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Beginning in 1864, Prussia engaged in a series of wars against Denmark, the Austrian Empire, and France, in which it consolidated numerous smaller German states under its own leadership. On December 10, 1870 this confederation was turned into the German Empire and the King of Prussia, Wilhelm I became its Emperor. Prussia’s domination over the German confederation made the Empire appear to be unified, but it was only the first of equals due to its relative size.
These small states and even cities had a long history of independence and it would take some time to develop a stronger national identity. The imperial crown however was hereditary in the House of Hohenzollern, the ruling house of Prussia, so it only took a small amount of support from the other states for the Emperor to get his way. While this limited the sovereignty of other states, they retained their own governments and the larger ones such as the Kingdoms of Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurttemberg each had a semiautonomous army corps. They also issued their own separate postage stamps from Germany.
The long growing nationalist and religious fervor that supported unification did not dissipate with the ascendancy of the German Empire; it was now redirected toward projecting the greatness of the German people and being recognized as a world power. This was much more than a politics as the Germans came to define their struggle in mythical terms. Their achievements quickly brought them into conflict with the established powers who thought it their right to control world order. The resentment this created on both sides would form a constant undercurrent that significantly shaped future events. The alliance formed between France and Russia in 1892 made many Germans feel surrounded and victimized. The 1890’s also saw Kaiser Wilhelm II adopt the policy of Weltpolitik to transform Germany into a global power by acquiring overseas colonies, and building a large navy. These efforts to find a place in the sun threatened British supremacy on the seas and pushed them closer to their traditional enemy France.
The decentralized makeup of the Holy Roman Empire did not provide Germany with a cohesive culture from which to draw a national myth. With no modern history to rely upon, those within the new German Empire rallied around earlier narratives, which created a more mythic past than a historical one. The growth of nationalism during the 19th century encouraged notions of exceptionalism throughout Europe but more so within the Germany than elsewhere in part due to these myths. When these myths became inseparable from the Lutheran Renaissance, nationalism became a holy cause. These ideas were further enhanced when they quickly became intertwined with pseudoscientific ideas of Social Darwinism where it was believed that all nations were in a struggle for world supremacy, and war was the natural way of weeding out the fittest. Such ideas became part of national policy when embraced by the General Staff and Prime Minister Bethman Hollweg who thought Germany must be prepared for war that was inevitable. Seeing war in fatalistic terms also allowed individuals to relinquish personal responsibility in contributing to it.
While outsiders often defined the German Empire in terms of Prussian Militarism, its rule was confined by many of the same restraints that affected all other nations. Efforts were made to modernize its army and increase the size of its navy in prewar years but never to the extent military leaders would have liked due to tax resistance. Even mandatory military service was not fully carried out due to the lack of funds. In 1905 Alfred, Graf von Schlieffen would complete his master plan for wining a quick victory over France. While critics of the German invasion of Belgium often cite the faulty adherence to this plan to explain their failure to subdue France, their is no evidence that this fantasy was anything more than an attempt to encourage officials to fund a larger German army.
The Prussian military tradition that grew from the liberation wars against Napoleonic France was further strengthened by the series of successful wars that led to the founding of the Empire. Militaristic sentiment was not unique to Germany, but it garnered greater respect within their society due to the role the military played in establishing the empire. The glorification of Germany’s armed forces was clearly manifest on a great deal of their postcards. There are many military Gruss aus cards dating from the 1890’s depicting German troops marching in review or out on maneuver. They all played a role in socializing a society to accept the military as an important and even natural element of daily life. This would later come to manifest itself in the more matter of fact approach to military subject matter placed on cards during the Great War.
It is important to remember that the prime impetus for the creation of postals was to find an inexpensive way for soldiers to write home; and they would first prove their popularity during the Franco-Prussian War. Many Gruss aus cards were produced as generics specifically for the many young men who were called up for training. There are Greetings from Garrison, from Bivouac, from Maneuver, and from Mustering. Many of these cards are playful and even humorous in their approach to military matters, perhaps to distract from the seriousness of this newfound occupation. This all helped in creating a tradition for publishing military cards.
