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  • The Treaty of Versailles


    “When the Germans had signed and the great Allied Powers had done so, the cannons began to boom. I had a feeling of sympathy for the Germans who sat there quite stoically. It was not unlike what was done in olden times, when the conqueror dragged the conquered at his chariot wheels. To my mind it is out of keeping with the new era which we profess an ardent desire to promote. I wish it could have been more simple and that there might have been an element of charity, which was wholly lacking! The affair was elaborately staged and made as humiliating to the enemy as it well could be.”

    Edward Mandel House
    Commenting on the Treaty of Versailles


    “I cannot conceive any greater cause of war than that the German people, who have certainly proved themselves one of the most vigorous and powerful races in the world, should be surrounded by a number of small States, many of them consisting of people who have never previously set up a stable system of government for themselves, but each of them containing large masses of Germans clamouring for reunion with their native land. The proposal of the Polish commission that we should place 2,100,000 Germans under the control of a people which is of a different religion and which has never proved its capacity for stable self-government throughout its history must, in my judgment, lead to a new war in the East of Europe . . .”

    Lloyd George
    Prime Minister of England, March 25, 1919




    The Treaty of Versailles

    The Peace Conference was doomed even before its official opening on January 18, 1919.
    President Wilson’s first mistake was his decision to attend in person. As Colonel House explained:

    “It is always dangerous for Mohammed to come to the mountain. While Wilson was in Washington he could control the situation. If we went too far in our concessions, he could disavow them. We could always gain time by asking for instructions from him. At the proper moment he could hurl a thunderbolt from the heights in which he dwelled securely like Jove. But the moment he came down to earth, he lost his divine status. He became a mortal among mortals.”

    Wilson’s second mistake was in yielding to the French demand that the Conference be held in Paris rather than some neutral site like Geneva. “It will be difficult enough to make peace,” House noted in his diary, “and it will be almost impossible to do so while sitting in a belligerent capital.”

    But worst of all was Wilson’s obsession with the idea of some international forum, a League of Nations, replete with executive powers wherein the nations of the world could settle their disputes. Wilson’s passion for the acceptance of this grand idea, first suggested to him by House, cost him all the leverage he would otherwise have had to moderate political demands for a vindictive peace, particularly those of Clemenceau and the Polish delegates. For these reasons, the Peace Conference of 1919 would not be a repeat of the generally successful Congress of Vienna in 1815 when the Powers last settled their affairs.

    Napoleon’s carnage notwithstanding, France had been allowed full participation and even dominated the proceedings as the Confederation of the Rhine was constructed from the ashes of the Holy Roman Empire. Now, just over a century later, as the Powers struggled to shape Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Poland from the ashes of the great Eurasian dynasties—the Romanovs, Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Ottomans—the process was derailed by a spirit of vengeance and a desire to “squeeze Germany like a lemon.”

    The very first meeting attended by House was a portend of things to come. House wrote: “Lloyd George and Clemenceau wrangled for an entire afternoon as to whether the British or the French should receive the Turks’ surrender. They bandied words like fishwives, at least Lloyd George did. It would have been humorous if it hadn’t been a tragic waste of time.”
    At the insistence of France, the British naval blockade was maintained against a prostrate and defenseless Germany for more than six months after the Armistice and was not lifted until July 12, 1919. Some 800,000 German men, women and children starved while the delegates thrust and parried over the spoils. Herbert Hoover described it:

    “The maintenance of the food blockade until March 1919—four months after the Armistice—was a crime in statesmanship, and a crime against civilization as a whole . . . Nations can take philosophically the hardships of war. But when they lay down their arms and surrender on assurances that they may have food for their women and children, and then find that this worst instrument of attack on them is maintained—then hate never dies.”


    Meanwhile, as the American representative at Versailles, Thomas Lamont, has noted: “The Germans were made to deliver horses, sheep, goats, etc., . . . A strong protest came from Germany when dairy cows were taken to France and Belgium, thus depriving German children of milk.”
    The leader of the German delegation, Count Brockdorff-Rantzau told the Conference:

    “The hundreds of thousands of non-combatants who have perished since November 11 by reason of the blockade were killed with cold deliberation, after our adversaries had conquered and victory been assured them. Think of that when you speak of guilt and punishment!”

    When the Conference spoke of guilt and punishment it spoke only of Germany. Article 231 of the final Treaty reads as follows: “Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” To this egregious reversal of the historical facts, Brockdorff-Rantzau could only declare: “We are required to admit that we alone are war guilty; such an admission on my lips would be a lie.”

    The outrage of turning victim into perpetrator could not fail to have serious consequences. British historian Martin Gilbert puts it this way:

    “ . . . the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany . . . seldom can ten words have led to such disturbing, and in due course violent repercussions, culminating in a renewal of war, so that the Great War of 1914-18 had to be renamed the First World War, and its successor become the Second. The link between the two world wars, separated by only twenty years, was this ‘war guilt’ clause as perceived by Germany, aggravated by her extremist politicians, and set up as a target to be shot down in flames and fury by Hitler . . .”

