Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/111


Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers, Held at M. Clemenceau’s Residence, Paris, on Tuesday, December 16, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • America, United States of
      • Hon. Hugh Wallace.
    • Secretary
      • Mr. L. Harrison.
    • British Empire
      • Sir Eyre Crowe.
    • Secretary
      • Mr. H. Norman
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • Secretaries
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • M. de Saint Quentin.
    • Italy
      • M. de Martino.
    • Secretary
      • M. Trombetti.
    • Japan
      • M. Matsui.
    • Secretary
      • M. Kawai.
Joint Secretariat
America, United States of Capt. B. Winthrop.
British Empire Capt. Lothian Small.
France M. Massigli.
Italy M. Zanchi.
Interpreter—M. Mantoux

The following were also present for items in which they were concerned.

  • France
    • M. Loucheur.
    • M. de Percin.
  • Italy
    • M. Vannutelli-Rey.
    • M. Dell’Abbadessa.

1. M. Berthelot said that according to a note which General Weygand had just submitted, the British Government would not be in a position to send troops into the plebiscite regions before January 15th. Because of delays which had taken place in the coming into force of the Treaty that Government would have as a matter of fact to send into those territories not the troops then under arms, but troops of the regular army. Those contingents would not be ready to set out before January 15th; until that time only small detachments could be sent to the spot. Coming Into Force of the Treaty With Germany

[Page 559]

2. Mr. Wallace stated that he wished to make a declaration to the Council to the effect that his Government had delegated him only to observe, and that he was not qualified to participate in the discussions. He was only to communicate to Washington what was going on. When decisions had to be taken he would have to refer to Washington and would communicate to the Council the answers of his Government. Powers of the American Representative

M. Clemenceau said that the Council took note of Mr. Wallace’s declaration. He would like to know whether Mr. Wallace had powers to sign the protocol with Germany1 and to approve the text of the reply which the Council would have to make to the German Delegation.

Mr. Wallace replied that he had powers to sign the Treaty with Hungary but had no powers to sign anything whatever with Germany.

M. Berthelot said that he would make this observation to Mr. Wallace—and it was a point which might well be intimated to the Government at Washington—that the signature of the protocol did not commit the American Government any further than did the signing of the Treaty.

Mr. Clemenceau felt that a remark should also be made that Mr. Polk had approved all the correspondence which the Council had sent to the German Delegation concerning the protocol.

Mr. Wallace said he would refer the question immediately by cable to Washington.

3. (The Council had before it, first, a note from the German Delegation dated December 14, 1919 /See Appendix “A”/, second, a note from the German Delegation /See Appendix “B” /third, a note from the Secretary General of the Peace Conference reporting the declarations made by M. von Lersner dated December 15, 1919 /See Appendix “C”/.) Note of the German Delegation in Reply to a Note From the President of the Peace Conference Dated December 8, 1919

M. Berthelot gave a résumé of the German note of the 14th December drawing the Council’s attention to the following essentials: the first paragraph was important. The Germans declared in effect that they would not raise any difficulty on account of the absence of American Delegates on the Commissions. There were means, he believed, for calling attention to this declaration in suitable form: he had asked M. Fromageot and the Drafting Committee to be good enough to consider the point. The second paragraph raised a delicate question: M. von Lersner said that his Government took account of the interpretation given by the Supreme Council to the last paragraph of the protocol of the 1st November but in doing so M. von Lersner went a [Page 560] little further than the Council had done. To go by the German note it would appear that the Council had declared that its right, “to have recourse to measures of coercion, military or other, would obtain no longer than the moment of the reestablishment of the state of Peace by the coming into force of the Treaty”. That text would seem to say that after the Treaty came into force the Allied and Associated Powers could no longer have recourse to any military measures without actually making a declaration of war. It seemed advisable in his opinion, while noting that the German Government withdrew the objections it had formulated, to indicate that measures of coercion remained possible from the legal point of view even after the coming into force of the Treaty. He had asked the legal experts to prepare a formula in that sense.

M. Clemenceau considered that they ought to make only a general formula and that it was very inopportune to speak of measures of military coercion.

Sir Eyre Crowe stated that that was his opinion also.

M. Berthelot said that was precisely what he had wished to say. It was all the more necessary not to leave that phrase unanswered since the German note said expressly, “measures of coercion, military or other”. The only point in the remainder of the Allied note to which the German Government raised objections was the Scapa Flow incident. While accepting total reparation for the destruction of the fleet it had announced for that purpose that new proposals would be made by the experts coming from Berlin. The German Delegation had asked that a meeting be held that afternoon at 4 o’clock. The French Delegation on its part had no objection. The meeting would take place at 3 rue François 1er. After that conversation the Reparation Commission could meet to estimate the value of the reparations that Germany offered. The German note made no allusion to the handing over of light cruisers. They would, therefore, conclude that the Germans accepted the point, but it would be well to throw light upon this point. As to repatriation of the crews interned as a result of the Scapa Flow affair, that was a question which concerned the British Government and upon which they could not make a reply until they had been told by the British Government of its point of view.

