Page images

Notes to Part III, Articles 42 to 44-Continued

German Government declared itself "no longer bound by this dissolved treaty" and that it "today restored the full and unrestricted sovereignty of Germany in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland”. This studied violation of treaty obligations on which the political relations of important states were based was a turning point in a system of policy which had evolved since 1919.

The German memorandum was at once a conscious fiat and a plausible proffer of "real pacification". The memorandum asseverated

that the Franco-Soviet treaty of May 2, 1935 was "not compatible" with French obligations arising out of the Locarno treaty;

the "undisputed fact that the Franco-Soviet pact is directed exclusively against Germany";

France has undertaken "obligations which practically amount to undertaking in a given case to act as if neither the Covenant of the League of Nations, nor the Rhine pact, which refers to the Covenant, were valid";

France "has destroyed the political system of the Rhine pact"; France "has replied to the repeated friendly offers and peaceful assurances made by Germany by infringing the Rhine pact" which has "ceased in practice to exist" and so Germany regards itself for its part "as no longer bound by this dissolved treaty".

"Now constrained to face the new situation" and to secure its frontiers and insure its defense, "the German Government have today restored the full and unrestricted sovereignty of Germany in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland".

"Unchangeable longing for a real pacification of Europe between states which are equal in rights and equally respected" prompted the German Government to make proposals "for the creation of a system of peaceful security for Europe". These, the German Ambassador in London told the British Foreign Office, were "an offer of greater importance than had been made at any time in recent history". Four out of seven attenuated proposals were calculated to replace the repudiated Locarno guaranty with another involving creation of a "zone demilitarized on both sides", which the Netherlands might join. Germany in the other three proposals was now "prepared" to conclude an air pact and offered to conclude non-aggression pacts with states bordering it on the east. It was "willing to reenter the League of Nations". The conditions attached to these proffers were so phrased as not to be too apparent. (See United Kingdom, Memo

Notes to Part III, Articles 42 to 44—Continued

randum by the German Government respecting the Franco-Soviet Treaty, the Treaty of Locarno and the Demilitarised Zone in the Rhineland communicated to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by the German Ambassador on March 7, 1936, Germany No. 1 (1936), Cmd. 5118).

Undeterred by the German action and these new offers, the French Senate approved the treaty of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union on March 12 by a vote of 231 to 52, and the exchange of ratifications brought it into force on March 27 in the midst of a fresh series of developments.

The Belgian and French Governments on March 8 requested the Secretary-General of the League of Nations to convene an extraordinary session of the Council under article 4, paragraph 1, of the Locarno treaty of guaranty to consider the German violation of article 43 of the treaty of peace, which forbids "the maintenance and the assembly of armed forces" in the demilitarized area. The paragraph of the Locarno treaty referred to provides:

"If one of the High Contracting Parties alleges that a violation of Article 2 of the present Treaty or a breach of Articles 42 or 43 of the Treaty of Versailles has been or is being committed, it shall bring the question at once before the Council of the League of Nations."

The 91st session of the Council convened on Saturday, March 14, and authorized the Secretary-General to extend an invitation to the German Government, as a contracting party to the Locarno treaty. The German reply on the 15th was an acceptance in principle "on equal terms with the representatives of the powers represented on the Council in the discussions and decisions". Assurance was asked for on the point that Germany participated "on the same terms as the representatives of the other guaranteed powers whose situation under the treaty is the same as that of Germany-that is, with full right of discussion, the votes of the three powers not being counted in calculating unanimity". The German note further stated that "the German Government can participate in the Council's proceedings only if it is assured that the Powers concerned are prepared to enter into negotiations as soon as possible in regard to the German proposals". On this condition the German Government was informed that "it is not for the Council to give . . . the assurance which it desires", thus throwing-that question back to the Locarno



Notes to Part III, Articles 42 to 44-Continued

The German representative did not take his seat at the Council table until Thursday, March 19, when he spent the morning in a very full statement of the German case. In the afternoon a vote

was taken on a resolution introduced by Belgium and France on March 16, and which had been fully debated. The voting by roll call was in four groups, the members of the Council other than the Locarno parties, the president of the Council, representatives of the guarantors (the United Kingdom and Italy), and the representatives of the guaranteed states (Belgium, France, and Germany), these three not being counted in calculating unanimity. The resolution unanimously adopted notified the Locarno signatories that the Council:

"Finds that the German Government has committed a breach of Article 43 of the Treaty of Versailles by causing, on March 7th, 1936, military forces to enter and establish themselves in the demilitarised zone referred to in Article 42 and the following articles of that Treaty and in the Treaty of Locarno".

