Jimmy Lovat, the future 17th Lord Lovat, is at school at Ampleforth. Guy Penrose Gibson, born September 11, 1918, is growing up in Simla, a cheerful child in a family whose marriage is disintegrating. Father Alexander is a forest conservator in Simla, and mother Leonora is a frustrated trophy wife.
Other British warriors are growing up or infants. Brian Harpur is born in Dublin on April 16, 1918. Mike Crosley is born on February 24, 1920, at Rockferry, near Liverpool, the son of the Carl Rosa Opera Company´s principal tenor. Moving around constantly, he has no sense of home, and his mother cannot take life on the road.
On the other hand, Jack Hinton, in Colac Bay, New Zealand, is happy to take to the road. He runs away from in 1921 at age 12. Hinton´s teacher has said, "There is nothing more I can teach you, Hinton," so the farmer´s son leaves to find a job. New Zealand is still recovering from the trauma of 16,697 dead and 41,317 wounded in the Great War, and the ordeal of Spanish Flu. The government spends £26 million to settle returned soldiers, but the economy is still a mess, with high unemployment and a higher cost of living. At least that year, New Zealanders get radio broadcasting.
Hinton´s first job is driving a three-horse wagon for a Tokanui grocer as a rolling sales vehicle to distant farms, earning 5/- a week along with eggs and butter from farmers. Passing cars draw everyone in the small towns out to the road to see the excitement of internal combustion engines at work.
In 1922, Hinton goes to sea on a Norwegian whaling vessel, the C.A. Larsen. One of the largest whale factory ships in the world, Larsen heads for the Ross Sea, hunting Antarctic whales. Working in the galley, Hinton battles seasickness, plays cards, sees icebergs, and helps cut up whales. After nine months, the ship returns to its base at Stewart Island, where many of the Norwegian crewmembers have settled and raised families, having earned £381. He returns to Colac Bay and his parents, and then heads off again, determined to see as much of New Zealand as possible, working as a shepherd at Central Otago´s Lake Wakatipu, playing rugby and boxing in his spare time.
Other future New Zealand recipients are growing up amid economic slump. Keith Elliott, born on April 25, 1916 – the first anniversary of ANZAC Day – lives in Feilding, son of a farmer and Anglican lay preacher. The family´s first home in the town is next to the garbage dump. Elliott proves very effective at raiding the neighbor´s apple orchard, so the family moves – a wise idea, considering that the neighbor is also the local Truant Inspector.
On the other hand, Charles Hazlitt Upham, a Christchurch barrister´s son born September 21, 1908, becomes a boarder at the elite Christ´s College, where he wins prizes in English, Science, History, and Divinity. He seems more of a loner, regarded as shy, not a good mixer, serious, brooding, and intense.
Fellow Cantabrian Jim Burrows, born August 14, 1904, is a member of Christchurch Boys´ High School rugby squad, which stomps its opponents in 1920 and 1921, by ridiculous scores: 22-0 over Waitaki, 35-0 over Southland, and 19-0 over Otago. Burrows also stars at cricket and boxing. In 1923, he joins the St. Andrew´s College teaching staff straight from school without any special training, an unusual distinction.
Evan Mackie is also growing up amid hard times in New Zealand´s South Island´s Waihi, born October 31, 1917, the fourth child of a gold miner. He lives in a three-bedroom miner´s cottage, with an outside toilet and washhouse, coal stove, and candles.
"We seemed to do nothing but work," Mackie says years later. Mackie´s father had his kids endlessly collecting bundles of tree sticks for firewood. The family supplements their diet with freshly-caught fish. At school, Mackie is top of his class.
In Pakenham, in the Australian state of Victoria, Donald Watt is also having a tough childhood. He is the youngest of three boys, son of a house-building father, and his mother manages the dining room of a large hotel in Rainbow, amid farming country. They have their share of tragedy: the oldest son, David, dies when one year old, and the second son, Bill, is killed at age 13 in 1921, when he trips over on a new metal road while playing chase with Donald, and lands on his head, as a steamroller is closing in. Donald tries to drag his unconscious brother to safety, but Bill is too heavy for five-year-old Donald to move.
