Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/12


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 14, 1919, at 11:45 a.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
      • Mr. McCormick.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Clementel.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. Lord Robert Cecil, M. P.
      • Lt. Commander Arnold Forster.
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando.
      • M. Crespi
Secretaries Count Aldrovandi.
Sir Maurice Hankey.
Interpreter M. Mantoux.

Proposals With Regard to the Blockade of Germany

1. Lord R. Cecil stated that there were two subjects for consideration; viz., (a) A Public announcement indicating the present position of the Blockade of Germany and stating that it would be raised in the event of signature of the Peace Treaty (Annex 1), (b) a plan of the measures to be taken in the event of its being decided to re-impose the blockade. (Annex 2.) In referring to this plan Lord Robert Cecil drew attention to the proposal in the last paragraph that the Governments of the neutral countries contiguous to Germany should now be invited to consent to prohibit trade with Germany if called upon to do so. This would make it possible to exercise a more immediate and more effective pressure on Germany, if such pressure should become necessary.

2. Statement with regard to the present position of the blockade (Annex 1).

Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to the words in the first sentence of the statement “as soon as the German representatives have signed the Treaty of Peace.” He suggested that after the signature of the treaty the German assembly might repudiate it.

M. Clemenceau asked whether it would be necessary to wait for the approval of the Treaty by the Allied Parliaments, before raising the blockade. It was agreed that this would be unnecessary.

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President Wilson proposed that the words quoted above should be amended to read:—

“as soon as Germany has formally accepted the Treaty of Peace.”

It was agreed that the Statement should be published, subject to this amendment.

3. Measures to be taken in the event of reimposition of the blockade.

President Wilson stated that this was not the time to discuss whether we should or should not reimpose the blockade in the event of Germany refusing to sign the Peace Treaty. In his judgment the most suitable means of pressure would be some kind of military occupation rather than blockade measures which would tend to reduce her population to starvation and despair. To have our armies in an area thus starved would not be an edifying spectacle. Blockade would be more terrible than military occupation and presents many inhumane features; if it were reimposed it would presently become distasteful to the world The President expressed grave doubts whether the blockade should be reimposed unless no other course were open.

Mr. Lloyd George was of opinion that in any case the application of the blockade would only be necessary for a fortnight or three weeks. An excuse was wanted in Germany for signing the Peace Treaty. The fear of the reimposition of the blockade would provide such an excuse. Haase,1 for example is afraid of the blockade. There is a pressure in Germany against signing the Treaty, which is a very painful Treaty to sign.

Mr. Lloyd George expressed himself as all in favour of a military occupation as a demonstration but not as the only means of pressure. Some parts of Germany would not mind a military occupation. After only a fortnight of the reimposed blockade there would be a general cry to Scheidemann2 of “Sign, Sign”.

4. On the question of the declaration of a formal blockade.

Lord R. Cecil drew attention to the statement of the British Admiralty as to objections to such a declaration; he understood that the Admiralty view was that the ships now in commission were insufficient for the maintenance of a strictly “effective” blockade.

President Wilson said that the United States had never admitted the legality of the existing form of blockade. The Admiralty caveat was thus a little inacceptable.

Lord R. Cecil said that whether the blockade was absolutely effective or not did not matter, what mattered was the general stoppage of trade.

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President Wilson added that there was a difference between blockade breaking and blockade running. Under the conditions indicated by the Admiralty there might be cases of blockade running: but a definite breach of blockade, such as would render it legally ineffective, would require a naval force which Germany does not now possess.

It was agreed that if blockade measures have to be reimposed a formal blockade should be declared. No definite decision was arrived at as to whether blockade measures should or should not be taken in the event of Germany refusing to sign the Peace Treaty: but it was understood that such preparations would now be made as would render it possible to give effect to the blockade measures proposed, in the event of its being necessary to take such action.

In particular it was agreed that the Demarche to Neutral Governments referred to by Lord E. Cecil (see general note at end of Annex 2) should be made now.

5. Lord R. Cecil referred to the possibility of exercising economic pressure on countries, which were appealing to the Allies for assistance and supplies, and were at the same time fighting with their neighbours in defiance of the wishes of the Council.

He cited the case of Poland which is at present engaged in operations against the Ukraine. He referred also to the food supplies withheld by Serbia in the Banat.

He suggested that the Council might on occasion think it desirable to notify the Supreme Economic Council that economic pressure should be applied in such cases.

It was agreed that this should be done and that the Supreme Economic Council should be free to take such action as seemed to them desirable in such cases.

[Annex I]

supreme economic council

[Public Announcement Indicating the Present Position With Regard to the Blockade of Germany]

The Supreme Council of the Principal Allied and Associated Governments have authorised the following statement as to the present position of the blockade against Germany. Arrangements have been made to remove the blockade against Germany immediately and completely as soon as Germany has formally accepted the Treaty of Peace.

In the meantime the following temporary relaxations have already been made for the duration of the Armistice.

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1. Foodstuffs.

