Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/35


Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Thursday, August 21, 1919, at 3:30 p.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. F. L. Polk.
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison.
    • British Empire
      • Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour.
    • Secretaries
      • Mr. H. Norman.
      • Sir George Clerk.
    • France
      • M. Pichon.
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta.
      • M. Berthelot.
      • M. de St. Quentin.
    • Italy
      • M. Tittoni.
    • Secretary
      • M. Paterno.
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui.
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai.
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of Colonel U. S. Grant.
British Empire Captain E. Abraham.
France Captain A. Portier.
Italy Lieut. Colonel Jones.
  • The following also attended:—
    • Mr. Hoover.
    • General Weygand.
    • Major General The Hon. C.
    • Sackville-West, C. M. G.
  • Interpreter—M. Meyer.

1. Mr. Polk asked that the letter he had addressed to M. Clemenceau (See Appendix “A”) be referred for examination and report to the Organizing Committee of the Reparations Commission. Roumanian Requisitions in Hungary

(This was agreed to.)

2. Mr. Polk said that he now begged to withdraw the reservation he had made on August 7th, regarding the Anglo-Belgian Agreement on the Belgian sphere in the ex-German Colony of East Africa. Anglo-Belgian Agreement Regarding Mandate in East Africa

(See H. D. 26, Minute 5.1)

3. Mr. Hoover said that he had just returned from a trip of investigation into various economic questions. The main discovery of his [Page 769]trip had been the critical situation as to coal in Central Europe. There were three coal-fields, from which the entire supply for this section of Europe was drawn: first, the one in Upper Silesia, now affected by the strikes: one in Teschen, under dispute between the Czecho-Slovaks and the Poles; and one in Poland. The total output from these three fields was 5 to 6 million tons a month, and they constituted the very heart of Central Europe. Unless their production was kept up, it would be impossible to maintain the transportation and municipal services in Central Europe. The Upper Silesian coal-mines had practically stopped production on account of the strikes. One mine had been entirely destroyed. It would be only a matter of days before the remainder would be disabled beyond repair for several months. There were many versions as to the cause for the situation. There appeared to be four parties to the quarrel: first, the Polish workmen; second, the German Grenzschutz troops, who were in a high state of emotional nationalism; third the Spartacists; fourth, the German coal-owners and perhaps the German Government itself. The causes appeared to be not economic, but political. The Polish authorities had shown him documents which, if they could be authenticated, would prove that the Germans had tried to stir up the Spartacists to make trouble, and that the German troops had actually attempted to drive out the Polish workmen. The Germans said, on the contrary, that the Polish workmen and the Spartacists had conspired together to foment the trouble, and that they were forced to restore order. One of the strange results of this state of affairs was that in one case some Polish workmen were guarding their mines to save them from destruction. In his own opinion, the only possible remedy was an occupation by Allied troops. No Commission could bring about a reconciliation between the contending parties. Colonel Goodyear, who had been in charge of coal distribution, had been sent there, and was trying to get the parties to come to some agreement together, but he was convinced that it would be impossible to do so. Mr. Hoover himself had had a discussion with Mr. Markenson, a German who had been a member of the Armistice Commission on the Eastern Front. He was very disturbed, and from his statement he had gathered that the German Government were not fully in control of the Grenzschutz troops, whom they were trying to replace by regular troops. This same German had said that the German Government was most anxious, as it necessarily ought to be, to restore order, but, of course, one could never tell what power the Berlin Government exercised over the various military bodies in the East. Undoubtedly, the German owners were in desperate fear of the destruction of their property, and would welcome any method of re-establishing order. Coal Situation in Central Europe and Position in Upper Silesia

[Page 770]

There were contradictory currents even amongst the Germans themselves, and it was his opinion that the racial animosities had reached such a point that nothing could stop the strife but a military occupation. He realised, of course, that this was not legally possible until after the ratification of the Peace Treaty, but the intentions of the German Government might here be put to the test, and he thought that the German Government would probably agree to anticipate the action proposed by the Treaty, and, of course, the Poles were asking that this be done. He believed that this would be the attitude of the German Government, because of the desire Mr. Markenson and his colleagues had expressed to get Allied troops all along the Eastern front, between the Poles and the German volunteer troops, and because the difficulty of controlling the latter made them fear a general conflagration.

He had had a meeting with the Trades Union Leaders of the Teschen district, and there also found the Trades Unions divided along the lines of nationality. The Polish leaders confessed that they would not help to increase production until they knew to whom the mines would fall, and they would not work for the Czechs. There was here also much political sentiment. He had asked whether strikes would be used to influence the plebiscite, and was answered that undoubtedly they would be. This information he considered as of interest, both as affecting the political situation in the Teschen district, and also by analogy furnishing a clue to the situation in Upper Silesia.

There was a political question—that of restoring order; and there was also the economic question of stimulating production and getting the output from the mines necessary for the maintenance of the ordinary life of central Europe. From the last point of view, the three districts were one and the selfish interests of any one nation must be entirely set aside for the general good of that section of the continent. At present the feeling of the Czechs towards the Austrians was such as to make it hopeless to ask them to keep coal shipments going to Austria, although the Austrian transportation, which was dependent on that coal supply, was absolutely essential to the Czechs themselves, and the same sort of feelings existed everywhere. He thought it necessary that the Coal Commission should appoint a sub-Committee to control all three Districts with the authority of the Peace Conference. He suggested that this be done at once, and he would like to see the Coal Committee enter upon its duties with the prestige that would be given it by the assurance that it would constitute the Plebiscite Commission as soon as it became possible to appoint that body. He thought it possible to select men competent for both, and he thought that it would only be possible for the Coal Committee to perform its duties if invested with the double authority, [Page 771]only this double authority could solve either question.

M. Pichon asked Mr. Hoover at what time he had visited Upper Silesia.

Mr. Hoover replied that he had not visited Upper Silesia, but had interviewed people coming from there at a place on the Railway outside the mining area.

M. Pichon said that he had asked this question because he had just received news that the situation in Upper Silesia had improved.

Mr. Hoover said that on his side he had telegrams from Warsaw, informing him that there was continuous fighting along the whole of the German-Polish frontiers.

M. Tittoni said he thought the improvement in any case must be precarious. He was disposed to agree to the proposals made by Mr. Hoover.

M. Pichon said that there was a telegram from General Dupont which confirmed most of what Mr. Hoover had said. (See Appendix “B”.)

Mr. Hoover said that he was in possession of a proclamation of the socialist party, calling upon the Poles to expel the Germans from the mines. There was, therefore, a mixture of Spartacist, and Nationalist feeling which was very confusing.

Mr. Polk said that he had received a telegram from the American Minister in Warsaw, stating that the Polish Government had refrained from intervening in Silesia in spite of the excitement of the Country over the situation, because they were afraid that such action would prejudice their case in the eyes of the Conference.

Mr. Balfour said that Mr. Hoover’s proposals were very similar to those adopted by the Conference in its previous meetings.2 The Council had thought it might be possible to ask Germany to allow an anticipated exercise of the Treaty. Mr. Hoover added the hope and expectation that the German Government would consent. The means by which the Council had hoped to obtain the acquiescence of the German Government was the Coal Commission.

Mr. Hoover said that he would suggest that the Coal Commission be strengthened by a German member and even by a Czech and a Polish member.

Mr. Balfour asked whether Mr. Hoover did not think that these members might obstruct business.

Mr. Hoover said that they might perhaps be disposed to do so, but that they could be controlled by the Great Powers. There had previously been a Coal Commission with a Czech, Polish and German member, (together with a British and American representative,) [Page 772]which had worked quite successfully before the signature of the Treaty.

Mr. Balfour said that he was very favourably inclined to Mr. Hoover’s proposals, but with regard to the suggestion that the Coal Committee should also conduct the administration in the plebiscite zone, he would like to ask a few questions. The Plebiscite Commission could not be precisely the Committee suggested by Mr. Hoover; it was hardly possible to have a plebiscite area in which Poland was interested, controlled by a Czech and a German Commissioner. The Coal Committee, moreover, not only had to carry out diplomatic negotiations with Germany, to superintend the production of coal in disturbed parts of Upper Silesia and Teschen, but it was also asked to control a plebiscite area, two-thirds of which was agricultural, and not coal producing at all. In order to carry out its various duties, not only would it have to move over large areas, possess an intimate knowledge of coal production, considerable acquaintance with other industrial conditions, but it must also be endowed with political experience, tact and knowledge of the conditions of all the neighbouring countries. Such universal competence might perhaps be difficult to find concentrated in one set of individuals.

Mr. Hoover said that what he meant to suggest was that the four Principal Allied representatives on the Coal Committee should ultimately become the administrators of the plebiscite area, in order that they should begin from the first with additional prestige.

Mr. Balfour said that the Coal Committee would be composed of technical experts rather than of administrators and men of political experience.

Mr. Hoover said that he was not entirely of this opinion. The technical side of the Committee’s work was comparatively simple; the distribution of the output of the mines was well established; the mine-owners were well acquainted with the quantities sent to the various consuming areas. The Committee would have chiefly to adjudicate among the rival claimants. Their functions would be, therefore, rather administrative than technical. He adhered to the belief that a merely technical committee would be of little use. There was already one, and its influence was not great.

Mr. Balfour said that he would ask one more question. It had struck him previously that, should the German Government make difficulties, it might be threatened by being told that should the coalfields be attributed to Poland, the Allied Powers would exercise their influence to see that Germany was last served in the distribution of coal from these mines. He asked Mr. Hoover whether he thought this form of pressure could be employed.

Mr. Hoover said that he thought it was possible. The method he was suggesting was not a logical one. It would be more reasonable, [Page 773]first to establish the administrative Commission, and under it a Coal Committee. He was reversing the process, and suggesting that the Coal Committee should be endowed in anticipation with the prestige of the administrative body.

Mr. Balfour said that this method appeared to him to be very ingenious.

M. Pichon said that he agreed that the method was ingenious, but he thought that there was some danger in confusing the two functions. It was possible that the Coal Committee might at a future date, assist the Plebiscite Commission. He thought it inadvisable to state at the present time that coal experts would become the future administrators of the country. This could not be done legally at present. Moreover, he did not think that the Germans would agree. They did not accept the Treaty in a very willing spirit. A demand of this kind would raise difficulties. The Council might make up its own mind that the Coal Committee, if, as it was hoped, it gained authority in the country, should later on assist the Plebiscite Commission. He did not think that this could be openly declared.

Mr. Hoover said that his feeling was that a Coal Committee, as such, would be helpless. It could only use arguments derived from the general coal situation in Europe. He pointed out that the Council was considering the prospect of military occupation. Should this take place, the only administrative organ possible would be the Plebiscite Commission.

M. Tittoni said that the essential thing was to find out whether the German Government would acquiesce. Should it do so, there would be no difficulty, and the Coal Committee could, as Mr. Hoover suggested, obtain political power. The principal thing was to approach the German Government without delay.

General Weygand said that if Allied troops were sent into Upper Silesia, it would be absolutely necessary to establish a high civil authority to ensure a modus vivendi. It appeared to him that this authority could not be the Coal Committee, whose functions extended to other areas than Upper Silesia. It must undoubtedly be the Commission provided for in the Annexe to Section 8 of the Treaty. This Commission was doubtless that which had been called the Plebiscite Commission in the discussion. It was really a Commission to govern the country under the authority of the Allied and Associated Powers, pending the completion of the plebiscite.

Mr. Hoover then suggested that the Coal Committee be sent as a Coal Committee, but that, as many Governments as might find it possible to do so, should appoint to it members who would subsequently serve on the Administrative Commission. Further, if the German Government should agree, no delay would occur in selecting new representatives.

[Page 774]

M. Pichon said that the whole question was whether the German Government would agree to the exercise of the right which only accrued 15 days after the ratification of the Treaty.

M. Tittoni urged that the question be put to the German Government immediately. A reply could perhaps be obtained within two days.

Mr. Balfour said that the Conference had no regular diplomatic civil agent in touch with the German Government. He therefore suggested that Mr. Hoover should go to Berlin on behalf of the Council to negotiate on this matter. Mr. Hoover was so identified with the economic interests of Europe that no more suitable representative could be found for such a mission. His work had been outside the political arena so he had a better hope of success than anyone else.

M. Pichon said that he agreed.

Mr. Polk suggested that Mr. Hoover be given an opportunity of consulting his French and British colleagues on the Coal Commission.

M. Tittoni suggested that in any case it should be explained to the German Government that the Allies had no political object in these negotiations. They were only animated by anxiety for the economic revival of Europe.

M. Pichon proposed certain draft instructions for Mr. Hoover (see Appendix “C”).

(These instructions were approved in principle and it was agreed that Mr. Hoover, after consultation with his colleagues on the Coal Commission, should report on the following day whether he was able to undertake the mission and whether any alteration of the draft instructions appeared desirable.)

4. Mr. Polk asked that Mr. Hoover be heard on the situation in Hungary.

Situation in Hungary Mr. Hoover said that the staff of the Belief Organisation had been in Budapest and other parts of Hungary during the past ten days; that facts which had come to their personal attention might be of interest to the Council. Up to 10 a.m. on the previous Monday the Roumanians were still requisitioning food all over the country and in Budapest they were taking supplies even from the Children’s Hospital. Trains carrying the requisitioned supplies were passing out of the country as fast as possible, although in one place some had accumulated because the Roumanians were awaiting the repair of a bridge before the trains could continue on their way. None of the members of the Relief Organisation believed for a moment that the Roumanians intended to accede to the desires of the Council. He was not concerned with the morality of their actions but with the practical effects. Two of his officials, Captains in the American Army, had themselves seen the [Page 775]Roumanians take sixteen waggon loads of supplies from the Children’s Hospital and eleven deaths had resulted therefrom within twenty-four hours, for there was no way of replacing these supplies. He did not think that any action by the Roumanians could be secured unless the Military Mission were instructed to send agents to frontier points to stop the Roumanians from shipping out any more of the requisitioned material until its disposal could be decided by the Council. In his own opinion the supplies requisitioned should be turned back to Budapest to feed the population of that city. He would like to call attention to another point which threw a sidelight on the situation. While the coup d’état, by which the Archduke Joseph’s Government had been installed was not entirely a Roumanian affair, nevertheless Roumanian troops had surrounded the meeting place of the Ministry and had turned their machine guns on the building in which they were. This event had had an immediate repercussion throughout Poland and Eastern Europe and the Bolshevists were making much of it and claiming that the Alliance was trying to re-establish reactionary government in its worst form and this had done more to re-habilitate the Bolshevist cause than anything that had happened for a long time. The social democrats had refused to have anything to do with the new Government and Garami, the leader of this group, thought that if things were allowed to continue as they were, the old reactionary party would be well established in ten days and the Allied and Associated Powers would have to be prepared to see the House of Hapsburg begin to re-establish itself throughout all its former dominions. He could only suggest that the Council should instruct its representatives in Budapest to call the Archduke before them and say that his Government could never be accepted or recognised. Such action might induce the Archduke to step aside and invite the social democrats to form a coalition government.

M. Pichon said that the Council had already taken a decision of a similar character. The telegram sent on the 18th August3 embodied this policy. In it the Council had said all that it could possibly say consistently with its declared policy of non-interference in the internal politics of Hungary. The Council could not take the responsibility of deliberately upsetting a Government in order to set up another.

Mr. Balfour said that the only further step that could be taken would be to make the telegram more public, by asking the Generals in Budapest to make it widely known that Peace would never be signed with a Government not representing the people.

Mr. Hoover said that if the Hungarian people went to the Poles [polls] with only a choice between Bolshevism and a Hapsburg, the [Page 776]result of the elections might be in favour of the latter. This would be a paradoxical and disastrous result of a consultation of the people. Eastern Europe was past the blandishments of polite suggestion. Human life in those parts had declined in value to an extent not realised in Paris. Very energetic action was required. He thought the Generals in Budapest should summon the Archduke and tell him clearly that he would never be recognised, and that he had better resign.

M. Tittoni said that if he felt certain that on the fall of the Archduke a good Government would be set up, he would risk intervening. Before doing so, however, he would like to ask the Generals in Budapest what Government they thought would result from upsetting the Archduke.

Mr. Balfour said that he thought this matter so important that he would like to wait until the following day, when M. Clemenceau would be present at the Council. As to the other proposal of Mr. Hoover, namely, to have the frontier between Hungary and Roumania watched, in order to stop the export of requisitioned material, he thought some decision should be taken.

M. Tittoni said that all instructions sent to the Generals in Budapest should be accompanied by a proviso that they should take action if they thought action suitable; as they were on the spot, they were better able to judge what could be done.

(It was then decided to send the following telegram:—

“The Supreme Council learns that the Roumanian troops of occupation continue to make requisitions of every kind in Hungary, and to send the goods so obtained to Roumania.

The Council begs the Inter-Allied Commission to report on the practical possibility of sending officers to the frontier posts between Hungary and Roumania to prevent the export of goods requisitioned to the detriment of the Allies, and in diminution of their common security.

Should the Commission regard this suggestion as feasible, Supreme Council authorises it to act accordingly.”

The Meeting then adjourned.

Villa Majestic, Paris, 21 August, 1919.

Appendix A to HD–35

[Mr. Frank L. Polk to the President of the Peace Conference (Clemenceau)]

My Dear Mr. Clemenceau: It is confirmed by telegrams and by eye-witnesses, whose reports I have heard yesterday and today, that [Page 777]the Roumanian forces in Hungary are continuing the systematic and wholesale seizure of Hungarian assets. This procedure, although attempted to be justified as the securing the due reparation, in reality jeopardises for all nations the securing of adequate reparation for damage, and operates to nullify the Treaty provisions to this end.

The Peace Conference found a situation where the immediately available assets of the enemy were utterly inadequate to afford compensation for the damage which the Allied and Associated Powers have suffered in varying degrees. Under these circumstances it was obvious to all who studied the reparation problem that indemnification could not be left dependent upon such factors as geographical proximity to enemy assets or upon the result of competition between Allied States in possessing themselves of such assets. An orderly scheme of reparation was essential to avoid flagrant injustice and serious discord. Accordingly, the Treaty with Germany established certain fundamental reparation principles, among which are:

The joint and several liability (“solidarity”) of the enemy States and a consequent pooling of their assets in the common interest of all powers entitled to reparation. It may be noted that even material received by France under the Armistice of November 11th is to be valued and the value placed in the common pool.
A system of accounting is established so that all of the Allied States will participate in the common fund in proportion to approved claims after taking into account any agreed offsets against these claims.
A central reparation commission is established as an exclusive agency of the Allied and Associated Powers for the collection and distribution of enemy assets by way of reparation.

The action of Roumania contravenes the principle of “solidarity” in that Roumania is appropriating to her exclusive use enemy assets which in reality are the common security of all of the Allies.

The action of Roumania involves a repudiation of the agreed principle of participation in enemy assets, in particular in that Mr. Antonesco, Roumanian Plenipotentiary, on June 27th, agreed, subject to the approval of his Government, that a certain liability of Roumania should be discharged by offsetting the same against the first claims of Roumania to reparation, and that “no further payments on account of reparation shall be made until the other States to whom reparation is due shall have received payments on account of a like proportion of their approved claims for reparation.”

The action of Roumania involves a repudiation of the agreed principle that the Reparation Commission should act as an exclusive agency of all of the Allied and Associated Powers in the collection of enemy assets by way of reparation.

Under these circumstances either Roumania must undo wholly and completely what she has done or the scheme of reparation established [Page 778]by the Treaty with Germany and draft treaties with other States is wholly destroyed. If Roumania is allowed to retain Hungarian assets, it constitutes public notice to the World, including Germany, that the scheme of reparation established by the Treaty is a paper scheme only, which the Allied and Associated Powers have not the intent or the will to enforce. The collection of reparation will inevitably degenerate into individual and competitive action by the several Allied and Associated Powers, in the course of which injustices will be done and animosities will be created, and in the confusion of which the enemy will either evade, or be incapacitated from, making the maximum of reparation. The Reparation Commission is at once discredited, and it is difficult for me to believe that any Government would desire to be represented on a body, the authority and usefulness of which is so nullified at its very incipiency.

I suggest that this important and urgent matter be given serious consideration at an early date, and am bringing copies of this letter to the attention of our colleagues on the Council of the Heads of Delegations.

I am, my dear Mr. Clemenceau,

Faithfully yours,

Frank L. Polk

Annex B to HD–35


Telegram Received From General Dupont

The situation in Silesia has become particularly serious, and the blame rests very specially on Commissioner Hoersing and the German administration, who are exasperating the Polish inhabitants. In nothing have the latter been spared in the seven months which the state of siege has lasted. Thefts, pillage, arrests follow each other every day, and the Grenzschutz has a heavy responsibility for them.

The whole mining region is on general strike. For about ten days not a ton of pit-coal has been taken out. The population is obliged to resist with force the brutality of the troops, and the people being, in large majority, Polish, the clashes are serious, with a great number of losses in killed and wounded.

The sole resource for restoring calm is an Interallied military occupation in Upper Silesia. If this decision cannot be obtained speedily, it would be indispensable to charge the Polish troops with the maintenance of order after the withdrawal of the German troops. In that event an Interallied commission would have to be charged [Page 779]with setting up a mixed Polish and German administration for the factories and mines.

The German Government declares that it does not in the least suspect the Polish Government; popular over-excitement alone is the cause of these disturbances; this opinion is shared by the Poles.

[Appendix C to HD–35]


Mission Entrusted to Mr. Hoover by the Council

Mr. Hoover’s mission has for its purpose to obtain from the German Government an anticipation of the treaty:

For the immediate dispatch to Silesia of the Interallied High Commission of Administration in Silesia;
For assent to an immediate Interallied occupation of Silesia.

The Supreme Council directs Mr. Hoover to proceed to Berlin, and there to make contact with General Dupont (whom the Supreme Council has already instructed to make inquiries and to approach the German Government on the situation in Silesia).

It should be brought to the attention of the German Government that the Allied Council is not acting on behalf of a political interest in the question, but only for the sake of the most important material interests of Central Europe.

  1. Ante, p. 612.
  2. HD–32, minute 2, and HD–34, minute 4, pp. 698 and 735.
  3. Appendix C to HD–32, p. 709.
  4. Translation from the French supplied by the editors.
  5. Translation from the French supplied by the editors.