    In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote:

    “What a use could be made of the Treaty of Versailles! How each one of the points in that Treaty could be branded in the minds and hearts of the German people until sixty million men and women find their souls aflame with a feeling of rage and shame; and a torrent of fire bursts forth as from a furnace, and a will of steel is forged from it, with the common cry: Wir wollen wieder waffen!—We will rearm!”

    As Woodrow Wilson and Edward House were the main players and therefore largely responsible for the disastrous outcome of the Peace Conference, a short biographical note about these two men and the extraordinary relationship between them is in order.


    Colonel House (“Colonel” being an honorary title conferred by the Governor of Texas) continued in his usual dominant role. “House,” said Clemenceau, “is the window through which light comes to Wilson.”

    In the first plenary session, less weighty matters were quickly disposed of. Harold Nicolson, a young Foreign Office assistant describes Clemenceau as “highhanded with some of the smaller powers . . . ‘Y-a-t-il d’objections? . . . Non? . . . adopté!’ . . . like a machine gun.” But major roadblocks soon appeared.

    The first problem was the highly embarrassing matter of the Secret Treaties that bound the Entente Powers together. When these are mischievously revealed by Lenin, Churchill reacted defensively and complained that “The United States Delegation had no grounds for taking a lofty and judicial view of these proceedings.” He protested that the Entente had every right to lure Italy and Rumania into the War with tempting and generous offers of territory. He admitted that “there were features in all of them [the Treaties] which nothing but duress could explain and excuse,” but harrumphed that “It is not open to the cool bystander, who afterwards becomes the loyal and ardent comrade and brave rescuer, to set himself up as an impartial judge of events which never would have occurred had he outstretched a helping hand in time.”

    But Churchill doth protest too much—and misses the point entirely. It is not of course the Treaties with Italy, Rumania, Japan and others, made after the start of hostilities that shocks world opinion, but those between France, Russia and Britain made before the War:
    France will get not just Alsace-Lorraine, she will also extend her borders to the Rhine and assert her historic “rights” to Syria.
    Russia will get Constantinople and the Straits and a large slice of European Turkey. England gets Germany’s African possessions and eliminates Germany as a naval and commercial competitor. A continuous stretch of British territory from the Cape to Cairo had made Cecil Rhodes’ dreams of empire a reality while the collapse of Turkey made Britain predominant in the Middle East.

    The peace treaties signed in Paris gave Britain dominion over 450 million people in every continent of the globe and made her the largest empire in the history of the world. These were the “ideals” for which the Entente Powers initiated the War in 1914 and which now scandalize the world. “Is there any man or woman,” asked Woodrow Wilson in 1919, “let me say is there any child, who does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry? This was an industrial and commercial war.” The Secret Treaties are the first signs of tarnish on the shining hallowed edifice of “sole” German war guilt.

    As the full plenary sessions of the Conference with all delegates present proved unwieldy, the Powers formed a Supreme Council of Ten, consisting of the heads of government and the Foreign Ministers of the five big states: France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States. But when this proved cumbersome as well, the decision-making was quickly limited to the four men who really counted. Out of secret meetings between Woodrow Wilson, Georges Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Vittorio Orlando came the final five Treaties, each named for a suburb of Paris, that marked the end of one war and laid the groundwork for another.
    Each man had his own particular handicap. Of Lloyd George, Churchill writes that “he reached the Conference somewhat disheveled by the vulgarities and blatancies of the recent General Election. Pinned to his coat-tails were the posters, ‘Hang the Kaiser,’ ‘Make them pay’ and this sensibly detracted from the dignity of his entrance upon the scene.”
    Lloyd George emphatically rejected Point 11 dealing with ‘Freedom of the Seas’ and stated that “Great Britain would spend her last guinea to keep her navy superior to that of the United States or any other Power, and that no Cabinet Official could continue in the Government in England who took a different position.” (This of course was the attitude that triggered the War of 1812 and almost caused Wilson to follow in Madison’s footsteps and side with Britain’s enemies. He [George] was unmoved by House’s warning that “We do not intend to have our commerce regulated by Great Britain whenever she is at war.” Generally however, Lloyd George tended to have a moderating influence on the vengeful Clemenceau, who inspired the British journalist C.P. Snow to comment “There seems to be no limit to French vindictiveness and commercial jealousy.”
    There was also the persistent rumor that Winston Churchill – then First Lord of the Admiralty – had facilitated the torpedo attack on the Lusitania to undermine American neutrality. Some months before the attack, Churchill had written to Walter Runciman, president of the Board of Trade, that it was “most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with Germany. The German formal announcement of indiscriminate submarining has been made to the United States to produce a deterrent effect on traffic. For our part, we want the traffic – the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still . . .”

    Wilson was hamstrung by the new Republican majority in Congress which opposed the League of Nations, and the not inaccurate perception that House, who interviewed some forty visitors a day, made all the important decisions. One newspaper opined that “What Colonel House thinks today, Wilson says tomorrow.” A cruel wit called Wilson “the Jack that House built.” House himself boasted that “Wilson never disavowed any act of mine.” Through all of this reverberated Theodore Roosevelt’s recent thunder, seconded by Senator Lodge:

    “Our Allies and our enemies and Mr. Wilson should all understand that Mr. Wilson has no authority to speak for the American people at this time. His leadership has just been emphatically repudiated by them. Mr. Wilson and his Fourteen Points and his four supplementary points and his five complementary points and all his utterances every which way have ceased to have any shadow of right to be accepted as expressive of the will of the American people.”

