Part VI.—Prisoners of War and Graves

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Notes to Part VI, Articles 214 to 226

On May 10 the German delegation proposed the creation of a special commission to settle various difficulties, such as the unconditional repatriation of German prisoners “undergoing punishment for offences other than breaches of discipline” (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, v, 574). The delegation also complained that the provisions of the treaty regarding the surrender of personal property, the search for missing objects, and the care of graves were one-sided, and it asked for reciprocity. Germany, in view of its economic position, asked if the Allies would be able to provide German prisoners with new clothing before their return.

The Allies, in a note of May 20, declined to release prisoners guilty of crimes or misdemeanors committed on Allied territory (ibid., p. 749). They declared that they had observed the laws of war and satisfied the demand of humanity in their treatment of prisoners, and would continue to do so. Reciprocity was impossible because of the treatment of Allied prisoners of war by the German Government. There was no surplus clothing available for German prisoners. Commissions to deal with the problems of prisoners could not be established [Page 366] until the Allies “shall have been advised that the plenipotentiaries of the German Empire intend to sign the peace”.

In the “observations” of May 29 the German delegation attempted to reopen the question of prisoners, including a demand that Germany should be responsible for the expenses of prisoners only after they had left the territory of the enemy power (ibid., vi, p. 874). The Allies replied that they had nothing to add to their note of May 20 (ibid., p. 957).

The treaty restoring friendly relations between the United States and Germany signed at Berlin, August 25, 1921 and in force on November 11, 1921 with retroactive effect to July 2, 1921, stipulates that “Germany undertakes to accord to the United States and the United States shall have and enjoy … all the rights and advantages” stipulated for its benefit by this part of this treaty, “notwithstanding the fact that such treaty has not been ratified by the United States”. The rights and advantages of nationals of the United States specified in the joint resolution of Congress, approved July 2, 1921 (p. 18), were specifically mentioned in an understanding included in the Senate’s resolution of advice and consent to ratification of October 18, 1921. The Senate in that resolution made a further condition “that the United States shall not be represented or participate in any body, agency or commission, nor shall any person represent the United States as a member of any body, agency or commission in which the United States is authorized to participate by this Treaty, unless and until an Act of the Congress of the United States shall provide for such representation or participation.”

This part is, ipsissimis verbis, an annex, technically a schedule, of the treaty restoring friendly relations as printed by the Department of State in Treaty Series 658, but not as printed in 42 Stat. 1939.