When the steamroller crushes Bill, their mother is walking out the front gate of their house, 50 meters (160 feet) away, and sees the entire horror. "I can still see the look of total disbelief on her face and the dazed way she walked over to Bill´s body," Donald writes later.
Eight-year-old R.V. Jones is having an easier childhood, even though he starts attending Sussex Road School in London´s Brixton in 1919. Jones, the son of a career Grenadier Guards Sergeant, is steeped in British traditions of discipline, precision, and service. He finds that he can relate easily to the sons of bricklayers and industrial workers at the school.
Another Grenadier Guardsman, Capt. Frederick Browning, having earned a Distinguished Service Order in France, is assigned resident Captain at the Guards depot, where he works on his hurdling, preparing for the Olympics.
Les Brodrick is born in London on May 19, 1921; Roger Bushell is a schoolboy in South Africa; Mike O´Casey in Allahabad, India, on February 19, 1918, son of the Inspector-general of the Indian Police. He goes to school in England. Jimmy Catanach is born on November 28, 1921, to a family of Melbourne jewelers. Arnold George Christensen is born on April 18, 1922, in Hastings, New Zealand, son of Danish immigrant hotel owners. Ian Cross is a frail and sickly child, youngest of five, in Portsmouth, born April 4, 1918. Halldor Espelid is born on October 6, 1920, in Askoy, near Bergen in Norway. Brian Evans is born on St. Valentine´s Day in 1920, in Shaldon in Devonshire. Johannes Gouws, born August 13, 1919, is a farmboy in the Orange Free State. Jack Grisman, born August 30, 1914, is a swimming star at school. Doctor´s son Sandy Gunn, born September 27, 1919, is growing up in Perthshire. Al Hake, born in Sydney on June 30, 1916, is rowing his canoe with his brother Les in the Parramatta River. Tony Hayter, born May 20, 1920, is growing up with his horseman and yachtsman father and family in Berkshire. Gordon Kidder, born December 9, 1914, is a studious boy in St. Catherines, Ontario. Rusty Kierath, born February 20, 1915, is the youngest of nine children in Narromine, New South Wales, descendant of German grandparents. Tom Kirby-Green, born on February 27, 1918, is the son of Sir William Kirby-Green, district governor of Nyasaland, and is growing up there. Danny Krol, born on March 22, 1916, is growing up in Zagorzyce, Poland. Pat Langford, born November 4, 1919, is the son of an English-born forest ranger in Jasper National Park, near Edmonton, Alberta. Rene Marcinkus, born July 22, 1910, is a schoolboy in Lithuania.
Another South African, Neville McGarr, born November 24, 1917, moves from Johannesburg to Durban in 1923. George McGill, born April 14, 1918, is the second of five kids in Toronto. Henri Picard, born April 17, 1916, is the third of four children in Etterbeek, Belgium. Johnny Pohe is a Maori farmboy, the only boy in a family of seven kids, growing up in Wanganui, New Zealand. Bernard Scheidhauer is born in Saarbrucken on August 28, 1921, the son of a French Army colonel commanding a regiment of Moroccans occupying Germany. Sotiris "Nick" Skantzikas, born August 6, 1920, is the fourth of seven children in the Peloponnesian city of Calamata. In 1922, his family moves to Athens. John Stevens, born in London on February 17, 1919, moves with his family to Cape Town shortly after his baptism at St. Paul´s. Bob Stewart, born July 17, 1911, in Finsbury Park, is a kid in Finchley. John Stower, born on September 15, 1916 in Buenos Aires, is growing up on his family´s farm in South America. Cyril "Sid" swain, born December 15, 1911 in Wem, Shropshire, is a moody loner in a family of five kids. Tommy Thompson, born August 8, 1915, is the son of the local Member of Parliament for the riding of Pentaguishene, Ontario. Ivo Tonder, born April 16, 1913, is a boy in Prague. His countryman Arnost "Wally" Valenta, born October 25, 1912, is an ardent patriot, growing up in the heavily German Moravia region of Czechoslovakia. Bob Van Der Stok, born in Pladjoe, Sumatra, on October 30, 1915, is living in Borneo. Tim Walenn, born February 24, 1916, is the son of a London commercial artist a Great War RFC pilot. Jimmy Wernham, born in Scotland on January 15, 1917, returns with his family after the Armistice to their native Canada, where his father works in Winnipeg for the Canadian Pacific Railway. George Wiley is born in Windsor, Ontario, on January 24, 1922. Willy Williams, born May 6, 1919, in Wellington, New Zealand, moves with his family to Manly, Australia.
