Paris Peace Conf. 185.2125/9

The Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs ( Beneš ) to the Secretary of State

Excellency: The Government of MM. Bauer-Renner in Vienna has recently sent a note to the Entente Powers and to the United [Page 380] States in which it requests the Allies not to reach a definite conclusion concerning the status of the Germans of Bohemia until a plebiscite has been held.9 It further demands that this German population be not included within the confines of the Czecho-Slovak Republic.

It is with reference to these matters that I take the liberty of calling your attention to the following important facts:

1. When impartially examined, the problem presented by the presence of the Germans in Bohemia, appears in quite a different light from that in which M. Bauer presents it. Herewith, I take the liberty of sending you a detailed communication on this subject.

2. The German population of Bohemia, mixed as it is with a very large percentage of Czechs, is quietly accepting its incorporation with the Czecho-Slovak State. It is only the Government in Vienna that during the last four weeks has sought to avail itself of every possible means to agitate Bohemia with the purpose of embarrassing our Government and discrediting us in the eyes of the Entente.

With this purpose in view the Vienna Government threatens the Entente with an outbreak of Bolshevist revolution in Vienna and attributes the responsibility for the same to the Czechs because they refuse to supply Vienna with food and coal, but at the very same time it should be noted that the Vienna Government continues to send arms across Bavaria and Saxony to equip the German bands in the north of Bohemia and in Silesia, lawless bands composed of the very people who have prevented the mining of coal and its transportation not only to Vienna but even to the Czechs and German districts of Bohemia.

At one and the same time, the Vienna Government carries on a treacherous campaign in the neutral countries by deluging the newspapers with accounts of violent acts reported to have been committed by the Czechs to the detriment of the Germans in the regions of mixed populations, acts, which as a matter of fact, have never taken place.

3. M. Bauer, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Vienna, is a minority Socialist who participated in the Bolshevist revolution in Petrograd in the year 1917. He undoubtedly favors by every means the extremist movement in other countries. The Czecho-Slovak Republic is making headway, order is restored and a normal economic life is developing. In this respect it stands alone in Central Europe, but at present our Republic is seriously menaced by this Bolshevist movement acting from without. Every day bands of Bolshevists are going from Germany across the frontiers of northern Bohemia for the purpose of carrying on their propaganda among us. This is only possible because the German population of northern Bohemia, incited so to do [Page 381] by the Vienna Government, opposes the establishment of law and order by our authorities on the actual frontiers of Bohemia. In this way, it may be said, as a result of this activity, the Czecho-Slovak Republic has no frontiers against Germany and consequently is always exposed to the dangers arising from this movement and from the constant sending of arms to our enemies from Vienna.

This situation cannot be permitted to continue indefinitely although the note of M. Bauer has for its particular object such a continuance and for as long a time as possible. Certainly such a continuance would tend to the complete disorganization of the recently formed Czechoslovak State.

4. The Czecho-Slovak Republic is being organized economically and financially as allied territory and this is one of the most difficult tasks that the situation presents, and, of course, the liquidation of Austria in this connection presents a formidable problem. However, we are endeavoring to leave nothing undone that will aid towards establishing a normal state of affairs and preparing ourselves for the Peace Conference.

However, the Government of German Austria leaves nothing untried that might tend to make our tasks more difficult. It simply floods our country with its depreciated paper money which spells disaster for us. It is constantly urging the German population of Bohemia to export into Germany its manufactured articles, its food supply and raw materials. All this goes on in spite of the fact that ours is an allied country. Germany an enemy country and that the orders for the blockade still remain in force.

It was only possible to bring about the conditions by which we are confronted because the Czecho-Slovak Republic wishing to proceed tactfully and moderately, and believing that its views on this subject were shared by the Allies, tried to bring order and a settled state of affairs into the mixed regions of northern Bohemia without violence and in harmony and cooperation with its inhabitants.

The Vienna Government by its disloyal action has prevented the realization of our plan and by its note which we are now reviewing asks for a continuance of this impossible state of affairs.