    The French got along with their allies no better in peace than in war. Clemenceau’s vindictive demands reached a high point over the issue of the Saar Valley which he adamantly demanded for France, and threatened to withdraw the French Delegation from the Conference.
    “Then if France does not get what she wishes,” said Wilson, “she will refuse to act with us. In that event do you wish me to go home?” Clemenceau replied: “I do not wish you to go home but I intend to do so myself” and thereupon left the room.
    Frustrated, Wilson summoned the American Delegation to his quarters: “Gentlemen,” he said,

    “I am in trouble and I have sent for you to help me out. The matter is this: the French want the whole left bank of the Rhine. I told M. Clemenceau that I could not consent to such a solution of the problem. He became very much excited and then demanded ownership of the Saar Basin. I told him I could not agree to that either because it would mean giving 300,000 Germans to France . . . I do not know whether he will return to the meeting this afternoon. In fact, I do not know whether the Peace Conference will continue. M. Clemenceau called me a pro-German and abruptly left the room.”

    Clemenceau later wrote that “Your [American] intervention in the War, which you came out of lightly, since it cost you but 56,000 lives instead of our 1,364,000 killed, had appeared to you, nevertheless, as an excessive display of solidarity.”
    Even on the seemingly routine matter of Alsace-Lorraine, House comments: “I wanted to make Alsace-Lorraine an autonomous province of Switzerland, creating a neutral barrier between Germany and France, and giving both nations free access to its resources. The people of Alsace-Lorraine are much more akin to the Swiss than to the French or to the Germans. They were not happy under German rule and they do not seem to be happy now.”
    Later, recalling the acrimonious and exhausting negotiations with the French, Wilson exploded: “I should like to see Germany clean up France, and I should like to meet Jusserand [the French Ambassador] and tell him that to his face.”
    It should not be supposed that House and Wilson were unprepared as the following amazing entry from House’s personal diary makes clear. It is dated January 5, 1918:

    "Saturday was a remarkable day. I went over to the State Department just after breakfast to see Polk and the others, and returned to the White House at a quarter past ten in order to get to work with the President.
    He was waiting for me. We actually got to work at half past ten and finished re-making the map of the world, as we would have it, at half past twelve o’clock."

    I
    Italian territorial demands were no less rapacious. The secret Treaty of London had promised Italy the line of the Alps and Orlando was determined to collect. On the cession of the Brenner Pass to Italy, House comments: “I would have never given her that bit of purely German territory, the Brenner Pass, delivering 150,000 pure Germans to an alien flag. Both Clemenceau and Lloyd George were against this decision.” But the latter were bound by the Secret Treaties and Wilson concurred. The Southern Tyrol and Triest similarly passed to Italian sovereignty. Other bits of “purely German territory” were similarly dealt with in the troublesome case of Poland.
    It was soon after Wilson returned to the Conference on March 13 that he became estranged from Colonel House. Historians differ about the reasons and House himself sheds little light on the matter. In her book, My Memoir, Edith Wilson gives this vivid account:
    “It was after midnight and very still aboard, when I heard my husband’s door open and the Colonel take his leave . . . Woodrow was standing. The change in his appearance shocked me. He seemed to have aged ten years, and his jaw was set in the way it had when he was making a superhuman effort to control himself. Silently he held out his hand, which I grasped, crying ‘What is the matter? What has happened’?
    “He smiled bitterly. ‘House has given away everything I had won before I left Paris. He has compromised on every side, and so I have to start all over again, and this time it will be harder.’”

    House summed up the conversation in his diary: “The President comes back very militant and determined to put the League of Nations into the Treaty.” The next day Wilson ordered Ray Stannard Baker, his official biographer, to issue a formal statement to the press:

    “The President said today that the decision made at the Peace Conference at its plenary session, January 25, 1919, to the effect that the establishment of a League of Nations should be made an integral part of the Treaty of Paris, is of final force and there is no basis whatever for the reports that a change in this direction was contemplated.”

    The estrangement between Wilson and House was the gossip of Paris. The distinguished writer, Henry L. Stoddard throws up his hands: “Who knows the facts of that sundering of the most intimate ties that ever existed between the executive of a great nation and a man in civil life?
    The relation began in silence, it continued in silence, it ended in silence. Was it a myth—that unity of purpose and mind? Or was it real? Mystery of mysteries! Politics never saw its like.”


    On June 29, House and Wilson had their last meeting. They would never see each other again. “Guided only by the star of the Covenant,” wrote George Sylvester Viereck, “rejecting the knowledge of House, Wilson steered now to the left, now to the right, now forward, now backward. Dropping the pilot, House, he sailed alone in the treacherous waters of Paris . . .”

    Czechoslovakia had proclaimed its independence on October 28, 1918. Yugoslavia followed on December 1. Hungary proclaimed itself an independent monarchy, the Austrians proclaimed a republic. Both declared that they were a new State and should not be penalized for the alleged misdeeds of a vanished empire. This was the situation as the Peace Conference prepared to wrestle with the demands of the Polish Commission.


