Section XI.—Free City of Danzig (Art. 100 to 108)

Notes to Part III, Section XI, Articles 100 to 108


The surrender of this “purely German Hanseatic city” and “its equally purely German environs” was declared by the German delegation to be “in the sharpest opposition to all the assurances” given by President Wilson, and would “lead to violent resistance and to an enduring state of war in the East”. Germany therefore rejected “the proposed rape of Danzig” (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vi, 836). But it was prepared to make Memel, Königsberg, and Danzig free ports in order to assure Poland “a direct outlet to the great highways of the sea”, as promised by President Wilson, and to grant the Poles “far-reaching rights”, subject to an agreement concerning the reciprocal use of German and Polish railways and rivers.

The Allied reply stated that the German language showed “some want of appreciation of the true situation” (ibid., p. 950). The [Page 242] arrangements for Danzig, which had been framed “with the most scrupulous care”, were intended to restore the city to the position which it had occupied for so many centuries as the port of Poland. Poland justly claimed that “the control and development of the port which is her sole opening to the sea shall be in her hands and that the communications between it and Poland shall not be subjected to any foreign control”.

The Free City of Danzig and its relations to Poland became, with the question of German minorities in Poland (see article 91), the casus belli of Germany in September 1939. The “explosion on the part of the military forces which have taken up their position” was set off because of tension, according to the German message of August 31, 1939 to the British Government, owing to “(1) the impossible delineation of frontiers, as fixed by Versailles dictate; (2) the impossible treatment of the minority in the ceded territories”. It is therefore pertinent to scrutinize the record of National Socialist Germany at Danzig with some care.

On October 24, 1930 an emissary of the National Socialist party of Germany arrived in Danzig to establish “Gau Danzig”, as a region under its control was called. The party acquired the reins of power on June 20, 1933. In September 1933 the election gave the National Socialists 38 out of 72 seats in the Senate. Active negotiations with Poland on outstanding questions were initiated with a view to molding relations to the forms of Nazi ideology, and local action was taken by decrees, which progressively deviated from the intentions of the Constitution.

The National Socialist Gauleiter forced the National Socialist President of the Senate, Hermann Rauschning, to vacate his office and expelled him from the party (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1936, pp. 193, 197) in November 1934 after having prevented him from exercising his functions for some time. His successor carried on an active program of asserting loyalty to the Constitution and simultaneously passing decrees which in several instances were found by the Council of the League of Nations to be contrary to the guaranties of the Constitution.

The year 1935, reported the High Commissioner, “has seen an intense development of the policy to create a National Socialist community de facto”.

A special election was held on April 7, 1935 by the National Socialists with the object of gaining the two-thirds majority required for [Page 243] revising the Constitution. That party obtained only 43 out of 72 Senate seats; however, the methods employed in the election campaign were found to be unconstitutional by the High Court, with the consequent reduction of votes credited to the party and of its seats in the Volkstag.

On May 1, 1935, the gulden was devalued by 42.3 percent of its gold-franc parity. There followed a control over foreign exchange and measures affecting both import and export trade. Poland demanded the repeal of these measures and conversations led to no positive result. On July 18 the Polish Minister of Finance issued an order to the Administration of Customs in Danzig to cease all operations. Danzig took countermeasures, but these and the Polish order were repealed by a protocol on August 8. A second protocol then signed led to the conclusion on October 11 of a protocol providing for restoration of full freedom of payments, free dealings in foreign exchange, and certain arrangements concerning the gulden (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1936, pp. 202, 211).

Repeated breaches of the Constitution had rendered it awkward for the League’s High Commissioner, whose relations with Danzig authorities were necessarily intimate, to ask the Council time after time to put such questions on its agenda. On July 4, 1936 the Council appointed a Committee of Three, composed of representatives of Great Britain, France, and Sweden, to initiate consideration of questions on the reports of the High Commissioner. By the time the last High Commissioner arrived at Danzig on March 1, 1937, “the Constitution had been stripped of all liberally-conceived principles”.

On August 12, 1936 the German Chancellor assured the Polish Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that “Polish rights in the Free City, which he knew and understood, could not suffer the least detriment” from the National Socialists.

After 1936 the High Commissioner played a minor and decreasing part with respect to Danzig and in Danzig-Polish relations. There was, on the other hand, an increase of German-Polish relations, in which Germany voiced claims on behalf of the Free City but entirely within the bounds of the established regime.

On November 5, 1937, when the German-Polish minorities declaration (see art. 91) was announced, the German Chancellor formulated his attitude to the Polish Ambassador in three points: There would be no changes in the legal and political position in Danzig; the rights of the Polish population in Danzig would be respected; the rights of Poland in Danzig would be respected. The Chancellor added, according to the Ambassador’s report, that “a surprise step was out [Page 244] of the question”, but he also remarked that “Poland is bound up with Danzig”. He reiterated that declaration to the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs on January 14, 1938.