Depictions of troops on maneuver grew ever so more prevalent in the years just prior to the Great War. They are however very different from their earlier cousins in that they are often very difficult to distinguish from those produced during World War One. Without postmarks many are confused today. A good giveaway is when officers can be found standing out in the open supervising their troops who seem to be engaged in heavy combat. Soldiers sometimes even seem oblivious to explosions near them but this is because they are retouched in. Airplanes and Zeppelins are also often montaged onto cards to add interest to an otherwise bland composition. It is very possible that some of these cards were later retouched with more violent content for a second printing once the War started, as it would take some time for publishers to build up an inventory of actual events to meet demand.
The Eve of the Great War marked the 100th anniversary of the Liberation War of 1813 that freed Prussia from the yoke of Napoleonic rule. While it may seem only natural to publish cards to commemorate important historical events, this is never without greater purpose. A society chooses what it wishes to remember, and these events seem particularly singled out. While it may seem that the preponderance of military propaganda at this time was being presented to prepare the public mindset for the inevitable war to come, the great monuments like the one enshrining the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig was long in planning. It represents more than a current mood but national mindset. The popularity of these anniversary cards also demonstrates how much the resentment still lingered over French occupation, and how easy it was to associate one’s freedom and even culture to military strength.
During the Balkan Wars, Austria-Hungry became fearful that the expansionist aims of Serbia were competing with its own territorial ambitions in the region. Though tempted to intervene militarily, it was also fearful that this might bring Russia into the conflict. Germany support might prevent the Russians from acting, but at this juncture Germany was still in the process of reorganizing its army and was unwilling to back up any Austro-Hungarian move. The situation had changed by June 1914 when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. Kaiser Wilhelm II not only gave Emperor Franz Josef I personal assurances of German support, he made his feeling known that he thought the Serbs needed to be put in their place and encouraged military action. In the meantime the Kaiser was also reassuring Czar Nicholas II that he was working with Austria to calm the situation.
Three days after Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia on July 28th, their ally Germany warned Russia to stop any further mobilization of its troops. Had Russia complied as expected there may have been nothing but a short third Balkan war, but times had changed. Russia was now feeling hemmed in by recent German-Ottoman alliances that threatened connections with western Europe, and the warning was left unheeded. Some German generals who thought war with Russia was inevitable saw this a good time to act while they were still reorganizing their military and urged action. Germany then declared war on Russia the next day, August 1st. War was then declared on France, Russia’s ally, on August 3rd. Although Germany had a strong Socialist movement that was opposed to war, all of the empire’s fractions suddenly came together (Burgfrieden) to support what they saw as a a holy cause.
The new German army that was mobilized was well trained and equipped. They had an abundance of machine guns and howitzers that would prove essential in fighting a modern war. German generals still worried that they did not possess the manpower to wage a successful war on two fronts. Seeing Russia as their main threat, they developed a strategy to hold them off while putting most of their energy into defeating France. If they could quickly win a victory in the West, they could then transfer all their troops to the East where they were really needed. The rugged terrain on their border with France however was not compatible with large troop movements. The only exception was the Meuse Valley, which the French had heavily fortified around the choke point at Verdun. The only way around this obstacle was to attack France by way of neutral Belgium, and so permission to move across its territory was requested.
Nothing turned out as anyone expected. When Belgium refused the free passage of German troops, General Moltke’s armies invaded while a secondary effort was launch to pinch off the fortifications of Verdun. The French miscalculating the German deployment rushed into Loraine only to be thrown out with great casualties by a German counter offensive. Germany believed that Great Britain was too preoccupied with the potential rebellion in Ireland to intervene in Belgium but secret agreements were in place for both Britain and France to come to Belgium’s aid. The Belgian forts however failed to slow the German advance as expected preventing Allied reinforcements from arriving in a timely manner.
Even though the German army was inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, their own casualties were not light. These numbers however did not reach the public who only heard of victory after victory and cheered on the War. Publishers knew no different, and they took advantage of the situation by producing a vast amount of postcards depicting battles that would be unequalled as the War progressed. Since specifics of these battles were not usually released, most postcards only depicted generic scenes of fighting. Even cards published well after the fact like the fieldpost card above commemorating the victory at Rossignol remains generic. A large number of civilians accused of acting as francs-tireurs were executed here, but it is valor and heroics that are emphasized.
