Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/21


Notes of a Meeting Held in President Wilson’s House, Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 21, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • British Empire
      • Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
    • Italy
      • M. Sonnino.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. Secretary
Count Aldrovandi Secretary
Professor P. J. Mantoux Interpreter

Colonel Henri was introduced.

German Demand for an Extension of Time Limit 1. Colonel Henri reported that, as instructed in the morning, he had questioned Von Lersner, the representative of Brockdorff-Rantzau, through whom he was accustomed to communicate. In his conversation, he had made the request in an informal way, and had asked how long Von Lersner thought that the German Delegation required. After thinking it over Von Lersner said about a fortnight. Colonel Henri had then asked whether this information could be given formally, and Von Lersner after a moment’s reflection, had said that it would be better not to put the question to Brockdorff-Rantzau, as it might make difficulties with the German Government. He had said that the German Delegation was preparing six more notes, not of very great importance, as well as a memoir, which, Colonel Henri observed, probably contained counter proposals. Von Lersner had then asked if the Germans could be allowed a train of printers, containing five cars, and 15 persons. This was required to speed up the preparation of the great memoir. Colonel Henri had said that he would ask for instructions on this. Von Lersner told him that Brockdorff-Rantzau and his colleagues were working very hard up to one or two o’clock in the morning.

M. Clemenceau then read a note he had received from Marshal Foch, containing a summary of information received at General Headquarters, as to the German steps if negotiations broke down. The first was a telephone message received on the morning of May 20th [Page 773] from the Intelligence Department in Alsace, according to which, the 14th German Army had been sent secret orders that German troops were to be sent to the rear to provide for the advance of the Allies. The second was from a French Officer, detached from the 10th Army, dated 6 p.m. on the 20th May. According to him, the Germans were sending 100 kilometres back, all their railway rolling stock, motor cars, and agricultural implements. The third was from the Coal Committee at Cologne, which said that at Essen it was believed that the Germans intended to break off and that the archives were being sent to Berlin.

(Colonel Henri withdrew.)

President Wilson said that it was perhaps a safe conclusion to draw, that the Germans did not mean to sign in the present circumstances. This factor, ought perhaps to enter into the question of an extension of the time, though in such a big Treaty, he thought the demand for an extension not unreasonable.

Mr. Lloyd George thought it reasonable.

M. Clemenceau agreed, but would not give a fortnight’s extension.

President Wilson suggested 10 days.

Mr. Lloyd George urged that it should not be beyond the following Wednesday evening. He would allow them to have a printing train, since it would speed up the production of their document.

M. Sonnino suggested that the time should depend upon whether this was to be a final extension or not, if there were to be no further extensions, a day or two longer should be given.

M. Clemenceau raised the question as to whether any final date should be given for the Germans to agree to sign at the risk of the Armistice coming to an end.

President Wilson thought this inadvisable, because it was impossible to tell how long the Allied and Associated Governments would require to examine the elaborate counter proposal which the Germans were probably submitting. All that could be done at present was to fix a date for the extension.

M. Clemenceau said that after this extension, they would ask for another.

Mr. Lloyd George thought that 15 days was too great an extension.

President Wilson considered that as no further extension would be granted, a liberal allowance was now desirable.

M. Sonnino suggested until the end of the month.

Mr. Lloyd George urged that that was too long. It was probable that the Germans had already made up their minds, and he would not give them more than a week.

(After some further discussion, it was agreed:—

That the Germans should be given an extension until Thursday, May 29th, 1919.
That they should be allowed their printers’ train.)

Note—The attached letter (Appendix) in this sense, was signed by M. Clemenceau, who, at the same time, gave M. Dutasta verbal instructions to allow the Germans to have their printers’ train.

Villa Majestic, Paris, 21 May, 1919.

Appendix to CF–21

extension of time-limit granted to germans

Sir; I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 20th of May1 stating that the subjects on which the German Delegation wishes to offer suggestions are so complicated that the memoranda of the German Delegation cannot be completed within the fifteen days granted on the 7th instant and asking in consequence for an extension of the time limit.

In reply I beg to inform Your Excellency that the Allied and Associated Governments are willing to grant an extension until Thursday, May 29th.

  • G. Clemenceau
  • Herr Brockdorff-Rantzau
  1. Appendix I to CF–20A, p. 767.