During 1938 the official note in Danzig-Polish relations was optimistic. The Gauleiter of Danzig visited Poland and was cordially received at Warsaw in May. The High Commissioner of the League succeeded in obtaining the postponement of anti-Jewish laws at Danzig from January to May, to June, to September, and finally to November 1938, well after the Czechoslovak crisis.

The German Minister for Foreign Affairs proposed to the Polish Ambassador on October 24, 1938 a general settlement which included the reunion of Danzig with the Reich, Poland being assured of an extraterritorial road, a railroad and a free port, and economic facilities there. Poland would agree to the building of an extraterritorial motor road and railroad line across Pomorze. In his instructions to the Ambassador the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs on October 31 stated that he was “ready to have final conversations personally with the governing circles of the Reich”. To stabilize relations, “the Polish Government proposes the replacement of the League of Nations guarantee and its prerogatives by a bilateral Polish-German agreement”. The content of these instructions was “exactly and emphatically communicated” on November 19 to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, to whom the proposal for a bilateral treaty “did not seem easy of accomplishment”. A meeting of the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs with the German Chancellor on January 5, 1939, and with the German Minister for Foreign Affairs on January 9, and a visit of the German Minister for Foreign Affairs to Warsaw on January 25–28 achieved only a “gentlemen’s agreement” that the status quo would be maintained at Danzig if the League of Nations withdrew from the Free City. (Germany, Auswärtiges Amt, 1939, No. 2, Documents on the Origin of the War, Nos. 197, 198–202; Poland, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Official Documents Concerning Polish-German and Polish-Soviet Relations, 1933–39, Nos. 24, 34, 36, 44–52.) At this time it was the Polish opinion that the establishment of Germany in Danzig at the mouth of the Vistula would be equivalent to economic and therefore political control over Polish national life.

The High Commissioner of the League did not return to Danzig immediately after the Council meeting at Geneva in January 1939. He advised the Committee of Three during the critical days of [Page 245] March and returned to Danzig at the instance of both parties only on May 26. From that time until the German invasion of Poland, he played a mediatory part between the Danzig authorities and the Polish representative, at times being their only channel of communication. On August 11 he was summoned to a two-and-one-half hour interview with the German Chancellor, who then said that “if the slightest things were attempted by the Poles, he would fall upon them like lightning”.

The German Führer on March 15, 1939 exacted from the President of Czechoslovakia the remission into his hands of “the destiny of the Czech people and country”. On March 21 the British Minister at Warsaw handed the Polish Ministry for Foreign Affairs a memorandum in which it was stated that the German absorption of Czechoslovakia showed “clearly that the German Government resolved to go beyond their hitherto avowed aim to consolidate the German race”. If this extension of conquest “should prove subsequently part of a definite policy of domination, there is no state in Europe which is not directly or ultimately threatened”. With a view to organizing mutual support for “protecting international society from further violation of the fundamental laws on which it rests”, Great Britain proposed that the French, Soviet, and Polish Governments join it in signing and publishing a formal declaration that they would consult together as to what steps for joint resistance should be taken to “any action which constitutes a threat to the political independence of any European state” (Poland, Official Documents …, No. 65). Poland raised objections to a four-state declaration as inadequate but was willing to entertain bilateral discussions running parallel with the Franco-Polish alliance.

On March 16 Hungary, with the consent of Germany, occupied the Subcarpathian Ruthenia district of Czechoslovakia; on March 22 Germany acquired Memel from Lithuania as a “reunion” with the Reich; on March 23 Slovakia became a German protectorate. On March 31 Great Britain announced a unilateral assurance to Poland of assistance in case it was called upon to resist “action which clearly threatened Polish independence”, and on April 6 a British-Polish communiqué proclaimed the reciprocal intention of both Governments to enter into an agreement for mutual assistance in the event of any threat, direct or indirect, to the independence of either.

This development followed diplomatic meetings at Berlin on March 26 and at Warsaw on March 28 in which the German Minister [Page 246] for Foreign Affairs informally found Polish proposals of March 26 with respect to Danzig and the Corridor unsatisfactory. At the meetings there was mutual recrimination on the movement of troops (Poland, Official Documents … Nos. 62–64; Germany, Official Documents … Nos. 208, 211). Each told the other that aggression against the Free City of Danzig would be a casus belli.