When they finally did meet up, the Germans overwhelmed them. As the Allies retreated further into France, they did so at different rates and a wide gap opened in their line. When General Kluck saw this as an opportunity to roll up the exposed French flank and possibly end the War, he directed his First Army that was approaching Paris to sidestep into this gap. He hoped victory could be achieved before the French realized that this maneuver would create a gap in the German line. The French did notice, and while they failed to destroy Kluck’s army, the German general staff grew worried they were losing control over the situation, and they ordered all their armies to withdraw and reform into a cohesive line.
This pause in offensive action proved to be a crucial turning point on the Western Front. Despite all their success, the German General Staff came to realize that modern armies were just too large to surround, and their offensive strategy could not secure them a decisive victory as long as the French continued to mobilize. Even if they had wanted to advance further, they were nearing the end of their supply capabilities. A general withdrawal was ordered to more defensible ground, which was then fortified. With less men needed to hold trenches, fighting shifted westwards as both sides used these freed up troops to take advantage of their open flank. With neither side prevailing, a continuous line of trenches stretched from the Swiss border to the English Channel by October.
While Allied postcards of the early phase of the War were oblivious to German victories on the ground, many German publishers were overly optimistic presenting cavalry patrols on the outskirts of Paris as if they were ready to take the city. Some cards depict German troops bombarding the city with heavy guns or even entering Paris and marching down the city’s streets. German cavalry actually came within thirteen miles of Paris but there was never any real attempt to take the city. Its capture would have been a propaganda victory but generals were concentrating on destroying the Allied army, not geography. The capture of Paris however symbolized the end of the War for the German people back home, and publishers eagerly produced the cards that pleased them.
Not all propaganda cards depicting Paris were exaggerations. Those that depict the city’s streets filled with refugees must have not been far from the truth. Some cards even picked up on the French moving their capitol to Bordeaux in unflattering terms, but there is no denying there was real panic as the German army approached.
Germany’s failure to quickly win a victory over France might have been a complete disaster had not their fortunes in the East turned out entirely different than expected. When Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff were then assigned to take control of retreating German forces on this front, they were outraged at the prospect of giving up East Prussia without a fight. In the German offensive that followed, the Russian steamroller was not only stopped, one army was wiped out and another seriously mauled. This did not force a Russian surrender but severely limited their ability to threaten Prussia in the future.
The failure to defeat France not only led to Moltke being replaced by General von Falkenhayn, this new situation on the ground forced the German high command to reevaluate their strategy for 1915. There had always been a debate among German generals over which front to favor, and now with the threat to East Prussia eliminated and a stalemate in France, their trenches on the Western Front would be strengthened to wage a defensive war, while smaller offensives would be launched against the flanks of Verdun in the Argonne Forest and the Wovre to cut it supply lines and make it impossible for the Allies to use it to launch attacks into the Rhineland. With the West secure, troops were then transferred to the East to concentrate on finishing off Russia.
Despite their early defeats in East Prussia, the Russians had waged a successful campaign against Austria-Hungary in 1914 that came to pose a great threat to German Silesia. While newly arrived troops stopped the Russian advance, their own efforts to take Warsaw ended in failure. Things would change rapidly in May 1915 when a major offensive was launched against Russian-Poland. Once the Russian line was penetrated they were forced to abandon the Polish salient in fear of being surrounded. This retreat did not end until the end of the summer when the Germans outran their supplies.
Thinking the Russian military was all but destroyed, General von Falkenhayen persuaded the Kaiser to authorize a major but limited offensive in the West. Early in 1916 he launched a major offensive at Verdun, not to capture the city, but to create a situation that would make France realize they could not win the War. French propaganda had increased the value of Verdun well out of proportion to its military value as it had come to symbolize all French resistance to aggression; and its loss would cause a severe blow to the Republic’s morale. Though the Germans captured important forts and the French suffered tremendous casualties, it failed to bring them to the peace table. While von Falkenhayn’s plan made sense in a rational world, he misread the reality of French politicians who had no limit on the number of lives they were willing to sacrifice to cover their own incompetence.
Early in the War, the Germans had taken many needless casualties do to inexperience and bravado. Romantic notions of the battlefield were quickly replaced with hard won knowledge, and they took up a defensive strategy only counterattacking to regain lost ground. By 1916 the Germans had perfected their defenses by constructing them in depth with strongpoints often built with concrete. There were also deep bunkers to protect their men from enemy bombardment. The Allies on the other hand seemed to learn nothing and just threw waves of men against enemy trenches throughout 1915 with little to show for it but enormous casualties. They still seemed to see the trench line that grew across France in 1914 as only a temporary setback. The solution for them was to launch even more massive attacks.
