By Didier BERTIN - 2 January 2010


Enough years passed by since the end of the Second World War, so that we can present deeper causes of the second world conflict without restricting it to military operations.

 A more distant retrospective of that usually considered would allow a better understanding of the generative facts of the conflict and would bring more tolerance among peoples. The lack of tolerance of the European nations in different periods and in particular between France and Germany engendered too many conflicts. The lack of tolerance is an important part of this war as for any current conflicts.

A better retrospective presentation of the mechanisms may clarify how we may pass from deep conflicts to close Union as shown by France and Germany.


 In the competition for world ascendancy, France did not accept that the German prince Leopold de Hohenzollern-Simaringen may have wished to desire the vacant throne of Spain. As an indirect consequence France started and lost war against Prussia and an important part of Alsace of Lorraine, viewed by Prussia as part of Germany, passed under the German Authority. The loss of this territory using a Germanic dialect activated in France an anti German hatred and a vindictive and belligerent spirit encouraging later the implication of France in WORLD WAR 1.


 The racism and the anti-Semitism was not the only fact of Germany, but of whole western Christian world; this spirit was usual in Europe and from 19th century certain authors proclaimed themselves as ideologists of these types of ideas. Future Nazis had only to draw their ideas from the books of these ideologists.

The Dreyfus affair revealed also this type of current type of hatred among people to the point many Jews became convinced that only a Jewish State may bring them Safety.

 The racist ideology of the Nazism was inspired by many authors: in particular two German, two French and one Englishman (who took German Nationality).

-Heinrich Treitschke, who wrote in 1880 the bookNoch einige Bemerkungen zur Judenfrage”

-Eugen Dühring,who wrote in the same year the book Die Judenfrage als Frage der Racenschaedlichkeit”

-Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) author of an Essay on the disparity of the human races; this book contains the racial hierarchies adopted by future Nazis

-Georges de Lapouse (1854-1936) author a book named “The Aryan man and his social role.” He gave his racist vision a forged scientific appearance.

-Houston Stewart Cha mberlain (1855-1927) author of the Foundation of the 20th century; he was a fanatic anti-Semite and convinced of the purity of the Germanic blood.

Adolf Hitler took main ideas from these authors to create Nazi’s ideology. He brought such ideas common in this time to a paroxysm in the field of application to destruction and death.

During the Dreyfus affair of part of French Elite and Military General Staff demonstrated their taste for anti-Semitism. Dreyfus Affair led many Jewish leader to think that only the creation of a Jewish State would constitute an efficient protection of Jewish people. Later in France and during WW2 German occupation  part of Elite and Official Government showed their sympathy for the Nazism and anti-Semitism.

Even the allied General Staff during the Second World War did not consider that bombing the railroads leading to Concentration camps as a strategic military priority, they were not done and Pope Pie XII remained silent on anti-Semitism steps (Jan Karsky is the most famous Polish representative who informed Rossevelt of the death camps with no particular reaction from the latter).


10 million deaths

 This war naturally arose from opposition between major States eager to protect their economic and territorial interests. The Slavic nationalism was only an element of the war mechanism. So Austria-Hungary allied to Germany initiate a conflict “in fine” against Russia, allied to England and France. But for France it also was one an ideal opportunity to take back Alsace of Lorraine. 

At the conclusion of this War, the French vindictive spirit personified by Georges Clemenceau with the hesitant support of the other allied imposed Germany unrealistic Peace conditions, which paved the way to Second World War.

The allied were France, England joined in 1917 by USA; Russia stopped the hostilities because of its internal Revolution.

France insisted also that Treaty be signed in Versailles, since the defeat act of 1870 was also signed in Versailles. Later Germany in its turn, forced France to sign the armistice of 1940 in Rethondes, which was the first place where Germany had had to sign a similar treaty in 1918.

1-Summarized Content of Versailles’ Treaty dated June 28th, 1919

 A-Military conditions

- Delivery of weapons and fleet

- Demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine, and Koblenz, Cologne and Mainz.

B- Financial penalties

-Germany has to pay France and Belgium 132 BILLION MARKS-GOLD

meanwhile Germany was living in misery

-The German patents (certificates) fall in the public domain

-Rhine, Oder and Elba became international rivers

2 –American Senate refused to ratify Versailles’ Treaty

 President Wilson participated in the elaboration of the treaty of Versailles and had the idea to create SDN (SOCIETE DES NATIONS) to consolidate peace. As a result of internal political difficulties, Senate did not ratify the Treaty preventing USA to join SDN and weakening consequently SDN. President Wilson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his initiative regarding SDN.