The German Chancellor made a speech to the Reichstag on April 28, 1939, in which he argued that the Treaty of Versailles intentionally “inflicted a most severe wound on Germany” by establishing the Corridor and Danzig in such a way as to prevent understanding between Poland and Germany. The speech was the public frame for a memorandum handed to the Polish Government in which it was asserted that Poland had rejected the German proposals on Danzig and the Corridor and, by assuming the obligations of April 6 with the United Kingdom, which were incompatible with the German-Polish declaration of January 26, 1934, had “arbitrarily and unilaterally rendered this declaration inoperative” (Germany, op. cit., No. 213) or “null and void” (Poland, op. cit., No. 76; United Kingdom, Misc. No. 9 (1939), Cmd. 6106, No. 14). The Polish Government in its memorandum of May 5 concluded that the “Reich had no justification for their unilateral decision” but held itself open to fresh negotiations. It further noted Germany’s failure to reply to the Polish suggestions of March 26. The German attitude was that “the formulation of counter-proposals instead of the acceptance of the verbal German suggestions without alteration or reservation had been regarded by the Reich as a refusal of discussions”; that, Poland held, was incompatible with Polish vital interests and dignity.

In March Germany began complaining of Polish treatment of German nationals and members of the German minority, of whom 741,000 were scattered through the country, particularly in the Corridor. Danzig was completely in the hands of the National Socialist Party, whose uniformed members circulated freely and were arming steadily. A succession of incidents occurred, including frequent encounters with Polish customs inspectors and other officials. Persons purporting to be Danzig customs officials on the East Prussian frontier informed the Polish customs officials that as from August 6 they would not be allowed to exercise their functions of control. The Polish diplomatic representative demanded a countermanding of such orders on August 4, stating that they infringed the existing agreements and would result in retaliatory measures, if applied. [Page 247] The President of the Senate of the Free City on August 7 protested against a Polish order putting Polish customs officials in uniform with arms and assured the Polish representative that no order such as the one complained of “has been issued from an office, certainly not from any administrative quarter of the Customs Office, of the Free City of Danzig” (Poland, op. cit., Nos. 81–85; Germany, op. cit., Nos. 423, 432–434).

As early as March 1939 Germany was representing the efforts of France and Great Britain to offset or to circumscribe the effect of German expansive action as a policy of “encirclement”. The refusal of the German Foreign Office on March 18 to receive their protest against the German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia indicated the intention of Germany to go its own way and to disregard any attempts to bring influence to bear upon what Germany insisted were bilateral relations with Poland. Disturbances were invented and magnified, Germans in Poland being constantly represented as innocent victims.

After the Kalthof shooting incident of May 20, 1939 (Germany, op. cit., Nos. 429, 430) personal contacts and verbal discussions between the Danzig-German and Polish officials had ceased, and correspondence had been carried on only by notes. The High Commissioner of the League of Nations for many weeks acted as an intermediary on the spot. As it became clear that the German Führer (Hitler was so designated in the German documentation) was shaping events for a Danzig Corridor coup, Great Britain sought to protect “international society from further violation of the fundamental laws on which it rests”. That was the stated purpose of the pourparlers which had been begun in March, which resulted in the guaranty of April 6 to Poland, and which had actuated negotiations in August at Moscow by the British and French Governments for mutual assistance in case of aggression. The failure of those negotiations occurred at the time when the Germans succeeded in signing a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. On August 22 the British Parliament was summoned for the 24th to pass an Emergency Powers (Defense) Bill, and precautionary measures under it were put in train. These steps were, said the Prime Minister in a note of August 22 to the German Chancellor (Führer), “rendered necessary by the military movements which have been reported from Germany, and by the fact that apparently the announcement of a German-Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to [Page 248] indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland is no longer a contingency to be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made.” He proposed direct negotiations between Germany and Poland with the possible aid of an intermediary, the conclusions to be guaranteed by other states.

As to negotiations, the German Führer, in a letter of August 23 to the British Prime Minister, said “Germany was prepared to settle the problem of Danzig and of the Polish Corridor by a very generous proposal, made once only, and by means of negotiations”. This quotation is from the German-English version of the German Foreign Office (Official Documents, No. 456). The original German reads: “Deutschland war bereit, die Frage Danzig und die des Korridors durch einen wahrhaft einmalig grosszügigen Vorschlag auf dem Wege von Verhandlungen zu lösen”. The British translation reads: “negotiation on the basis of a proposal of truly unparalleled magnanimity”. Any inclination of Poland to negotiate was “effectually destroyed” by the United Kingdom’s guaranty to Poland. Referring to proposed British military mobilization, the Führer wrote: “I must, therefore, inform Your Excellency that in the event of such military measures being taken, I shall order the immediate mobilization of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht)”.