Len Trent, born in Nelson, New Zealand, on April 14, 1915, is growing up in New Zealand´s Takaka Valley, where one of his earliest memories come sin 1922, when he gets his first ride in Capt. M.C. "Mad Mac" McGregor´s barnstorming Jenny as it tours New Zealand. McGregor, with moustache, goggles and helmet, is the prototype period air ace. During his first flight, the awed Len Trent, vows that some day he will fly himself.
And the unifying factor in the lives of these young boys…they will all ultimately meet and work together in the sand and dirt of Stalag Luft III in Germany, on the "Great Escape," paying for their courage with their lives.
While these young men grow up, The Irish question continues to bedevil Britain, with the island locked in civil war over whether or not to support the Free State Treaty. The bloodshed ends when the Dail Eireann adopts the Irish constitution as proposed by Churchill and Michael Collins, but not before Collins is murdered by opponents of the treaty. Northern Ireland, given the option of joining the Free State, stays with Britain.
The Irish Civil War is over, but its impact on Churchill and Britain continue. For the Irish Republican Army, Ulster´s continued British rule gives them reason to continue to wage guerrilla war against England. For Britain, the Irish civil war is another one of a string of debacles for the Lloyd George government. The botch of intervention in the Russian Civil War and the Greek-Turkish War and the slumping economy pound Lloyd George and his cabinet. More than 2 million Britons are unemployed, including decorated Great War veterans, selling matchbooks in Piccadilly. The war has cost Britain markets for textiles and ships, and coal is losing sales to oil- and petroleum-fired engines and industries. Sir Eric Geddes is ordered to swing the budget axe in 1921, and his cuts infuriate everybody. The Conservatives decide to pull out of the government, so Lloyd George resigns on October 19, 1922, and Andrew Bonar Law forms a Conservative government, with a General Election set for November 15, 1922.
Now Churchill becomes the enemy of the British left, for his virulent anti-Communism, the 1915 Dardanelles fiasco, and his opposition to Labour Party plans. "Government of the duds, for the duds, and by the duds," Churchill calls the Labour Party´s plans. Churchill has to stand for re-election in his normally safe seat in Dundee and faces hostile crowds. He sends his wife to speak at an indoor rally and finds his opponents have salted the place with sneezing powder. Clementine Churchill flees the podium, pursued by a taunting mob brandishing red flags and green IRA banners.
Of 151,701 votes cast, Churchill receives 20,466, a mere 14 percent of the vote, putting him out of Parliament for the first time in 22 years. He heads back to London, to read condolence telegrams from T.E. Lawrence and King George V.
The Tories sweep the country, winning 345 seats, and the opposition party is no longer the Liberals, but Ramsay MacDonald´s and Clement Attlee´s Labour Party, with 142 seats. Defeated, Churchill heads to the Riviera and a rented villa with his family, there to paint and write his memoirs of the Great War. Artist Paul Maze tells Churchill doing so is like "digging up a cemetery." Yes, Churchill answers, "but with a resurrection."
Churchill doesn´t have to wait long. Bonar Law lasts only six months before resigning. Officially, it´s because of ill health, but in truth, he´s simply not up to the job. In May 1923, Stanley Baldwin takes over, and he calls another General Election.
