Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/41

BC–34 SWC–9

Minutes of the Meeting of the Supreme War Council Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Monday, 17th February, 1919, at 3 p.m.


America, United States of British Empire France
Mr. R. Lansing The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P. M. Clemenceau
Mr. E.M. House The Rt. Hon. W. C. Churchill, M. P. M. Pichon
M. G. Auchincloss Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B. M. Dutasta
Mr. L. Harrison Mr. E. Phipps M. Berthelot
M. de Bearn
Italy Japan
H. E. Baron Sonnino H. E. Baron Makino
H. E. M. Matsui
Count Aldrovandi
M. Bertele
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of British Empire France
Col. U.S. Grant Captain E. Abraham Captain A. Portier
Italy Japan
Major A. Jones M. Saburi
Also Present
America, United States of British Empire France
Gen. T. H. Bliss Gen. Sir H. H. Wilson, G. C. B., D. S. O. Marshall Foch
Vice Admiral Sir M. Browning, K. C. B., M. V. O., R. N. Gen. Belin
Rear Admiral W. G. P. Hope, C. B., R. N. Gen. Alby
Gen. Weygand
Col. Gallini
General Diaz
General Cavallero
Interpreter:—Professor P. J. Mantoux.

1. M. Clemenceau said that Marshal Foch had returned that morning from his journey into Germany with the signature of the Germans to the Armistice conditions agreed on by the Supreme War Council.

Report of Marshal Foch on Renewal of Armistice Marshal Foch said that he had met the German plenipotentiaries at 3 p.m. on the 14th. He had put before Herr [Page 23] Erzberger the convention decided on by the Powers. Herr Erzberger had taken the text, and, in reply, had handed in a declaration covering 23 pages. (For text of which see Annexure “A”.) This declaration contained a justification from the German point of view of the execution of the terms of the original armistice. The two principal demands made related:—

To the repatriation of prisoners.
To the action taken by the French in Alsace-Lorraine against German industrialists holding property removed from France and Belgium.

In respect to the first, Marshal Foch had addressed the following reply to the German Secretary of State:—

(a) Repatriation of German Prisoners “In reply to your communication of February 3rd, I have the honour to inform you that the Supreme War Council of the Allied and Associated Powers considers the repatriation of German prisoners of war impossible for the moment; but these Powers will see to it with the greatest care that all the seriously sick and wounded are repatriated with the least possible delay.

Consequently, France is actually taking steps to begin the immediate repatriation of about 2,000 German prisoners of war besides the prisoners of war already sent to Germany or Switzerland. Great Britain is disposed to proceed in the same manner as rapidly as possible.”

(b) Restoration of French & Belgian Property In respect to the second, Herr Erzberger’s view was that proceedings could not be taken against private individuals holding property removed from France and Belgium during the war, because they had received it from the German Government. The restoration of this property must therefore be a matter for negotiation between the Governments. The Allied point of view was that these goods could be recovered wherever found. Marshal Foch had, therefore, addressed the following reply to the German Secretary of State:—

“I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the memorandum contained in your letter of the 27th January.

In this connection, I would remind you that in the course of the last interview at Trèves, I stated that I could not accept the view of the German Government; that is to say, that German subjects who had carried away and taken in charge industrial apparatus coming from the occupied territories should benefit by the terms of Article 6 of the Convention of 11th November,1 as having participated in acts of war.

I merely undertake to transmit to the competent judicial authorities the special cases which you may think it your duty to submit to me.

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I have, therefore, forwarded the memorandum to the said judicial authorities, who will decide on this particular question of law.”

(c) German Reluctance To Sign New Armistice Conditions Continuing, Marshal Foch said that on the 15th the German Plenipotentiaries alleged that, by reason of the slow communication with Berlin and Weimar, they could not say when they would be able to sign the Armistice. Further they wished to modify and extend the text of the Convention submitted to them. Marshal Foch, on the 16th, had sent them the following communication:—

“In reply to your letters of the 15th February, I have the honour to inform you that:—

(1) The text of the Convention which was handed to you yesterday was drawn up by the chiefs of the Allied and Associated Governments.

I can neither change it nor add to it.

(2) As the Armistice expires on the 17th February at 5 o’clock in the morning, the latest hour for signing a new extension is 18 hours on the 16th February, —in order to give time for communicating orders to the troops.

If the Convention be not signed at the latter hour, I shall be obliged to leave Treves and the Armistice will cease to operate at 5 o’clock in the morning of the 17th February.”

After this, the conditions of the new Armistice were signed with a slight alteration respecting the line of demarcation between German and Polish troops. This modification affected the Silesian frontier, where, as there were no Poles, it was decided to adhere to the prewar frontiers. (For final text, see Annexure “B.”)

After signing the Convention, Herr Erzberger had handed to Marshal Foch a declaration from Herr Scheideman, in the following terms:—

“The German Government recognises the grave nature of the consequences which would be involved both by the acceptance, and particularly by the refusal of the Convention. When it gave instructions to its delegates to sign it, it did so feeling convinced that the Allied and Associated Governments were going to make a serious effort to give to the world that peace which is so ardently desired, during the short period for which the armistice was being prolonged.

