Course Pack II: Brecht's Life up to 1939
. In the summer of 1914, when the tension that gripped Europe finally gave way to the Great War, a 16 year old Brecht was enthusiastic to fight. He, as many on both sides of the War, saw it as noble and necessary to defend the sovereignty of his country. However, as the war machine raped the continent and swallowed up Brecht's friends, he began to bitterly regret his mistaken enthusiasm.
. By the time the Armistice was signed, the War had made a slaughter of some forty million persons, of whom nearly three quarters were noncombatants.
. But, for Germany, the worst was yet to come. The Treaty of Versailles, i.e. the terms of surrender, on which Germany had no say, imposed incredibly harsh penalties on Germany, from great to small, economic to spiritual. Germany would pay an exorbitant amount "for the rebuilding of France." If this amount were converted into gold bricks, the gold bricks would reach to the moon and back. France knowingly made this payment impossible: they occupied and controlled the Ruhr, the heart of Germany's industry and coal production. The greatest penalty imposed on Germany at this time was the guilt clause: that is, Germany, in signing the Treaty of Versailles (which it was forced to do) admitted full responsibility and liability for the War. The Treaty of Versailles even specified that German vintners could no longer call their sparkling wines "champagne".
. Insult had been added to injury, Germany and its people were disenfranchised and humiliated on the world stage and at home. Modern historians, and even the contemporary British government agreed that perhaps the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh, that Germany should be rehabilitated and such rather than humiliated and economically destroyed. At any rate, the tension in Europe was still not resolved. The war, treaty, and sense of vengefulness which pervaded European relations of the time only served to escalate tensions: even as the treaty was signed, Europe knew the war was not over; that another, greater war would take the place of the first.
. As Europe rebuilt and braced herself for the imminent war, Germany came under what is now referred to as the Weimar Republic: the "democracy" which was thrust upon the heretofore monarchistic Germans. Under this farce and travesty of government, political opinions polarized, riots were had in the streets, and art flourished: expressionism, dada, cubism, constructivism, surrealism, and even modernism itself. By the time the stock market crash of 1929 impacted the German market, Germany had the dubious choice between the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. Whatever happened at that point was could only hasten the advent of the impending war.
. In 1933 the Nazis came to power, and under the stoic facade of resistance and liberation, of preserving the German tradition, the war everyone knew was going to happen finally broke out in September of 1939, to feigned surprise.