The crisis at Verdun led the French to ask their Allies to prematurely launch the attacks they were organizing to relieve the pressure on them. The first of these came in June 1916 when the Russians surprised everyone by launching the Brusilov Offensive against the entire Austro-Hungarian front. Far from defeated, the Russians had been trading space for time, and now they broke through the Austro-Hungarian defense and gained much territory. The Germans would have to send in reinforcements to stem the flow. The second major attack was a joint Anglo-French offensive on the Somme in July, which turned into one of the largest battles of the War. While the Allies gained some ground, they never made the breakthrough that was expected. The Allies then persuaded Romania to join the War, in August they invaded Hungarian-Transylvania. Incensed by this betrayal, the Kaiser saw to it that all the Central Powers would invade within a month. Before the year ended, most of Romania was under German occupation.
The necessity to transfer troops from the Verdun front to deal with the crisis in Romania caused a change in leadership within the German Supreme Army Command. General Falkenhayn resigned as Chief of Staff and was replaced by Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff. They did not just take command of the Western Front but as head of the Supreme Army Command they controlled all military affairs and the war economy as well. While the Kaiser remained the focus of Allied propaganda, real control over the War was always within the hands of his generals. He could declare war and appoint and dismiss commanders, but he had little say over their actions. This suited Kaiser Wilhelm for he was never comfortable in a military role.
When war was declared in 1914 it received wide support that was at least partially due to the fusion of a sacred mission into the national myth. This connection was enhanced by Lutherism, which enjoyed a renaissance with the coming of the German Empire. This unity began to split in 1917 along traditional religious divisions. Catholics appalled by the extremes of the War, especially the U-boat campaign that targeted civilian ships, now asked for an end to the conflict without territorial gains. A bill was introduced in the Reichstag in July calling for a peace of understanding and a lasting reconciliation of peoples. This was anathema to those still espousing the Lutheran fueled nationalist myth, and moves would be made to consolidate their power to pursue a more overt course of expansionist militarism.
Though headquartered in Spa, Belgium, Hindenburg and especially Ludendorff took more and more control over Germany’s affairs and reoriented their attention toward Russia. Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, who was always too much the traditionalist to accept the necessities of modern warfare was brushed aside by the summer of 1917. They even usurped all the authority of the Kaiser to become military dictators in every way except name. Kaiser Wilhelm would leave Berlin for Spa late in the War, and while he was attentive to day to day military affairs, he was now nothing more than Germany’s symbolic figurehead.
The Kaiser had the power to make important appointments, but he never really managed the course of the War. He still was enormously important as a national symbol to which his people could rally around. There a numerous postcards sowing him visiting soldiers in the hospital and paying respect at their graves. He visited the front lines to help inspire the troops, and these events were also captured on cards. These types of cards were popular for they reinforced the idea that they had a caring leader who they could trust. This was very important within a society who had little control over their own fate. While these types of cards displayed great fanfare before the War, they now tended to portray the Kaiser on a more human level.
While Germany did not seem to harbor any immediate territorial ambitions in Europe at the outbreak of the War, the German people had a long history, dating back centuries to the Northern Crusades, of eyeing the lands to their east for expansion. Most of these lands had since been absorbed into the Russian Empire, and now Hindenburg and Ludendorff would openly espoused their policy of Lebensraum in which large swaths of territory, mostly at the expense of Poland and Lithuania, would be directly annexed into the German Empire as part of its sacred destiny. Eventually Russia’s ongoing modernization of its armed forces and expansion of its railways was going to make them impossible to defeat. If Germany was ever going to make another thrust to the east (Drang nach Osten), it was now when Russia’s armies were disintegrating from desertions.
While Allied assaults on German Western Front trenches had yielded no strategic results, they continued to be made through 1917 with the same outcomes. The Nivelle Offensives cost the French so many casualties that their army began to mutiny and offensive actions came to an end. While this presented Germany with a great advantage, the mutiny was one of the few secrets that the French managed to keep, and the German’s defensive posturing never put French defenses to the test. To keep pressure on the Germans the British would launch strong attacks in Flanders while the Russians, who were better prepared than ever launched a major offensive, began one in the East. Each made modest gains but the Russian army was suffering from morale problems so severe that they could no longer be counted on to fight. Germany would now make another effort to knock Russia out of the War.
