moonlit. That it was a beautiful and unforgettable season is part of the lore of that summer of 1914, part of its poignancy and mystique…. The fine days and nights of that July and August encouraged Europeans to venture out of their homes and to display their emotions and prejudices in public, in the streets and squares of their cities and towns. The massive exhibitions of public sentiment played a crucial role in determining the fate of Europe that summer. Had it been a wet and cold summer, like that of the previous year or the next one, would a fairground atmosphere conductive to soap-box oratory and mass hysteria have developed? Would leaders then have been prepared to declare war so readily? There is evidence that the jingoistic crowd scenes in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, and London, in the last days of July and in the early days of August, pushed the political and military leadership of Europe toward confrontation.