Nevertheless, the German Government feels obliged to indicate its own point of view as regards the three conditions imposed in the Convention, by making the following observations:—

I. The agreement ignores the fact that the German Government has been constituted by the popular will, in an orderly manner. The agreement imposes on the Germans, in the form of orders and prohibitions marked by harshness and favouring the rebelling Poles, the necessity of evacuating a number of important places such as Birnbaum and the town of Bentschen without any delay. These places are in German hands, their population is mostly German, and they are particularly important in regard to the intercourse with Eastern Germany. In addition to this, the Allied and Associated Powers [Page 25] do not even guarantee that the Poles, on their side, will abstain from preparing or undertaking further attacks, or that they will treat the German population with humanity—a population, the protection of which we are forced to give up: or that they will release the German hostages, the retention of whom has now no object; or that they will keep up the supply of food from the west in the same way as has been done up to the present.

Although we are ready to cease all military offensive action in Posnania and in other regions, and to accept the present military situation in these countries as a basis of negotiation, we really must be able to expect the Poles in revolt also to respect the line of demarcation. If they do not, we ought to be permitted to defend ourselves by force of arms.

II. Germany is able to prove that she has striven to carry out the clauses of the Armistice until her economic strength was completely exhausted and until her transport services gave way. Now, once again, she will undertake to fulfill the conditions which she has not up to the present succeeded in carrying out, but at the same time she feels justified in assuming that her undertakings will not receive any interpretation inconsistent with the principles acknowledged by the two parties before the President of the United States of America and rendering nugatory the idea of a peace founded on right.

III. The fact that Germany is granted only a short undefined renewal terminable at the will of one party only at three days’ notice instead of an Armistice containing a fixed time limit enabling her to take the necessary dispositions to execute the clauses is the very thing to jeopardise quietness and order in Germany and constitutes an unjustifiable aggravation of our constitution. We cannot give up the hope that the Allied and Associated Governments will consider it possible to open negotiations on the German counter-proposals and to renew the Armistice until the Preliminaries of Peace.”

(d) Allied Commission in Warsaw To Supervise the Execution of the Armistice Terms in Relation to Poland Marshal Foch said that, to ensure the execution of the terms of the Armistice relating to Poland, he suggested that the co-operation of the Allied Commission in Warsaw should be obtained. To this end, he proposed the following telegram:

“I send you below the text of Article 1 of the Armistice Convention signed on February 16th:

‘The Germans must immediately desist from all offensive operations against the Poles in the region of Posen or any other region. With this object, their troops are forbidden to cross the following line:—The former frontier of East and West Prussia with Russia as far as Luisenfelde, then from this point the line:—West of Luisenfelde, west of Gross Neudorff, south of Brzoze, north of Schubin, north of Exin, south of Samoczin, south of Chodziensen, north of Czarnikow, west of Mialla, west of Birnbaum, west of Bentschen, west of Wollstein, north of Lissa, north of Rawicz, south of Krotoszyn, west of Adelnau, west of Schildberg, north of Vieruchov, then the frontier of Silesia.’

The Inter-Allied Commission at Warsaw should at once inform the Polish Government and Command of this Convention, reminding them that all hostilities must cease on the Polish side as on the German.

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The Commission must make sure that this injunction is observed on both sides.

It will settle on the spot the difficulties of detail which cannot fail to arise, the line of demarcation fixed serving as the basis of its decisions.

The German delegates have asked Marshal Foch that rules may be laid down for the protection of the 400,000 German subjects living in territory occupied by the Poles, for communication between this territory and the rest of Germany and for the rolling stock of railways. (sic)

Marshal Foch has been unable to treat from a distance these questions of detail which can only be settled on the spot. The Allied and Associated Governments instruct the Inter-Allied Commission at Warsaw to decide them.

With this object, the Commission should establish relations with the German Government and High Command through General Dupont at Berlin.

The Inter-Allied Commission at Warsaw will keep the Governments constantly informed of the progress of its work.”

(It was decided that this telegram should be sent by Marshal Foch.)

2. Admiral Browning said that, as the provisions of Article 22 of the Armistice had not been completely fulfilled, he had had a meeting on the 14th with the German naval representative. The latter had been informed of what was required to complete the fulfilment of that Article. He had replied that Germany was disposed to bring to an end the submarine question once and for all. There were two classes of submarines:— Disposal of German submarines

Those to be surrendered.
Those to be broken up in Germany.

Of the former, 45 still remained to be handed over, and the latter comprised all the surplus. The German naval representative had accepted the conditions laid down. Admiral Browning had also pointed out that, of the batch due for surrender in the previous month, two had been alleged to have sunk at the mouth of the Elbe. He had pointed out to the German representative that, whether this was due to negligence or bad seamanship, the Allies were not prepared to allow a repetition of such events. The Allies would require in exchange for any submarine lost a complete set of engines and electrical and other plant. The German naval representative had agreed. The Germans had also agreed to send to Great Britain special submarine docks and lifting vessels. Any in process of building would be destroyed and no further building would be undertaken. Dates had been fixed for the surrender of the material, with a small margin allowing for bad weather.

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3. Admiral Browning had, further, drawn the attention of the German naval representative to the spreading of German propaganda by German Wireless Stations. The latter had asked whether this enquiry was intended to convey a warning. Admiral Browning had replied in the affirmative. German Wireless Propaganda

4. Admiral Browning had further pointed out that the apparent reluctance of Germany to surrender her merchant shipping, until minor points of finance had been settled, did not harmonise with the alleged desperate straits for food in Germany. The naval representative had agreed to convey these remarks to Herr Erzberger. Surrender of German Merchant Shipping

5. Mr. Balfour said that he had shown the Chairman the telegram from the British Admiralty requiring a decision by the Supreme War Council. He therefore wished to bring it to the notice of the meeting. He then read the following:—Question of Permitting the Transfer by Sea of German Troops to East Prussia and Latvia

“Instructions should be obtained from Supreme War Council as to whether Blockade of Germany should be relaxed in so far as is necessary to permit maintenance of German armies in Latvia and East Prussia.

