September 30, 2012
As family archivist my sister recently placed into my care some of our father’s courtship correspondence with our mother spanning the years 1916 through 1919. Among the letters was a Chicago Tribune clipping, yellow with age, describing Chicago’s celebration of the Armistice with Germany, November 11, 1918. After some thought the presence of these clippings included among her prized love letters was for me not too surprising.
On one occasion I recall asking my mother at her rather advanced age what events in her life stood out in memory. Without hesitation she announced: “The Two Wars”. Born in 1895 she was a young woman in her early twenties at the time of the Armistice ending World War I. The clippings read:
ALL CITY ‘CUTS LOOSE’ IN MAD CELEBRATION
LOOP IS HOWLING, DANCING, HORNBLOWING, BEDLAM OF HAPPY CROWDS
BIG STORES SHUT DOORS
Chicago turned topsy-turvey to-day. From one end of the city to another everything was turmoil. Its millions of citizens gave themselves without bounds to the delirium of joy the news of the war’s grand finale had evoked in them. Pandemonium was in the saddle wherever its citizens congregated.
And the whole thing, as a score or more funeral corteges seemed to indicate, was a tribute – or what would you call it? – to Former Kaiser William . . . .(missing phrases) . . . . . . . . it was a part of the world’s expression of its emotions at the downfall of the Hohenzollerns.
Thursday’s Celebration Outdone
Thursday’s premature outburst of feeling paled into insignificance against today’s demonstration of the popular feeling not to mention at all the altogether tame and really innocent New Year’s celebrations that heretofore held the records of moisiness in Chicago. There was no semblance of order in the mass of pushing, howling, yelling, cheering, laughing humanity that packed Clark, State, and Lasalle streets and Michigan Boulevard and the crosstown thoroughfares from as early as 3 o’clock this morning. And what feeble attempts on the part of the police to re-establish order were nonchalantly and persistently overlooked by the public.
What did the happy crowd care whether he streetcars were delayed or automobiles could not get through? What if a few plate glass windows were smashed by the great press? The one big idea in the public mind was that the war was over, and nothing else mattered. As on Thursday, so to-day, the streets were showered with make-shift confetti and ticker tape. The carnival -New Year’s- election day spirit of Thursday again found its expression in the sudden appearance of all manner of noisemakingt devices, from paper horns to rattles.
And the motormen on the streetcars and “L” trains again did themselves proud clanging bells and blowing the sirens. The stunt of making a very efficient noise-producing instrument out of an automobile cutout was repeated. scores and scores of street parades were organized in a jiffy, and bands to lead them were gathered with surprising rapidity. But to-day’s celebration may be compared to Thursday’s only because Thursday’s was the noisiest, most jubilant day in the annals of Chicago -up to to-day. To-days bedlam was Thursday’s, only ten times more noisy and oppressive.
Funeral Cortege for Kaiser
Every loop building, store and factory poured its little city of men and women into the streets. Nobody felt like working, and the employers appreciated this. During the early morning hours the “busiest corner in the world” State and Madison streets , was busier than on the busiest Christmas shopping day on record. And at noon to-day it would have been impossible for a snake to wind its wat through the maelstrom of humanity that had come to to a dead stop and roared and vociferated and shouted into one another’s ears. There was one cortege that was impressive. It consisted of a solemn faced band playing Chopin’s death march, a black hearse bearing a black casket, on which was inscribed, “The Kaiser’s Coffin He’s Going Where He Belongs,” and a long procession of mourners with black bands around their hats.
On What Will Peace Rest?
“. . . with the fall of the ancient governments, which rested like an incubus upon the peoples of the central empires, has come political change not merely, but revolution; and revolution which seems as yet to assume no final and ordered form, but to run from one fluid change to another, until thoughtful men are forced to ask themselves with what governments and of what sort we are about to deal in making of the covenants of peace? With what authority will they meet us, and with what assurance that their authority will abide and sustain securely the international arrangements in which we are about to enter? There is here matter for no small anxiety and misgiving. When peace is made, upon whose promises and engagements besides our own is it to rest?
Let us be perfectly frank with ourselves and admit that these questions cannot be satisfactorily answered now at once. But the moral is not that there is little hope of an early answer that will suffice. It is only that we must be patient and helpful and mindful above all of the great hope and confidence that lie at the heart of what is taking place. Excesses accomplish nothing,. Unhappy Russia has furnished abundant recent proof of that. Disorder immediately defeats itself. If excesses should occur, if disorder for a time raise its head, a sober second thought will fallow and a day of constructive action, if we help and do not hinder.
C0nnecting Mother’s: “THE TWO WARS”
Kaiser William II lost the support of the army after an uprising in Berlin and mutiny in the imperial navy (Kaiserliche Marine). The simultaneous outbreak of German revolution led to the abdication of William on November 9th, 1918 as German emperor and King of Prussia. Armistice a few days later ended fighting prior to the making of formal peace. Responding to President Wilson’s idealism offered in his Fourteen Points speech delivered ten months earlier Germany accepted surrender as basis of expectation terms of a just settlement and more favorable peace terms. Imperial Germany was now placed on a democratic footing with the new Weimar Republic. Subsequently the Treaty of Versailles from the German viewpoint resulted in great anger and Wilsonian idealism became viewed as mere propaganda. The Treaty of Versailles with the German war guilt clause and demand for reparations placed, it was felt, an unjust burden on Germany. The German Revolution had cast doubt on the Weimar Republic’s legitimacy from the beginning and saved face for the imperial army. Soon the notion that the army was “stabbed in the back” – “Dolchstosz” gained large acceptance. Here was fertile ground for the eventual rise of national socialism and Hitler. The ending of the Great War (WWI) sewed early the seeds that eventually resulted in what my mother would come to experience most memorably as World WarII.