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Germany and the Treaty of Peace

The German Government executed its obligations under the treaty at the outset as it found execution necessary or advisable. Much of the machinery of treaty execution became stabilized, and continuing operations took on an appearance of smoothness, which was enhanced by a tendency to introduce negotiating techniques in the relations involved. Moreover, many provisions of the treaty were either executed or given a new form by subsequent action. During the ascendancy of Gustav Stresemann as Chancellor (1924–29) a “policy of fulfilment” was proclaimed, which was not entirely abandoned until the accession of the National Socialists to power in 1933.

The form of the negotiations at Paris was not to the liking of the Germans. They received “Conditions of Peace” worked out by the victors and after being summoned to receive them handed in proposals [Page 27]for amendment, which were accepted or rejected in the preparation of the final text by the Allied and Associated Powers. In the note of June 23, 1919 the German peace delegation wrote: “Yielding to superior force, and without renouncing in the meantime its own view of the unheard-of injustice of the peace conditions, the Government of the German Republic declares that it is ready to accept and sign the peace conditions imposed”. From that attitude, which was taken up by some sections of the German public, arose the idea of a “dictated peace”, for years sedulously fostered by the National Socialists. Their policy was stated by the Foreign Minister in a speech at Danzig on October 24, 1939, in which he said (file 740.0011 European War 1939/1042):

“Since January 30, 1933 the aim of Germany’s foreign policy has been to abolish the Treaty of Versailles and its consequences. … As a matter of fact, in recent years the Führer has done nothing but remedy the most serious consequences which this most unreasonable of all dictates in history imposed upon a nation and, in fact, upon the whole of Europe, in other words, repair the worst mistakes committed by none other than the statesmen of the western democracies.”

A semi-official publication of the National Socialist German Government, Das Diktat von Versailles, compiled by Fritz Berber and published in 1939, specifies those parts of the treaty of peace which, according to Nazi Germany, had been abrogated by negotiation or “legal means of another sort” as follows:

Part III, sec. III, demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine, by the memorandum of the German Government of March 7, 1936;

Part III, sec. VI, relation with Austria, by the German law of March 13, 1938;

Part V, disarmament of Germany, by the law concerning the Wehrmacht, March 16, 1935;

Part VII, war crimes, “by the Lersner note” (file 763.72119/892) of February 3, 1920;

Part VIII, art. 231, “the war-guilt lie”, by the declaration of Adolf Hitler of January 30, 1937;

Part VIII, reparation, by the unratified convention of Lausanne, July 2, 1932;

Part X, economic provisions, by numerous liquidation conventions and restitution laws;

Part XII, sec. II, waterways, by the note of November 15, 1936;

Part XIV, guaranties, by the evacuation agreement of August 30, 1929.

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The International Military Tribunal, in its indictment of October 18, 1945 of twenty-four individuals and seven groups or organizations from the Reich Cabinet down, specified in two counts a common plan or conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, under article 6 (A) of its Charter, which reads:

“Crimes against peace. Namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”

Under Count One, (F) 2, the tribunal preferred six specific charges and in Appendix C, which cites particulars of violations of 26 treaties, conventions, and assurances, five additional violations of articles of the Treaty of Versailles are set forth (Trial of War Criminals, Department of State publication 2420, p. 83), as follows:

  • “(1) In that Germany did, on and after 7 March 1936, maintain and assemble armed forces and maintain and construct military fortifications in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in violation of the provisions of Articles 42 to 44 of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • “(2) In that Germany did, on or about 13 March 1938, annex Austria into the German Reich in violation of the provisions of Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • “(3) In that Germany did, on or about 22 March 1939, incorporate the district of Memel into the German Reich in violation of the provisions of Article 99 of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • “(4) In that Germany did, on or about 1 September 1939, incorporate the Free City of Danzig into the German Reich in violation of the provisions of Article 100 of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • “(5) In that Germany did, on or about 16 March 1939, incorporate the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia, into the German Reich in violation of the provisions of Article 81 of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • “(6) In that Germany did, at various times in March 1935 and thereafter, repudiate various parts of Part V, Military, Naval and Air Clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, by creating an air force, by use of compulsory military service, by increasing the size of the army beyond treaty limits, and by increasing the size of the navy beyond treaty limits.”