Many requests are being received from Admiral Goette for free passage by sea from Western German ports to Dantzig, Pillau, Memel and Libau, of individual ships carrying troops military supplies and coal for railways.

A decision in principle is required observing the German troops are engaged in operations against Bolshevists as well as against Poles and that in no case is it proposed to grant general permission.”

He suggested the matter should be referred to the Military and Naval Experts, of the Supreme War Council.

M. Clemenceau asked whether it would not be better to refer it to the Blockade Committee.

Colonel House expressed the opinion that the questions involved were military rather than commercial.

M. Clemenceau then suggested that this telegram should be sent, at the same time, to the military and naval Advisors and to the Blockade Committee.

(It was decided, after some discussion, that the telegram should be referred, at the same time, to the military and naval Advisors of the Supreme War Council, and to the Blockade Committee, for reports.)

6. M. Clemenceau said that he must inform the meeting that he had received a letter from M. Pachitch to the effect that the Serbian Government proposed to submit their case against Italy to arbitration by President Wilson. He stated that he merely reported this as a statement of fact. Question of Arbitration Between Italy and Serbia

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Baron Sonnino said that he thought it his duty, after hearing the communication made by the Chairman, to state that the Italian Government regretted that it could not accept any proposal for arbitration on any question for the solution of which Italy had engaged in war, and waged it for three and a half years in full agreement with her Allies, and the examination of which by the Peace Conference was pending.

7. A discussion on the policy to be pursued in Russia ensued, and after an exchange of views, it was decided to postpone the resumption of the discussion until later in the week. Policy of the Allied and Associated Powers in Russia

8. M. Clemenceau announced that the Serbian statement would be heard on the following day if there were no objection. Serbian Statement

Baron Sonnino said that the position of the Italian Government in relation to the Serbs was a delicate one. The Italian Government did not wish to enter into a polemic at the Conference. He, therefore, suggested that the Serbs should be heard in the absence of the Italian Delegates, or that if heard in their presence, no discussion should ensue.

M. Clemenceau said that the last proposal was in accordance with precedent. The Serbs would be heard, and the Meeting would be adjourned.

(The Meeting then adjourned.)

Paris, 17th February, 1919.

Annexure “A”

Gentlemen: For the third time, we have to meet again at Trèves to negotiate the prolongation of the Armistice. The prolongation of the Armistice until the conclusion of the Peace preliminaries as considered in Article I of the convention of 16 Jan. 19,2 has unfortunately not met with the approval of the Allied Government, any more than the promise of 13 Dec.2

Armistice New Source of Hatred Among Peoples I ask why our people have the impression that this prolongation of the Armistice has but one aim; to impose upon us new and heavy conditions and prejudice peace. Thus the Armistice becomes a new source of distrust, of hatred between peoples, and even of despair.

By that, the Allies are preparing the way to Bolshevism. On the [Page 29] contrary, the German people is trying hard to repulse this Bolshevism—At this very moment the German National Assembly is sitting; it has considered as the first and most pressing of its duties to constitute a Government in conformity with the result of the elections. Germany has a democratic and parliamentary government, which personifies and warrants the will of the people to arrive without delay to a peace of reconciliation. The new government rests on a broader basis than any other government in the world.

Value of Surrendered Material The German people has been obliged to buy the Armistice and its successive prolongations until today, by enormous sacrifices. It has abandoned to you property of a huge value. You have received German war material valued at more than a billion. The value of the warships which were delivered, amounts to more than a billion and a half. In the delivery of transportation material, Germany has gone beyond the limits of what she could do. The Prussian-Hessian State Railways alone have delivered more than two and a half billions of railway material. Up to 5 Feb. we have delivered to you 4,137 locomotives and 136,398 cars. Up to 11 Feb. 10,263 locomotives, and 216,072 cars had been turned over.

Demobilisation The demobilisation of the Army is complete. We have at our disposal in round numbers, 6,000 officers of the active army, less than in peace time in 1914. A very high percentage of the available officers is either sick or wounded. And from the discharge of the majority of the former officers of the Active Army who were mobilised, and of the reserve officers, we have released already, since the armistice, more than 200 general and field officers of the regular army, without any new promotion taking place.

As for enlisted men, at the end of February all classes will have been demobilised except one. And this class has sustained heavy losses during the campaign. If, in spite of that, the effectives and expenditures are still high, it is due on the one hand to high cost of living, and on the other to the large number of sick and wounded who are still treated in the hospitals—in round numbers, 200,000—and finally to the large number [of] unemployed soldiers, who according to regulations are still allowed to remain for four months at most on the pay roll of the troops, while looking for employment. This delay will only begin to come to an end during the following months. Enlisted men of this category are worthless in the military sense of the word; their only duties in their garrisons, and only in order to earn their salary, are solely fatigue work and guard duty. Men retained in military service are likewise, for the most part, worthless as soldiers on account of the revolution and local disorders which are still resulting.

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Consequently, for the upkeep of order and the protection of the frontiers, we have been obliged to call upon volunteers. But, on the whole, they came only in small numbers. In order to allow the Government of the Empire to fulfill the duties which are absolutely necessary, it has been necessary, later on, to call back, in the eastern part of the country, men who were in their homes. The total strength of the units which can be used is so low that it is impossible on account of its weakness, to make an extensive use of this force. Taking into account the volunteer units in course of formation, the strength (which is, however, subject to constant changes on account of their formation) can be estimated, for the present, in the following figures, figures which are likely to be modified later because of the poor system of military information.

