“Squeeze Germany until the Pips Squeak”

“Squeeze Germany until the Pips Squeak”

1919Cologne3
Churchill in Cologne, 1919

Writ­ing in the Ari­zona Repub­lic, Clay Thomp­son prop­er­ly cor­rects a read­er who believes it was Churchill who coined the phrase, “we shall squeeze Ger­many until the pips squeak” when he was “sec­re­tary of the navy.” Mr. Thomp­son cor­rect­ly replied that this was not Churchill but, among oth­ers, Sir Eric Camp­bell-Ged­des, who served as First Lord of the Admi­ral­ty (civil­ian head of the Navy) in 1917-19. The line has also been ascribed to Prime Min­is­ter David Lloyd George and others.

Churchill, as Thomp­son says, crit­i­cized this pol­i­cy in The World Cri­sis, his mem­oirs of World War I. True to his max­im, “In war, resolution…In vic­to­ry, mag­na­nim­i­ty,” Churchill, who was Sec­re­tary of State for War in 1918-19, argued that the Allies should ship boat­loads of food to Ger­many after the Ger­man sur­ren­dered, and that lenient terms be met­ed out to the defeat­ed enemy.

But “squeez­ing Ger­many until the pips squeak” was indeed the pol­i­cy adopt­ed by the Allies at Ver­sailles, com­mit­ting Ger­many to vast repa­ra­tions and squeez­ing so hard they con­tributed to a Ger­man eco­nom­ic col­lapse in the 1920s, lead­ing ulti­mate­ly to Hitler.

Thanks to Clay Thomp­son for punc­tur­ing this par­tic­u­lar instance of “Churchill­lian Drift.”

2 thoughts on ““Squeeze Germany until the Pips Squeak”

  1. “com­mit­ting Ger­many to vast repa­ra­tions and squeez­ing so hard they con­tributed to a Ger­man eco­nomic col­lapse in the 1920s, lead­ing ulti­mately to Hitler.”

    This has become such a stan­dard of his­tor­i­cal dog­ma that I thought that it might be a good idea to present an oppos­ing view by a seri­ous his­to­ri­an, dis­cussing just this question:

    “the treaty that final­ly emerged was not vin­dic­tive com­pared with Germany’s peace with France in 1871 or the terms Ger­many inflict­ed on Lenin’s Rus­sia in 1917. In post­war Ger­many, politi­cians made much of the £1,000 mil­lion charged to Ger­many in repa­ra­tions. Less was said about the £1,500 mil­lion loaned to her by Britain and the Unit­ed States.” (Len Deighton, Blood, Tears and Fol­ly, Pim­li­co, 1995, p. 133)

    My first approach to this ques­tion would be to check Mr. Deighton’s num­bers, but I haven’t got the time or incli­na­tion to even start on such a project right now.

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