Under the terms of the Armistice Agreement that ended World War I, those regions of Germany that lay to the west of the Rhine were immediately occupied by Allied troops. At the subsequent Peace Treaty negotiations presupposition of German responsibility tor the war led to the imposition of extensive penalties on the nation. Included in these was the continuing occupation of the Rhineland for a number of years in order to guarantee German fulfilment of the Peace Treaty clauses relating to reparations and disarmament.
Within Germany the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty were widely regarded as being unduly harsh and were greeted by the majority with anger and dismay. However, the use of force to overturn the situation was out of the question: the only way forward was to use persuasion. Following the reluctant signing of the Treaty, Therefore, strenuous efforts were made using propaganda to influence international opinion against the allegation of German war guilt and against the Treaty provisions. It was hoped that the Allies would agree to revision of the Treaty. The Rhineland occupation was one of the main targets of the stream of propaganda of all kinds that came out of post-war Germany and it is with this aspect that this book is concerned.
However, German propaganda against the occupation was aimed not only at an international readership. At home, there was the necessity of maintaining morale in the occupied regions, which at first were virtually isolated from the remainder of Germany. It was equally important to keep the public in unoccupied Germany well informed and to maintain its interest in, and support for, the occupied regions. Propaganda came from a wide range of sources. Some were official or semi-official bodies, though at the rime efforts were made by the governments of the Reich and those of the constituent states to conceal this fact. Private individuals and organisations, some set up specifically for the purpose, also took part.
The Allied armies occupied individual zones in the Rhineland territory of four German states: Prussia, Bavaria, Hessen and Oldenburg. Much German propaganda embraced the Rhineland as a whole, making no particular distinction between the territory of individual states. This was generally the case where private organisations and individuals were involved. Naturally, the Reich government had a national perspective. But propaganda was also organised at the level at the individual states, though even then the themes often included national issues. The picture overall was thus a very complex one. The roles of the different agencies actively engaged in this propaganda, often with conflicting interests and motivation, have so far nor been comprehensively addressed by historians.
I have concentrated on one particular region, the Bavarian Palatinate, or Pfalz. There are several reasons for this. By virtue of its position and the nature of its terrain the Pfalz in the southern Rhineland held a unique strategic and military importance for both France and Germany. For France, deeply concerned about her future security, the future of the region at the end of World War I presented both opportunity and frustration. Ideally, the Rhine, which formed the eastern border of the Pfalz, would also have made a natural eastern frontier for France, for it provided a natural line of defence against arrack from the east. Direct annexation of the Pfalz, however, was out of the question in the face of hostility from other Allies. Instead, the policy adopted by the French government was to encourage the local German population to form a Rhineland state, independent of the German Reich and friendly to France, which could act as a buffer zone…
…Of all the many propaganda themes of the early Weimar years none aroused as much passion and caused as much uproar as the campaign against the use of non-European colonial troops in the French army of occupation, the propaganda against the so-called Schwafze Schmach (the Black Humiliation). It was intended to bring events in the Rhineland to the attention of the outside world, to influence foreign public opinion and so bring pressure to bear on foreign governments, especially that of the USA, where race had long been an issue. The underlying aim was to pressure the Allies into revising the terms of the Peace Treaty. At the same time the campaign was intended to mobilise support in unoccupied Germany. The origin, organisation, main themes and national and international impact of this campaign are therefore a subsidiary focus of this study.
Schwarze Schmach propaganda has already received considerable attention from other historians. Among the early studies, that by Keith Nelson drew mainly, though not exclusively, on archives in Washington to assess the international impact of the campaign and particularly its effect on the North American public. Gisela Lebzelter analysed the character and symbolism of the campaign in terms of the national mood prevailing in Germany following defeat in 1918, bringing in attitudes concerning racial superiority and drawing parallels with the development of anti-Semitism. The official sources cited by Lebzelter are almost exclusively drawn from the files of the Auswartiges Amt (Reich Foreign Minisrry) in Berlin, to which organisation she attributed major influence on the campaign.
The work by Reiner Pommerin had as its main theme the fate suffered by the few hundred children of mixed race who were born as a result o relationships between colonial troops and local German women. Such children offended against National Socialist concepts of racial purity and in 1937 a programme of enforced mass sterilization was carried our on them. Pommerin outlined the development of the Schwarze Schmach campaign, and noted the main organisations taking part, before exploring concerns about racial purity – evidently already beginning to surface in the Weimar period – through to the National Socialist era. The role of neither the Pfalzzenrale nor rhe Rheinische Frauenliga (Rhineland Women’s League), organisations that feature prominently in this study, received much mention. This may have resulted from a reliance mainly on the records of the Foreign Ministry, for relatively little reference was made to the extensive records that are available in the Bavarian State Archives in Munich. In passing it may also be noted that at the time these two studies were made records held in the Potsdam archives of the former DDR were nor available…