The Great War did not end on November 11, 1918. The fighting stopped but a one-sided killing by other means continued into 1919, and was actually intensified.
The starvation blockade of Germany by the Royal Navy was extended by now having access to the Baltic: German trade with Scandinavia was blocked, and death by starvation under the supervision of the British occupation continued until June 28, 1919, when a weak, conciliatory German government signed a false confession of war guilt in the name of the German people, absolving Britain of responsibility for the war it declared on August 4, 1914, and laying the ground on which Nazism developed.
The German government made this false confession in order to get food for its people, but they got a deep fund of resentment along with it.
Germany was taught a lesson about the vindictive use of absolute power during those final months of the Great War, from November 1918 to June 1919. It was Hitler who learned it.
Furthermore, once the terms of the Armistice were made known to them, the Germans were given 72 hours to decide for or against an acceptance of the Armistice.
At the outset and under instructions from their government, the German delegation requested an immediate cessation of hostilities, in order to avoid the ongoing waste of life while the Armistice terms were being considered and, on being informed of the 72-hour deadline, the delegation pleaded: “For God’s sake, Monsieur le Maréchal, [Foch] do not wait for those seventy-two hours. Stop the hostilities this very day” (11th Day, 11th Hour. Armistice Day 1918: World War I and its violent climax, by Joseph E Persico, published by Arrow, London, 2004, p308)
But the appeals fell on deaf ears. In denying this request which would have resulted in thousands of lives being “saved for their families” the Allies showed a level of callousness consistent with the manner in which the war had been fought by them since the start. The lives that would have been saved by an immediate cessation of hostilities were not only German lives but French, American and British and yes, Irish lives at a time when the war had intensified over a wide front.
We are told we must celebrate the “war to end all wars” but we must not discuss it.
The Irish dead were deceived and dishonoured both in their lives and in their deaths.
Let Ireland reverse this deception and dishonour and tell the real truth of what the war was about.
That is the greatest honour we can pay our dead on this centenary year.
Editor, ‘Labour Comment’