Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Volume II
The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall ) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 23.]
Sir: Supplementing my telegram No. 5929 of November 25th last,19 I have the honor to transmit herewith copies, in German and translation, [Page 40] of the note of the German Legation of November 21st, transmitted to this Legation by the Political Department of Switzerland.
I have [etc.]
The German Minister in Switzerland ( Romberg ) to the President of the Swiss Federal Council ( Calonder )
The undersigned German Minister has the honor to bring the following note to the attention of the Federal Government, with the request that it be communicated to the Governments of France, Great Britain and the United States of America:
“The German Military representative detailed to the Armistice-Delegation at Spa, transmitted on November 18, the following statement to the enemy representatives:
‘After the events that have occurred lately, Germany is evidently not in a position nor willing to resume hostilities once more. For this reason, several terms of the agreement regarding the armistice have become superfluous; terms which, under other conditions, were deemed necessary as a military guarantee to the Entente. If these should be maintained, notwithstanding, all efforts of Germany to oppose anarchy, effect an orderly demobilization, and insure the feeding of the population will prove unavailing. If, owing to the arbitrary (inconsiderate) enforcement of the present hard conditions, general disorder and a cessation in the feeding of the people and the extraction of coal should arise in Germany, the very near future will bring forth conditions which will find their reaction in the adjoining countries of the Entente and neutral countries.
I have therefore the honor to suggest the following alleviations in the execution of the armistice agreement:
Regarding Article II and Annex 1:
a) In lieu of Annex 1, I:
The evacuation of Belgium, France, Luxemburg, and Alsace-Lorraine (territory between the front when the armistice agreement was signed and lines 2 and 3 respectively) may be delayed upon a local agreement of the armies facing each other, if technical difficulties with regard to the march and the victualing of the troops make the observance of the dates prescribed impossible, and if by rushing, danger for the orderly evacuation should arise. The maximum of the delay shall not however, exceed ten days, so that, therefore, the German troops shall have passed line 2 on the 19th day (Nov. 30) at the latest, and line 3 on the 25th day (Dec. 6) at the latest.[Page 41]
b) In lieu of Annex 1, II:
The evacuation of the left Rhine bank shall be effected in such a way that the German troops leave line 2 and 3 respectively on the 29th day (instead of the 16th day); line 4 on the 35th day (instead of the 20th day), line 5 on the 39th day (instead of the 24th day); line 6 shall have been passed by the last German troops on the 43rd day (instead of the 28th day). The whole evacuation would therefore take 43 days instead of 28 days. The occupation would take place in 43 days instead of 32 days. Following the withdrawal of the German troops, the troops of the Allies and the United States shall enter the evacuated territories. Their movements will be regulated in such a way as to maintain at all times a zone of security of 10 km. between the opposing forces.
The commanders of the opposing armies shall directly come to an understanding, in order that they may regulate their movements in such a way as to fulfil these conditions and avoid any misunderstanding.
Regarding Article V:
The establishment of bridgeheads and the neutral zone east of the Rhine, no longer being necessary from the military point of view, shall in the interest of maintaining order and economic life, be waived. Special attention is drawn to the fact that the establishment of a neutral zone without military protection would, under the circumstances prevailing at the present time in Germany, lead to complete anarchy in the nearest future. The Rhine is looked upon everywhere as a neutral zone. The occupation will in a way be a hindrance to the economic traffic between the territories on either side of the Rhine.
Regarding Article VII:
Concerning paragraph 2 it is noted that as soon as the German troops have left French and Belgian territory, German employees cannot continue in service there.
Concerning paragraph 3 and Annex 2, IV (a):
At least 3,000 locomotives and 100,000 railway cars are to be left to the Allies in the occupied territories of France and Belgium. This delivery must be made within at least 31 days.
Reason: there is at present such a scarcity of locomotives and railway cars on the German railroads that economic life and provisioning is most seriously endangered, which paves the way for the spread of Bolshevism. The number of locomotives capable of service has been steadily decreasing in spite of new construction, owing to great difficulties of all sorts with regard to their being kept in good order. Hence the capacity of traffic of the railways is reduced in a corresponding manner.
Should Germany be forced to deliver more rolling stock out of Germany, besides that part already in the hands of the Entente, and another part which is in French and Belgian occupied territories, then a complete break-down of the German system of transport will take place and through it famine and Bolshevism is to be expected.
The execution of the conditions of the armistice (i. e. restitution of prisoners of war), would be impossible if 3.000 locomotives [Page 42] and 100,000 railway cars had to be delivered, the importance of such material exceeding considerably that of the material which was previously requisitioned by Germany in Belgium and in the north of France.
A further delivery would only mean superabundance in Belgium and in the north of France, whilst in Germany it would lead to an economic break-down on account of the deficiency of transport material.
Concerning paragraph 4:
Those automobiles which are still in the evacuated territory and which may be placed in proper condition shall be computed among the 5,000 automobile trucks which are to be handed over. It will be decided about the delivery of the remainder at the Peace Conference.
Reason therefor: The German Army possesses considerably fewer automobile trucks than the armies of the Entente. The hasty evacuation has already resulted in the leaving behind of innumerable automobiles due to the lack of benzine, or an insignificant damage to the automobile, or to road obstructions. The remainder are indispensable to the provisioning of the Army, the carrying out of the demobilization and economic requirements.
Regarding Article X, paragraph 3:
In the interest of humanity it would be welcomed that German prisoners of war should be restored to their families by Christmas.
Suggest modifying conditions with regard to the Navy (naval clauses) regarding Article XXIII:
Safe return trip shall be assured for ship and crew of all auxiliary warships from the ports in which they are at present stationed to the port where they are to be dismantled.
Regarding Article XXIV:
The right will be recognized to Germany to participate with her own mine-searching ships to search and remove all mines in the North and Baltic Seas, even outside Germany’s territorial waters. These ships shall be allowed to keep on board the armament required for the destruction of mines, that is: one light gun, one machine gun and several rifles with the necessary ammunition.
The above-mentioned right will be granted to Germany in the following territories:
- North Sea in the region of the German Bay (Deutschen Bucht) declared by England as “blockade territory”.
- In the whole of the Baltic Sea.
Embargo ships fallen during the war into German hands have been transformed to the purpose of searching and removing mines. Germany will be allowed, until further advice, to charter such ships, as without them the work of removing the mines would be greatly prejudiced.
Regarding Article XXVI, paragraph 1:
With the exception of transports of arms, ammunition and manufactured war materials, German and neutral merchant [Page 43] ships loaded with foods should be allowed to travel safely to and from Germany:
- Between Germany, Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltic.
- Between Dutch and German ports.
- Between Scandinavia and Dutch ports.
- German merchant ships should be permitted to travel between German ports and between the German Islands of the North Sea and German ports.
Regarding paragraph 2:
- Germany shall be allowed to engage in seafishing in the North and Baltic Seas unhindered;
- German merchant ships shall be allowed to take part in the supplying of Germany with foodstuffs from overseas.’
The German Government urgently requests that these proposals be examined immediately. (Signed) Solf, Secretary of State in the Foreign Office.”
We, the undersigned, avail ourselves of the opportunity to renew to His Excellency the President of the Swiss Confederation the expression of our highest consideration.