For the protection of the western frontier round numbers—on a line of about 600 km 10,000 men.
For the protection of the Eastern frontier, in Courland, Silesia and Saxony, about 1800 Km 100,000 men.
Inside the empire—round numbers 70,000 men.
180,000 men.
Troops returning from Russia, in round figures 20,000 men.
(Besides isolated troops in the South-East or otherwise useless in round figures 60,000 men.)
Total of usable men, in round figures 200,000 men

That is, one-fourth of the old German Army in peace-time. And of this strength 30 to 40% do not do real front-line service.

Repatriation of Enemy Prisoners of War The repatriation of Allied war prisoners for the west was already in progress at the time of the last negotiations for the prolongation of the armistice at Treves. The Serbian and Roumanian sick and seriously wounded were evacuated in hospital trains. The other Serbian prisoners of war have also been transported to Agram. However four of their trains had to be unloaded on German-Austrian territory owing to lack of coal. The War Ministry has immediately taken the necessary steps to insure the continuation of transportation by providing the necessary coal. The Roumanian prisoners of war will be evacuated later.

Restitution of Enemy Securities The general office of the Armistice commission, created for the prompt restitution of securities and documents according to article XIX has worked successfully since the last negotiations. Independently of the securities previously delivered, there have been returned 778,348,237.12 marks worth and 4,171,165 francs worth. The securities removed from Belgium and placed on deposit with the general war fund in Munich [Page 31] have been covered in lists which have been submitted. The work of the German commissioners in Brussels and in France is under way and progressing satisfactorily in agreement with the French and Belgian authorities. They have even been concluded for the most part. At Mayence, there are now being returned to France the securities paid or found which have been placed on deposit with the General War fund in Berlin and Munich, amounting in round figures to 120 boxes; a balance of two millions of local paper money (municipal bonds) is also being returned. The evacuation of the bank securities taken from France and deposited in Liege has begun during the last few days. According to the closing protocol of 1 Dec. the list has been supplied for all the works of art taken from Belgium and known at the present time. The greater part of the lists relative td works of art removed from France, has also been furnished; as regards collection of works of art themselves, the one in Brussels has been entirely delivered and a receipt has been given.

Delivery of Agricultural mechinery Thus Germany has employed all her forces to honour her engagements ensuing from the treaties. This is also true as regards the clause for delivery of agricultural machinery imposed by the treaty of 16 Jan. However, the difficulties which occur on this point cannot be overcome unless the supply of raw materials and partly manufactured products coming from the territories on the left and the right bank of the Rhine, promised by Marshal Foch on the 6th, can be assured in a large measure, if we obtain deliveries of coal from the Sarre, and if shipments from the left bank to the right bank are authorised.

Continuation of the Delivery of Locomotives Cannot Be Carried Out Within the limits which are marked out for her by the Allied powers, and by present circumstances, which create almost insurmountable difficulties, Germany has done all in her power, and has called all her forces into play. The delivery of locomotives now under way has reduced the park of locomotives fit for service on the Prussia-Hessian railway system to such an extent that the maintenance of even the most miserable economic life is compromised. The stocks of coal for the use of the railways have been impoverished to a menacing degree. The supply for the gas plants and electric stations has failed. Owing to the impossibility of transporting the raw materials and partly manufactured products, unemployment is increasing. Our railways are completely worn out. If we go on with the delivery of engines, we may foresee with certainty an early discontinuance of the whole transport service. I do not need to explain in more detail what this means in the present situation of the coal and food supply. It is impossible to estimate the consequences. This is why no one in Germany can take the responsibility of continuing [Page 32] the delivery of engines. At the same time you forbid us coast navigation on the North Sea and Baltic,—a navigation which we urgently need to relieve our railways, and you maintain the blockade, which leaves us without the raw materials we need to make repairs. Nevertheless, with regard to the values in question, we wish to fulfil the obligation we have contracted. Germany will execute in an entirely loyal manner the engagements which she has assumed. But, on this point, you must allow us to make an exchange. From 600 to 700 locomotives are still missing. I declare myself ready to put at your disposal, after detailed agreement, a certain number of railroad cars in exchange, and I propose that you institute without delay a subcommission for the settlement of this question.

Restitution of captured Material In compliance with article VI of the Convention of January 16th 1919, relative to the restitution of machinery and material taken from Belgium and France, we entered into negotiations, at Spa, with the Industrial Sub-Commission of the Allies and we have fixed by a Protocol, the conditions of execution. Immediately after, the creation of a “bureau” has been undertaken at Francfort-sur-le-Mein, as contemplated in these conditions of execution. Conferences have taken place at Spa, as well as in Berlin, with the Representatives of the Allies, relative to the wording of the books of questions to be used in tracing up the machinery in question. An ordinance has been published with a view to ascertaining the declaration, the careful keeping up and restitution of this machinery.

Delivery of the Submiarines Now that the naval clauses of the Convention of November 11th 1918 and of the first prolongation of the treaty of Armistice have been complied with in the requested time-limit, the demands formulated in the second prolongation of Armistice are being given satisfaction. Admiral Browning has recently stated his demands anew, by giving the exact indication of the various submarines. The list furnished by him, is not in accordance with the list which has been drawn up on the German side.

