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History 1510

The Maginot Line


(International
Context). The
Interwar Period
By Blake Bailey
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Blake Bailey

Dr. Beurtheret

History 1510

April 6, 2017

The Maginot Line, Interwar Period (1919-1939)

Abstract: The construction of the Maginot Line and the impact of the Treaty of Versailles played

an integral role in the destabilization of Europe following World War I. These events would go

on to be the main components causing World War II.

Introduction

After the First World War, Europe was left in turmoil. Fueling this worry was the

potential for a resurgence of German aggression. As a response to these concerns, France

constructed the Maginot line; a Fortified border stretching along the German front. The Maginot

Line was named after Frances minister of war Andre Maginot. The Events prior to the

construction, and the construction itself, played a major role in the Interwar period and a major

role after the interwar period as well. These events would have a major hand in what would spark

the Second World War. The effects the Interwar Period would have would impact the whole

world. In the body paragraphs below I will explain how these events lead up to the Second World

War.
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Part One: Background information, events that caused the interwar period.

As World War One started in the summer of 1914, countries believed it would be a very

short war. The boys will be home by Christmas, the people thought (World Societies, page

849, Stalemate and Slaughter). When the war grew long, and Germany was able to fight back

against the more powerful allied powers, frustration grew, especially among France. The type of

warfare that was used during this war caused staggering amounts of gruesome deaths. The tactics

used during World War I was called Trench Warfare. To summarize each side would dig deep

trenches for their troops to fight and die in. In the middle of these trenches was a large area

called No mans Land. This area was often covered with barbed wire to give the enemy more

obstructions to worry about. Living in the Trenches was wet, muddy, crowded, and miserable. To

attack the enemy the most common tactic was to shell the enemy trench with mortars, and while

the enemy was taking cover, rush them. As you can imagine this was a very unsuccessful tactic

as most people died in these rushes. If the enemy didnt kill you disease would, or chemical

warfare would. To make matters worse living in the trenches was very wet and caused something

called Trench foot. Trench foot caused poor circulation in your feet, and if extreme enough

amputation was required. Disease, Poor conditions, extreme death, and every other problem

associated with the First World War caused high contention and frustration in Europe, especially

as the war drew out much longer than the people expected it to. In 1915 Germany put up a

blockade in an effort to cut off supplies to Britain. In that same year the Germans sank a boat
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from the United States called the Lusitania. This killed over a thousand people and over 100

US civilians. This event got the United States in the war which drastically sped up the end of the

war. In 1918 Germany launched its last attack against France. During the attack Germany

reached as close as 35 miles of Paris, but was stopped by 140,000 fresh Americans (World

Societies, page 862, The End of the War).

As the war grew on political tensions rose and the people grew restless. The people of

Germany wanted peace and followed the model of the early Russian Revolution forming

revolutionary councils (World societies, page 862, The end of the War). This caused a liberal

political revolution in Germany. In an effort to find peace, countries met in the Palace of

Versailles in France. Delegates from twenty seven nations met to discuss the terms, this shows

you how many countries had an immediate impact, let alone the impact it still had on other

international countries who werent directly involved. The meeting had a strong influence from

United States President Woodrow Wilson. President Woodrow Wilson laid out what is known as

the Fourteen Points. These points included (u-s history, 14 points):

1. Open diplomacy
2. Freedom of the seas
3. Removal of economic
4. Reduction of armaments
5. Adjustment of colonial claims
6. Restoration of conquered territories of Russia
7. Preservation of Belgian Sovereignty
8. Restoration of French territory
9. Redrawing Italian frontiers
10. Division of Austria-Hungary
11. Redrawing of Balkan bountries
12. Limitations on Turkey
13. Establishment of an independent Poland
14. League of Nations
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The 14th point of Woodrow Wilsons focuses created what is called the League of Nations. He

promoted this in order to somewhat unite most of Europe in an attempt to diplomatically stop

wars from starting. Unfortunately for President Wilson, he would suffer a stroke before the treaty

was final, and as a result the United States would not enter the League of Nations (History,

League of Nations, par. 4).