Germany, which voted against the resolution, did not contest its unanimous passage but was "profoundly convinced that it must reject" it and enter a formal protest. "It is not Germany which has broken the treaty of Locarno; it was France . . . Germany's act of March 7. . . is solely the consequence of France's act." France suggested that the point be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice.

The other Locarno states-Belgium, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom-on March 19 reached their own conclusions on the effect of German action on the treaty of guaranty. Since March 7 German troops had been physically garrisoned in the demilitarized zone, but none of the four assumed that this flagrant breach of the treaty made immediate action necessary (Art. 4, par. 3). For none of them claimed that any of the casus foederis stipulated in that paragraph existed. The presence of German troops in the demilitarized zone was not treated by them as "an unprovoked act of aggression"; nor was "crossing of the frontier" or "outbreak of hostilities" involved. The fourth casus foederis, "assembly of armed forces in the demilitarized zone", raised the question of whether the distribution of German troops throughout the zone constituted an assembling of them in the area; no practical decision was taken on the point by the four states, which did not address Germany

Notes to Part III, Articles 42 to 44-Continued

directly on the subject of its introduction of those troops or evacuation of them, before or in consequence of the Council's vote of March 19.

The Locarno states worked out a set of proposals on March 19 which they intended to explore, partly by themselves, partly with Germany, and partly with the Council of the League. A draft resolution to be submitted to the Council embraced three points which they thought appropriate for its action:

1. By its unilateral action, which necessarily appeared to be a threat to European security, "the German Government confers upon itself no legal rights"; practical remedial measures to be proposed by a committee to the members of the League of Nations;

2. The German claim that the Franco-Soviet treaty was incompatible with the Locarno treaty to be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice;

3. The members of the League of Nations to adopt "any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations", in consequence of Germany's unilateral action and without prejudice to the application by the parties of Articles 1 and 4 of the Locarno treaty.

The Council, March 24, deferred action on the draft resolution until the progress of conversations between the governments rendered its further consideration desirable. The question remained on the agenda and was postponed at the 92d successively to the 104th session of the Council, that is, during the years 1936-39, after which the Council did not meet.

[ocr errors]

The proposals drawn up by the four governments as a program of settlement (United Kingdom, Text of Proposals .. London, March 19, 1936, Germany No. 2 (1936), Cmd. 5134) included letters formally pledging the United Kingdom and Italy to assist Belgium and France "in respect of any measures which shall be jointly decided upon", if conciliation should fail. The guarantors, as an insurance against unprovoked aggression, would "establish or continue contact between the general staffs", which was contemplated in the main proposals.

Proposals were in nine sections, the first four of which recited the substance of the draft resolution and the foregoing letters. The other proposals were calculated to induce Germany to suspend further activity in the demilitarized zone; to arrange for occupation of a neutral zone on either side of the Belgo-French-German

Notes to Part III, Articles 42 to 44-Continued

border by an international force pending revision of the status of the Rhineland, and the negotiation of mutual assistance pacts between the Locarno signatories; and to promote through the League of Nations agreements for a system of collective security, effective limitation of armament, the extension of economic relations, the organization of commerce and the conclusion of an eastern nonaggression pact, and Germany's reentry into the League of Nations. These proposals were rejected on March 24 by Germany, which said they contained "not one of the necessary conditions for the successful organization of a really lasting peace". They were liable "once more to infringe the honor of the nation or to bring into question or do away with its equality of rights". Preparation for elections prevented the drawing of new proposals that week, but they would be ready the following week (United Kingdom, Foreigr. Office, Correspondence with the German Government regarding the German Proposals for an European Settlement, March 24-May 26, 1936, Misc. No. 6 (1936), Cmd. 5175).

The Reichstag had been dissolved March 7 and elections fixed for the 29th. That German election consisted of filing a ballot reading "Reichstag for Freedom and Peace", with ample space for an affirmative vote and no provision for a negative vote. The most active pressure resulted in 99 percent of the electorate casting ballots, and only 1.2 percent of that number found a way to be counted in the negative.

Two days after that electoral tour de force, the Germans laid their "peace plan" before the British instead of all the Locarno states. The introduction to this "effort to achieve a European understanding" of March 31 reviewed previous German arguments and included the assertion that the demilitarization provisions were "based on the breach of an assurance given to Germany" whose renunciation in the western provinces of the Reich was "a result of the 'dictate' of Versailles, and of a series of the harshest acts of oppression suffered by the German people as a result of that treaty". The plan itself embraced 19 points, the first 14 of which repeated with further details the first five points of March 7 and the next four elaborated with some eloquence the remaining two items of March 7. The nineteenth point proposed an international court of arbitration as a monitor of the various agreements. After the conclusion "of this great work", practical attention would be given to checking "unlimited competition in armaments" on a scale short

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »