diktat

 

Sir William Orpen, The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919

The signing of peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919
Sir William Orpen (1878 -1931)

 

 

 

MEANING

 

an order or decree imposed by someone in power without popular consent

 

 

ORIGIN

 

This noun is from German Diktat, meaning dictation and compulsion, command.

It is from Latin dictatum, past participle of the verb dictare, which is a frequentative of dicare, that is to say that it expresses frequent repetition or intensity of the action expressed by dicare, which means to say, tell, hence to affirm, declare, assert, name, etc.

Therefore, dictare means to say often, to pronounce, declare or assert repeatedly, hence to dictate (to one for writing) and to dictate, command.

The English noun diktat appeared with reference to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 in The Memoirs of the Crown Prince of Germany, first published in May 1922. This treaty, which brought a formal end to the First World War, re-divided the territory of the defeated Central Powers and restricted Germany’s armed forces. It left Germany resentful about what it considered a vindictive settlement. In the following passage from his memoirs, Crown Prince Wilhelm (1882-1951) was prophetic:

In the June days just gone by, came the news that the Versailles “Diktat” had been signed. The Peace Treaty! The word will scarcely flow from my pen, in consideration of this rod of chastisement, this birch that blind revenge has bound for us there, in consideration of this closely-woven network of chains into which our poor fatherland has been cast. Preposterous demands, that even with the very best intentions no one can fulfil! Brutal threats of strangling in the event of any failure of strength! Withal, unexampled stupidity—a document that perpetuates hatred and bitterness, where only emancipation from the pressure of the past years and new faith in one another could unite the peoples into a fresh and peacefully reconstructive community.
[...] And there remains, too, the great truth of universal history, that folly in the long run wrecks itself.
Poverty-stricken, Germany and the German people go to meet the future. The wicked treaty, that rests upon the question of war-guilt as upon a huge lie, has torn from them colonies, provinces and ships. Workshops are destroyed, intellectual achievements stolen, competition in wide spheres of activity violently throttled. The treaty prepares for Germany the bitterest humiliation; it purposes to strangle and destroy her in unappeased hate and unabated terror.

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