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Military


Versailles Treaty 1919

The military clauses of the Versailles Treaty in 1919 limited the German armed forces establishment to a small organization of long-term volunteers. Conscription and universal training were prohibited, and major offensive weapons, such as aircraft, tanks, and submarines, were not permitted. The new German military organization could therefore be little more than a police and coastal patrol force, incapable of carrying out any aggressive action outside the Reich. Even as a defensive organization, the postwar armed forces would require considerable reinforcement to protect the Reich in the event of war with one or more of its stronger neighbors.

The Army was allowed a total of 100,000 men, including 4,000 officers. Noncommissioned officers and privates were to be enlisted for 12 years, and officers were to be required to serve for a period of 25 years. A further stipulation by the Allies provided that no more than 5 percent of the officers and enlisted personnel could be released yearly by reason of termination of their period of service. These various requirements and the prohibition against conscription and universal training effectively prevented the formation of a reserve of any size. No field pieces larger than 105 mm were to be used, with the exception of a few fixed guns of heavier caliber in the old fortress of Koenigsberg, in East Prussia. The detailed organization and armament of all units formed had first to be approved by the Allies.

Arms and munitions industries and factories producing military equipment were reduced in number to the minimum essential to maintain authorized stocks. No troops were to be permitted in a demilitarized zone extending 50 kilometers (approximately 31 miles) east of the Rhine. Allied control commissions were to be allowed to inspect arms factories and the Army and Navy for compliance with the treaty and the Reich defense laws enacted in conformity with its provisions.

Immediately after the conclusion of peace the Allied Powers demanded from Holland the extradition of the German Emperor. Holland persisted in declining to comply with this demand, but undertook to subject the ex-Kaiser to strict surveillance. Although the ex-Kaiser now enjoyed little popularity in Germany, the demand for his extradition was regarded as a national humiliation, and this feeling was intensified in the highest degree by the subsequent demand for the extradition of the so-called war criminals, seeing that the original French list contained the names of almost all the military leaders, including Hindcnburg, Ludendorff and Tirpitz, and further the former Imperial Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, several German sovereigns and heirs to German thrones, as well as 895 persons of different military ranks belonging to all classes of the German people. The list, moreover, was very imperfect and inaccurate in its designation of the persons whose extradition was demanded. Some of them were dead.

The president of the German Peace Commission in Paris, Baron von Lersner, accordingly declined to receive the list which Millerand handed to him on Feb. 4 1920. The list was then presented in Berlin, and was followed by an exchange of notes and finally by a decision of the Supreme Council on Feb. 14 to the effect that certain alleged war criminals should be tried by the German Supreme Court at Leipzig. A list containing the names of 45 persons was presented to the German Government on May 7 1920. The trials were delayed by the fact that the Allied Powers took a long time to furnish the German public prosecutor with the names and the evidence of the witnesses for which he had asked. Some 15 cases were tried in the summer of 1921, some of them ending with a verdict of guilty and a sentence, others with an acquittal. In the army the excitement over the demand for the extradition of the military leaders was especially strong. Among the soldiers, as among the police, there was a determination to refuse to cooperate in any way in fulfilling this demand.

The Locarno treaties, signed in 1925 by Germany and the Allies, were part of Stresemann's attempt at rapprochement with the West. A prerequisite for Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926, the treaties accepted the demilitarization of the Rhineland and guaranteed the western frontier as defined by the Treaty of Versailles. Both Britain and Germany preferred to leave the question of the eastern frontier open. In 1925-26 the Allies withdrew their troops from the right bank of the Rhine. In 1926 the German and Soviet governments signed the Treaty of Berlin, which pledged Germany and the Soviet Union to neutrality in the event of an attack on either country by foreign powers.

The Locarno treaties, the Treaty of Berlin, and Germany's membership in the League of Nations were the successes that earned Stresemann world renown. The Young Plan of 1929, which was also introduced during the Stresemann era, formulated the final reparations settlement. Germany agreed to a 59-year schedule of payments averaging approximately 2 billion Deutsche marks annually. The Bank of International Settlement was established to facilitate transactions. The Allies, in turn, promised to complete the evacuation of the Rhineland.




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