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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 20 
Hitler's 1923 visit to Gerlich took place in troubled times. Saddled with the huge debt incurred in financing World War I and the misery of soaring inflation, the Weimar Republic (as the parliamentary government of Germany was called from 1919 to 1933) was stressed and strained. To glimpse what was to happen between Gerlich and Hitler, it is important to note in more detail a few of the reasons for Germany's distress at that time.
Upon their return home from the Great War, German soldiers found that their prospects were limited. Many of them wound up on welfare lines.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst
Germany's defeat in World War I was officially sealed on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Seven months later, on June 28, 1919, the Versailles Treaty, which established the peace terms, was signed in Paris. The treaty pronounced Germany guilty for starting the war and required the Germans to pay for all the damages the Allies had suffered. A reparations commission would determine the amount. The terms of an agreement subsequently reached in London in May 1921 put Germany's war reparations bill at 132 billion gold marks (about $31 billion at the prevailing exchange rate). The debt was to be paid at six percent interest over 37 years. The annual payments would amount to two billion gold marks plus 26 percent of German exports. Estimated to be about seven percent of Germany's national income, the annual payments were judged by British economist John Maynard Keynes to be three times what the country could afford. The financial burden created deep resentment that Hitler and his Nazi Party would exploit to the fullest.

From the beginning, Germany had difficulty meeting the reparations schedule. Already at the end of 1921, for example, the government declared that it could not make the payments due in January and February 1922. Several times Germany asked for a moratorium, but France, in particular, saw payment defaults as an opportunity to weaken Germany further by reoccupying the Rhine-Ruhr area, a region of industrial and strategic importance for Germany's postwar recovery. On January 11, 1923, using a shortfall in German wood and coal deliveries as his pretext, French Premier Raymond Poincaré sent troops into that part of Germany to oversee French interests.

In sharp contrast to the mechanized Nazi Blitzkrieg into France 17 years later, French soldiers occupied the Ruhr by bicycle in 1923.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst
Unable to offer military resistance to the French occupation, which was augmented by Belgian forces, the Germans responded with passive resistance. When 130,000 German laborers refused to work, the region's productivity declined by half. The French met this resistance with arrests, imprisonments, evictions, and even executions. By the summer of 1923, the woes of the slumping German economy had grown worse and the French occupation force in the Rhine-Ruhr area had risen to 100,000 men, a number equivalent to the size permitted for the entire German Army by the Versailles Treaty. These outcomes added insult to German injury, especially for those who erroneously believed, as Hitler did, that Germany's defeat and especially the Versailles Treaty had been the result of a Dolchstoss ("stab in the back") inflicted from within Germany by Jewish traitors and their left-wing collaborators.
 1st century c.e.: About five million Jews live outside Palestine, 80 percent of them within the Roman Empire.
 70: Following a Jewish revolt, General Titus and his Roman army surround Jerusalem, entrapping the city's population. Jews who try to escape are killed. The rest are held under siege for several months before being attacked by the army. Between starvation and slaughter, at least 600,000 Jews die. The Romans destroy the Second Temple. Many early-day Christian theologians will say that the Jews brought the destruction upon themselves because they had rejected Jesus as their Messiah.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 20 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.