Great Britain, France, and the German Problem, 1918-1939: A Study of Anglo-French Relations in the Making and Maintenance of the Versailles Settlement

By W. M. Jordan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE TREATY

IT'S a faultless Treaty. Like the legendary mare, it possesses every virtue but one: it hasn't the breath of life in it.'1 In these words Briand expressed the growing disquietude of the French in 1920 and the early months of 1921 at what seemed to them the dilatory and partial application of the Treaty. First one provision of the Treaty -- that on which the British public had set its heart in the election of 1918--had been virtually jettisoned. Confronted by the refusal of the Netherlands Government to surrender the Kaiser, the Allies had perforce to abandon their project of trying him 'for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties.' Then another provision had been modified in practice to meet the protests of the German Government. The Treaty required the delivery for trial by Allied military tribunals of German subjects accused of having committed acts in violation of the laws and customs of war. The German Government declared their inability to enforce the arrest and surrender to the Allies of the accused persons, and suggested that they should instead be tried before the Supreme Court of the Reich at Leipzig. Though the Allies agreed to this procedure, the German Government continued to take refuge--to quote Lord Curzon--in 'evasion, procrastination, and delay.'2 More immediately injurious to French interests were German shortcomings as regards coal deliveries and disarmament. In the first months of 1920 the coal deliveries effected by Germany fell considerably below the quantities demanded by the Reparation Commission, while the continued existence in Germany at the close of 1920 of militia formations and of police units organized on a military basis indicated, in the view of the French Government, a fixed determination to evade the disarmament clauses. Finally, the British and French Governments both inveighed against the apparent reluctance of the German Government to address itself resolutely to the problem of reparation. To anxious French minds the Treaty seemed menaced with infantile paralysis.

German dereliction brought to the forefront a problem which had received all too little consideration during the negotiations in 1919, but which for more than a decade was to remain a cardinal

____________________
1
Chambre: Débats, February 4, 1921, 2me séance, p. 225.
2
45 Lords Deb., May 5, 1921, col. 210-214. For a full account, see Toynbee: Survey, 1923, pp. 96-99; Lerner, K. von.: "'Die Auslieferung der deutschen Kriegsverbrecher,'" in Schnee, H., and Draeger, H.: Zehn Jabre Versailles, i, pp. 15-29; and documents in Cmd. 1325.

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