Consequently, a delay ensued, for which Germany is not responsible. Another delay might be caused by the fact that the situation of ice hinders the concentration of the tugs. We will fulfil our engagements as soon as possible. Admiral Browning now demands that the submarines of new construction be also delivered into English ports. We have promised the delivery of the docks for submarines and of the mine sweepers, as demanded in the Convention of January 16th. However, this delivery cannot actually be effectuated until atmospheric conditions make it possible for these ships to travel, which are not equipped for sea journeys. All the submarines which have not yet been delivered, new constructions [Page 33] included, will be entirely dismounted, this work is already being executed. The internment of all ships, requested by the Allies, replacement of ships included, according to English informations, has taken place at Scapa Flow. Up to the present time, the protestation made by Germany against the non-observation of the Armistice by England who has not even tried the internment into neutral ports, has received no answer.

Immediate Restitution of German Prisoners of war While Germany makes the greatest efforts to prove, in a loyal manner by the execution of the conditions which have been imposed upon her, that she is ready to make heavy sacrifices for her aspirations towards Peace, I regret to be obliged to note again, in the face of the world, that the attitude of Allied Governments always remains in contradiction with the spirit of a future of Peace. The History of the world will record, as an example of the most extreme brutality, the fact that our prisoners of war are still pining away in the hands of the Allies. Since the beginning of negotiations relative to the Armistice, I have always requested that the restitution of the prisoners of war be considered as a measure admitting reciprocity. In a manner, incomprehensible for this German people, who has been slandered and treated as barbarous, you have taken advantage of the superiority of the forces on your side, to oblige us to send your prisoners back to you, while you were keeping ours. On my pressing request, you declared yourself ready, that is true, to recognise that the question of our prisoners’ return was to be settled at the time of conclusion of preliminaries of peace. But that act of consolation has not occurred. Nobody, in Germany, could think that the preliminaries of peace would be so long delayed. On the other hand, the decision thus taken, did not prevent you from yielding to a human thought of which you consider yourself as guardians and especial protectors, and to send our prisoners back to us after you had received yours. Your prisoners have long gone back to their homes already. They are in their families and can, in the midst of those that are dear to them, resume their civilian occupations. The sentiment, natural to any man, considers as an act of barbary that, though you make for yourself a condition of armistice of the restitution of these prisoners, you would have refused to apply the same consideration to our prisoners and looked on their restitution as a condition of Peace. The records of negotiations of Armistice and Spa negotiations are full of requests, asking you to listen at last to the voice of humanity. The most we ever obtained were promises. And so, the time has come when we have lost faith in such promises. We want to see action. On no point relative to the Armistice does the German people show as feverish an emotion, as on that question of the prisoners. A wave of indignation and despair goes through the whole [Page 34] country. From the smallest villages from the north, south, east and west of Germany I receive daily numerous letters and telegrams from the parents of prisoners who pour out their desperate hearts in earnest and often profoundly touching words. Children cry for their fathers, wives for their husbands; aged parents have but a single desire, to see their child once more before dying. Organisations have been established to defend the cause of our prisoners of war.

Our people rightly declares that it is absurd at the approach of peace to maintain from a single side a war measure. It is only by asserting your predomination that you keep our compatriots far from their country. We have sufficient proof that a great number of them are on the way to physical and moral ruin. I ask you: Where do you obtain the moral right to expose thousands of Germans to this danger? Where do you obtain the right, at the moment when the world wishes to establish a peace of right, where it is a matter of eliminating the principle of violence from the common life of nations, to keep thousands of men, women and children far from their human attachments? The Allies must be convinced that the reconciliation is not aided by this means. The German people resents this means of barbarous constraint as it would a blow in the face. If you believe that you can inflict this disgrace upon the German people without reaction you are mistaken. The preponderance of power is at present upon your side, but in spite of that you will have to reckon and work with the German people in common if European peace is to last. Therefore I ask once more that you render aid. Return our prisoners to us at once. Deliver them from captivity, permit their depressed spirits to return to life. If you do not do it for the men do it for the children of whom there are many who no longer know their father. Do it for the women that they may anew consecrate themselves to their family, while the father takes up the task of the protection and the support of the family. Do it for the parents who, deprived of their children by the war, deplore each of the days which delays the return of their beloved children now that the noise of arms has ceased. Finally fulfil the promises by which you have awakened and at the same time deceived our hopes. Marshal, it is to you especially that I address this urgent prayer, because it is you to whom people will listen when the Allied Governments take refuge behind the fears for military order. The German people do not think of taking up war again. The German people requests by my mouth the immediate return of these prisoners of war and these civilian prisoners. A certain number of severely wounded have been returned only by the American and British Governments and these small bits are all that have been given us. But the requests for an amelioration of the lot of the civilian prisoners and prisoners of war have been refused. What will the civilized [Page 35] world say when it sees that not even German chaplains, doctors and nurses are permitted to visit them? History will one day reproach you severely if you have the intention of allowing this state of affairs to continue until the conclusion of the peace preliminaries. It is not a question of criminal prisoners. Therefore give the order that the German civilian and war prisoners be liberated from all the Allied countries. First send back all the wounded and sick, the interned civilians and the war prisoners who have been in the hands of the enemy for more than 18 months, especially the fathers of families. Marshal Foch himself has designated these categories as those which inspired the most sympathy. Until their situation is decided grant to all the civilian and war prisoners an alleviation of their situation. Give them a greater liberty of movement outside the camps, until nightfall. Remunerate their labour, exactly like that of your own workmen. Abolish the postal censorship and the systematic delay in the sending of mail, for which there is no longer a military reason. Extend the rights of correspondence. Have all mail sent immediately through the occupied territories and have the sealed cars containing packages coming from Germany taken as far as the camps. Give them the same food as your own population. Give them the opportunity of buying food freely. Improve their clothing. Free them from the green uniform of those condemned to forced labour and from the stigma of the “P. G.”4 Soften the disciplinary measures for punishable acts committed up to the day of the new prolongation of the Armistice. Permit immediately the chaplains, doctors & nurses & delegates of the German Red Cross to enter the Prisoner of War camps in all the Allied countries, to restore the broken spirits of the German prisoners of war and civilians.