On August 23 the neutrality of the Soviet Union was obtained for Germany by the signing of the non-aggression pact. On the same day Albert Forster, the Gauleiter of the National Socialist Party at Danzig, became “Head of State of the Free City of Danzig” under a decree adopted by the Senate. This new official stated that the decree sanctioned a state of affairs “which, since the accession to power by the National Socialists in 1933, has in practice been in force”. The United Kingdom and Poland concluded on August 25 at London an agreement of mutual assistance, which was duplicated between France and Poland on September 4.

In the critical days which followed the British Government was apprehensive that the German Führer would use alleged Polish ill-treatment of the German minority “at any moment as an excuse for taking some irrevocable action”, but shared the Polish view that a fait accompli at Danzig was not imminent. It was able to propose to Germany on August 28 “the initiation of direct discussions between the German and Polish Governments on a basis which would include … the safeguarding of Poland’s essential interests and the securing of the settlement by an international guarantee. They [Page 249] [British Government] have already received a definite assurance from the Polish Government that they are prepared to enter into discussions on this basis” (United Kingdom, Official Documents, No. 74; Germany, Official Documents, No. 463).

The German reply, handed to the British Ambassador August 29, 7:15 p.m., was equivocal. The first part, in the British view, consisted of “an indefensible and misleading presentation of the German case”. The reply accepted the proposal for direct discussion in the following language of the German translation into English (United Kingdom, op. cit., No. 464):

“The Reich Government in their proposals moreover never had the intention of attacking vital Polish interests or of questioning the existence of an independent Polish State. Under these conditions, the Reich Government therefore agree to accept the proposed intermediation of the British Government to send to Berlin a Polish representative invested with plenipotentiary powers. They expect his arrival on Wednesday, 30 August 1939.

“The Reich Government will immediately draft the proposals for a solution acceptable to them, and, if possible, will make such proposals also available for the British Government before the Polish negotiator arrives.”

At 4 a.m., August 30, the British Ambassador at Berlin under instructions informed the German Minister for Foreign Affairs that “it is, of course, unreasonable to expect that we can produce a Polish representative in Berlin today, and German Government must not expect this”. At 6:50 p.m. the British Foreign Office asked the Ambassador at Berlin to “suggest to German Government that they adopt the normal procedure” of handing its proposals to the Polish Ambassador for transmission to Warsaw. The British reply itself was delivered to the German Minister for Foreign Affairs at midnight, August 30. That official’s reply was to “read out in German aloud at top speed” a lengthy document containing the German proposals, a copy of which he refused to give to the British Ambassador, asserting “that it was now too late as Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by midnight”. He denied that this foreclosure of negotiations was an ultimatum and violently affirmed that he would never ask the Polish Ambassador to visit him. The Polish Ambassador was, nevertheless, authorized to see the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, and was received by him at 6:15 p.m., [Page 250] August 31. He announced that Poland was considering favorably the British suggestion of direct negotiations and would make its formal reply in a few hours. The Polish Chargé d’Affaires had made a hurried trip to Warsaw that day for instructions, delay being inevitable since Germany had severed rail and telephone communications with Warsaw on August 26. The German official learned on inquiry that the Polish Ambassador did not come “as a fully empowered Delegate”.

At 9 p.m., August 31, the German radio and newspapers broadcast a communiqué containing the German proposals in the 16 points which had been hurriedly read to the British Ambassador the night before and which were published by the German Foreign Office as ii they were part of the August 30 proceedings (cf. United Kingdom, Official Documents, Nos. 89, 92, and 98 with Germany, Official Documents, Nos. 466 and 468). The German broadcast and communiqué asserted that the German Government had “waited two days in vain for the arrival of an authorized Polish delegate” and could “not but regard their proposals as having once more been rejected in effect”. It accordingly published the proposals “as communicated to the British Ambassador”. The Ambassador himself, and his French and American colleagues, was given the text of those proposals at the Foreign Office at 9:15 p.m., August 31; they were embodied in a message replying to the British note of August 28.

Of the 16 points, 12 related to Danzig and the Corridor and 4 to minority questions. The first was that “the Free City of Danzig shall return to the Reich”.

Germany began its attack on Poland at dawn of September 1, some eight or nine hours after these proposals were made public and those concerned had received them.

On September 1, Gauleiter Albert Forster, who on August 23 had assumed at Danzig the position of “head of state”, put in force a “constitutional law” which read in part:

  • Article 1. The Constitution of the Free City of Danzig is cancelled with immediate effect.
  • Article 2. All legislative and executive power is in the hands of the head of the State.
  • Article 3. The Free City of Danzig with its territory and population shall immediately form part of the territory of the German Reich.”

[Page 251]

Article 100.