The Government of the Czecho-Slovak Republic confronted by this situation is of the opinion that the following stringent and categorical measures must be taken.

That the Government of Prague, which is the only Government in Central Europe recognized as an allied government, be permitted to establish order within its territory.
That the frontiers of the territory to which it is entitled must be settled in agreement with the Allies and the United States and that it must be empowered to exercise its authority so that a continuance of the deplorable conditions indicated above may be avoided.
These measures, of course, may be of a provisional nature because it is only within the province of the Peace Conference to lay down definite decisions on this subject. But, in the meantime, in order that an endurable state of affairs may be established, it is absolutely necessary to take some such steps as I shall indicate in the following paragraph:

It might be well for the Allies to make a declaration in the following sense: The Czecho-Slovak State shall organize and govern the peoples living within the historical boundaries of Bohemia and Moravia, of Austrian Silesia and Slovakia (bounded by the Carpathians, March, Danube, Ipola (Eipel) as far as the city of R. Szombath, from there following a straight line towards the east, to the River Bodrog and the Ung down to the Carpathians). This temporary decision shall be later examined by the Peace Conference which will give to the problem its definite solution. But, for the present the German inhabitants and adjacent Governments would have to submit to the arrangement that is outlined above.

I appeal to your Government, Excellency, in requesting you to make an examination of this difficult question. During the war our Nation has pursued a loyal, open and sincere policy in all its relations with the Allied Governments. We have made sacrifices and have not failed to show our devotion to the ideals which we have in common. Even today, when the fighting in the west is at an end, our people continue to shed their blood in the defense of our common interest on the far away Siberian plains. This is done very willingly, but at the same time our Nation cannot remain indefinitely at the mercy of those enemies of the olden days which we also have in common.

The prestige of the Allies and the United States cannot be disputed by our enemies and it is certain that all would accept without protest such a decision as is indicated above.

I take the liberty, Excellency, of placing before you this memorandum in the hope that it may be helpful in making clear the purpose of the note that has reached you from the Vienna Government and with the request that you may be good enough to examine this communication although it is of a somewhat cursory character, and in conclusion I beg to present to you, Excellency, the assurance of my deepest consideration.

Dr. Eduard Beneš

Copy of the Reply of the French Government to the Government of German-Austria, Communicated Through the Swiss Legation

The Swiss Legation has been good enough to communicate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the dates of December 13th and 16th two communications from the Government of German Austria.

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The first of these notes is in the form of a protest against the alleged intention of the powers of the Entente to place in subjection to the Czecho-Slovak state the Germans of Bohemia and of Moravia. In this note it is affirmed that the Germans in question are desirous of separating themselves from the Czecho-Slovak state and a plebiscite is proposed at an early date for the purpose of clearing up the situation.

In the second note it is proposed to submit to arbitration all questions relating to the frontiers between German Austria and both the Czecho-Slovak and the Jugo-Slav states.

These requests cannot be favorably received; the boundary questions which are here presented cannot as a matter of fact be settled except by the Peace Congresse and they must be carefully examined with this purpose in view at an early date by the Allied Governments.

In the meantime as far as the Czecho-Slovak State is concerned the French Government holds that it should in conformity with the recognition which has been extended to it by the Allied Governments, have for its boundaries, at least until the decision of the Peace Conference is reached, the boundaries of the historic provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and of Austrian Silesia.

In regard to Slovakia the boundary line should be drawn in the following manner: along the Danube from the present western boundary of Hungary to the river Eipel, along the stream of the Eipel to the town of Rima Szombat, then in a straight line proceeding from west to east to the river Ung, then following the course of the Ung to the frontier of Galicia.

This boundary line is identical with the one behind which General Franchet d’Esperey has invited the Hungarian Government to withdraw its troops. This request has been complied with and is already an accomplished fact.

  1. For text of this note, see memorandum from the Swedish Legation to the Department of State, Dec. 13, 1918, supra.