Another victim of the 1922 British election is Bernard Freyberg, who stands as an independent candidate for Parliament in Cardiff South, backed by the Liberals. Freyberg, having seen the horror of the trenches, is enraged by the spectacle of wounded veterans selling matches in the streets. His backers create a slogan: "Let´s give him another V.C. – Victorious Candidate."
Freyberg campaigns on three points: support for the League of Nations, the British Empire should stay out of other conflicts, and keeping promises made to veterans. He also opposes prohibition and nationalization. He finishes second in the November 15 vote to Sir John Cory, the Unionist who has held the seat since 1915. After that, Freyberg gives up politics, and sticks with his duties as Captain in the Grenadier Guards. He and his wife Barbara deliver their only child, son Paul Richard Freyberg, on May 29, 1923.
Britain´s political tribulations affect the funding but not the pomp and hard work of the Royal Navy. The Washington Naval Treaty axe cuts off the small fleet of battle-cruisers the Royal Navy is building, leaving HMS Hood as the sole survivor, a single and immense display of Britannia´s rule of the waves.
On March 29, 1920, Hood commissions to full complement at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth. Most of the immense ship´s crew comes from the Jutland veteran battle-cruiser HMS Lion, one of the Royal Navy´s best-known ships. Hood will assume Lion´s mantle as the centerpiece of the fleet. Crewmen joining the new ship are delighted to find it roomy and clean, compared with the tiny and coal-dusted compartments of her predecessors. She spends the next month and a half in trials, testing her 15-inch guns and her engines, which enable her to race past the Isle of Arran at 32.07 knots, faster than any other capital ship in the world. Her cost to His Majesty´s subjects is £6.025 million. John Brown and Sons, the builder, pocket £214,108 of that in profit. Her speed and guns make her the most powerful capital ship in the world. But even her designers admit that if they had to do it again, they´d sacrifice her speed and put in more armor.
But this concern is immaterial on May 15, 1920, when Capt. Wilfred Tomkinson puts Hood into full commission, and she heads to the Scandinavian Baltic to display British power and muscle to impress the Swedes and Danes and remind the Soviet fleet at Kronstadt not to challenge the Royal Navy. Hood´s maiden voyage is a great success, as the ship´s guns impress Norway´s King Haakon in Oslo and the ship´s midshipmen impress the girls in the same city. The Bolshevik ships, which include the old dreadnoughts October Revolution and Marat, do not challenge Hood.
With no wars to fight and 1,150 young men aboard ship, Hood devotes herself to the pursuit of sporting excellence, competing in everything from cross-country running to boxing to darts. In 1921, she wins a slew of regattas and fleet sporting competitions. In 1922, she and HMS Repulse head for the Rio de Janeiro to mark the centenary of Brazil gaining independence. In Rio she is joined by the American battleships Maryland and Nevada, as well as the elderly Japanese cruiser Idzumo. The Americans are unimpressed with Hood, calling her a "some fine picket-boat." The British find the Maryland "very small compared to ourselves and Repulse. She was also dirty." Both ships have to provide a battalion for the big parade in the city, followed by the Naval Olympics. The Brazilians defeat the British 2-0 in the football final, and win the skiffs in the regatta. The Americans win the seaman´s cutter race, but the Hood wins the midshipmen´s cutter.
The British win the next nine of 15 events, and the whole Olympics comes down to eight weight classes of boxing in a marquee outside Rio. With 4,000 sailors from the US and Royal Navies packing the tent, the British take a 4-3 lead in the boxing matches. But in the final, Hood´s Stoker Petty Officer Spillar faces the American champ. When Spillar touches gloves with his rival to open the bout, the American delivers a straight left and a right hook that puts Spillar on the mat for good and starts an uproar. With British and American sailors ready to start a new world war, Britain´s Rear Adm. Walter Cowan jumps into the ring and orders his men to give "Three cheers for the US Navy." Or else, presumably.
After that, Cowan gets the last bout declared null and the British win. Next day the Americans head back to sea. Cowan has his men line their ships´ rails to cheer the Americans out, but it is doubtful the Jack Tars are actually cheering.
