When the slaughter across Europe ceased after 11:00 A.M. on November 11, 1918, and peace returned to the world, the extent of the devastation that lay about the exhausted armies was new to human history. After four years of war, the piles of stones, the battered chimneys, and the roofless houses were the only signs that people had once lived in peaceful towns and villages. The trenches where soldiers had burrowed, lived, fought, and died for a few yards of mud were mute evidence of the way of life that had destroyed the quiet countryside. The life and culture that were over had been Europe’s greatest era. All that was left on the continent were the remnants of the four empires destroyed by the conflict. Over ten million people lay dead, and millions more had been wounded—but the cost in heartache and sorrow could not really be reckoned. What had begun with the murder of an Austrian archduke ended with millions of soldiers from many nations fighting across continents and oceans.
But the big losers were the countries of Europe. For Germany, the war had been a struggle for domination of world economy and trade, though the German leaders had led the German people to believe they were battling for survival against encirclement by Britain, Russia, and France. The vision of a Germandominated Europe that the German nationalists had grasped for vanished suddenly in the fall of 1918—but only after they had occupied Belgium, overrun northern France, and defeated Russia.
The German government sought peace then only because it feared utter destruction and because its leaders wished to save the army and keep the nation intact. Further fighting, they reasoned, could destroy the Fatherland without bringing victory