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1918-1920 - Krupp and Versailles

The Armistice which ended the First World War did not, surprisingly enough, end Krupp's armament activities completely. Krupp continued to repair and recondition certain guns, and to. complete the manufacture of new guns which were almost ready at the end of the war. Krupp records show that between the Armistice and July 1919, 238 guns were repaired, and 315 new guns were manufactured. Even after July 1919 the Krupp firm continued to work on one or two types of new guns until the arrival of the Inter-Allied Control Commission at the Krupp plants in 1920.

In fact, Germany's defeat in the First World War, in and of itself, would probably not have radically affected Krupp's .armament activities, but the disarmament provisions of the Treaty of Versailles were quite another matter. These provisions confronted the Krupp managers with a major question of policywhether to convert the Krupp enterprises into a steel combine, similar to those in Germany and other countries, with its principal foundations in a peacetime economy, or whether to make special efforts to preserve Krupp's preeminent position in the armament field.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. The provisions which were of special concern to Krupp, and are of special interest in this case, are those embodied in part V entitled "Military, Naval, and Air Clauses." By Article 160 of the Treaty, the German Army was limited to ten divisions consisting of not more than 100,000 men-the so-called "100,000 man Reichswehr." Under the express language of Article 160, the exclusive purpose of the authorized German Army was "the maintainence of order within the territory and the control of the frontiers."

The provision of most fundamental importance to Krupp was Article 168 relating to the manufacture of arms (NIK-12160, Pros. Ex. 128.),* which stated in part: "The manufacture of arms, munitions, or any war material shall only be carried out in factories or works the location of which shall be communicated to and approved by the governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, and the number of which they retain the right to restrict. Within three months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, all other establishments for the manufacture, preparation, storage, or design of arms, munitions, or any war material whatsoever shall be closed down."

Later provisions of the Treaty are also of great importance. Article 170 prohibited the importation of arms and munitions into Germany, and at the same time forbade the manufacture of arms within Germany for export to foreign countries. Article 171 flatly prohibited the manufacture in Germany of tanks, armored cars, and "all similar constructions suitable for use in war***." Article 181 stringently limited the size of the German Navy, and Article 190 specified the rate at which the authorized naval units could be replaced. Article 191 forbade Germany to construct or acquire any submarines whatsoever, even for commercial purposes. The above and other comparable provisions of the Versailles Treaty were to be enforced by Allied Control Commissions.

Under Article 168 of the Treaty, the Allied Nations subsequently determined that Krupp should be the firm licensed for the production at Essen of guns with a caliber greater than 17 centimeters. No other type of armament manufacture was permitted to Krupp. Smaller guns were to be manufactured by the Rheinmetall plants at Duesseldorf; ammunition, and other weapons and war material, were licensed to still other firms. The lists so prescribed by the Allies were accepted by the German Government by its announcement of 15 July 1921. In the meantime, the Military Inter-Allied Control Commission, headed by the French General Nollet, established itself in Berlin, and on 29 May 1920, representatives of the Commission, headed by the English Colonel Leverett, arrived at Essen, at the Krupp plant.

The establishment of the Control Commission and the arrival at the Krupp Essen plants of Colonel Leverett's group signalized the opening of a long and bitter struggle between the Control Commission on the one hand, and Krupp, secretly supported and encouraged by the German Government, on the other hand.

In an article published 1 March 1942,, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen wrote : "At that time (1919) the situation appeared almost hopeless. At first, it appeared even more desperate if one was not - as I was myself - firmly convinced that 'Versailles' did not mean a final conclusion. Everything within me - as within many other Germans - revolted against the idea that the German people would remain enslaved forever. I knew German history only too well, and just out of my experiences in the rest of the world I believed to know the German man; therefore I never doubted that, although for the time being all indications were against it - one day a change would come. How, I did not know, and also did not ask, but I believed in it. With this knowledge however - and today I may speak about these things and for the first time I am doing this extensively and publicly - as responsible head of the Krupp works, consequences of the greatest importance materialized. If Germany should ever be reborn, if it should shake off the chains of 'Versailles' one day, the Krupp concern had to be prepared again. The machines were destroyed, the tools were smashed, but the men remained; the men in the construction offices and the workshops who in happy cooperation had brought the construction of guns to its last perfection. Their skill had to be maintained by all means, also their vast funds of knowledge and experience. The decisions I had to make at that time were perhaps the most difficult ones in my life. I wanted and had to maintain Krupp, in spite of all opposition, as an armament plan - although for the distant future."





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