Germany renounces in favour of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers all rights and title over the territory comprised within the following limits:

from the Baltic Sea southwards to the point where the principal channels of navigation of the Nogat and the Vistula (Weichsel) meet:

the boundary of East Prussia as described in Article 28 of Part II (Boundaries of Germany) of the present Treaty;

thence the principal channel of navigation of the Vistula downstream to a point about 6½ kilometres north of the bridge of Dirschau;

thence north-west to point 5, 1½ kilometres south-east of the church of Güttland:

a line to be fixed on the ground;

thence in a general westerly direction to the salient made by the boundary of the Kreis of Berent 8½ kilometres north-east of Schöneck:

a line to be fixed on the ground passing between Mühlbanz on the south and Rambeltsch on the north;

thence the boundary of the Kreis of Berent westwards to the re-entrant which it forms 6 kilometres north-north-west of Schöneck;

thence to a point on the median line of Lonkener See:

a line to be fixed on the ground passing north of Neu Fietz and Schatarpi and south of Barenhütte and Lonken;

thence the median line of Lonkener See to its northernmost point;

thence to the southern end of Pollenziner See:

a line to be fixed on the ground;

thence the median line of Pollenziner See to its northernmost point;

thence in a north-easterly direction to a point about 1 kilometre south of Koliebken church, where the Danzig-Neustadt railway crosses a stream:

a line to be fixed on the ground passing south-east of Kamehlen, Krissau, Fidlin, Sulmin (Richthof), Mattern, Schäferei, and to the north-west of Neuendorf, Marschau, Czapielken, Hoch- and Klein-Kelpin, Pulvermühl, Renneberg and the towns of Oliva and Zoppot;

thence the course of the stream mentioned above to the Baltic Sea.

[Page 252] [Page 253]

The boundaries described above are drawn on a German map, scale 1/100,000, attached to the present Treaty (Map No. 3). [Not reproduced.]

Note to III, 100

The frontier was laid down to follow the ethnographic line as closely as possible.

The evacuation of the territory by Germany was effected to a representative of the Allied and Associated Powers by an agreement signed at Paris on January 9, 1920. On entry of the treaty into force on January 10, the limits defined in this article became applicable as to the boundary of the Free City of Danzig with relation to Germany.

On October 27, 1920, the states represented in the Conference of Ambassadors signed the decision establishing the Free City of Danzig, in accordance with article 102, within the boundaries described in this article, interpolating in that description the conterminous boundary of East Prussia as described in article 28 of the treaty from the Baltic Sea to the point where it leaves the Vistula. This instrument was accepted by Danzig on November 9, 1920, and it entered into force on November 15.

Article 101.

A Commission composed of three members appointed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, including a High Commissioner as President, one member appointed by Germany and one member appointed by Poland, shall be constituted within fifteen days of the coming into force of the present Treaty for the purpose of delimiting on the spot the frontier of the territory as described above, taking into account as far as possible the existing communal boundaries.

Article 102.

The Principal Allied and Associated Powers undertake to establish the town of Danzig, together with the rest of the territory described in Article 100, as a Free City. It will be placed under the protection of the League of Nations.

Text of May 7:

The city of Danzig together with the rest of the territory described in Article 100 is established as a Free City, and placed under the protection of the League of Nations.

Note to III, 102

The Council of the League of Nations, in virtue of the Free City’s being placed under its protection, on several occasions took action [Page 254] with reference to military matters. In assuming the guaranty of the constitution on November 17, 1920, the Council provided for insertion of the following provision in that instrument:

Article 5. The Free City of Danzig cannot, without the previous consent of the League of Nations, in each case:

  • “(1) Serve as a military or naval base;
  • “(2) Erect fortifications;
  • “(3) Authorize the manufacture of munitions or war material in its territory.”

Permission to manufacture 50,000 rifles for Peru at the former German Government rifle factory, owned in December 1920 by the Principal Allied and Associate Powers and managed by Danzig, was refused by the Council, which ordered the factory closed down on July 30, 1921. The storage and transport of war material in Danzig was permitted only with the consent of the Council, exercised through the High Commissioner, following the advisory opinion rendered by the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1932 (Series A/B, No. 43).

The Westerplatte peninsula in the territory of the Free City was placed at the disposal of the Polish Government for the purpose of unloading, storing, and forwarding to Poland war material and explosives in transit in March 1924. An agreement signed on August 4, 1928 dealt with the necessary details (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1928, p. 1618).

A protocol signed at Danzig on August 13, 1932 (ibid., 1933, p. 142) settled for three years the question of access to and anchorage in the port of Danzig of Polish war vessels. No limitation of number or of length of stay was placed upon Polish ships arriving for the economic reasons of revictualing or repairs. In the annexed “recognized international rules”, salutes in honor of the Danzig flag were dispensed with, “since there is no battery to return the salute”.

Article 103.

A constitution for the Free City of Danzig shall be drawn up by the duly appointed representatives of the Free City in agreement with a High Commissioner to be appointed by the League of Nations. This constitution shall be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations.