    The history of Poland begins in the year 963. A Polish-Lithuanian State, created in 1569, maintained an empire that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Three successive partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) among Prussia, Austria, and Russia resulted in the disappearance of Poland from the map of Europe. When these three were defeated in the Great War, Polish nationalism reasserted itself and an independent Poland was proclaimed with Joseph Pilsudski as Chief of State. On the problem of a resurrected Poland’s border with Germany, Winston Churchill wrote as follows:

    The actual crisis arose upon the report of the Commission on the future frontiers of Poland and Germany. The Commission among other things had assigned the whole of Upper Silesia to Poland as well as Danzig and the Polish Corridor. Mr. Lloyd George at once stigmatized the report as ‘unjust,’ since according to the statistics of the Commission itself, the number of Germans to be assigned to Polish sovereignty was too great. He therefore moved that the report should be sent back to the Commission. The Commission reconsidered it, but refused to alter their recommendations. The French championed the Commission.
    According to present-day opinion, Mr. Lloyd George was, of course, entirely in the right. The proposals of the Commission were indefensible.

    Through the intervention of Lloyd George, Danzig was not transferred to Polish sovereignty as originally proposed by the Commission but given the status of a self-governing civic state; Poland would administer the harbor and its relations with the outside world. A corridor through east Prussia was assigned to Poland to provide her with access to Danzig.
    All of this was problematic enough, but the Conference was deadlocked on the issue of Upper Silesia. Wilson and Clemenceau insisted upon its cession to Poland, Lloyd George remained opposed and Germany invoked the principle of self-determination. After a long and bitter debate, it was decided to hold a plebiscite.
    This was belatedly done in 1920 under the supervision of British and French troops. As these were preparing the disputed zones for voting, Polish guerrillas under the leadership of Korfanty invaded the region with the intention of stopping the plebiscite. The Germans retaliated and the fighting quickly escalated into a minor civil war, and reached a dangerous pass with Britain sympathizing with the Germans and France siding with the Poles. Good sense prevailed however and the plebiscite was duly held with Germany winning a large majority.
    Even this did not resolve the impasse and the matter was referred to the Council of the League of Nations which in turn referred it to one representative each of Brazil, Spain, Belgium and China. In the end, a compromise was reached which failed to respect the results of the plebiscite and was bitterly resented by Germany. Churchill was moved to write: “This was the greatest blot upon the draft Treaty with Germany. The rest was implicit in the acceptance of the Fourteen Points; but the enforced cession of the whole of Upper Silesia was received with vehement German resentment and indeed with general surprise.” It was however the awkward and unwieldy Danzig arrangement that would prove to be the flashpoint for a second World War two decades hence.
    Some 3,500,000 Sudeten Germans were to be integrated into the new state of Czechoslovakia while hundreds of thousands living in the Polish Corridor were to be transferred to Polish sovereignty. On June 21, 1919, the Vossische Zeitung wrote: “The flight from West Prussia and other parts of the Eastern Marches, which are about to be transferred from Prussia to Poland, to the Western and Central German provinces, is increasing to such an extent, that the Germans remaining there are very depressed.”
    Germany’s armed forces fared no better. On this Churchill writes: “The military terms finally agreed to are astonishing! A nation of sixty millions, hitherto the first military power in the world, was forbidden for all time to have an army of more than 100,000.”
    Many others besides Churchill objected to this almost criminal clause in the Treaty which left Germany vulnerable to the newly-created States on her borders. On May 26, 1919, Hans von Seeckt, the monocled creator of the Reichswehr, submitted a memorandum to the leader of the German delegation, Graf Brockdorff-Rantzau: “I want to state clearly,” he wrote, “that according to all competent military opinion an army of 100,000 men, with a limited officer corps, is not sufficient to fulfill the foreign tasks still remaining to Germany, even presuming a League of Nations, or to give the necessary backbone to its domestic policy . . . If Germany accepts these conditions, she becomes helpless in both the domestic and the foreign fields.” Such objections were ignored.
    Germany’s urgent request for a reduction in reparations payments; her request for an independent inquiry into the causes of the War; Austria’s request for Anschluss with Germany—all were denied.

    Private property belonging to German nationals was to be confiscated in China (Articles 129,132), Egypt (Article 148), Liberia (Articles 135-140). Germany was to be deprived of all colonial possessions, forbidden to import war materials or maintain air-forces or submarines.
    The Allied Powers were to have free access to the German market for five years while Germany herself faced high foreign tariff barriers and was forbidden to invest in neighboring countries.
    France was allowed to occupy all German territory west of the Rhine for fifteen years and to collect the profits of the coal mines in the Saar district. These were the conditions that enabled a chaotic post-war Germany, even the Communists, to agree on one thing: “Versailles muss fallen!”
    To this day the ghost of Versailles haunts the capitals of Europe and America, its plaintive and disturbing refrain echoing through the musty corridors of power, almost audible to diplomats and politicos: Germany was innocent in 1914 . . .


