World War I ended 100 years ago on Sunday. This is the editorial published by the Bay of Plenty Times Editor W.H. Gifford at the time.
TUESDAY dawned on a world at peace. After more than four years of war, such as the world has never before experienced, and into which has been crowded more frightfulness than the mind of man can possibly conceive, the gods of war are leashed, and a benumbed and staggering world takes pause from its orgy of slaughter.
For well-nigh half a century Europe has been overshadowed with the fear of a Great War, and to-day the arrogant nation which spread that fear is beaten to its knees in abject surrender to the forces of right arrayed against those of might.
Forsaken by her allies, beset by widespread revolution, bereft of all her colonies, the whole empire in process of disintegration, her ruler a fugitive, her people stand to-day and await their condign punishment. Self-deprived of the respect of all civilised peoples, self-deprived of the right to a part in the councils of nations, self-deprived of the right to any voice in negotiations that shall give to the world a stable peace.
Germany stands where, foreordained, all nations from the beginning of the world till the end of time shall stand that seek to live and thrive without moral principle. Her hands steeped in every crime that brutal might and frenzied arrogance could conceive, the soul of the nation blackened and seared by rapine and murder, bestiality and frightfulness, Germany stands, impoverished and despised, her people fit to hold a place upon the earth only by reason of the common heritage of man — made "in the image of God."
What the terms of the armistice are we can fairly judge from the summary telegraphed to-day. That to the German rulers they are staggering beyond belief is easily conceivable. That the final terms to be enforced will leave no shadow of doubt as to their meaning can well be imagined – the complete surrender of Germany to the will of her victors.
And with the acceptance of these conditions has gone the last shred of German hope of world dominion. Now she stands stricken and forsaken to receive the judgment that she merits. What a famous writer said of Napoleon may, with tragic truth and accuracy be said of the Kaiser: — "Here was an experiment, under the most favourable conditions, of the powers of intellect without conscience … And what was the result … of these immense armies, burned cities, squandered treasures, immolated millions of men, of this demoralized Europe? It came to no result. All passed away, like the smoke of his artillery, and left no trace … The attempt was, in principle, suicidal … It was the nature of things, the eternal law of man and of the world, which baulked and ruined him; and the result, in a million experiments, will be the same. Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail … Only that good profits, which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men.''
Gone is the Kaiser with all his vaunting ambitions and lust of power, and his exit few will mourn. For the German people there dawns an era which shall be free from the oppression of a military cast that has sought to mould the mind of the people to the belief that all nations must bend to the German will, and though that dawning will be dimmed and marred by the knowledge that for their unthinkable crimes such reparation is required as will tax their uttermost resources for many years to come, they must, as a people, rejoice, with us, that the Government which brought about this cataclysm has been utterly destroyed.
The task has been long, shot through with the bitter anguish of countless mourners in thousands of grief-stricken homes and all the appalling horrors of unprecedented war, but it has been crowned with victory, decisive and complete.
The details of the armistice are but details, vast and important as they may be. The one outstanding fact that confronts us at the moment is that right has prevailed, and never again shall military despotism plunge the world into such a holocaust as the last four years have witnessed.
Read that issue of the Bay of Plenty Times here.