I have a special word to devote to the Medical personnel. Article 12 of the Geneva Convention5 stipulates the immediate return of the doctors and of the sanitary personnel whose services are no longer necessary. Numerous members of the sanitary service are in this position, having been left with the wounded and sick in the evacuated territories. I expect this article of the Geneva Convention to be followed. The least that one can demand is that personal liberty be accorded the sanitary personnel until their repatriation. Grant them the pay and the allowances which are due them by virtue of Article XIII of the Geneva Convention and give them the freedom of postal service.

Gentlemen, I cannot leave the chapter of our prisoners of war without once more expressing the unanimous request of the whole German people. Begin the evacuation of our prisoners of war at [Page 36] once. At the first news appearing in the press on the subject of the renewal of the armistice manifestations have come to me as I have explained from all parts of Germany. They are summed up in the cry: “Immediate return of our prisoners of war”. The German National Assembly, the legitimate spokesman of the German people adopted a resolution containing the same request. I request that the seriousness and the humane motives of this movement, with all its lasting importance, be grasped. The German people requests foremost and expects with certitude from the present negotiations that the retention by force of our prisoners of war be terminated. I can content myself neither with the assurance that this question will be considered by the Allies nor with the assurance of Marshal Foch that he will support this request to the Allied Governments. I must have the assurance that the evacuation of the German prisoners of war will commence immediately. No one with humane sentiments can demand of me that I take the responsibility of formulating another demand in this question than that which I set forth.

Closing of the Occupied Territories Since one has seen manifested in the occupied territories the effort made to deprive them of normal relations with the unoccupied territories, the German Armistice Commission has drawn attention to the serious injury to the whole German economic life which will be caused by this separation between regions important for production and consumption. Although promises have always been given us at Trèves and Luxembourg, normal relations have nevertheless not been re-established. At the last negotiations in Trèves, I remarked that the freedom of relations could not in any way endanger the safety of the Allied arms. This is especially true for the liberty of economic exchanges. The authorisations of exchanges given in cases of specie can in no wise satisfy the existing needs. It is only a general suspension of the stopping of exchange of products from the left bank to the right bank of the Rhine and vice-versa which can create the situation in which the economic life can maintain itself and attain its goal. Numerous exploitations will have to follow them shortly if there is no change. This is true of the factories of the right bank as much as those on the left bank, according to the location of the sources of their raw materials and of the region where they send their products. Marshal Foch himself has indicated the results of the dismissal of workmen during the course of the preceding negotiations at Trèves. If it is the intention of the Entente to prevent the Bolshevist disorders and intrigues, freedom of circulation can contribute a large part. I emphasise also the detriment to the spring planting as a result of the fact that the arrival of seeds has become almost impossible. Many small market gardeners and workmen of the occupied zone must count [Page 37] upon the sending of small quantities of grain from the non-occupied territory. As long as these shipments of grain by postal packages are not assimilated to packages of food an unendurable situation will last. It is also necessary that the circulation of persons between the occupied regions and the non-occupied regions be rendered freer. I understand perfectly that Marshal Foch wishes to prevent the introduction of germs of Bolshevism into the Allied armies. But there is nothing to prevent guarantees against this possibility from being found. Moreover it is an indignity for a civilised people to be submitted after the end of a state of war to such restraints in its relations by railroad and by mail with the territories belonging to its country as is actually the case here. Family and business relations are rudely interrupted. The youth in the schools in certain parts of the occupied territory must needlessly lose the necessary time for their instruction, because there exists no faculty in the occupied territory where they live and because they are prevented from going to another school. These are infringements of the right of free personal disposition and find no justification in the treaty of the Armistice of November 11th. I therefore request that this unendurable state of affairs end and that the economic and postal as well as personal circulation between the occupied and the unoccupied regions be made free.

Permission of Permanent Circulation for the Members of the National Assembly I request for the Members of the National Assembly a permanent permission to travel in either direction without hindrance and I request also for them the freedom of postal relations.

(Illegible) I cannot commence these negotiations moreover without making a vigorous protest against the new excess of power on the part of the Allies, Although Marshal Foch had declared at Trèves January 16 that no owner of mechanical material bought a second time (verb left put), a certain number of directors of factories, and managers have been arrested and punished. Contrary to Marshal Foch’s conception, according to which the guarantee provided by Article VI of the agreement of 11 Nov. applies only to espionage, I have succeeded, opportunely, in having this point of view applied as a guarantee covering also the buyers of machines coming from seizures in the occupied territories, and covering persons charged with the execution of liquidation procedure. I maintain this point of view, and raise a protest against the arbitrariness with which these arrests have been made. In order to avoid all pretexts of arrests, the decree above-cited was issued to obtain the restitution of the machines. You expressly assured us that there would no longer be this question of new arrests of industrial persons as soon as such a decree had been promulgated. [Page 38] The persons in question are innocent, and justice forbids punishing the innocent. I therefore request the immediate liberation of those who have been arrested and condemned.