Helping Vladimir Lenin, leader of the antiwar Bolsheviks, to return to Russia from his exile in Switzerland had its desired effect. Once they seized power in November 1917 they took Russia out of the War. While an armistice was in place by December, it did not mean peace. The Russians unwilling to accept Germany’s draconian terms stalled for time, hoping that the revolution would soon spread across its borders. Germany anxious to focus its resources on the West continued to apply pressure by renewing their offensive seizing Livonia, Estonia, and much of the Ukraine and Crimea. Without any power to resist, Lenin finally signed a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 gambling that any agreement would have no standing if Germany lost the War. As Germany began shifting troops westward, many revolutionary ideas went with them slowly eroding the army’s morale.
Not all German troops left Russia. While many Russians had deserted there were still many soldiers under arms, and they posed a potential threat to the pro-German puppet governments being set up in occupied territories. By the fall of 1918, Trotsky was already organizing a new Red Army to meet counter-revolutionary threats. The growing civil war there had left the countryside in turmoil, and it was important that foodstuffs and other resources be transferred back to Germany. The British naval blockade on commerce had obstructed the food shipments that Germany depended upon. With most food going to soldiers out in the field, supplies at home were rationed and hunger became severe. Desperate to feed their people, those in occupied lands suffered even more as food was transferred out of these countries. Without this pillaging it is doubtful that Germany could have kept up their war effort as long as they did in the face of Britain’s naval blockade. This combined with the collapse of Russia also improved the morale of a war weary Germany. Postcards came to reflect this situation by satirizing hunger and by depicting German soldiers harvesting fields.
While Germany had a large navy at the outbreak of the War it was rather ineffectual against the larger British navy. Many raids were made and small engagements were fought, but when the two navies finally confronted each other at the Battle of Jutland (Skagerrak) in May 1916, it ended in a draw and the British naval blockade remained secure. With both sides unable to afford the loss of their fleet, they generally kept out of each other’s way for the remainder of the War. Most combat activity would fall to U-boats as they tried to cut off supplies to England. The sinking of merchant ships constantly brought them into conflict with neutral nations, and their military policies were continually altered to suit the political climate. Concluding that they could knock Britain out of the War before suffering major consequences, Germany unleashed all out unlimited U-boat warfare at the beginning of 1917. Allied shipping was now being sunk at record rates but it eventually antagonized Portugal, Brazil, and the United States into declaring war on them. This war of attrition favored Germany until the introduction of the convoy system. By summer it was obvious that the U-boat war alone could not end the conflict.
At the beginning of the War the German army lost soldiers as fast as the Allies by relying on bravado more than sensible tactics when making frontal attacks against enemy defenses. They quickly learned from these mistakes by generally taking up the defensive and developing new methods and weapons that could be used to destroy enemy defenses. These specially trained and armed stormtroopers were first deployed against the French in the Vosges and then in the Argonne Forest. They were also shown to be very effective against the Russians at Riga. Now in early 1918 large numbers of German infantry had also been trained in this new type of warfare, and they were to be used with reinforcements arriving from other fronts to launch a new spring offensive in France.
America’s entry into the War forced Germany to take one last gamble in March 1918. After withdrawing troops from the Eastern, Italian, and Balkan Fronts, many were retrained as attack divisions. These reinforcements supported by new artillery tactics were then used to break through the entrenchments on the Western Front believing the Americans were not yet strong enough to react. This campaign, which the German’s called the Kaiser Battle (Kaiserslacht), was initially very successful capturing great swaths of enemy territory in both British and French sectors but as their troops outran supplies and artillery support they eventually bogged down before all their goals were achieved. Another reason for this failure was the resistance put up by the American army, which appeared on the battlefield much sooner than expected.
Although the spring offensive of 1918 initially presented some dramatic results, there is little reflection of this on German postcards. This is in stark contrast to 1914 when every little incident seems to have been captured on a card. While this may reflect the growing shortages of resources flowing to the printing trades, it might better reflect a change in attitude among the postcard buying public. In early 1918 hardships had only increased and many families now had a personal connection to death on the battlefield. Many Germans may have still believed in victory, and the new offensive invigorated a spirit not seen since the beginning of the War, but they had lost their appetite for conflict.
