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Chapter I.—Effectives and cadres of the German Army (Art. 159 to 163)

Notes to Part V, Section I, Articles 159 to 163

The German delegation declared that on condition of being admitted immediately to the League of Nations as a state with equal rights, Germany was prepared to agree to the “fundamental ideas” proposed in part V, in particular the abolition of universal military service, provided that “within two years at most” other states did likewise (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vi, 820). But a period of transition must be allowed during which Germany could retain such forces as might be required to preserve internal order before reducing its army to 100,000. Germany was ready to dismantle the forces in the west and to establish a neutral zone, but no supervision of disarmament could be admitted except that of the League.

The Allies replied that their requirements were “not made solely with the object of rendering it impossible for Germany to resume her policy of military aggression” but as the “first steps” toward general reduction and limitation of armaments (ibid., p. 954). But since the “colossal growth” of armaments had been forced by Germany, [Page 319]it was right for limitation of armaments to begin with the nation responsible for their expansion. Therefore the Allies could not agree to any alteration of the principles of the treaty as laid down in articles 159–180, 203–208, 211–213. “Germany must consent unconditionally to disarm in advance of the Allied and Associated Powers.” The tempo of reducing the German Army could be moderated, but by March 31, 1920 it must be reduced to 100,000. No deviations in prescribed armament could be permitted until Germany had been admitted by the League of Nations, “which may then agree to such modifications as seem desirable.” The period for demolishing fortifications between the Rhine and the line 50 kilometers east of the river was extended to six months, instead of the three months provided for in the draft treaty.

It is of interest to note that the annotated edition of the treaty published under the auspices of the German Government in 1939 under the title Das Diktat von Versailles omitted the text of this chapter with the exception of article 159 and article 160 (1), paragraphs 1 and 2.

Article 159.

The German military forces shall be demobilized and reduced as prescribed hereinafter.

Text of May 7:

Within two months of the coming into force of the present Treaty the German military forces shall be demobilized as prescribed hereinafter.

Article 160.

(1) By a date which must not be later than March 31, 1920, the German Army must not comprise more than seven divisions of infantry and three divisions of cavalry.

After that date the total number of effectives in the Army of the States constituting Germany must not exceed one hundred thousand men, including officers and establishments of depots. The Army shall be devoted exclusively to the maintenance of order within the territory and to the control of the frontiers.

The total effective strength of officers, including the personnel of staffs, whatever their composition, must not exceed four thousand.

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(2) Divisions and Army Corps headquarters staffs shall be organised in accordance with Table No. I annexed to this Section.

The number and strengths of the units of infantry, artillery, engineers, technical services and troops laid down in the aforesaid Table constitute maxima which must not be exceeded.

The following units may each have their own depot:

  • An Infantry regiment;
  • A Cavalry regiment;
  • A regiment of Field Artillery;
  • A battalion of Pioneers.

(3) The divisions must not be grouped under more than two army corps headquarters staffs.

The maintenance or formation of forces differently grouped or of other organisations for the command of troops or for preparation for war is forbidden.

The Great German General Staff and all similar organisations shall be dissolved and may not be reconstituted in any form.

The officers, or persons in the position of officers, in the Ministries of War in the different States in Germany and in the Administrations attached to them, must not exceed three hundred in number and are included in the maximum strength of four thousand laid down in the third sub-paragraph of paragraph (1) of this Article.

Text of May 7:

The German Army must not comprise more than seven divisions of infantry and three divisions of cavalry.

In no case must the total number of effectives in the Army of the States constituting Germany ever exceed one hundred thousand men, including officers and establishments of depots. The Army shall be devoted exclusively to the maintenance of order within the territory and to the control of the frontiers.

The total effective strength of officers, including the personnel of staffs, whatever their composition, must not exceed four thousand.

Note to V, 160

The period for reduction of German effectives to 100,000 men was conditionally extended from March 31, 1920 until January 1, 1921 by the protocol respecting armed forces in Germany signed at Spa on July 9, 1920 (see p. 303).

The law fixing the strength of the army at 100,000 men and of the navy at 15,000 as of January 1, 1921 was enacted August 21, 1920 (Reichsgesetzblatt, 1920, ii, 1608) and published on August 26.

On March 4, 1926 the Conference of Ambassadors ruled that [Page 321]superior officers should constitute not more than 20 percent of the total number of officers and that non-commissioned officers should not exceed 25 percent of the enlisted personnel.