Other world powers would dominate the conversation of the peace conference after

President Wilsons stroke; these countries were Great Britain and France with Italy having a

limited role, Germany and Russia were not included in the conference (World Societies, page

863 Treaty of Versailles). The conversation led to a debate over what was to happen to

Germany. A Quote from British Journalist Rudyard Kipling describes the attitudes towards

Germans at the time. Kipling said Germans were a people with the heart of beasts (World

Societies, page 863 Treaty of Versailles). France wanted revenge on Germany for the losses

sustained during the war. The Allies would end up using the Treaty to decimate Germany. First

German colonies were given to France, Britain, and Japan. Second Germanys army would be

limited to 100,000 men and was not allowed to build new military fortifications. Lastly, the

Germans were responsible for reparation of 132 billion Gold Marks. The Treaty of Versailles

would be a major factor for the next period of time called the Interwar period.
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Part 2: The Interwar Period and the Maginot Trench

The treaty did not necessarily bring the peace like it was supposed to. It left Germany

decimated, France paranoid of war, and made the US isolate itself from Europe. Germany was a

world power and played a major part in the world economy. When they were levied with debt to

pay and thrusted into major economical inflation, this affected the world economy; similarly to

how the world was affected when the United States was put into the Great Depression around the

same time. Social spending per citizen went from 20 to 65 marks (Castillo, par. 2). Germany, in

an effort to pay off the debt was forced to print mass amounts of money. This threw the country

into catastrophic hyperinflation. At one point the inflation was so bad that waiters at restaurants

had to change prices every half an hour because the value of the currency was going down so

fast, workers had to bring wheelbarrows to collect their pay check, and bundles of money were

given to children to play with because it was so useless (London, par. 3). This hyperinflation is

what later caused the depression in the late 1920s. Unemployment rose, GDP went down, and

overall economic activity fell.

From a French standpoint in the interwar period, it was full of turmoil as well. From an

economic standpoint much of the war took place on French soil. France felt the German

reparations were needed in order for France to rebuild their infrastructure and economy. To add

to it France also owed the United States a debt for their support during the war. After Germany

made its first payment in 1921, Great Britain let Germany take a break from paying the debt, but

France did not give Germany the same courtesy. In 1923 France occupied Germany in order to
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put pressure on them. As a result of the occupation France counteracted themselves. Strong

patriotism in Germany caused them to rise up against French occupation, grinding the economy

to a halt making it impossible for Germany to pay its reprimands. This is ultimately what caused

Germany to print more money which caused the inflation I mentioned above. Germany was

unable to pay off debt with production so they started to print more money. As political unrest

grew in Germany, the Nazi party gained momentum. The instability grew to a point where Great

Britain and the United States put pressure on France to compromise with Germany. In 1924 an

American banker named Charles G. Dawes put to together a plan that all countries agreed on that

would guarantee the reparations be paid, but at a more reasonable rate which promoted German

economic growth. The United States also granted the Germans private loans to help them. In

1927 Germany was able to pay 1.3 billion in reparations, which allowed France and Britain to

pay some of their debt they owed to the United States (World Society, pg. 866 Hope in Foreign

Affairs). Political settlements were also made around the same time. France and Germany

finally agreed on a border in 1925, and Britain and Italy agreed to fight Germany or France if

one invaded the other. A year later Germany would also join the League of Nations. This leads us

to the construction of the Maginot line.

At the time of its completion, the Maginot line was the largest border fortification since

the Great Wall of China (Travel Lesson Plan, Par. 5). France made an alliance with Belgium, so

the French did not cover the Belgium boarder with the Maginot Line. At the time of the Maginot

Lines construction it was a marvel of the time period. The Maginot Line featured an

underground railroad to travel fast with stationed underground bunkers. The construction began

in 1930 and finished in 1939 (Travel Lesson Plan).


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Part 3: Rise of Germany and interwar events that led to World War II

Clauses in the Treaty of Versailles and events that followed made it very easy for the Nazi

Party and Adolf Hitler to rise to power. The events during World War 1 and the Interwar period

made it very easy for the fire to be fueled. Germans grew a hatred for Western Europe and their

own government. Germans blamed Jews and communists for their predicament. In a small rally

in Munich, Adolf Hitler drew out a plan to seize control of the government. The government

found out about this and threw him in prison which would then inspire Hitler to write his book

Mein Kampf. This book translates to My struggle. Hitler wrote on his struggles and

frustrations that many shared with him. In the book he would outline his political goals and

agendas which would fuel the Nazi rise to power in the years to come. The Nazi party would

gain support from disgruntled Germans very early and gain momentum in a snowball effect as

events took place in the world to fuel the Nazi political Machine. The depression in Germany

made the people more and more bitter at Western Europe and its own government. The more

restless and angry the people got, the easier it was for the Nazi party to gain momentum. An

excerpt from the National Holocaust Museum describes this: During 19301933, the mood in

Germany was grim. The worldwide economic depression had hit the country hard, and millions

of people were out of work. The unemployed were joined by millions of others who linked the

Depression to Germany's national humiliation after defeat in World War I. Many Germans
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perceived the parliamentary government coalition as weak and unable to alleviate the economic

crisis. Widespread economic misery, fear, and perception of worse times to come, as well as

anger and impatience with the apparent failure of the government to manage the crisis, offered

fertile ground for the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. (Holocaust Museum, par. 2). And

fertile ground it was for Hitler.