(Illegible) The Allies have not ceased in their attempts to give a wide interpretation to the financial agreements arrived at, especially regarding that of 13 Dec. 18,6 attempting to extend para. 4 of this agreement to cover all Germany. If this interpretation is desired for the said para., it can be done only on the principle of reciprocity. Moreover: this is not part of the armistice. I am ready to accept the immediate establishment of a commission to treat this question independently of the armistice. For the protection of private property is to the interest of both parties.

Alsace-Lorraine The Expulsion of Germans from Alsace-Lorraine continues. Those expulsions have meanwhile reached such a number that they justify the conception of “evacuation”, even in the French acceptance of the word with which Germany cannot entirely agree. In these circumstances women are treated in a way that is truly revolting. Alsace-Lorraine throughout is hermetically sealed. In this country, the near relative of a person in the unoccupied zone may be ill, or may die, without this person receiving the least word. Thus tragedies are taking place daily which will cause their full share of pain to the interested persons and to the whole world, but only when these barriers have once again been reopened. There is no reason for this state of things. I must raise a particularly keen protest against the fact that the French have confiscated private property of Germans (and to a large extent have put it under an organ for sequestration) in the territories occupied by them. The state of an armistice, which should be the beginning of a state of peace, furnishes no justification whatever for this measure. I raise a protest also against the fact that the National Assembly had to open without the presence of the representatives of Alsace-Lorraine to transmit the wishes of their country. The legal situation of Alsace-Lorraine is not modified by the fact of an armistice. Contrary to Germany’s authorizing the Alsatians in 1871 to take part in the elections for the French National Assembly, France did not permit the elections for the German National Assembly in Alsace-Lorraine.

Defence Against the Polish Ambitions for Conquest I find myself obliged to make a most serious protest against the attitude of the Allies towards the defence of Germany against the ambitions of the Poles for conquest of certain parts of Germany.

It is unheard-of that the German authorities in the territory coveted by the Poles in the East of Germany be prevented from taking part in its public life. Such an attitude is one the [that] [Page 39] leaves a person without knowing whether to attribute it to a complete misconception of conditions in the East, or to regard it as the final straw of foreign intermeddling with the interior independence of a people. The subject of Polish intrigue and ambition is being struggled for on German soil. It is not we who are the aggressors, but the Poles, who, in Posen, have everywhere assumed the offensive militarily. The best proof of the absence of any aggressive intention on the part of Germany is the absence of any military preparation on their side. For this sole reason, the Poles were able to obtain certain successes. The menace that the Poles are developing against the most important railroad lines of the East, confirms their very broad, offensive intentions. The objection that the Poles are a bulwark against Bolshevism is rendered untenable by the fact that Polish agitation especially in upper Silesia, but also in the provinces of the North, is working in close communion with Bolshevism. The Bolshevist agitators are, almost without exception, Poles. The Poles seem to have the intention of creating a state of general insecurity to have the pretext of intervention for the sake of re-establishing order. The German people cannot permit itself to be deprived of the right, and will not permit itself to be deprived of the right to protect itself against the insolent encroachments of the Poles on its own territory, with what forces it possesses. Germany has accepted the 14 points of Wilson, but the Allies have too. But the 11th point does not say that Germany has bound itself to stand aside inactive if the Poles attempt to appropriate by violence portions of German territory. The 11th point no more gives the right to the Allies of forbidding the German people to defend themselves from similar encroachments. The right of the German people to the undiminished possession of its entity within the framework of Wilson’s points, and to defend this entity against all attacks, remains eternal and unassailable.

Retention of German Ships I raise still another protest against the fact that, among the ships used for the evacuation of French prisoners of war, the restitution of which had been guaranteed us by the Allies, 5 have been taken away from us simply without a word of explanation, and contrary to the previous assurances. The agreement regarding navigation of 17 Jan. at Trèves gives the Entente no right to seize German ships by violence.

Agreement Regarding Navigation In the Agreement regarding navigation of Trèves, the German people put at the disposition of the Entente its merchant fleet, to help the food-supply of the world, and to secure its own food-supply. The Allies have already bound themselves, in the agreement of 11 Nov., 18, to accept the duty of turning over the food necessary for Germany throughout the duration of the armistice. Since then, long negotiations [Page 40] have been carried on. The Germans have always repeated their request that the contractual obligations of the Allies be performed. Already three months have gone by since the 11th of November, and one month since Germany consented to put her fleet in the general “pool” of the world. Throughout this period, and up to today, the German people have not had the benefit of one gram of food, of fats, or of milk, more than they formerly had.

German Assistance to the United States Do not make it too difficult for the German people to appease its hunger for bread and for work. In 1862–65, during and for some time after the Civil War, the United States of North America found themselves in a position similar to states that of Germany to-day. At this time, American exchange was at 30–40% (greenbacks) and American 6% loans at 48–50%.

England was on the side of the “Confederates” (the South). Then it was that Germany came to the help of the United States giving them not only money, but also clothes, shoes, machines, etc. and making possible their economic recovery. To-day, 50 years later, the facts are reversed. Germany needs America to furnish her grain, fats, meat, oil, cotton, copper, and her own exchange has fallen. If the United States would to-day come to the aid of Germany as she came to their aid 56 years ago, they could furnish food and raw materials against German loans, and thus permit Germany to reconstruct itself by its own work, and could pull a good deal in the bargain.

