Hanover, Leipzig, Nürnberg, etc. If such happened, then we must admit that the destruction of Germany might have been accomplished. It is very much open to question if our young federal State could have borne the hard struggle for four and a half years, as it was borne by a France that had been centralized for centuries, with the whole national imagination focused on Paris. If this titanic conflict between the nations developed outside the frontiers of our fatherland, not only is all the merit due to the immortal service rendered by our old army but it was also very fortunate for the future of Germany. I am fully convinced that if things had taken a different course there would no longer be a German Reich to-day but only 'German States'. And that is the only reason why the blood which was shed by our friends and brothers in the War was at least not shed in vain.
The course which events took was otherwise. In November 1918 Germany did indeed collapse with lightning suddenness. But when the catastrophe took place at home the armies under the Commander-in-Chief were still deep in the enemy's country. At that time France's first preoccupation was not the dismemberment of Germany but the problem of how to get the German armies out of France and Belgium as quickly as possible. And so, in order to put an end to the War, the first thing that had to be done by the Paris Government was to disarm the German armies and push them back into Germany if possible. Until this was done the French could not devote their attention to carrying out their own particular and original war aims. As far as concerned England, the War was really won when Germany was destroyed as a colonial and commercial Power and was reduced to the rank of a second-class State. It was not in England's interest to wipe out the German State altogether. In fact, on many grounds it was desirable for her to have a future rival against France in Europe. Therefore French policy was forced to carry on by peaceful means the work for which the War had opened the way; and Clemenceau's statement, that for him Peace was merely a continuation of the War, thus acquired an enhanced significance.
Persistently and on every opportunity that arose, the effort to dislocate the framework of the Reich was to have been carried on. By perpetually sending new notes that demanded disarmament, on the one hand, and by the imposition of economic levies which, on the other hand, could be carried out as the process of disarmament progressed, it was hoped in Paris that the framework of the Reich would gradually fall to pieces. The more the Germans lost their sense of national honour the more could economic pressure and continued economic distress be effective as factors of political destruction. Such a policy of political oppression and economic exploitation, carried out for ten or twenty years, must in the long run steadily ruin the most compact national body and, under certain circumstances, dismember it. Then the French war aims would have been definitely attained.
By the winter of 1922-23 the intentions of the French must already have been known for a long time back. There remained only two possible ways of confronting the situation. If the German national body showed itself sufficiently tough-skinned, it might gradually blunt the will of the French or it might do--once and for all--what was bound to become inevitable one day: that is to say, under the provocation of some particularly brutal act of oppression it could put the helm of the German ship of state to roundabout and ram the enemy. That would naturally involve a life-and-death-struggle. And the prospect of coming through the struggle alive depended on whether France could be so far isolated that in this second battle Germany would not have to fight against the whole world but in defence of Germany against a France that was persistently disturbing the peace of the world.
I insist on this point, and I am profoundly convinced of it, namely, that this second alternative will one day be chosen and will have to be chosen and carried out in one way or another. I shall never believe that France will of herself alter her intentions towards us, because, in the last analysis, they are only the expression of the French instinct for self-preservation. Were I a Frenchman and were the greatness of France so dear to me as that of Germany actually is, in the final reckoning I could not and would not act otherwise than a Clemenceau. The