    And what about the Communist threat? The Bolsheviks had ruled Russia for less than two years and already their malignant influence was being felt. On January 28, 1918, the mob-like Red Army invaded Finland and occupied Helsingfors. It was not until the following April that General Mannerheim, assisted by a German division under General Von der Goltz, was able to reoccupy Helsingfors and temporarily end the Red Terror.
    Hungary succumbed to the Communist rabble led by Béla Kun on March 20, 1919. A Rumanian invasion the following August forced him to abandon his growing pile of bourgeois corpses and flee to Vienna where he was interred in the Steinhof lunatic asylum. In 1937 he was executed by Stalin. Colonel House noted in his diary that “Bolshevism is gaining ground everywhere. Hungary has just succumbed. We are sitting upon an open powder magazine and some day a spark may ignite it.”
    Red revolution was rampant in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. During January 1919, the Spartacists had managed to gain control of Berlin and threatened takeovers elsewhere, especially Bavaria. On March 25, 1919, Lloyd George issued his famous warning:

    "The greatest danger that I see in the present situation is that Germany may throw in her lot with Bolshevism and place her resources, her brains, her vast organizing power at the disposal of the revolutionary fanatics whose dream it is to conquer the world for Bolshevism by force of arms. This danger is no mere chimera. The present Government in Germany is weak; it has no prestige; its authority is challenged; it lingers merely because there is no alternative but the Spartacists, and Germany is not ready for the Spartacists as yet. But the argument which the Spartacists are using with great effect at this very time is that they alone can save Germany from the intolerable conditions which have been bequeathed her by war. They offer to free the German people from indebtedness to the Allies and indebtedness from their own richer classes. They offer them complete control of their own affairs and the prospect of a new heaven on earth.
    If Germany goes over to the Spartacists it is inevitable that she should throw in her lot with the Russian Bolsheviks. Once that happens, all Eastern Europe will be swept into the orbit of the Bolshevik revolution and within a year we may witness the spectacle of nearly 300,000,000 people organized into a vast Red Army under German instructors and German generals equipped with German cannon and German machine guns and prepared for a renewal of the attack on Western Europe. This is a prospect which no one can face with equanimity."


    Meanwhile, civil war raged in Russia. On the vital question of intervention in Russia or lending assistance to the ‘White’ forces locked in battle with Trotsky’s class warriors, Colonel House gives the following summary:

    "Both England and France pressed us to secure our consent to a Russian expedition. I insisted that any invasion of Russian territory would only strengthen the Bolshevists. I had in mind what would happen in my own country in a similar case. A nation invariably rises to the defense of its own government against a foreign invader. Moreover, any effective intervention would have required an enormous number of troops. The Japanese Ambassador told me that it would take the entire Japanese Army to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Japan agreed with me. France was strongly for intervention. England sided with her. After the Armistice, these two powers wanted to hurl a huge army of a million and a half into Russia.
    England and France sent numerous intermediaries to the United States to win over Wilson. One ambassador of intervention was the great philosopher, Bergson. That was a very clever move. Wilson would be more in sympathy with a philosopher than with a politician. Finally, Wilson was persuaded and gave his consent to our participation in an ill-starred Russian expedition. I would have preferred to send Hoover with food."


    The ten thousand American soldiers under General Graves were reluctantly dispatched by Wilson not to unseat Lenin but to perform guard duty. They were under strict orders to avoid tangling with Bolshevik troops if possible. House rightly calls this “a useless and expensive experiment.”
    On the halfhearted Franco-British effort he comments: “The English sent an army which likewise accomplished nothing. A part of the French troops sent to the Crimea caught the infection of Bolshevism."
    There was no lack of storm warnings about the abnormal and dangerous political situation in Russia. Heads of State, foreign ministers, ambassadors, newspaper editors; all warned of the consequences of ignoring the Bolshevik dictatorship. In words eerily reminiscent of his 1945 difficulties with Roosevelt and “Uncle Joe” Stalin, Churchill writes:

    "The Conference had sat long that day [February 14, 1919], and it was past seven o’clock when the Russian item on the agenda was reached. It was the very night that President Wilson was leaving on his first return journey to the United States. He had actually risen from his place to leave the Conference, and there could not have been a less propitious moment for raising an extra, disagreeable and baffling topic. However, with the persistence born of my direct responsibilities upon the various Russian fronts, and with all sorts of cruel realities, then proceeding, present in my mind, I stood up and made my appeal. ‘Could we not have some decision about Russia? Fighting was actually going on. Men were being killed and wounded. Was it peace or war? Was the President going away to America leaving this question quite unanswered? Was nothing to go on except aimless unorganized bloodshed till he came back? Surely there should be an answer given.’
    The President, contrary to my expectation, was affable. He turned back to the table and, resting his elbow on Clemenceau’s chair, listened without sitting down to what I had to say. Then he replied frankly and simply to the following effect: ‘Russia was a problem to which he did not pretend to know the solution. There were the gravest objections to every course, and yet some course must be taken—sooner or later. He was anxious to clear out of Russia altogether, but was willing, if necessary, to meet the Bolsheviks alone (i.e. without the National Russians) at Prinkipo. Nevertheless, if Prinkipo came to nothing, he would do his share with the other Allies in any military measures which they considered necessary and practicable to help the Russian armies now in the field.’ Then he left us."