As to the high command a German decree of September 25, 1919 was satisfactory, but one of August 11, 1920 conferring powers of a commander in chief on the head of the army directorate required cancelation.

As late as March 1931 the results secured under this article were not regarded as satisfactory by the Conference of Ambassadors (p. 307).

On March 16, 1935 the German Chancellor convened the British French, Italian, and Polish Ambassadors in Berlin and communicated to them the text of a law reestablishing general compulsory military service in Germany and providing for an army of 12 corps in 36 divisions. The French Government immediately laid the matter before the Council of the League of Nations, which held an extraordinary session on April 15. On the following day France, the United Kingdom, and Italy submitted a resolution, which was unanimously adopted (Denmark abstaining), condemning Germany for violating by unilateral action the armament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. On April 20, 1935 Germany addressed to the members of the Council a vote protesting against their right to “set themselves up as judges of Germany” and rejecting the resolution of the Council as “an attempt at a new discrimination against Germany”.

Article 161.

Army administrative services consisting of civilian personnel not included in the number of effectives prescribed by the present Treaty will have such personnel reduced in each class to one-tenth of that laid down in the Budget of 1913.

Text of May 7:

Divisions and Army Corps headquarters staffs shall be organised in accordance with Table No. I annexed to this Section.

The number and strengths of the units of infantry, artillery, engineers, technical services and troops laid down in the aforesaid Table constitute maxima which must not be exceeded.

The following units may each have their own depot:

  • An Infantry regiment;
  • A Cavalry regiment;
  • A regiment of Field Artillery;
  • A battalion of Pioneers.

[Page 322]

Article 162.

The number of employees or officials of the German States, such as customs officers, forest guards and coastguards, shall not exceed that of the employees or officials functioning in these capacities in 1913.

The number of gendarmes and employees or officials of the local or municipal police may only be increased to an extent corresponding to the increase of population since 1913 in the districts or municipalities in which they are employed.

These employees and officials may not be assembled for military training.

Text of May 7:

The divisions must not be grouped under more than two army corps headquarters staffs.

The maintenance or formation of forces differently grouped or of other organisations for the command of troops or for preparation for war is forbidden.

The Great German General Staff and all similar organisations shall be dissolved and may not be reconstituted in any form.

The officers, or persons in the position of officers, in the Ministries of War in the different States in Germany and in the Administrations attached to them, must not exceed three hundred in number and are included in the maximum strength of four thousand laid down in the 3rd paragraph of Article 160.

Note to V, 162

By a decision of the Conference of Ambassadors on June 20, 1920 the Ordnungspolizei was authorized to be increased by 70,000 to a total of 150,000 in 1923. On December 3, 1926 the effectives of the German police were fixed at 140,000 for all Germany, to consist of 105,000 state police and 35,000 communal police. Simultaneously, 15,000 forest guards and night watchmen were removed from the police category and included in the officials permitted by the first paragraph of the article.

As late as March 1931 the results secured under this article were not regarded as satisfactory by the Conference of Ambassadors (p. 307).

Article 163.

The reduction of the strength of the German military forces as provided for in Article 160 may be effected gradually in the following manner:

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Within three months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the total number of effectives must be reduced to 200,000 and the number of units must not exceed twice the number of those laid down in Article 160.

At the expiration of this period, and at the end of each subsequent period of three months, a Conference of military experts of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers will fix the reductions to be made in the ensuing three months, so that by March 31, 1920, at the latest the total number of German effectives does not exceed the maximum number of 100,000 men laid down in Article 160. In these successive reductions the same ratio between the number of officers and of men, and between the various kinds of units, shall be maintained as is laid down in that Article.

Text of May 7:

Army administrative services consisting of civilian personnel not included in the number of effectives prescribed by the present Treaty will have such personnel reduced in each class to one-tenth of that laid down in the Budget of 1913.

Note to V, 163

The German delegation argued for the retention during a period of transition of “such forces as are required to preserve internal order” and suggested that the time be fixed by the League of Nations. Effectives amounting to 200,000 were granted by this article for a period of three months or to the expiration of the law concerning the Reichswehr on March 31, 1920. As it happened, the entry of the treaty into force on January 10, 1920 made the three month period substantially coincide with the expiration of the law. The stipulated reduction was not, however, effected on time.