Food Gentlemen, Germany can no longer live on the assurances that are offered her, nor can she live on long drawn-out negotiations in which more or less large figures are cited which make her mouth water. Here too I request Action. The German people are tired of always making gifts. At present they want to hear from the other side of the bargain. In the widest circles, Germans ask themselves with justice: “What do the Allies want of us?” We make sacrifice after sacrifice, and in giving up our goods we are reaching the very limit of poverty. We do not want the food that we need as gifts; we want to buy it. Nevertheless its delivery is always postponed more and more, and we are suffering from hunger. If the Entente wishes to annihilate us, it at least ought not to exact us to dig our own grave. Physicians have recently published the statistics of the victims of the blockade and of hunger. These figures had been hidden from the public during the war. They amount to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, dead of lack of nourishment, or of diseases resulting from the lessening of their powers of resistance. You have in your hands the means of putting an end to this horrible state of affairs.

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Immediate Deliveries in the City of Paris After the Armistice in 1871 In this connection, I appeal to you, sir. When the Franco-German armistice was concluded 48 years ago, Jules Favre—on the 28th January 1871—laid before Bismarck frankly the situation of the food-supply of Paris, which he had carefully concealed up to that moment: Paris had bread for only a few days longer. Bismarck was visibly moved; he immediately granted all imaginable facilities to bring about the arrival of transportation, and he offered Favre all the available food in the German stores. Favre recognised this fact with gratitude, and said: “If the Prussians had not given us flour, we should have died of hunger.”

Then it was ourselves who had the greater power. At present it is you who hold it. Make a good use of your power. Use it in such a way that you can stand before the conscience of the world after the lapse of several generations. For all power gives an eternal responsibility. Remember that hunger gives birth to destructive bacilli. Remember that if these bacilli develop and propagate themselves, the greatest dangers will arise for your own people as well. Despair is the mother of Bolshevism. It is a disease of physical and moral hunger. The best remedy is bread and justice. You have the same interest as ourselves in relieving the world from the disease of hunger with the least possible danger. Then bring it about that the German people may finally participate in the food-supply of the world which you hold in your hands. Give us too our inalienable right, guaranteed by you as well, to a peace of reconciliation among peoples. Those who sow hatred among peoples, reap Bolshevism.

Peace Once again the appeal of the German people for the conclusion of peace has remained without echo. For four years and more the world has lived bearing an enormous weight on its moral and material powers of resistance. You desire rest and work, you people as well as the German people. If the striving toward peace shows itself with more force and intensity among us, this is because of the formidable exhaustion of the forces of our people. Do you desire the complete reduction of the German people, who has just now entered in the ranks of democracies under its new form of existence? The chariot of the world cannot drive onward if one of its horses pulls with force and vigour, while the other is exhausted and limps. It is only when the civilised Nations are together, side by side, almost in step, that the common happiness of all peoples is to be found. Renounce your policy of using force without scruples; think how such a policy is bound to have its cruel punishment in the life of peoples, as it has in the life of individuals. Violence is a weak foundation for the life of peoples. The German people has gone sufficiently far on the road of sacrifices and of suffering. The cry of [Page 42] indignation caused by the numerous severe conditions that you have imposed on us, rings as well in your ears. If you do not wish to hear these cries of pain, you are sinning against the happiness of the entire world, even against your own people. The first duty of the conqueror is to grant the peace that is requested.—However, for what will soon be 5 months, this obligation has not been fulfilled by you, but this war without the spilling of blood has gone on with new victims. I serve you notice.—

Annexure “B”

[Additional Armistice Convention, Signed February 16, 19119]



The undersigned plenipotentiaries, Admiral Wemyss being replaced by Admiral Browning, Major General von Winterfeldt being replaced by Major General von Hammerstein and Minister Plenipotentiary Count von Oberndorff by Minister Plenipotentiary von Haniel given the powers in virtue of which the armistice convention of 11 November was signed, have concluded the following additional convention:


The Germans must immediately cease all offensive operations against the Poles in the region of Posen or in any other region. With this end in view their troops are forbidden to cross:

The line: former frontier of East Prussia and of West Prussia with Russia, as far as Luisenfelde, then from this point the line west of Luisenfelde, west of Gross Neudorff, south of Brzoze, north of Schubin, north of Exin, east of Samoczin, south of Chodziensen, north of Czarnikow, west of Mialla, west of Birnbaum, west of Bentschen, west of Wollstein, north of Lissa, north of Rawicz, south of Krotoszyn, west of Adelnau, west of Schildberg, north of Vieruchov, then the frontier of Silesia.


The armistice of 11 November prolonged by the conventions of 13 December 1918 and 16 January 1919, until 17 February 1919, is again prolonged for a short period without date of expiration, to which the Allied and associated powers reserve the right to put an end after a notice of three days.

[Page 43]


The execution of the clauses of the convention of 11 November and of the additional conventions of 13 December and 16 January incompletely realised, will be carried on and finished during the prolongation of the armistice under conditions the details of which will be fixed by the Permanent Armistice Commission, according to the instructions of the High Command of the Allies.

F. Foch

M. E. Browning


Von Haniel

Von Hammerstein

  1. For text, see vol. ii, p. 1.
  2. Vol. ii, p. 11.
  3. Vol. ii, p. 11.
  4. Abbreviation for “prisonnier de guerre.”
  5. Red Cross convention of 1906 for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded of the armies, Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, p. 1024
  6. Vol. ii, p. 541.