    Prinkipo, a suitably remote island in the Sea of Marmora, had earlier been proposed as a place where the Bolsheviks could meet with the White Russian resistance to settle their differences. The Bolsheviks, eager for any sort of recognition from the Powers, accepted with alacrity. White army commanders however, were loath to treat the Bolsheviks as equals and indignantly refused the invitation.
    On May 26, 1919, the Supreme Council transmitted to Admiral Kolchak the conditions under which they would assist anti-Bolshevik forces. The relevant part reads as follows:

    "The Allied and Associated Governments now wish to declare formally that the object of their policy is to restore peace within Russia by enabling the Russian people to resume control of their own affairs through the instrumentality of a freely elected constituent assembly, and to restore peace along its frontiers by arranging for the settlement of disputes in regard to the boundaries of the Russian State and its relations with its neighbours through the peaceful arbitration of the League of Nations."

    There followed eight specific points to which Admiral Kolchak was required to give his assent. He replied two days later: “I should not retain power one day longer than required by the interests of the country. My first thought at the moment when the Bolsheviks are definitely crushed will be to fix the date of the Constituent Assembly . . . . I shall hand over to it all my power in order that it may freely determine the system of government. I have moreover, taken the oath to do this before the Supreme Russian Tribunal, the guardian of legality. All my efforts are aimed at concluding the civil war as soon as possible by crushing Bolshevism in order to put the Russian people in a position to express its free will.” He also replied in the affirmative to the eight specific points.
    But once again, despite Kolckak’s satisfactory reply, the Conference inexplicably failed to act. Churchill explains:

    "If this far-reaching proposal and openly proclaimed decision was wise now in June, would it not have been wiser in January? No argument existed in June not obvious in January, and half the power available in January was gone by June. Six months of degeneration and uncertainty had chilled the Siberian Armies and wasted the slim authority of the Omsk Government. It had given the Bolsheviks the opportunity of raising armies, of consolidating their power and of identifying themselves to some extent to Russia. It had provided enough opposition to stimulate and not enough to overcome the sources of their strength. The moment chosen by the Supreme Council for their declaration was almost exactly the moment when that declaration was certainly too late . . ."

    Thus, in an almost inconceivable and certainly inexcusable lapse of judgment, primarily by Wilson and House, the Bolshevik boil was allowed to fester and spread in the contaminated soil of Versailles, and finally to yield its bitter fruit in 1939. It was the appeasement of the Bolsheviks in 1919, not that of Munich in 1938, that sealed the doom of the 20th century.


    One year after the Armistice, the United States Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles.
    On the Treaty itself, Professor Fay wrote in 1926: “One must abandon the dictum of the Versailles Treaty that Germany and her allies were solely responsible. It was a dictum exacted by victors from vanquished, under the influence of the blindness, ignorance, hatred, and the propagandistic misconceptions to which war had given rise. It was based upon evidence which was incomplete and not always sound. It is generally recognized by the best historical scholars in all countries to be no longer tenable or defensible.”

    Professor Barnes concurs: “There is no authoritative and informed historian in any country who has studied the problem of the genesis of the World War in a thorough fashion who does not regard the theory of war guilt held in Articles 227 and 231 of the Versailles Treaty to be wholly false, misleading and unjust.”

    In the early thirties, when the war clouds began to gather over Europe once more, Colonel House wrote these ironic words:

    “What is happening in the world today, is largely the result of the kind of peace we made in Paris . . .”
    Last edited by peterhof; 25 Sep 12, 01:52.
    "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

  • #2
    Originally posted by peterhof View Post
    On January 28, 1918, the mob-like Red Army invaded Finland and occupied Helsingfors. It was not until the following April that General Mannerheim, assisted by a German division under General Von der Goltz, was able to reoccupy Helsingfors and temporarily end the Red Terror.
    tl/dr

    As for this bit, you've got it as wrong as it's humanly possible.

    1. The Red Army didn't even exist in January 1918.

    2. Nobody invaded Finland as the rebellion in Helsinki was started by the Finnish Communists and Social-Democrats.

    3. Mannerheim, propped up by foreign bayonets, set up a reign of terror which surpassed anything the Finnish communists did. Bloody and lawless reprisals in Helsinki and especially Tampere left an unhealing wound in the Finnish society up to WW2. The butchering of Vyborg was aggravated by anti-Russian pogroms as 1000s of ethnic Russians were executed without any regard to their political affiliations, among them many staunchly anti-Bolshevik businessmen and intellectuals. Saying that he ended the "reign of terror" is like saying that he "healed headache with a guilliotine".
    www.histours.ru

    Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

    Comment


    • #3
      Perhaps the Treaty of Versailles should be viewed in full context ?