The High Commissioner will also be entrusted with the duty of dealing in the first instance with all differences arising between [Page 255] Poland and the Free City of Danzig in regard to this Treaty or any arrangements or agreements made thereunder.

The High Commissioner shall reside at Danzig.

Note to III, 103

The Council of the League of Nations accepted the guaranty of the constitution on November 17, 1920 when the Free City was placed under the protection of the League. In January 1922 the Council required an amendment in the draft constitution, and on April 4 the Volkstag voted the change, 60 to 13. However, 47 of the 120 members had withdrawn before the vote, and the contention was made that the vote was invalid since it was not in conformity with the rule of the constitution which called for a quorum of two thirds and a majority of two thirds. The High Commissioner informed the president of the Senate on May 11, 1922 that he accepted the vote and declared that the amended constitution “is now agreed to by me in accordance with the terms of Article 103 of the Treaty of Versailles”. The Council approved his report on May 13 (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1922, pp. 532, 668).

The constitution (ibid., Spec. Supp. 7) was amended in 1930 and 1931 with the approval of the Council (ibid., 1930, p. 1794; ibid., 1931, pp. 2253, 2427).

The duties of the High Commissioner were defined by the Council of the League of Nations in a resolution of February 13, 1920. The last High Commissioner completed his tasks on December 27, 1939. He was responsible to the League and reported to the Council. His decisions during the early years dealt with many practical questions and were annually published as Danzig documents. His decisions were either accepted and applied by the parties or were made the subject of direct negotiations between them under his auspices. If no agreement ensued from such negotiations, either party could appeal to the Council.

Though the High Commissioner noted on December 12, 1924 that no appeal had been taken to the Council for nine months, he called attention to the desirability of reducing the number of merely tactical appeals. In consequence, with the support of Poland and Danzig, a detailed procedure was adopted by the Council on June 1, 1925 (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1925, pp. 562, 880) under which the system of direct negotiations under the auspices of the High Commissioner was maintained, but he was empowered to take the advice of the League’s technical organizations or experts before giving his decisions and before an appeal to the Council.

[Page 256]

The affairs of the Free City were referred by the Council to the Permanent Court of International Justice on six occasions, resulting in advisory opinions rendered on May 16, 1925, concerning the Polish postal service in Danzig (Permanent Court of International Justice, Series B, No. 11); March 3, 1928, jurisdiction of Danzig courts (ibid., Series B, No. 15); August 26, 1930, Danzig and the International Labour Organisation (ibid., Series B, No. 18); December 11, 1931, access to and anchorage in the port of Danzig for Polish war vessels (ibid., Series A/B, No. 43); February 4, 1932, treatment of Polish nationals in Danzig (ibid., Series A/B, No. 44); December 4, 1935, Constitution of the Free City (ibid., Series A/B, No. 65).

In the last opinion the Court found that two decrees of the Senate of the Free City of August 29, 1935, which had been issued by the then National Socialist authorities, violated the guaranties of fundamental rights of individuals granted by the constitution. The decrees made “the fundamental conceptions of a penal law and sound popular feeling” criteria of punishment.

Article 104.

The Principal Allied and Associated Powers undertake to negotiate a Treaty between the Polish Government and the Free City of Danzig, which shall come into force at the same time as the establishment of the said Free City, with the following objects:

Text of May 7:

A Convention, the terms of which shall be fixed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, shall be concluded between the Polish Government and the Free City of Danzig with the following objects:

Note to III, 104

The treaty called for by this article is the convention concluded between Poland and the Free City of Danzig at Paris on November 9, 1920 (6 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 189), which came into force on November 15, 1920.1 It provided for a diplomatic representative of the Polish Government to be in residence at Danzig as an intermediary between that Government and the Free City. “Poland was to undertake the conduct of the foreign relations of [Page 257] the Free City of Danzig as well as the protection of its nationals abroad.” Nationals of the Free City were included on the staff of Polish consulates in foreign places where the Free City had important economic interests and were charged with matters affecting those interests “under the direction and superintendency of the Polish consuls”. Exequaturs for foreign consular officers residing at Danzig were issued by the Polish Government in agreement with the authorities of the Free City. Poland bore the costs of the diplomatic and consular representation of the Free City and of the protection of its nationals abroad.