After that, Hood shows the flag in the Caribbean, then heads back to Devonport. She does a tour of Spain and goes back to Scandinavia in early 1923.
Meanwhile, HMS Renown, back from her Royal Tour, goes into dockyard hands in July 1922 to get something Hood, with her massive flag-showing schedule, cannot receive – additional armor. Her main-deck armor is increased to four inches over the magazines and two-and-a-half amidships.
In 1923, Isoroku Yamamoto returns home to Japan, at age 39, to gain his captain´s stripes and become executive officer of the new air training center at Kasumigaura. The Japanese have copied this facility from the RAF´s school at Cranwell. Yamamoto is a keen student of aviation but cannot fly. He solves that problem by taking flying lessons in the morning, doing his exec´s job in the afternoon, playing shogi in the evening, and pushing more paper late into the night to keep up.
While the Imperial Navy is pursuing airpower, it is not doing so with energy. Top officers refuse to set foot in airplanes or read papers on the subject. Nor will they let their sons gain aviator´s wings or their daughters marry pilots. Yamamoto finds this official disinterest has affected morale at Kasumigaura. His first move is to order the shaggy cadets and mechanics to get their hair cut. The airmen are annoyed – they think the long hair makes them standouts and apart from the ordinary seamen. Yamamoto says, "I don´t want any thick heads here. If you get your hair cut short, it will help you to keep a cool head!" The airmen get their hair cut.
Yamamoto, now 40, is 20 years older than his cadets, and takes part in all their sports. He finishes second in a marathon. He attends all their parties, sending out for sake, while drinking cold tea himself. He orders his airmen to practice as much night flying as possible. His tough leadership is unique among Japanese officers. Building their Navy on Britain´s traditions, they have mistaken British affability for gentlemanliness and not seen the hard discipline behind the mask. The result is that the captains rising to the admiralty in the Imperial Navy, men like Chuichi Nagumo, Nobutake Kondo, Takeo Kurita, and Hiroaki Abe, are amiable, warm, intelligent sailors, loyal to their Emperor, and as prepared to die as any Samurai, but lack the hard internal discipline of their British counterparts, like Johnny Walker, Bruce Fraser, Philip Vian, Henry Harwood, and Andrew Cunningham.
One young Japanese officer, Mitsuo Fuchida, born December 3, 1902 in Nara Prefecture, enters Eta Jima Naval Academy on August 27, 1921, along with 300 other plebes, including His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu, younger brother of Crown Prince Hirohito. Fuchida excels at mathematics. Offered the choice of languages to study – English, French, or German – Fuchida picks English, believing the United States will be Japan´s likeliest enemy. He is in the top 25 percent of the class, a champion swimmer, and goalkeeper in soccer. He has a habit of forcing himself to put up his hand whenever an instructor asks a question.
An aloof and studious man, Fuchida´s few friends include Eijiro Suzuki, Eiji Hawegawa, Taketora Uyeda, Terujiro Urata, and a slim, handsome cadet from a small town near Hiroshima, from an ancient samurai family: Minoru Genda.
In 1922, Fuchida becomes fascinated with aviation two F-5 seaplanes alight at Eta Jima for a demonstration. The flight chief asks "Is there any cadet who aspires to become a flying officer? If so, he may ride with me in the demonstration."
Fuchida shoots up his hand from force of habit, and climbs onto the F-5, takes to the sky, and is entranced. So is the watching Genda. When Fuchida returns, the two officers decide to devote themselves to aviation.
Another young officer is concentrating on his aviation career in an Army that is not allowed to have airplanes. A handsome young Great War air ace, Kurt Student, considered an "exceptional officer" in the German Army´s inspectorate of military aviation, has his career saved, despite the Versailles order that the Reich destroy all of its planes. He is appointed to the Central Flying Office, which does design studies for the Army. He takes up gliding as a study and a hobby, fracturing his skull while doing so in November 1921.
Germany as a whole is also in terrible shape: Communist groups dominate the industrial cities, while the Nazis are taking over Bavaria. Parliamentary leaders get only lip service.