      For example, how about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March 1918, when "the boot was on the other foot ":- a precedent, perhaps?
      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
      Samuel Johnson.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by peterhof View Post

        “When the Germans had signed and the great Allied Powers had done so, the cannons began to boom. <snip>

        Edward Mandel House
        Commenting on the Treaty of Versailles


        “I cannot conceive any greater cause of war than that the German people, ”<snip>
        Lloyd George
        Prime Minister of England, March 25, 1919

        <snip>

        [/B]
        The major problem, and there were many problems, with the Treaties imposed by the Peace Conference of 1919 was that several key players were absent. The Russian Empire was in a state of civil war and Austria-Hungary had disintegrated. If A-H had still existed, it would have faced a considerable portion of the wrath directed at Germany. And a Russian voice would have moderated the claims of the nationalities clamouring to be heard from the ruins of Russia, A-H and Germany.

        A second problem was that France wanted a guarantee of security against a resurgent Germany, and Lloyd George wasn't listening. Neither was Wilson, partly because he was suffering from influenza for a key period of the Conference and partly because he overestimated his influence. He forgot that the two major players, France and UK, had paid heavily for victory and had to satisfy a vengeful public for the suffering endured.

        Thirdly, while the western borders of Germany were easily agreed, those in the East were put in the "too hard" basket, not settled and agreed by negotiation. All the states on the Entente and Associated Powers side present wanted more and very much adopted a "beggar thy neighbour" attitude, especially with regard to territory. Absolutely no attempt was made by UK, US or France to sort out any of this mess and I doubt they could have, given that fighting here didn't stop until 1920. The presence of a large number of German troops didn't help either.

        And what about the Communist threat?
        What about it? Most of the Communist/Bolshevik/Red revolutions were brought about by the stresses imposed on the societies conducting WWI. Germany had suffered under a military bureaucracy that was increasingly out of touch with the demands of the civilian population during the war. Russia had seen autocracy and corruption deliver defeat and suffering to the masses. Switzerland had a general strike because of economic problems associated with being more or less under siege. Hungary had lost a war and the peasants wanted redress from the completely out of touch political elite. For a display of pure reactionary conservatism, consider interwar Hungary's social and internal political policies.

        And some of what you have written is just plain rubbish, lies, fabrications and total shyte, especially concerning what France, Britain and Russia "wanted" or were their "secret war aims". The "war aims" were not enunciated before the war but slowly evolved during it as the Entente powers sort to define recompense for the suffering endured and the financial cost of waging the war. They didn't even consider partitioning the Dual Monarchy until they could see daylight through the cracks.

        Yes, some of it was venal. Yes, some of it was bloody stupid. Yes, some of it was colonialism and racism writ large. But it could have been a whole lot worse on a nation that had only existed for 50 years.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
          Perhaps the Treaty of Versailles should be viewed in full context ?

          For example, how about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March 1918, when "the boot was on the other foot ":- a precedent, perhaps?
          Indeed. Versailles was a mistake - I contend that either a lighter, much less humiliating treaty or a thorough dismantling of the German nation would have made the following decades less bloody, but the in between, humiliation without crippling Germany totally, was the worst of all possible choices - however it wasn't without precedent. If you are going to put on the jackboots to deliver a kick to country when it is down you can hardly cry foul when others do the same to you.
          Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the cheesemakers

          That's right bitches. I'm blessed!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Rojik View Post
            Indeed. Versailles was a mistake - I contend that either a lighter, much less humiliating treaty or a thorough dismantling of the German nation would have made the following decades less bloody, but the in between, humiliation without crippling Germany totally, was the worst of all possible choices - however it wasn't without precedent. If you are going to put on the jackboots to deliver a kick to country when it is down you can hardly cry foul when others do the same to you.
            Yes, I'll go along with that,and add that the "War Guilt"charge was a malicious mistake, which served no good purpose whatever.

            As you have argued , the Versailles Treaty fell awkwardly between two stools, it was either too draconian, or not draconian enough .
            "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
            Samuel Johnson.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
              Yes, I'll go along with that,and add that the "War Guilt"charge was a malicious mistake, which served no good purpose whatever.

              As you have argued , the Versailles Treaty fell awkwardly between two stools, it was either too draconian, or not draconian enough .
              This is a good observation, the article written by peterhof has a lot information. It would be nice to read Colonel House's memoirs, he seemed to be one of the few people who was not bent on self-promotion.

              The rest of my family has my books on the Russian Civil War, a war which was entered into by fear of Bolshevism. But the allies did not conduct this war according to the philosophy of George Patton. "Get there the firstest with the mostest"

              I wish I had my Russian Civil War books, now in the hands of my family The thread would make for a nice discussion. Now one of the things this article points out is how afraid of Bolshevism Europe was to the point of not helping the Spanish Republic during the uprising against a legally elected government, member of the League of Nations. If anyone is interested I have a ton of data on the Spanish Civil War, which was the precursor of WWII. Finding stuff on the Russian Civil War difficult.
              Last edited by Nickuru; 27 Sep 12, 16:35. Reason: spelling
              When looking for the reason why things go wrong, never rule out stupidity, Murphy's Law Nº 8
              Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana
              "Ach du schwein" a German parrot captured at Bukoba GEA the only prisoner taken

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                Perhaps the Treaty of Versailles should be viewed in full context ?

                For example, how about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March 1918, when "the boot was on the other foot ":- a precedent, perhaps?
                What Germany imposed on Romania was no joy either.