Sir Eyre Crowe said he would submit the question to London but there was another point upon which he would very much like to be enlightened. The Council had decided that pourparlers of a technical nature should take place with the Germans before the coming into force of the Treaty in order to settle the procedure to be adopted.2 Had the German technical delegates returned?

[Page 561]

M. Berthelot said that it was obvious that the Germans must be asked to send their technical delegates without delay, but he thought there would be no difficulty on that point. Von Simson had anticipated none and had even declared that agreement upon those questions could be arrived at in the course of two or three days.

(The Council noted M. Berthelot’s statements: the meeting of Naval Experts and of members of the Reparation Commission with the German experts would take place that afternoon at 4 o’clock at 3 Rue François 1er.)

4. (The Council had before it a note from the French Delegation dated December 12th, 1919, on the question of the Vorarlberg /See Appendix “D”/ and a note from the same Delegation concerning “dangers of breaking up of Austria”. /See Appendix “E”/.) Question of the Vorarlberg

M. Clemenceau said that he had received a call from Chancellor Renner who in his conversation had shown the most conciliatory dispositions and had protested the good will of Austria with respect to the execution of the Treaty of Saint Germain. The Chancellor had appeared to be to him a simple and well meaning man. There was no doubt that his Government was confronted by very serious difficulties, and its situation would be compromised if he did not leave Paris with satisfactory promises on the subject of the provisioning of Vienna. He had deemed it advisable to assure him that at that time the Council was considering the Austrian question in a spirit of good will.

M. Berthelot read and commented upon the notes which the Council had before it. He added that it was quite clear that separatist activities could not be tolerated without the consent of the League of Nations. Article 88 of the Treaty of Saint Germain was emphatic on that question. Under these circumstances it might well be opportune to transmit to Chancellor Renner a declaration which might be worded thus:

“The Principal Allied and Associated Powers, anxious to ensure the integrity of Austria within the frontiers assigned to it, and agreed to have the provisions of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye observed, declare that they will oppose every effort which tends to endanger the integrity of Austrian territory, or which, contrary to the provisions of Article 88 of the said Treaty, would result in compromising in whatever manner, directly or indirectly, the political and economic independence of Austria.”

Such a declaration would have as corollary the measures which the Powers would take in favor of the provisioning of Austria.

M. de Martino said it was certain that from a geographical standpoint the Vorarlberg occupied an eccentric position in Austria and [Page 562] from that point of view the union might be grounds for long discussions. But the Council was confronted by a political question of the highest importance. If a separatist movement got a footing in the Vorarlberg there was no doubt that it would spread to Styria, Carinthia and to the Tyrol. It would, therefore, be wise to stop immediately a movement of that nature. That was the reason why he entirely approved of the proposed declaration which was then before them.

Sir Eyre Crowe said he also approved.

Mr. Matsui said that he agreed.

It was decided:

That the following declaration be submitted to Chancellor Renner in the name of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers:

“that the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, anxious to ensure the integrity of Austria within the frontiers assigned to it, and agreed to have the provisions of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye observed, declare that they will oppose every effort which tends to endanger the integrity of Austrian territory, or which, contrary to the provisions of article 88 of the said Treaty, would result in compromising in whatever manner, directly or indirectly, the political and economic independence of Austria.”

The American Ambassador undertook to refer the text of this declaration to his Government.

5. M. Clemenceau stated that before hearing Chancellor Renner it would be advisable to ask M. Loucheur to communicate to the Council the proposals of the Reparation Commission. Provisioning of Austria

M. Loucheur said that the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission had considered during a number of meetings the situation in Austria. It had taken the following decisions:

An arrangement had been concluded with Italy in view of sending immediately from Trieste to Vienna 30,000 tons of wheat. That wheat would be paid for out of the balance of the credit of 48,000,000 of dollars, which had been opened for the provisioning of Austria, and would insure Austria’s existence until February 20.
The Reparation Commission requested France and Great Britain to open a credit in favor of the Serb-Croat-Slovene State on condition that such a credit be used for the provisioning of Austria. France was ready to open immediately to that effect a credit of 50,000,000 francs, the British Government was studying the possibility of opening a similar credit, which would only be done if the Serb-Croat-Slovene State actually furnished the amount of food stuffs it was to deliver. It was certain that it had not done so in the past. They were considering the sending of a commission on the spot which would supervise the regularity of deliveries. That credit of 100,000,000 of francs would enable Austria to live from February 20 to the end of [Page 563] April. The difficulty was to insure the provisioning of Austria from the end of April until the end of September, the O. C. of the R. C. had agreed on the necessity of opening a total credit of 100,000,000 of dollars, it was, however, necessary in order to do this, first, that guarantees should be had, and in the second place that dollars should be obtained. Neither Great Britain nor France had any, and there could be no doubt on the subject, nothing was possible without America’s participation. If an agreement did not take place between America, Great Britain, France and Italy, there would be famine in Austria from the first of May; there was no means in the world of preventing that fact.

Mr. Wallace asked whether Mr. Loucheur was speaking in the name of the Reparations Commission; in that case Mr. Rathbone might be heard.

Mr. Loucheur stated that the Commission was of the unanimous opinion that a credit of 100,000,000 dollars was necessary.

Mr. Wallace stated that if that question was to be discussed in substance he would ask that Mr. Rathbone be heard by the Council.

Mr. Loucheur said that it was not a question at this time of discussing the point in substance. He was making a summary statement which the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission had asked him to make; but it was certain that they would have either the next day or the day after, to discuss that grave problem with the participation of the members of the Reparation Commission. His duty was to tell the Council that famine was threatening.

M. Clemenceau said that the Council would hear the Reparation Commission at its next meeting.

M. Loucheur said that the Austrian Delegates had on the other hand told them that the Vienna Government had received an offer from a Dutch group which was ready to advance 30,000,000 florins to Austria against the promise that, if at a later time the Austrian Government was to grant to an industrial company the monopoly of tobacco, it would enjoy a priority right for the concession of that monopoly. Mr. Rathbone had alluded to that fact in saying that they were eating the artichoke leaf by leaf: that was quite exact; but they had no other solution. The Organization Commission of the Reparation Commission therefore proposed to approve the contract between the Austrian Government and the Dutch group on condition that within two or three months, the Reparation Commission was able to work out, in order to float Austria financially, a possible scheme, it would be able to reimburse the Dutch group. From the information in their hands, that group would accept such a scheme. To summarize briefly, they proposed that the Council should reply to Chancellor Renner by giving him immediately relief and by informing him that [Page 564] they were going on with the study of a reorganization of the Austrian finances.

Chancellor Renner then entered the room.

6. M. Clemenceau asked Chancellor Renner to speak. Hearing of Chancellor Renner

Chancellor Renner then read the declaration contained in Appendix “F”.

M. Clemenceau said he would ask M. Loucheur to inform the Chancellor of the decision taken by the Supreme Council and the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission.

M. Loucheur said that the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission, following declarations made by Chancellor Renner and by the members of the Austrian Delegation, had taken a certain number of measures involving immediate application:

through the assistance of America, the good will of the Italian Government and that of Great Britain, and with the aid of France, 30,000 tons of wheat would be sent from Trieste into Austria; that measure was already being executed.
France and Great Britain were studying the opening of a credit in favor of Serbia against the latter’s delivery to Austria of the wheat it had promised her. The credit would only be opened in the measure where wheat would be delivered to Austria; an Allied mission would supervise on the spot those deliveries.
The Austrian Government had requested the release of a certain number of foreign securities which it had loaned when the first credit of forty-eight millions of dollars had been opened. They were now studying that proposal, and would be able to reply to it within eight days. They should, however, remark at once that they did not think that the securities in question constituted for Austria a means of finding within a short time the resources which she needed. Lastly, with regard to the loan for a first mortgage of the sum of thirty millions of florins, the Reparation Commission agreed to authorize the signing of the contract in question, with certain reservations which would be communicated that evening to Chancellor Renner, but which were not of a nature to prevent the execution of the proposed loan.

They had thus insured the immediate future of Austria. As far as a much more important program was concerned, which had been submitted to them by Chancellor Renner, the Powers would examine it and would communicate their opinion within a very short time, but they found it impossible to give an answer on that day concerning the general question.

Chancellor Renner said that he first wished to thank the Council and the Reparation Commission for the speed with which the requests presented by them had been examined, and also for the replies which had just been made known to them. With regard to the first point, the assurances which were given them that 30,000 tons of wheat would be sent immediately had caused them great relief; they did not know [Page 565] a few days before whether there would be bread in Vienna for Christmas. He took the liberty of insisting before the Italian representative, so that the sending of that wheat should not suffer any delay: they would thus have flour for the holidays.

Mr. de Martino said that he believed that the first trains were already on the way; if they were not, they would be leaving right away.

M. Loucheur said that M. Bertolini, the Italian representative on the Reparation Commission, had given them the day before the most reassuring information on the subject.

Chancellor Renner said that with regard to the opening of a credit to Serbia, he thought he should point out that they had once before made a formal contract for food stuffs with the Serb-Croat-Slovene State: under the provisions of that contract, and notwithstanding the great difficulties which they had had in obtaining them, they had deposited with the Serbian Government 140 millions of Serbian crowns, and up to this time they had received nothing, or practically nothing.

M. Loucheur said it was certain that Jugo-Slavia had not kept its promises. For that reason he was to meet the Serbian ministers the next day in order to take in accord with them the necessary measures.

Chancellor Renner stated that a few days before he left Vienna they had signed with Serbia a new agreement. Notwithstanding the great lack of rolling stock in their yards, they were lending her fifty engines so as to insure the transportation of that wheat. Unfortunately, however, on account of the late season which made it difficult to navigate the Danube, he believed it would be difficult to obtain it. He therefore feared that the happy solution found by the Allied and Associated Powers would not be sufficient to furnish them with the necessary food stuffs. He hoped, however, that the mission which M. Loucheur announced was to be sent might achieve the execution of the contracts.

On the other hand, they were well aware that the foreign securities which they were asking the Council to release would not suffice to get them out of trouble. It was only an expedient. They were, however, forced to have recourse to it as practically Austria did not dispose of any more foreign securities.

M. Loucheur said that the British and Italian representatives were awaiting the reply of their respective governments to the proposals of the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission. They hoped that in four or five days they would be enabled to communicate their decision to the Chancellor.

Chancellor Renner said that with regard to the monopoly of tobacco he was hopeful that the discussion which would take place [Page 566] that afternoon before the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission would have favorable results for them.

Lastly, he was happy to hear that a prompt answer would be made to the general proposals which they had presented. Already the concessions which had been made to them guaranteed that they would be able to live during the next few weeks. At that they would be receiving mostly wheat, and they lacked everything. The fact should not be lost sight of, however, that if they did not succeed in getting up a program on the whole question which would carry them until the next crop, Austria would go from bad to worse: they would remain condemned to live from day to day. When they had left Vienna, their provisioning was only insured for three days! It did not need much effort to understand that such a situation embittered individuals, exasperated passions; and in order to establish a normal situation little by little one should see clearly a few months ahead. He therefore took the liberty of insisting before the Supreme Council and the Reparation Commission in order that a methodical organization might be got under way which would last for ten months. If that result were obtained, he could guarantee that Austria and Vienna would work. People came to Vienna from all Eastern countries to obtain goods. As soon as they were enabled to work they would have no difficulty in exporting their products and would thus be capable of earning their bread and paying their debts.

M. Loucheur said that he would reply to Chancellor Renner that they were studying the program which he had submitted to them; they were quite aware that the measures which had already been decided upon would only suffice for two or three months. He wished, however, to point out that the possible loan of thirty million florins would enable Austria to acquire other things besides wheat.

Chancellor Renner wished, before leaving, to thank the Council and the Powers represented thereon for the assistance which had been given them. He hoped that the message which they could bring back to Vienna before Christmas would be a consolation for the populations. But in any event he wished to state that immediately after the holidays they would make efforts to better their relations with Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia: they wished to forget the past and work together on the foundations laid by the Treaty of St. Germain.

M. Clemenceau said that the Council thanked Chancellor Renner for the assurances of good will which he had just given. On their side they wished to express the firm hope that the promises made on both sides would be held.

Chancellor Renner then withdrew.

(The meeting then adjourned).

[Page 567]

Appendix A to HD–111

Note From the German Peace Delegation to the Supreme Council

(Presented in French, by M. von Lersner)

the representative of the
german peace delegation

No. 58

Paris, December 14, 1919.

Monsieur le Président: In reply to the note of December 8, I have the honor, at the order of my Government to inform your Excellency of the following:

The German Government wishes to do away with the misunderstanding which creates the impression that in compensation for the absence, for the time being, of the Delegates of the United States, in the Commissions provided for by the Treaty, Germany requests the right to have the terms of the Treaty modified in regard to the extradition of persons accused of infractions against the laws of war, and the repatriation of prisoners of war. The repatriation of prisoners of war has not been mentioned in this connection. In regard to the extradition, the German Government, before receiving the Allies’ note of November l,3 stated the reasons which would seem to make it necessary to attenuate the terms of the execution of the Treaty.4 These reasons still deserve, to the same extent, the most serious consideration by the Allied and Associated Powers. But, the German Government has never made its consent to the going into force of the Treaty dependent on previous agreement on this question.

The German Government takes note of the fact that according to the intention of the Supreme Council, the right, as reserved in the last paragraph of the Protocol of November 1,5 to have recourse to measures of coercion, military or otherwise, will only be effective until the state of peace shall have been established by the coming into force of the Treaty, and that the fulfilling of obligations, provided for by the Protocol, will not, from that time on, be guaranteed by stipulation other than the general stipulations of the Peace Treaty and the methods generally recognized by the law of nations. Under those conditions, the German Government does not maintain the objections made so far regarding the last paragraph of the Protocol.

The German Government also takes note of the declaration according to which it is the intention of the Allies to repatriate, from the time of the deposit of ratifications, the prisoners of war whose liberation, [Page 568] after the conclusion of peace can no longer be subordinated to any but the conditions referred to by Article 221—conditions which have already been fulfilled.

Aside from the terms of the Protocol of November 1st regarding the destruction of the German warships at Scapa Flow, and in view of the relative unimportance of the undertakings in question, and in the expectation that the deliveries effected in the meantime will unquestionably be taken into account, the German Government will raise no objections to the contents of the Protocol. The German Government only wishes to record the fact that the delays and the infractions of the Armistice, which, according to the Allies, have taken place, are not to be ascribed to it.

As for the affair of Scapa Flow, the German Government renounces replying in a detailed fashion to the separate note which the Allies submitted on the subject.5a It limits itself to the following observations:

The so-called contradiction between the memorandum of November 27th6 and the notes of June 28th and September 3rd, do not exist in reality. These notes do not discuss the legal aspect of the question. The memorandum only examines the legal side of the affair, and sets forth the arguments that a court of arbitrage should take into consideration.

Through an inaccurate translation, the sense of the passage of the letter of May 9th, from Admiral von Trotha, which was cited, is completely altered. From the original text, as well as from the passages preceding and following it, it appears that it refers to instructions given to the Naval Delegates for the negotiations at Versailles, and not, as the Allied note supposes, to an order given Admiral von Reuter.

In the order sent by Admiral von Reuter, June 17th, to the commanders of the warships, and which has just been published by the British admiralty, it is stated that the Admiral should not destroy the ships unless the enemy attempted to take them over, without the assent of the German Government, but that the ships should, on the contrary, be surrendered to the enemy if the German Government accepted the Peace terms. This order proves, once more, that it is only the mistaken impression that the Armistice had ceased and that a state of war again existed which impelled Admiral von Reuter to act as he did. He thought it his duty to act, under those circumstances, according to the general order which, in case of war, imposes on every naval officer the duty of not allowing his ship to fall into the hands of the enemy. A similar order exists, besides, in the British and French navies.

[Page 569]

The German Government maintains its opinion that the best way to arrive at a just solution of the dispute would have been to submit it to the International Court of Arbitrage at the Hague. This measure would in no wise have delayed the going into force of the Treaty nor the signature of the Protocol, modified accordingly.

The German Government can only regret that the Allies, on the contrary, should have taken the standpoint that it is a question of acts of war, the settlement of which rests with the victor. Desirous, nevertheless of doing everything within its power to do away with all obstacles which may oppose a prompt reestablishment of peace, the German Government declares its willingness to make good the damage caused to the Allied and Associated Governments by the destruction of the ships. It cannot, however, carry out this reparation in the manner provided for by the Protocol of November 1st, as a careful examination of the matter has shown that the demands formulated in the protocol would compromise in an irreparable way the economic life of Germany and would end by excluding all possibility of fulfilling the other enormous obligations which the Treaty imposes on Germany. It cannot be that the Allies wish to demand that the German Government assume such a new obligation. According to the note of December 8th they are, themselves, disposed to avoid causing such a fatal injury to the vital interests of German economic life. They have declared themselves ready to examine the question as soon as the German port material has been surrendered to them. The German Government desires, immediately to submit its data to the Allies and the other necessary data which will show to what an extent the fulfilment of these demands will harm the economic capacity of Germany. It has entrusted a commission of experts with the task of placing these data before the representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers and to furnish them will [with?] all desired explanations. It will formulate at the same time definite and detailed propositions on a mode of reparation which, while creating a new and heavy load for Germany in her present position will not be incompatible with her vital interests.

After having, in this way, declared itself ready in principle to afford reparation for the destruction of the ships in question, the German Government believes it may expect that the crews held until now on board will be repatriated without delay.

The German Government hopes in this way that it will be possible to proceed with the signature of the Protocol immediately, and to effect the coming into force of the Treaty, and the return of peace, so ardently desired by the German people and the entire world.

Please accept, Mr. President, etc. etc.

Baron von Lersner
[Page 570]

Appendix B to HD–111

president of the
german peace delegation

From: Von Lersner.

To: Dutasta.

I have the honor, pursuant to our conversation of this date, to inform your Excellency that the Technical Commission, which should arrive tomorrow, will be composed as follows:

  • Dr. Seeliger, Privy Legation Adviser
  • Mr. von Gagern, Navy Commander
  • Mr. Schreiber, Privy Admiralty Adviser
  • Mr. Loewer, Naval Construction Adviser
  • Mr. Eich, Privy Adviser
  • Mr. Blohm, Certified Engineer
  • Mr. Prltzer, Director
  • Mr. Muller, Labor Representative

Please accept, etc.

[No signature on file copy]

Appendix C to HD–111

Note From the Secretariat General of the Peace Conference

In transmitting the German reply7 to the Secretary General of the Conference, M. von Lersner stated that he had been instructed with making the following point clear: The German Government never considered it was its right to obtain a modification of the Treaty on the ground that the United States have not yet ratified and consequently will not be represented in the Commissions for the time being. The German Government adheres to Article 440, which stipulates that the Treaty will go into effect immediately upon the ratification by three of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Regarding the matter of Scapa Flow M. von Lersner stated that a delegation of German technicians would arrive in the morning. The Delegates would be supplied with all the necessary documents. The German Government was desirous of having this Commission meet, if possible as soon as to-morrow afternoon, a Commission of Allied technicians. M. von Lersner assured that in this event the Allies by to-morrow evening would be convinced of the absolute impossibility for Germany to satisfy the demands of the Allies concerning the 400,000 tons requested.

M. von Lersner again insisted on Germany’s very great and sincere desire for the re-establishment of a state of peace. But he added, [Page 571] begging that the Secretary General should not misinterpret his words, that if the Allies insisted on the actual surrender of the material described in the Protocol, the German Government would find it impossible to sign. But immediately thereafter he referred to the fact that not only would the experts enlighten the Allies but would propose compensations very acceptable to them. M. von Lersner brought out the point that the German Government, in this matter, has set all questions of pride completely aside since it agrees to reparation for acts for which it continues to assert it is not responsible.

Appendix D to HD–111

From: French Delegation.

To: Secretariat General of the Delegation of the United States of America.

Vorarlberg Question

From reports which reached the French Government, the Government of Vienna and public opinion in Austria are very much concerned about the separatist movement which is to be observed in Vorarlberg.

The Landtag of this region discussed on December 6, the question of its union with Switzerland. On this subject, it has taken the four following decisions:

It asks the Central Government to recognise the right of self-determination for Vorarlberg, and to refer this question to the Supreme Council at Paris, (League of Nations).
These authorities are invited, in case of necessity, to proclaim themselves the right of self-determination of the country.
The communes are invited to prepare the electoral lists, with a view to an eventual plebiscite.
The provincial authorities are invited to take the necessary measures, in case they should have to exercise the right of self-determination.

These decisions have been communicated by the Landtag to the Chancellery of the State of Vienna, which has answered by the following telegram:

“The Government will close no legal way to Vorarlberg, if the Landtag presents to the Government in Vienna a proposition authorising the negotiations of Vorarlberg concerning its union with Switzerland; the proposition will be forwarded to Paris; but the Government will, at the same time, reserve the right to make the necessary declarations in the interests of Austria. Vice-Chancellor Fink’s proposition, presented Tuesday, will therefore be accepted by the Government. The Government will, of course, be obliged to oppose, by every means in its power, any action directed against the Peace Treaties or the existing laws. It advises legal methods.”

[Page 572]

The Allied and Associated Powers cannot remain indifferent to this question. It is certain, as the Austrian Delegation says, in its letter of December 2, that the separation of Vorarlberg from Austria, would “lead sooner or later to a complete disintegration of Austria”. The demonstrations of the Vorarlberg people and of their Landtag have stimulated the ferments of dissolution throughout the Republic. It is reported that the province of Salzburg demands its reunion with Bavaria, and that a similar movement is growing in Northern Tyrol. The agents of the Government of Budapest are circulating through the Comitats of western Hungary, which were attributed to Austria, organising an agitation in favor of a plebiscite. It may be remarked, on this subject, that the Austrian Government now realises the danger of the solution it had the imprudence to request in its counter-propositions.

The decisions of the Peace Conference concerning the frontiers of Austria, determined in the interest of Europe, which inspired it with the desire to facilitate in every way the existence of this State, should influence it to give the Austrian Government official support in the question of Vorarlberg.

The Supreme Council might take advantage of Chancellor Renner’s presence in Paris to transmit to him a declaration in which the Allied and Associated Powers state that they adhere, and will adhere, as far as concerns the territory of the Austrian Republic, to the frontiers which have been fixed by the Treaty of St. Germain.

The Chancellor might be authorised to publish the declaration of the Supreme Council. This demonstration would strengthen the authority of the Austrian Government in all the regions where separatist tendencies exist. Concerning Vorarlberg in particular, it would contribute to wipe out the movement which is gaining hold in certain Swiss classes for the incorporation of Vorarlberg with the Confederation. The partisans of the incorporation invoke the danger for Switzerland if Vorarlberg were attached to Germany. Now, this eventuality would be excluded, if the Allied and Associated Powers would affirm their desire to see the integrity of the Austrian Republic maintained.

Appendix E to HD–111

Dangers of the Disintegration of Austria8

The deplorable situation now existing in Austria from an economic point of view favors all efforts towards disintegration instigated in the country by the pan-Germans who thus hope to annex the new State piece by piece by evading the provisions of the St. Germain [Page 573] and Versailles Treaties which prohibit the attachment of Austria to Germany.

The Vorarlberg Landtag decided, on December 6, to request the Government at Vienna to recognize a right of self-determination to the province, and to submit the question to the Supreme Council at Paris and to the League of Nations. Preparatory measures for an eventual plebiscite were taken, as well as provisions with a view to the separation from Austria.

In Switzerland public opinion is considerably stirred up, but is divided.

In certain circles, especially in the Germanic districts, a propaganda for the annexation of Vorarlberg to Switzerland is being conducted, while another current of opinion is hostile to such annexation through fear of seeing the religious or linguistic proportion displaced in the Confederation.

However, the Swiss Government has taken the following position, viz., that it will not favor the annexation of Vorarlberg to Switzerland as long as the integrity of Austria is maintained. It is only in the event that Austria would become disintegrated and the annexation of Vorarlberg to Germany a possibility, that Switzerland would support the independence of Vorarlberg and even consider its annexation, to prevent such an eventuality.

It is also agreed in Switzerland to submit the question to the League of Nations if need be.

On the other hand, an annexationist movement is being manifested in the Limburg district favoring Bavaria, and a similar movement is also evident in the Tyrol where it has assumed the form of a request for economic annexation with Germany.

Finally, the Hungarians announce that they will claim a plebiscite for the districts of Western Hungary, which were annexed to Austria by the St. Germain Treaty. The Government at Vienna, greatly alarmed, appeals to the Powers to obtain the solemn assurance that they will not permit a like destruction of the work of the St. Germain Treaty.

Article 88 of this Treaty is formal, and is drawn up as follows:

“The independence of Austria is inalienable otherwise than with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations. Consequently Austria undertakes in the absence of the consent of the said Council to abstain from any act which might directly or indirectly or by any means whatever compromise her independence, particularly, and until her admission to membership of the League of Nations, by participation in the affairs of another Power.”

These provisions were taken with a view to protecting European interests which exist more than ever and which should create a desire to favor the Austrian State by every means.

[Page 574]

It is therefore proposed to accord the Austrian Government public support in the form of a declaration which might be drawn up as follows and delivered to Chancellor Renner:

“The Allied and Associated Powers, desirous of assuring the existence of Austria within the frontiers as assigned, and determined to have the provisions of the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye respected, declare that they will oppose every effort of a nature to infringe upon the integrity of Austrian territory or which, contrary to the stipulations of Article 88 of the said Treaty would result in compromising in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, the political or economic independence of Austria.”

It is understood that in order to give full force to this public declaration, the Supreme Council should offer at the same time full security to Austria relative to her provisioning, and also take all measures necessary to insure her economic life.

Appendix F to HD–111

[Declaration by the Chancellor of Austria (Renner)]

Mr. President, Gentlemen of the Supreme Council: In a moment of most distressful plight [of?] the people of Austria, in behalf of which we appear before you, in taking refuge with the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Powers, we are well aware of the fact that here in Paris not only the political fate of countries but also the economic existence of nations are decided on. Our Mission is not a political one. In St. Germain our political future has been settled and our people, represented by the National Assembly, a body elected in general suffrage, has accepted with a majority of five-sixths of all men and women in Austria the terms of the St. Germain Treaty as a basis for their political existence and future, and thus adopted with confidence the system established in St. Germain.

Since that time our people have come into a desperate situation; seven millions of people are literally on the point of perishing by hunger and cold. In the name of humanity we implore the powers ruling the world to put an end to these atrocious sufferances unworthy of modern civilization; to put an end to this destruction of all working power, to the fearful mortality of children, to the physical and moral infirmity of the future generation!

May I be spared to picture to you the present state of our country and the suffering of our people. I know that the exhaustive and conscientious reports of the Missions did not leave the Governments of the Great Powers in doubt as to our present situation. The daily rations, which hard working people have contented themselves to live [Page 575] on, are so small that the more fortunate nations of the west could hardly conceive how a household could be kept on them. Today we are not able to deal out but a portion of said rations, and even that not to all of our people.

In Vienna we could only distribute 100 gr. of bread and flour a day and head, these last few weeks; at some other places outside of Vienna there was no bread at all. Nevertheless our people maintained peace and order up to the last moment. There is hardly a foreigner who did not admire them for this heroism. For this patience has been shown by our people now for years. With painful regret I have to confess that acts of violence and pillage have occurred these last few days. We condemn and punish such deeds, but the judges’ verdict is influenced by pity. Unspeakable care has brought us here, we fear that we do not possess the strength to leave this place if this care is not taken from us.

For even these small and irregularly dealt out rations could only last till about the middle of January, at which time we will be left without any food. The Austrian Government could not remain in office up to the very moment when the last kg. of flour, the last deka of fat has been given out, and the six million people are facing complete exhaustion of all their supplies. The Government bears before its own country and the entire world the responsibility that mankind shall not be surprised by such a catastrophe, which is bound to deal a heavy blow on the conscience of the civilized world.