In early 1923, the British and French quarrel over reparations. The British are now having regrets over Versailles, and want to scale the payments down and re-admit Germany to Europe on equal terms. With the Americans, they are floating loans to relieve Germany´s distress. The British pull out of the Reparations Commission. Their troops are mostly out of the Rhineland anyway, square-bashing at Aldershot or pursuing "dervishes," "wogs," and "fuzzie-wuzzies" in the Middle East or the Frontier Province.
But France´s economic recovery – and ability to repay American loans – depends on reparation payments from Germany. With the mark falling and the Germans continually making delays, Paris and Premier Raymond Poincaré are losing patience. France has lost 21,000 factories, all of its mines, 5,000 miles of railways, and 519,000 buildings. Six million acres are ruined by shellfire and poison gas. The birthrate is falling because an entire generation lies buried in the "Red Zone" around Verdun, a windswept moonscape of shell craters and wrecked villages. France needs to rebuild.
To make matters worse, the United States refuses to accept German reparations, but demands the Allies repay their loans. A dying Woodrow Wilson says these funds should be written off as part of America´s contribution to the common victory, but President Calvin Coolidge says simply, "They hired the money, didn´t they?" It will take Britain until 2004 to pay off her $11 billion World War I debt to the United States. The French are reluctant to pay back the Americans their $3.5 billion, as their loans to their Allies, including Russia, total more than $5 billion. In France and Britain, statesmen, business leaders, and ordinary folks refer to "Uncle Shylock."
On January 9, 1923, the day New Zealand-born novelist Katherine Mansfield dies in France, the Reparations Commission reports to the Quai d´Orsay that the Germans are deliberately defaulting on their payments. The stressor that triggers France´s next move is the German refusal to deliver 40,000 telegraph poles.
"We are going to look for coal, that´s all!" Poincaré tells the Chamber of Deputies. "If this search gives us the opportunity, sooner or later, of talking with a more conciliatory Germany or to less exacting industrialists, we will not shun doing so. We have no intention of strangling Germany or ruining her; we only want to obtain from her what we can reasonably expect her to provide." The Chamber approves the move, 452 votes to 72.
Supported by a Belgian division, General Degoutte´s 70,000 poilus, many of them huge Senegalese, march into the Ruhr on January 11 to enforce the payments and protect the French engineers sent to seize the telegraph poles. The French set up the Mission Interaliee de Controle des Usines et des Mines (Micum for short), to run the Ruhr. French troops control an area only 60 miles long and 28 miles wide, but occupy 85 percent of the Reich´s coal, 80 percent of its steel and iron mills, and the source of 70 percent of its marketable goods. French troops take over financial and customs houses, even forestry department offices. It is the first time a portion of Prussia has been occupied since Napoleon.
Reich Chancellor Wilhelm Cuno faces a national disaster. Lt. Col. Edwin Von Stulpnagel points out in a memo to Seeckt that "from the national and soldierly point of view, it is the duty of the soldier to act." But the Reichswehr and its Freikorps allies, for all of Seeckt´s rhetoric, cannot stand up against 70,000 fully-equipped French troops. For one thing, the Reichswehr has less than 30 days worth of small-arms ammunition on hand. While liberals in the Weimar cabinet urge compromise, Seeckt urges the Cuno government to try passive resistance.
So as thousands of poilus in horizon bleu march down Essen´s cobble-stoned streets, taking over government buildings and railway yards, Cuno calls upon the German population to use passive resistance to defeat the Ausländer.
Ruhr kumpel and metalworkers go out on strike 24 hours after the French march in.. The kumpel call the occupation "Die Bajonette." The great coal-mines and Krupp steel mills fall silent. Blast furnaces cool down. Railway workers refuse to move trains headed for France. Dockworkers and sailors won´t load or sail ships bound for French ports. German officials refuse to cooperate with French officials. German restaurant owners post signs that read: "Dogs and Frenchmen forbidden."
