A butterfly’s wings, cause and effect, and why fraud is dangerous.

It’s odd the subjects you get led to when researching for a novel. While looking into the events of 1929 for The Chain Mistress, which may not be it’s final title, I came across a butterfly by the name of Clarence Hatry, who flapped his wings with dire effects. Hatry, son of a Jewish immigrant to Britain, began his career an an insurance clerk before making his fortune profiteering during WW1. He was a several times bankrupt who seemed to get richer and richer each time he went bankrupt and built a vast business empire as a UK financier and seller of companies.

In 1929, Hatry failed to get financial backing to buy up the British steel industry, so he issued fake securities in his other companies in the hope of raising the money. But the plan failed, rumour abounded that he’d over-extended himself, and he admitted to fraud. He was arrested and jailed. The collapse of the Hatry empire sent shock waves and a loss of confidence through the London Stock Exchange that were felt as far away as America.

Now, it isn’t possible to pin all the blame for what followed on one man, one butterfly’s wings, but he was certainly a contributing factor, and it’s a warning from history we should all take notice of. There is no action without consequence.

Anyway, I digress.

The London Stock Exchange crash had effects in Britain; loans were called in, businesses failed, and unemployment rose astronomically at a time when it was already high. But that isn’t the worst of it, not by a long way. The wobble America felt in September 1929 almost certainly led to the Wall Street crash of October that year, which in turn led to the Great Depression in which millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes: everything.

But it doesn’t stop there.

In desperation, America called in its foreign loans. British businesses felt the impact, unemployment rose to a new high in Britain, and the unemployed who’d marched on London were in a more desperate plight than ever, leading to more marches, a cut in unemployment benefit, and the starvation and social unrest caused by that.

The country hit hardest, though, was Germany, whose chancellor, Herr Stresemann, had borrowed heavily from America to help get Germany back on its feet and pay the swingeing reparations owed to France following the damage done to the country by Germany during WW1. As France already had control of the Ruhr, the country’s industrial heartland, the recall of the loans crippled the German economy with the inevitable results. Business failure and massive unemployment. People were thrown into a desperate situation.

When things are desperate, people look for someone to blame, and the Weimar Republic’s government had never been popular. It was seen as weak after agreeing to the Versailles Treaty that robbed them of the Ruhr after WW1, and many people drifted towards the more extremist political parties, namely the Communist Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known, infamously, as the Nazi party. When the country went to the polls in 1930, the Nazi party’s seats in the Reichstag increased from twelve to one hundred and seven putting them second in place to the majority party.

The leader of the Nazi party was Adolph Hitler, and Hitler was a man with a mission. He was a brilliant orator and spread propaganda built on the fear of the people. The Weimar Republic was weak and had lost the war for Germany, Jews were astute and wealthy, many had put their money foreign banks and had avoided the worst of the German recession of the 20s, and were also in positions of power while the ordinary German people suffered extreme poverty – the Nazis were the saviours of the country.

In 1933, an arson attack on the Reichstag burnt the government building to the ground. Hitler grabbed the opportunity to spread fear of a communist uprising and claimed emergency powers were needed, which resulted in the Nazi Party and its Nationalist coalition partners passing the Reichstag Fire Decree – this removed many constitutional freedoms of the people and paved the way for a Nazi dictatorship. When President von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor, Hitler immediately urged the dissolution of the Reichstag and unleashed a campaign of terror on his opponents. The ‘brown shirts’, Nazi storm troopers, attacked anyone who stood against the Nazi party and many of his opponents went into hiding.

During the 1933 election that followed, Nazi and SS officers ‘monitored’ the vote, so when the Nazi Party achieved a majority, it was hardly surprising. Once in power, as leader of the party, Hitler needed a two-thirds majority to pass the Enabling Act which would mean the chancellor – Hitler – could enact laws without the agreement of the Reichstag. That he arrested most of the communist opposition before the vote is typical of his mindset.

In effect, Hitler had achieved a legal dictatorship.

From there, as one might say, the rest is history, but it’s a history we should all learn from. Propaganda convinced many that the Jews, Hitler’s main scapegoat for Germany’s troubles, were sub-human, a tuberculosis in the Aryan population, and carriers of disease, and if people thought differently, they didn’t dare say so. Such is the power of propaganda and oppression on a frightened, vulnerable, and desperate people.

When Hitler retook the Ruhr from France in 1936 with a small force of men, he could have been stopped, but no one stood against him. From there it was only a matter of time before his vision of German expansion and invasion led to the outbreak of the Second World War, and his hatred of the Jews led to the Holocaust

I’m still researching interwar politics, and every fact I uncover leads to another fascinating insight into the rise of Hitler, so all these ‘facts’ may change, but this is how I understand it at present – it’s a work in progress, much as my novel is.

My word of caution is ‘actions have consequences‘, so before people take the selfish option, they should think of the potentially damaging affect on the wider public. Hatry probably didn’t intend to start another world war, but he was probably partly responsible for it and its horrific outcome, not least the tragedy that befell his own father’s Jewish race at the hands of Hitler.

The Chain Mistress, which will chronicle this part of history is the third book in The Chainmakers series. If you’d like to read the others, take a look at http://mybook.to/ChainmakersSeries – the white slaves of England and the fight for women’s suffrage.


4 thoughts on “A butterfly’s wings, cause and effect, and why fraud is dangerous.

  1. An excellent piece, Ruth, and for those who don’t know their European history, probably an eye-opener. I’m looking forward to the third in The Chainmakers series.
    I like the working title and cover, although in its present form the cover is easing away from the branding/identity of the first two. A hint of gold/ochre across the top might be all it needs, but hey, that’s away in the future.
    If the series ends as a trilogy it will stand out, and given the branding title, it will be fun for you to ‘link’ them when marketing. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Tom. I did add a very pale ochre to the top to try to echo the others, and I could maybe strengthen it without losing the light in the centre. I’ll try it. It may end up being called Breaking the Chains with the tagline ‘the night of broken glass’. I’m waiting to see how far I get and which feels most representative of the content. My characters are being wayward, as usual. I’m hoping I shan’t need a book 4…

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  2. That is one brilliant cover! Who designed that? Often at college, we history majors sat around long after midnnight asking how did Hitler change the mindset of the people? Looking at the following Trump managed to collect, it partly answers this question.

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    1. I designed it, Lucinda, and thank you. I love it. I have to say, early in Trump days, he reminded me of Hitler, though less of an orator. I too often wondered how Hitler got where he was. I suppose it was a mixture of making the most of circumstances, telling people what they wanted to hear, and a brutal disregard of anyone who stood in his way. I’m finding the research fascinating as modern history has been a bit of a blank for me until I began writing. It’s a real eye-opener.

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