. . . and a knell rang in the ears of the victors, even in their hour of triumph. -- Winston Churchill, 1927
The Great War ended on November 11, 1918. It had lasted 1,563 days, claimed the lives of some ten million soldiers, wounded twenty million others, and devoured more than $300 billion of the world's treasure. It destroyed empires and dethroned dynasties -- the Hohenzollerns in Germany, the Hapsburgs in Austria, the Romanovs in Russia. In the war's final hours, new regimes were aborning in Vienna, Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, and Dublin, while revolutionaries huzzahed through the streets of Berlin and Petersburg.
A strange stillness settled over the fighting fronts, a grim herald of two decades of tense armistice in the twentieth century's Thirty-Year War.
News of the war's end reached Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler in a military hospital in the town of Pasewalk, near Stettin in Pomerania. A twice-decorated message runner with the Sixteenth Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, Hitler had huddled through the night of October 13 on a hillside in Flanders while the British rained gas grenades on the German trenches. Through the darkness the gas hissed from the canisters toward the German lines. By morning Hitler's eyes were "red-hot coals," and he was blind. Clutching his last report of the war, he groped his way to the rear and was put aboard a train for the east.1
Now, four weeks later, on November 10, a sobbing hospital chaplain informed Hitler and his recuperating comrades that a revolution had dethroned the kaiser. The civilian leaders of the new German republic____________________