3-French Clumsiness

France wanted to occupy permanently the left bank of the Rhine and in 1923 invaded the Ruhr and the Rhineland to take directly goods as compensation payment delays regarding the amount of 132 billion Gold-Marks. The German population assimilated this attitude to retaliation and plunders. This behavior strongly encouraged the resurgence of the German Nationalism.


After the defeat, Kaiser William II abdicated on November 9th, 1918 and fled to Netherlands; Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the creation of a Republic the same day to replace the Empire.

Between 1918 and 1919, former Germany disappeared and the new Republic saw violent conflicts between Social Democrats and Revolutionaries. Among the Revolutionaries, the lack of organizations of some and the refusal of the Elections of the others allowed the Social democrat Party SPD, to obtain a majority. The SPD’s leader Friedrich Ebert became President of the new German Republic named Weimar’s Republic. This  name is due to the fact that the meeting of the constituent assembly took place in the city of Weimar by fear of disorders in Berlin.

1-Inadaptation in the shape of the treaty of Versailles

The initial conflict was against an aggressive Empire and despite the existence of a Parliament, the Emperor had a high authority and particularly for the foreign Affairs.

The consequences of the war of the Empire were thus imposed to a Democratic Republic. A democratic Republic offered more peaceful perspectives to its neighbors unless it is destroyed by unrealistic penalties due to former Regime‘s action.

 2- Weimar’s Republic and the war compensations

 Weimar’s Republic had to overcome important economic hurdles and disorders such as the hyperinflation in 1923 and French military operations to seize good on German territory.

Charles Dawes, Vice-president of the USA took the initiative for the USA and United Kingdom to reduce the compensations owed by Germany.

This helped Gustav Stresemann to stop the hyper inflation and to stabilize the German Economy. Charles Dawes received for it the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.

 In 1929, Owen Young an American diplomat relieved even more the compensations by reducing them to 121 billion of Reichmarks and by spreading the repayment over 59 years.


ARISITIDE BRIAND (1862-1932): 11 times president of council, 20 times Minister, He tried to move closer France and Germany; he wished that war became officially illegal with the support of SDN.

GUSTAV STRESEMANNN (1878-1929): Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1923 to1929. He was favorable to friendly links between France and Germany.

Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann received together the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th, 1926.

Gustav Stresemann was criticized and to prevent Hitler’s success, he would have needed additional help regarding the compensations payment.

In 1929 Gustav Stresemann said:

« Wenn Briand jetzt keine Konzessionen macht, bin ich erledigt. Dann kommt ein anderer. Gehen Sie nach Nürnberg und sehen Sie sich Hitler an! »  Felix Hirsch, op. cit., p.75.

«If Briand does not make concessions, I am made. Another one will come there. Go to Nuremberg and see Hitler! "

 Shortly before his death, he also said:

« Wenn die Alliierten mir ein einziges Mal entgegengekommen wären, hätte ich das Volk hinter mich gebracht, ja, noch heute könnte ich es hinter mich bringen. Aber sie haben mir nichts gegeben und die geringfügigen Konzessionen, die sie gemacht haben, sind immer zu spät gekommen. So bleibt uns nichts anderes als die brutale Gewalt. Die Zukunft liegt in der Hand der neuen Generation, und diese, die deutsche Jugend, die wir für den Frieden und Wiederaufbau hätten gewinnen können, haben wir verloren. Hierin liegt meine Tragödie und ihr, der Alliierten, Verbrechen. »

Gerhard Krause, Die Schuld am deutschen Schicksal, Wahrheit als Waffe gegen Lüge und Verleumdung, Preussisch Oldendorf, 1973, p.251.

«If the Allies had come see me only once, I would have had the people behind me, yes, even today I could make it, but they gave me nothing and the small concessions, which they made came always too late. So, we have nothing else than the violence. The future is in the hands of the new generation, the German youth, which we would have been able to attract to achieve peace and reconstruction, we lost them. It is it my tragedy and the crime of the Allies"

V-1929-1932: HITLER’S RISE

Dreadful conditions of the treaty of Versailles, the stubbornness of France not to make sufficient concessions to assist the new democratic Republic whose effects were amplified by the international economic crisis (and not the hyperinflation resolved by Stresemann and Dawes several years before) paved the road of the success of the Nazism which generated the Second World War involving the death of 65 million persons in the world.

If no concessions were made to build Peace, Allied made shameful and degrading concessions to Hitler in the process of War: Munich Agreements


The historic responsibilities are never as simple as this is so often shown. Everybody has a share of responsibility which we perceive better as the time passes. The Peace is a collective work. The stubbornness of some and the others engendered the Second World War and made 65 million deaths.

The increasing close link between France and Germany, which are the corner stone of European Union, will be an example for all the Nations to show them that war is not an inevitable issue.