No treaty or international agreement affecting the Free City was to be concluded by Poland without previous consultation with its authorities. The High Commissioner of the League of Nations had the right to veto any such instrument so far as it applied to the Free City if it, in the opinion of the Council of the League of Nations, was inconsistent with the provisions of the present treaty or with the statutes of the Free City. The Danzig merchant flag was restricted to ships owned exclusively by nationals of the Free City, which was obliged to accord in the port of Danzig the same treatment to ships flying the Polish flag as to those flying its own. Poland and the Free City formed one customs area under the Polish customs legislation and tariff. The territory of the Free City formed one administrative unit under the general direction of the Polish central customs administration. The free zone in the port of Danzig was maintained. The convention provided for the Danzig Port and Waterways Board, consisting of five members representing Poland and the Free City, the president being chosen by agreement or by the Council of the League of Nations on request of the High Commissioner. Poland acquired the right of establishing in the port postal, telegraph, and telephone services. The Free City was obligated to apply the provisions relating to minorities included in the treaty between Poland and the Principal Allied and Associated Powders, signed on June 28, 1919 (see p. 791). According to article 39 all differences arising between Poland and the Free City in regard to the convention or any subsequent agreements, arrangements, or conventions “or to any matter affecting the relations between Poland and the Free City” were to be submitted to the High Commissioner, who was entitled to refer them to the Council of the League of Nations, to which either party also had the right to appeal.

An agreement for executing and completing the 1920 convention was concluded at Warsaw on October 24, 1921 between Poland and [Page 258] the Free City of Danzig and entered into force on January 10, 1922 (116 League of Nations Treaty Series). This agreement, in 9 parts and 244 articles, dealt with Polish and Danzig nationals, legal questions, posts, navigation, financial matters, customs, import and export of goods, and supply of food, fuel, and raw materials for the Free City, and also contained a series of special provisions. By article 215 “all restrictions on trade between the Polish Republic and the Free City of Danzig shall be abrogated as from April 1, 1922”.

Because Poland granted the Free City rights over and above the provisions of the convention, it stipulated in article 236 of the agreement that “differences of opinion” should not be submitted to the High Commissioner (article 39 of the convention) with regard to permission to engage in trade or manufacture within the territory of the other party, acquisition or alienation of movable and immovable property in the territory of the other party, maritime and inland navigation and fisheries. Poland was entitled to denounce those provisions if this understanding were “declared not to hold good”.

The convention of 1920 and the complementary agreement of 1921 by no means comprised all the formal structure of Danzig-Polish relations. The Senate of the Free City in December 1923 issued a Zusammenstellung der zwischen der Freien Stadt Danzig und der Republik Polen abgeschlossenen Verträge, Abkommen und Vereinbarungen, 1920–23, which included 45 instruments as follows: 3 economic agreements concluded before the establishment of the Free City; 11 economic agreements; 4 railroad agreements; 3 agreements concerning the harbor board; 24 agreements on various matters. Editions of the Zusammenstellung for 1924–27, 1928–32, 1933–34, 1935, 1936, and 1937–38 included over 100 additional agreements between the Free City and Poland.

(1) To effect the inclusion of the Free City of Danzig within the Polish Customs frontiers, and to establish a free area in the port;

Note to III, 104 (1)

Identic statements in the form of separate protocols were jointly signed on August 13, 1932 (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1933, p. 143) in which the Polish Government and the Danzig Senate individually declared “that it is determined to take vigorous action [Page 259] in its territory against any economic propaganda directed against Danzig [Polish] establishments or products coming from Danzig [Poland], and to use its authority to prevent hostile acts and demonstrations against persons of Danzig [Polish] origin or nationality”.

Six agreements “on questions of considerable importance to the two countries” were concluded between the Free City and Poland on August 6, 1934 after several months of direct negotiation. The High Commissioner (ibid., 1934, p. 1922) reported them as concerned with the settlement of certain customs questions, the participation of the Free City in Polish import quotas, regulations with regard to foodstuffs and articles of current use, the disposal of agricultural products, a veterinary convention, and an agreement regarding protection of plants. These agreements were in force on September 1, 1934 for an initial period of two years and were considered by the German Consul General at Danzig to have “attained in essence” the aim of Danzig, “provided the agreements concluded are loyally observed by the other party” (Auswärtiges Amt, 1939, No. 2, Documents on the Origin of the War, No. 181).

(2) To ensure to Poland without any restriction the free use and service of all waterways, docks, basins, wharves and other works within the territory of the Free City necessary for Polish imports and exports;

(3) To ensure to Poland the control and administration of the Vistula and of the whole railway system within the Free City, except such street and other railways as serve primarily the needs of the Free City, and of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communication between Poland and the port of Danzig;

Note to III, 104 (3)

The Council of the League of Nations took note on January 13, 1922 of a draft agreement between the Polish and Danzig Governments concerning the control and administration of the Vistula (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1922, pp. 103, 142).