The new salients created by the spring offensive lengthened the front line and required more men to hold than the Germans now had. When the Allied counterattacks came in August 1918, there were no deep defenses or reserves to hold them back. As the Allies put on pressure, the Germans pushed out of much of their newly acquired territory as they fell back toward their old lines. With no realistic sense of their exhausted troops, the German High command failed to adjust to this new situation. When the Allied offensive resumed in September, they attacked along the entire length of the German line quickly taking back more territory. As the Germans fell back on defensive ground of their own choosing, resistance stiffened. Fearing Allied advances on the eastern portion of the line were beginning to threaten the extended supply lines to the west, the Germans continued to slowly withdraw.
German troops largely remained loyal despite their low morale and some break down in order. The presence of so many Fresh American troops on the Western Front had however changed the situation. Believing that they could not win the War under these new circumstances, Germany sent out feelers to the Americans to see if a peace could be negotiated on the principals of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Steps were then taken to form a constitutional monarchy that the Allies might be more inclined to negotiate with. Chancellor Hertling resigned and was replaced by Prince Max of Baden in early October. Further disagreements over the continuation of the War led to Ludendorff’s resignation before the month was over.
After a change in German leadership was secured, Wilson was able to come to an agreement on terms but he found little support for them at home and among the other Allies. Wilson wanted Germany to surrender in a position of strength so that he could oversee the reshaping of world order in accordance to his moral principles. The French however wanted revenge; they thought an unconditional surrender could be achieved by advancing into the Rhineland. As America and France argued, facts on the ground began to overtake these negotiations. Pershing who disagreed with Wilson launched a new offensive along the Meuse-Argonne front to quickly bring the War to a military conclusion before Wilson could negotiate good terms with Germany. His opponent, General Max von Gallwitz likewise believed in fighting on regardless of the changes to his government. When the Americans broke through the last German defenses and were posed to march into the Rhineland, Gallwitz had nothing left to throw into the battle and further resistance seemed futile. Both sides would begin armistice negotiations on November 8th.
Once the spring offensive failed to achieve its objectives, an increasing number of Germans began to join the political left and demand an end to the War, and now they were becoming increasingly influenced by the Bolsheviks led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg. The Kaiser wished to march on Berlin and personally suppress this movement by force, but after both German army and naval units stopped obeying orders, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and fled to neutral Holland. Prince Max then place the socialist Friedrich Ebert in control to placate the left.
The German delegation negotiating the armistice was left in confusion. They were already facing Allies that were unexpectedly only offering harsh demands with no concessions. While there was no initial agreement, the new republic declared on November 9th wanted peace on any terms. The French who relayed this message knew this and offered no negotiations. At this point the German delegates had little choice but to acquiesce to Allied demands and they signed an armistice on November 11th ending hostilities with Germany. The Armistice was more along the lines of a political treaty geared to French desires for retribution than a cease fire. There were no American delegates present, and none of Wilson’s Fourteen Points found their way into the agreement.
Within fifteen days of the Armistice being signed, Belgian and French troops reoccupied all territory that had been lost to the Germans. Three bridgeheads were then established over the Rhine to allow Allied armies to penetrate deep into Germany should the terms of the armistice be violated. Most postcards from this period are real photos that depict marching troops; either Germans returning Home, Allies entering the Rhineland or prisoners being released.
German extremists unhappy with the way Friedrich Ebert began to modify his socialist positions to placate moderates continued to stir unrest. These Spartacusts, backed with Russian money, waged an armed revolt in early 1919 to install a communist state but they were too few in number to topple the government. They in turn were brutally suppressed and their leaders murdered.
When Germany was given the final draft of the peace treaty in April, it was astounded that it was presented as un ultimatum that they could not negotiate. German leaders saw that its harsh terms violated all the principals that the armistice was based on and felt betrayed. They were particularly upset over the clause in which Germany had to admit its guilt in starting the War. Representatives wanted to reject the treaty and continue the War, but after Hindenburg met with other generals, he informed chancellor Ebert that the depleted German army could not resist an attack from the allied bridgeheads on the Rhine. They were also facing new armies from Czechoslovakia and Poland in the East, and the British had not ended its blockade that was starving the German people. A final peace treaty would be signed in June at Versailles, but the U.S. Congress unhappy with the terms would not ratify it. They would make a separate peace with Germany in 1920.