Three men in a rail­way car­riage

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less the western front, in his life. Nei­ther the in­flex­i­ble Foch nor the suave We­myss shook hands with Erzberger (or in­cluded him in their fi­nal tri­umphant selfie).

The Ger­man, not in­ci­den­tally, had on his way to France seen for the first time the dev­as­ta­tion wrought among the mud of Bel­gium and France. Foch and We­myss were both push­ing for im­pos­si­ble terms and most likely knew it; Erzberger, with his coun­try no less in ru­ins than most of Europe, and Amer­ica now in the war, opted for an end.

He came home not to cel­e­bra­tions. Not to ticker-tape or berets and caps in the air. Nods of prag­matic ac­knowl­edge­ment and, in the streets and in the armies, bit­ter ex­hausted re­lief, which soon turned to ha­tred, as he surely must have known it would. Ger­many had been left with noth­ing, and had to pay ex­tra­or­di­nary repa­ra­tions; even Foch felt that the con­di­tions pressed upon it, which led di­rectly to the Treaty of Ver­sailles, might have gone too far.

The scut­tling of the Ger­man fleet at Scapa Flow is of­ten seen even here as an act of heroic, last-ditch sac­ri­fice, but there was real ha­tred for Erzberger among the naval of­fi­cers, a ha­tred that was only to fester. He was as­sas­si­nated three years later while out for a walk in the Black For­est by mem­bers of a dis­banded Marine­bri­gade.

More cru­cially, Lu­den­dorff, co-com­man­der with Hin­den­burg of the Ger­man armies, helped cre­ate the “stab in the back” myth, which ar­gued Ger­mans had not so much lost the war as been be­trayed by Bol­she­viks, Jews (and of course Erzberger): later he would take part in the Beer Hall Putsch. Any­one who doubted the stri­dent cor­re­la­tion be­tween first and sec­ond wars, and the can­ker­ous power of sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment, need only re­flect on the fact that in 1940 Hitler de­manded the French sign their surrender in the very same train car­riage, by then pre­served as a his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment.

“Lest we forget”, we rightly say of the 1914-18 dead, and “never forget” of the Holo­caust; sel­dom can there have been a more vis­ceral re­minder of the di­rect causal link be­tween the two.

One other con­se­quence of both

Anca Du­mi­tra is ex­cep­tional, as, if this por­trayal is ac­cu­rate, was the real Ana

‘Dev­as­tat­ing’: Chris Rogers as Erzberger,Pip Don­aghy as Foch and David Bark-Jones as We­myss in WWI: The Fi­nal Hours. BBC/72 Films

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