Even schoolboys get involved: some gangs shave the heads of women suspected of "shamelessly consorting with the French" or simply walk miles to school rather than pay tickets to ride the French-run railway.
The French and Belgians, determined to get their coal, roll in miners from their own nations, along with railroad workers. An irritated Poincaré says on May 22nd, "We are patiently waiting for Germany to see reason."
German and French newspapers open fire on each other with the powerful weapons of vitriol. Since many of the French troops are African, German cartoonists and writers depict them as apes, barbarians, and cannibals. French generals are lampooned as obese gluttons, dining on bratwurst while German children starve. "Siamese, Senegalese, and Arabs made themselves the masters of our homeland," reports one future SS man to historian Peter H. Merkl in 1973.
The German press also spews out massive reports of gang rape by French Senegalese troops, which 10 years later make people believe that the few hundred mixed-race children in Germany are results of such outrages. In fact, those kids are the sons and daughters of consensual unions between German colonists and indigenous Africans from the old pre-war empire. Other cartoons depict Senegalese troops carrying off innocent white German women to be raped.
Micum retaliates for the resistance by firing or jailing recalcitrant German officials. Some 46,200 civil servants and police officers are affected, along with 100,000 of their relatives. The French send in 15,000 signalmen, engineers, and guards to replace the striking Germans.
French troops take hostages, censor the press, demand fines, and shoot civilians in retaliation for guerrilla attacks and strikes. French officers punch Germans who refuse to clear the sidewalks for them. French troops search houses, haul in suspects, and hold summary executions. Other German prisoners are shipped off to Devil´s Island.Britain´s Brig. John Morgan, part of the British Control Commission team, not involved in the dispute, reports that German schoolteachers are teaching their children to say in unison, "Frankreich ist unser Feind," which means: "France is our enemy." Wall posters offer rewards to the first German who will spit in a Frenchman´s face. Restaurant waiters take up the offer by spitting in French troops´ plates.
On March 31, 1923, Lt. Durieux of France´s 160th Infantry Regiment appears on Essen´s Alterndorferstrasse with 11 men and a machine-gun, to inventory Krupp´s Zentrale Garage´s motor pool. Der Konzernherr, Gustav Krupp, doesn´t know they´re coming. That figures: French generals have taken over the Krupp home at Villa Hugel. When Durieux finally enters the garage at 9 a.m., (two hours late) and starts counting trucks, the fire siren and all 5,000 other Krupp sirenen go off. Durieux asks the superintendent what that means, and the Krupp superintendent replies, "Down tools."
Durieux bolts out the door and sees Kruppianer emerging from the factories and mills. Up in his office, Gustav Krupp´s only reaction is to ask an aide to keep an eye on his personal limousine. Durieux, fearing a mob of angry Kruppianer (some of whom are standing on steam jets for cleaning machines), sets up his Hotchkiss machine-gun. At 10:30, the sirens die away, and the Kruppianer edge forward towards the thin line of French troops.
What happens next is a subject of debate: the French insist the Germans pelt them with stones and lumps of coal. The Germans deny that. Nobody denies that the Kruppianer set off their steam jets, filling the Zentrale Garage with a fine mist. Durieux has his men fire over the German heads. Then he yells, "Commencez le feu." The barrage of rifle shots leaves 15 dead, including five apprentice teenagers, and 52 wounded.
Germany is enraged. Passive resistance turns violent. German saboteurs blow up bridges, hurl grenades at poilus, and beat and rob French engineers. While the French press is silent, the British and American newspapers join with their German colleagues in denouncing the massacre. The Nation calls it "savagery." The Spectator says, "This is the way to increase German resistance, not to stop it."
And the Freikorps launch attacks and ambushes on the French, killing 132 of the invaders.
One such group is led by nationalist Albert Leo Schlageter. His attacks attract the attention of a freshly-graduated University of Heidelberg student, Joseph Goebbels, who volunteers to take part in ambushes. Schlageter turns Goebbels down flat. Goebbels, a dreamy small man with a club-foot and no military experience, would be a liability in combat. Devastated, Goebbels turns to chasing women, writing nationalist articles for magazines and newspapers, and batting out an autobiographical novel.