Hitler used powerful speeches and rallies to motivate the people and gain support. Hitler

ran his campaigns on the promise of restoring Germany to its former glory and promote

desperately needed economic growth. Desperate times in Germany made it very easy for Hitler

to find a scapegoat to blame the dire times on. Hitler used Jews and Communists as scapegoats

for the people to find a common enemy to rally around. Nazi propaganda was sure to involve

every group of Germans. They directed a lot of propaganda at Farmers, promising agricultural

growth. They pitched to businessmen to help them fight against the Jews who were very

influential at the time. The promised to veterans that they would restore military power and give

them benefits. He appealed to the young population, Hitler was only 40 during his political

campaigns and most of the people he surrounded himself were much younger that the current

German officials. Every group that wasnt used as a scapegoat had something pitched to them, a

promise to help them. Each election the Nazis gained more popularity. Below is a graph to show

the election results for the Nazi party starting from 1924 (source: European Tribune):
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In 1933 the President of the Reich,

Paul von Hindenburg promoted Adolf Hitler to chancellor. Hitler never won an official election;

he was promoted by the German government in hopes that his popularity among the people

would help the country. Hitler immediately called for a new cabinet to be formed. In the 1933

elections, the main parliament building of Germany called the Reichstag would be set on fire.

The burning of the Reichstag would see the end of the communist party in Germany. The

German government blamed the Communist party for the fire and imprisoned 4,000 members.

By 1934 the Nazis had almost total control of the government and started to silence political

opponents. The German SS force and Gestapo was a special German police force that would do

Hitlers dirty work. The SS and Gestapo used force to silence political opponents and enforce

German law. In 1934 the President Paul Hindenburg died. As a result of Hindenburgs death

Germany gave Hitler total control eliminating the chance of him being taken out of office by

election. In 1935 the Nazi party released a propaganda movie called Triumph of the will, one

of the most controversial forms of propaganda in history.

By 1935 most Jews were put out of work. As attacks on Jews rose, many fled the country.

In 1938 a night knows as the Night of Broken Glass would occur. On this night Jewish
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Synagogues, homes, and neighborhoods would be vandalized by civilians. After this night it

became very difficult for Jews to leave the country. In 1939 Nazis started to force Jewish people

into ghettos. In 1941 the implementation of concentration camps would happen. Jews would be

sent off to camps where they would most likely be thrown into a gas chamber, worked to death,

starved to death, or die from disease.

From an economic standpoint Hitler was very successful. In his first five years of office

Germany went from 6 million unemployed to 1 million, production doubled, and average income

doubled (Pike, par. 4). Hitler bolstered agriculture and farming. The first highway system was

developed in Germany called the autobahn. One of the most strengthening factors in Germanys

growth was its scientific and medical advancement. Half the Nobel Prizes were won by Germans

and many patents were developed in Germany. By 1938 Hitler boasted his near full employment

of Germany. To put into contrast, the United States was in a similar depression in 1929 and still

had an unemployment rate of 5 million in 1938 (Pike, par. 11).

Once the economy was settled in Germany Hitler focused his attention on expanding.

Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations and started to build his military force. This

was against the law in the Treaty of Versailles. With the memory of World War I in the back of

everyones mind, Britain appeased to Hitlers endeavors to avoid war. Many thought Soviet

Russia was the real threat and Hitlers hatred for Communism would mean he could be of aid if

needed to fight back against Russia. Hitler began moving his troops into the Rhineland which

was another blatant rule breaker in the Treaty of Versailles. France did not want to intervene with
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Germany without any backup from Britain, and Britain remained passive. Hitler would invade

Poland in 1939 to spark World War II.

In regards to the Maginot line, France made a major flaw of not defending its border with

Belgium. Belgium betrayed France in a way and declared its neutrality just before the war. When

the War started Hitler and his army traveled north and went around the Maginot line. The

German forces were able to walk through Belgium and start its efforts on France from the

Northern border.

Conclusion

As you follow the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles, and the events that

followed in the Interwar period such as the French occupation of Germany, the German great

depression, and the burning of the Reichstag, it becomes more and more obvious why the Second

World War was started. The extremities of the First World War, the reprimands Germany was

forced to pay, the political climate of Germany, and the mistrust of the German government made

it very easy for Hitler to come in and plant his seed of Nazism in the fertile ground. The emotion

and hatred for Western Europe and Jews already existed among the Germans, Hitler just had to

walk in and set off the powder keg. If we could go back and change history, who knows what

could have happened if the Treaty of Versailles wouldnt have been so harsh towards Germany,
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or even if France avoided occupying Germany, maybe World War II could have been avoided. If

the German people werent so bitter, Hitler would have had a much harder time rising to power.

Work Cited:
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<http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2011/11/5/44955/0650/8>.
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