Primary Sources

Haffner,  Sebastian. Defying Hitler, a Memoir (Picador: Ferrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000 pp. (17-50)

Haffner’s memoir talks about growing up during World War I and about the years leading up to World War II. In Haffner’s memoir he talked about how it was to be a young boy growing up around the time of World War I, and how that affects the rest of his and his friend’s lives. “From 1914 to 1918 a generation of German schoolboys daily experienced war as a great, thrilling, enthralling game between nations, which provided far more excitement and emotional satisfaction than anything peace could offer; and that has now become the underlying vision of Nazism.” (17) Haffner talks about this age group of boys that he was part of that grow up experiencing the war as a game. “The truly Nazi generation was formed by those born in the decade from 1900 to 1910, who experienced war as a great game and were untouched by its realities” (17). This was one of the parts of the foundation that was laid for the raise of the Nazi party.

But Haffner puts this into perspective by saying “…but [Nazi] roots lie here: in the experience of war…men who have experienced the reality of war tend to view it differently”. (17)

This source will help to depict the effect WWI had on the German population including the children (boys) of that time and the soldiers who served in WWI. How the soldiers wanted to fight in WWI and serve their country and how the boys who grew up during WWI thought that war was “a game” therefore they were all too willing to serve in WWII and follow Hitler’s regime.

 From The Treaty of Peace, 1919-1923 vol. 1 (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1924) pp. 84, 95, 101, 102, 105, 111-112, 123. Reprinted in Inside Hitler’s Germany, Benjamin Sax and Dieter Kuntz, (D.C. Heath and Company: Lexington MA, 1992)

After World War I the Weimar years started in Germany. To signify the end of World War I the nations involved came together and agreed and singed the Versailles treaty. This treaty is reprinted in Sax and Kuntz’s book Inside Hitler’s Germany. This book outlines an important part of this treaty is that the blame of the war falls on Germany and its associated allies. The exact line is  “The Allied Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments…have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany…” (50) in Sax and Kuntz’s book they talk about the thoughts of the German majority “Most Germans felt that it was a rather harsh settlement and proposed negotiation on several points. The Allies, however, rejected the German proposals and threatened to resume hostilities unless the treaty was signed shortly” (28)

Sax and Kuntz provide what the Treay of Versailles actually stated and how the German people reacted to it which play directly into the effects of WWI leading up to WWII.

Mahlendorf, Ursula. The Shame of Survival, Working Through a Nazi Childhood. (Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, PA, 2009) pp. 36-40  

The treaty of Versailles  placed blame for the war on Germany thus making Germany responsible for paying retributions to the other nations. The payment of these retributions puts a major strain on the economy and the German society as a whole. In Ursula Mahlendorf’s book The Shame of Survival: Working Through a Nazi Childhood she talks about her time as a young girl growing up in pre-WWII years and the changing society around her. She stats in her book, “Rising anger over tax increases, salary cuts for the large civil service, business bankruptcies, and farming failures moved the lower middle class and middle class from the conservative center in Hitler’s party, or at least far to the Right” (38). Soon after WWI the idea of the Dolchstosslegende, or “the stab in the back” started. This is talked about by Ursula Mahlendorf, in her book The Shame of Survival: Working Through a Nazi Childhood, “From its very beginning, after Germany’s defeat in World War I, the Weimar citizenry…believed in the so-called Dolchstosslegende, “the stab in the back” administered to the German army by the home front-that is, by the communists, socialists, and Jews” (36)

The Shame of Survival is a primary source that will describe the effects of the Treaty of Versailles implicitly; how Ursula saw her town fall into a poor state, how people lost their jobs, how work and even food was scarce. This was due to the reparations that were demanded of Germany to the Allies


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