The import of foodstuffs into Germany is now free within the limits of a monthly ration of 300,000 tons of cereals and 70,000 tons of fats. Foodstuffs within the ration may be exported to Germany without formality from any country which is prepared to allow the export to her. Fish imported from the neutral countries contiguous to Germany does not count within the ration. Since March 25th, 1919, the quantity of foodstuffs shipped to Germany by the Associ-ated and Allied Governments has amounted to about 550,000 tons, of which about 250,000 tons have been actually delivered. In effect Germany is now free to import all the food for which she can pay.

2. Exports.

Exports of gold, silver, securities and war material are prohibited, and other exports over land frontiers are free. As regards oversea exports the Allied Governments have retained certain rights of pre-emption over coal and dye-stuffs and certain other commodities. Other articles can be exported freely to any country prepared to accept them.

3. Black Lists.

All black lists of firms and persons in neutral countries have been withdrawn, and all disabilities attaching to trade and communications with such firms and persons have ceased to operate.

4. Communications.

Commercial correspondence with regard to the export and import trade of the character indicated above is permitted, subject to certain regulations which have been accepted by the German Government, and to the Enemy Trading Laws of the Belligerent countries.

5. Fishing Area.

The area open to German fishing craft has been largely extended. A quantity of net thread, etc., for repair of nets has been allowed to proceed from Holland in accordance with a request of the German Government.

6. Exports from the Allied and Associated Countries to the countries contiguous to Germany.

There is a free list of articles which may now be exported without licence or other formality. In the case of other articles (except where a control has been retained for domestic reasons) the rules as to the obtaining of licenses and guarantees have already been largely relaxed. Export will be further freed from formalities, if a general guarantee is given by the Governments of the neutral countries concerned that they will prevent re-export of such imported articles to Germany without the consent of the Associated Governments.

7. Raw Materials.

Permission has been given for the import of raw materials urgently required for use in the German coal mines. Arrangements are being [Page 603] made for the early shipment of these supplies, subject to the necessary finance being forthcoming.

The principal difficulty with regard to the import of raw material is the financial one. In order to obviate this difficulty as far as possible the Supreme Economic Council has approved a plan whereby Germany may be permitted to import rations of raw materials for the urgent needs of the coal mining and other essential industries, in so far as these requirements can be met from German-owned stocks in neutral countries.

Annex II

supreme economic council

[Plan of Measures To Be Taken in the Event of Its Being Decided To Reimpose the Blockade]

“In accordance with the instructions given by the Supreme Economic Council at its meeting on May 5th, the Superior Blockade Council and the Military and Naval experts consulting with the Council, submit to the Council of Four the following report:

In case the German Government should refuse to accept the preliminaries of peace, the following measures should be immediately taken if the Associated Governments should decide to have recourse to means of economic coercion:

(A) Declaration of formal blockade.

Declaration of a formal blockade of the whole of the coast line in the occupation of the Germans, both in the Baltic and in the North Sea.

Secretary’s Note: Since the adoption of the foregoing recommendation, information has been received from the British Admiralty, that they have strong objections to the declaration of a formal blockade, and consider that the re-establishment of the system of blockade in force before the armistice would be sufficient to accomplish the object in view, especially as more complete naval supervision of any permitted sea traffic between the Nprthern Neutrals and Germany is now possible.

(B) Danish, Dutch and Swiss Land Frontiers.

Consideration was given to the question as to whether the communications upon the Danish, Dutch or Swiss Frontiers on the German side could be cut by the Allied troops. The Sub-Committee appreciate the fact that, if all or any of these operations could be carried out, the efficiency of the Blockade would be greatly strengthened but they feel that these questions lie outside their province.

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(C) Rhine.

The maintenance of a completely effective control upon traffic between the banks of the Rhine.

(D) Bavarian Frontier of Germany.

The Inter-Allied Commission now in Vienna will take effective measures to prevent exports and imports between Austria and Germany.

(E) Czecho-Slovak Frontier of Germany

Polish Frontier of Germany

Requests to the Governments of Czecho-Slovakia and Poland effectively to prevent any trade with Germany.

The Sub-Committee appreciate the supreme importance of Dantzig and the Dantzig Polish Railway for the revictualling of Poland but they were advised by the Representatives of the General Staffs that the occupation of Dantzig and the control of the railway would entail Naval and Military measures of such importance that they cannot be considered at short notice.

(F) Renewal to the fullest extent of Measures previously in force in the case of Neutrals in their relation to Germany.

The Re-imposition of the
Black Lists.
Reconsideration of the present Free List.
Withdrawal of all concessions made to the Germans under the Brussels Agreement so far as these concessions represent relaxations of previous blockade policy.

(Secretary’s Note: Concessions not related to the Blockade were not considered by the Council to come within the province of this report.)

General Note: It would greatly increase the effectiveness of the Blockade if the Neutral Governments of the countries with whom agreements are now in force (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland) should consent forthwith to prohibit if called upon by the Associated Governments to do so, all exportation, re-exportation or transit of goods from or across their respective countries to or from Germany, except with the consent of the Associated Governments.”

  1. Hugo Haase, leader of the Independent Socialist Party of Germany.
  2. Philip Scheidemann, President of the Ministry of the German Republic.