I hardly need to cite the reasons, which have brought matters so far. There are chiefly two reasons: our own country in its present shape was only able to produce even in good times of peace a third or fourth of the year’s demand in breadstuffs. Therefore self-aid is of no avail to us. The second reason is that the agriculture of the neighboring countries and of Eastern Europe is run down to such an extent that it yields only a small or no surplus at all. Our next neighbors are mostly showing the best intentions, but we could convince ourselves that partly their soil, partly their railroads are giving out. The Austrian Government has in conformity with its duty and with the aid of the Great Powers made all efforts to assure our demand through agreements, but to our great distress we had to convince ourselves during these last few weeks, that it is impossible to build up our provision-system on an exchange of goods with our neighbors, and that the East could at the best supply additional contributions only. This disappointment prompted us to look towards the West, and this was the source of our second more fateful embarrassment.

Even in case a credit for the purchase of foodstuffs should be granted in the West to the Austrian Government, the provisions could only then be started moving and therefore could not arrive in time, but at the best in two months.

[Page 576]

Through our disappointment in the East turned towards the West we see to our own great dismay, that the time is too short. We cannot wait until the provisions are shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. Our first prayer therefore is, that the quantities needed for the taking care of the minimal rations for the next two months be advanced us out of the stocks available in Europe.

The breakdown of our currency-system, an event which has not its equal and could not be foreseen in its actual extent by anyone, makes it impossible for us to pay in our own money. We therefore must pray that the food supplies conceded out of the European Stocks be credited to us “in natura”, and that we obtain at the same time a credit, which would enable us to buy immediately, that is to say in this very hour, in countries across the Ocean, in order that the grain shipped from over there not only could replenish the said stocks, but also reach our country as soon as possible, to be distributed there. Not until then can a regular provisioning-service be taken up.

This, however, requires on the other part that our people are placed in a position to have continuous work. We must work in order that we ourselves may provide for our living and meet the obligations imposed on us by the Treaty of St. Germain. In our country employers and employes have after months of deep depression following the catastrophe of war shown the best intentions to resume work, but lack of food and above all of coal rendered it impossible to revive industrial activity. For unfortunately nature has denied to the territory awarded to us by the Treaty of St. Germain any coal-field worth while mentioning. We can only obtain the necessary minimum of food and raw materials, if the leading Allied Powers grant us a credit sufficient for said purpose. The Austrian Republic as created by the Peace of St. Germain does not possess at present foreign currency, contains incoherent parts of the whole productive machinery of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and requires a transition period in order that its people could rearrange their activity in conformity with the changed conditions.

Such credits are provided for in the peace terms. The provisions contain moreover all guarantees which Austria has to offer and all means of control to which Austria has to submit itself in order to assure repayment of said credits and reparation. We realize that it will require a length of time until a complete plan for the execution of these peace terms is worked out and carried into effect. The Austrian Government and people therefore appreciated it greatly that the Sub-Committee of the Organization Committee of the Reparation Commission was sent to Vienna several weeks ago, where its members devoted themselves with great zeal and pain to their difficult task. But I want to call the attention of the Supreme Council to the fact that this aid may come too late, if we are left in this uncertain [Page 577] state of affairs for months to come and are prevented from resuming activity, living through all this time from hand to mouth. Under the present circumstances no conscientious man could remain in a responsible public position knowing that it is impossible for him to help, so that without the assistance of the Allied and Associated Powers our country would be delivered to full anarchy. The existence and social order of our population being in greatest danger we have full confidence that our appeal will be favourably understood and be followed by an immediate intervention. Our life after being assured by your assistance we shall make all efforts to help ourselves as far as our strengths go.

It would be our greatest satisfaction to reach the point where we do not have to come for help any more as every state has to overcome its difficulties by itself.

The Austrian Government is fully conscious of the responsibility which it carries for the existence of the Austrian people and the maintenance of order in their own country. And—to be sure—we are pleading here above all the cause of the people. But we have the frankness to declare that we do not carry this responsibility alone, but that we are standing under higher duty while we are taking care of our people’s welfare. Europe is still far from a state of political steadiness of organized economic affairs and of social security, which state to attain must be the aim of all fair-minded people. We have the feeling that our country is the centre of the actual economic depression and the spot where the social suffering has reached its highest point. Our breakdown is bound to affect the whole system of the new states created by the Treaty of St. Germain and of entire Central Europe, it is bound to shake up the economic conditions of the entire world, so that no country, no part on our earth could get away from it. Therefore we comprise all we need in this one prayer:

Give kindly to our state, which in full confidence adopted the system established by the Great Powers, by your support a chance to save itself in order that it may fulfill its duty at its proper post and in the same time in the service of the entire world.

  1. Appendix C to HD–80, vol. viii, p. 865.
  2. HD–80, minute 2, and appendix B, vol. viii, pp. 847 and 863.
  3. Appendix B to HD–80, vol. viii, p. 863.
  4. See HD–21, minute 1, vol. vii, p. 449.
  5. Appendix C to HD–80, vol. viii, p. 865.
  6. See draft note printed as appendix C to HD–104, p. 439.
  7. Appendix G to HD–103, p. 414.
  8. Appendix A, p. 567.
  9. Note from the French delegation.