(4) To ensure to Poland the right to develop and improve the waterways, docks, basins, wharves, railways and other works and means of communication mentioned in this Article, as well as to lease or purchase through appropriate processes such land and other property as may be necessary for these purposes;

[Page 260]

Note to III, 104 (4)

Owing to differences with the Danzig authorities over port facilities, Poland in 1926 began the development of the port of Gdynia to the west of Danzig. Traffic and trade were diverted from the Free City to this port. By an arrangement of August 5, 1933, Poland undertook to prevent a decrease of the sea-borne traffic then passing through the port of Danzig and insure Danzig’s equal participation in future sea-borne import, export, and transit traffic. A protocol of September 18, 1933, prolonged until September 30, 1936, determined the quantities of specified goods to be transhipped by the port of Danzig (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1933, p. 1156; ibid., 1934, p. 27; ibid., 1936, p. 212).

(5) To provide against any discrimination within the Free City of Danzig to the detriment of citizens of Poland and other persons of Polish origin or speech;

Note to III, 104 (5)

The treatment of Polish nationals in the Free City was the subject of many differences and finally of an advisory opinion of the Permanent Court of International Justice, which on February 4, 1932 held that such questions were to be decided by reference to the treaties and not to the constitution of the Free City. Agreements of November 26, 1932 and August 5 (initialed), September 18 (signed), 1933 resolved the matter (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1932, p. 2282; ibid., 1933, p. 1157).

The 1932 agreement accepted the advisory opinion and dealt with contributions of the Polish Railway Administration to Danzig school expenditures, canceled prohibitions on the sale of certain newspapers in Danzig or Poland, and fixed the currency in which railway charges in Danzig were payable. The 1933 agreement concerned the treatment of Polish nationals in Free City schools. The Free City guaranteed “the free use of the Polish language, both in personal relations and for economic and social purposes”. The provisions were to “be construed reasonably” but did not imply “any obligations … to maintain a bilingual administration”.

(6) To provide that the Polish Government shall undertake the conduct of the foreign relations of the Free City of Danzig as well as the diplomatic protection of citizens of that city when abroad.

Article 105.

On the coming into force of the present Treaty German nationals ordinarily resident in the territory described in Article 100 will [Page 261] ipso facto lose their German nationality in order to become nationals of the Free City of Danzig.

Text of May 7:

On the coming into force of the present Treaty German nationals ordinarily resident in the territory of the Free City of Danzig will ipso facto become citizens of that city and will lose their German nationality.

Article 106.

Within a period of two years from the coming into force of the present Treaty, German nationals over 18 years of age ordinarily resident in the territory described in Article 100 will have the right to opt for German nationality.

Option by a husband will cover his wife and option by parents will cover their children less than 18 years of age.

All persons who exercise the right of option referred to above must during the ensuing twelve months transfer their place of residence to Germany.

These persons will be entitled to preserve the immovable property possessed by them in the territory of the Free City of Danzig. They may carry with them their movable property of every description. No export or import duties shall be imposed upon them in this connection.

Note to III, 105, 106

A treaty between Germany and Danzig signed at Danzig November 8, 1920 concerned the regulation of option questions in accordance with articles 105 and 106 (7 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 323).

Article 107.

All property situated within the territory of the Free City of Danzig belonging to the German Empire or to any German State shall pass to the Principal Allied and Associated Powers for transfer to the Free City of Danzig or to the Polish State as they may consider equitable.

Note to III, 107

The assessment against the Free City was originally fixed at £227,775, French francs 4,000,000, and 121,000,000 gold marks, which represented a total of £6,781,108. The indebtedness was settled by a total payment of £600,000, of which £360,000 went to the accounts [Page 262] of the Reparation Commission and £240,000 to those of the Conference of Ambassadors, derived from the Danzig 6½ percent (tobacco monopoly) state loan issued in London on June 25, 1927. In June 1937 the League Loans Committee (London) supported the conversion of the loan to a 4½ percent basis and extension of amortization by 5 years, that is, to 1952. The Danzig Government, then under National Socialist control, decreed as from May 3, 1939 that the loan be converted to a gulden basis, and later that interest be reduced to 4 percent and amortization extended by 25 years. On July 4, 1939 Danzig suspended payment for the service of the loan.

Article 108.

The proportion and nature of the financial liabilities of Germany and of Prussia to be borne by the Free City of Danzig shall be fixed in accordance with Article 254 of Part IX (Financial Clauses) of the present Treaty.

All other questions which may arise from the cession of the territory referred to in Article 100 shall be settled by further agreements.

Note to III, 108

Germany was credited by the Reparation Commission, on account of German and Prussian public debt allocated to the Free City of Danzig, with the sum of 3,763,729 gold marks.

  1. Danzig published the record of the negotiation of this convention under the title Amtliche Urkunden zur Konvention zwischen Danzig und Polen vom 15. November 1920; zusammengestellt und mit Begleitbericht versehen von der nach Paris entsandten Delegation der freien Stadt Danzig.