                Or one could look at what Germany had in store for France if they had won. It was far worse than Versailles. The Allies were arguably too lenient and should have gone for complete occupation for a 2-5 year period to reinforce the fact that Germany had lost. Reparations could have been properly organised and Germany's self-inflicted economic crisis of the 20s avoided. Post occupation Bavaria, Hesse, Saxony and Hannover could have been removed from Germany and established as independent but federated German states. The German states to the west and the former Hanseatic cities on the North Sea could have been formed into a new "Confederation of the Rhine" also federated to Germany.

                In this manner Germany remains intact but weakened as the central power of Berlin and traditional military aristocracy centered on Prussia would have been broken. A confederation of regions, each politically independent of the other but permitted aligned defence and tariff policies, would have ensured a politically stable central Europe.

                Granted, the above could be undone by plebicite at a future date but with no economic collapse in the 20s and the former indepedent Germans states (ie Bavaria), who were none too thrilled with Berlin/Prussian dominance in the first place, again in control of their own futures, the chances of a Nazi rise would have been greatly reduced.
                The Purist

                Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Henry W. Nevinson was a distinguished British war correspondent who covered the Boer War, the Balkan Wars, and the Gallipoli landing where he was wounded. An author of over thirty books and a major figure in the British women's suffragette movement, Nevinson wrote the following about the 1919 Treaty of Versailles:

                  Shameful and disastrous as was the whole Treaty of Versailles, there was one clause in it that surpassed all others in shame. It was Article 231, and it ran:-

                  "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm, and Germany accepts, the responsibility of herself and her Allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies."

                  Other Articles in the Treaty are shameless in their bullying treatment of a gallant and vanguished enemy, and in the acquisitive greed that is sure to engender future wars, but that Article expresses a lie of such grossness that I wonder the hand which first wrote it did not wither. I do not wonder that the German representative to whom it was first shown refused to sign such an atrocious perversion of the truth. Ultimately a German did consent to sign, and his consent is the most terrible evidence of the abject misery to which war, disease, and the starvation of women and children owing to the British blockade for seven months after the Armistice had reduced the German people.
                  Whether M. Clemenceau or Mr. Lloyd George concocted the lie, I cannot be sure, but amid all the orgy of iniquity that prevailed in Versailles in 1919, that Article stands out as conspicuous, and no historian will ever dare to repeat it except with indignant scorn. That is quite certain, no matter what view of the War's origins history may take.


                  Indeed! History's verdict of the infamous Treaty of Versailles is still evolving, but there seems little doubt that the real truth about the origin of the Great War will reveal the "Treaty" in the fullness of shame and hypocrisy which it will forever symbolize for future generations.

                  P.S., Some posters have mentioned the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Please see my new thread on this - The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - and note that the Germans had initially been agreeable to "no forcible annexations" until the Bolsheviks began their delaying tactics.
                  Last edited by peterhof; 05 Oct 12, 14:57.
                  "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    What Germany imposed on Romania was no joy either.

                    Or one could look at what Germany had in store for France if they had won. It was far worse than Versailles. The Allies were arguably too lenient and should have gone for complete occupation for a 2-5 year period to reinforce the fact that Germany had lost. Reparations could have been properly organised and Germany's self-inflicted economic crisis of the 20s avoided. Post occupation Bavaria, Hesse, Saxony and Hannover could have been removed from Germany and established as independent but federated German states. The German states to the west and the former Hanseatic cities on the North Sea could have been formed into a new "Confederation of the Rhine" also federated to Germany.

                    In this manner Germany remains intact but weakened as the central power of Berlin and traditional military aristocracy centered on Prussia would have been broken. A confederation of regions, each politically independent of the other but permitted aligned defence and tariff policies, would have ensured a politically stable central Europe.

                    Granted, the above could be undone by plebicite at a future date but with no economic collapse in the 20s and the former indepedent Germans states (ie Bavaria), who were none too thrilled with Berlin/Prussian dominance in the first place, again in control of their own futures, the chances of a Nazi rise would have been greatly reduced.
                    The (unrealistic) above would certainly have been undone because such things do not work.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by stug43 View Post
                      The (unrealistic) above would certainly have been undone because such things do not work.
                      What "things do not work" ? Why would such an arrangement not have worked ?

                      Surely it only appears unrealistic now because it didn't happen.
                      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                      Samuel Johnson.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Funny, I always thought that Lloyd George was Prime Minister of Great Britain and was Welsh to boot, but if you say he was Prime Minister of England.....
                        Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by the ace View Post
                          Funny, I always thought that Lloyd George was Prime Minister of Great Britain and was Welsh to boot, but if you say he was Prime Minister of England.....
                          I sincerely hope that you are not addressing me, sir.
                          "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                          Samuel Johnson.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                            I sincerely hope that you are not addressing me, sir.
                            No, I was addressing the OP, you just quoted him.

                            If he can't get the name of one of the main belligerents right, anything else he writes has to be suspect.
                            Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by the ace View Post
                              Funny, I always thought that Lloyd George was Prime Minister of Great Britain and was Welsh to boot, but if you say he was Prime Minister of England.....
                              He was, and PM of Wales, Scotland and Ireland too.

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