Schlageter runs into trouble when he´s caught trying to explode a charge under a bridge carrying rail freight from the Ruhr to France. The poilus haul Schlageter off into custody. Reputedly his betrayer is a schoolteacher named Walther Kladow. Among Kladow´s pre-war pupils is a stocky, bullish, son of a Prussian regimental sergeant-major, named Martin Bormann.
Krupp´s funeral for Die Firma´s martyrs is a national rite, complete with Gustav as chief mourner, the Konzern´s 500-man choir, politicians from across the Reich, and a circling French Nieuport, which buzzes the cemetery during the burial.
The French make things worse by court-martialing Krupp, making him responsible for the massacre, slapping Der Konzernherr with a 100-million mark fine and 15 years in prison. German saboteurs blow up the French barracks in Dortmund in retaliation. Gustav goes to a German prison, where the door is left unlocked, and the German Red Cross daily provides him with candy to chew on. The French retaliate for the Dortmund explosion by jailing the city´s Hauptwachtmeister. French arrogance creates more German martyrs.
Among those martyrs is Schlageter himself, stood against a wall and shot by the French on May 26, 1923. Schlageter´s death is used by Nazis and other nationalists as a political point: showing both the brutality of the French and the weakness of Weimar. The French are killers. Weimar is incapable of protecting German citizens on German soil from invaders´ bullets. The following day, Henry Kissinger is born in Austria.
Schlageter´s execution site is marked by an obelisk. In 1939, the Luftwaffe will declare an elite fighter wing, Jagdgeschwader 26, to be the "Albert Leo Schlageter" squadron in his honor.
Schlageter´s reputed informant, Kladow, also meets an unpleasant fate. He is murdered in the depths of a 2,000-acre farming estate near Parchim named Gut Herzberg. The killer is Rossbach Freikorps member Rudolf Hoess, future commandant of Auschwitz. His collaborator is the Gut Herzberg´s young manager, Martin Bormann. The bullish Bormann does a year in prison, while Hoess draws a 10-year term. Hoess is freed under a general amnesty in 1928.
But with the German economy at a standstill and millions of men on strike, disaster looms for the Reich. Production stoppages in the Ruhr whiplash across the German economy. Germans endure a freezing winter without heat or hot water. Unemployment soars from two percent to 23 percent across the nation. Tax revenue plummets.
The Reich has refused to pay for the war from current taxation. The Kaiser´s plan was to win the war by floating loans and simply send the bill to the Allies, and make them pay. All Germany now pays for the All-Highest´s supreme arrogance. The complete reverse has occurred. The war has cost Germany 164 milliard marks. 93 milliards were paid by war loans, 29 milliards by treasury bills. The rest is paid by simply printing money, with no gold or silver backing. All the Reich gold stocks are gone.
With millions of workers on strike, the Weimar government goes on printing money, and pays the wages of idled men. The result is a level of inflation never seen before or since. By the middle of 1923, the Reichsbank is employing 300 paper factories and 150 printing firms to flood Germany with worthless Reichmarks. To save time, the Reichsbank overprints existing stocks of money…a 1,000-mark note becomes a 1 million-mark note. Then a 500-million mark note. Then a 20-billion mark note.
The cost of a loaf of bread in 1918 is 0.63 Reichmarks. In January 1923, the cost is 250 marks. In July, that loaf of bread costs 3,465 marks. A liter of milk costs 4,000 marks. A US dollar weighs in at 600,000 marks.
Prices rise every hour. Workers are paid daily. Wives wait at factory gates for their husbands to come out with wheelbarrows full of pay, and rush to nearby shops to buy food. One worker leaves his wheelbarrow full of money outside a store. When he returns, the wheelbarrow is gone. But the money remains.
A doctor and his assistant close their clinic and take a job in a nightclub, singing the latest hits. Foreigners with Sterling or American dollars can live like kings. American journalist Ernest Hemingway spends two days in a German first-class hotel for 20 American cents a day.