9-1 History/Inter-war years
Part 1: Peacemaking
See also[of 11 November on Wikipedia]
On 11 November 1918 the Germans signed an armistice with the British and French in order to end the war before the allies were able to set foot on German soil.
Woodrow Wilson and the Fourteen Points
The only coherent outline of what should go into the peace came in the form of Wilson's Fourteen Points e.g.
- No secret agreements between nations: Wilson felt this had created the disastrous pre-war alliance system.
- 4. Armaments to be reduced globally (to prevent an arms race)
- 14. An association of nations to agree to maintain each other's independaence and integrity.
The other points were largely territorial adjustments based partly upon the desires of the allies (particularly the French pursuit of Alsace-Lorraine), and partly on creating independent states for the nationalities.
Britain, France and the Fourteen Points
In Britain and France economic hardship encouraged the desire for compensation. Few automatically accepted disarmament. These attitudes undermined much of the Fourteen Points.
The French Prime Minister George Clemenceau gave some public support for Wilson's ideas but in private would not accept them at all.
British Prime Minister Lloyd-George was more flexible but knew that the British people and their MPs would not. The press called for Germany to be "squeezed 'til the pips squeak". Indeed Lloyd-George had just (December 1918) won an election based on a promise to punish Germany and win compensation ("Make Germany Pay!").
The Versailles Settlement
The Paris Peace Conference
The Paris Peace Conference began in January 1919, meeting at Versailles. It was played out against a background of a continuing naval blockade of Germany which imposed considerable suffering.
Most of the negotiations were conducted by the British, Fernch, Americans and Italians, particularly the "big three" led by Lloyd-George, Clemenceau and Wilson.
There were no Germans present and the final treaty would be a "diktat" (dictated peace).
Finalising the Versailles Treaty
By May 1919 most terms had been agreed on and presented to the Germans. They vigorously objected. Few adjustments were made, though, and the Germans felt compelled to sign.
The signing took place in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles palace in June 1919.
The Terms of the Treaty of Versailles
There were 440 clauses in total. In the Rhineland a 50km de-militarised zone was created along the French border. The USA and Britain promised support for France in the event of a German invasion.
An area of Germany known as the Saar was held by the allies for 15 years, with France to receive all the coal there for 5 years.
The German army was to be permanently reduced 100,000, with no tanks. The navy was allowed just 6 battleships but could have no submarines. No German air force was permitted.
France received Alsace-Lorraine.
Belgium and Denmark made small territorial gains.
Poland was created largely out of land taken from Russia in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk but also from Germany in the form of the Polish Corridor. Danzig, a city in the corridor, was placed under League of Nations. 2 million Germans now found themselves in Poland.
Article 231, the "war guilt clause", stated that Germany was entirely to blame for the war and the damage caused.
Arguments over reparations (compensation) left the final sum unfixed when the treaty was signed. Finally agreed at £6.6 billion in 1921 this figure angered the Germans who felt Versailles had handed the allies a blank cheque to fill in as they pleased.
In the meantime "payments" were delivered in coal, timber, merchant ships etc.
Impact of the Treaty and wider settlement
Dealing with Austria-Hungary and creating Eastern Europe
The Austro-Hungarian Empire also faced a series of harsh treaties. The key issue was breaking the empire into new territories. Theoretically this would be as suggested by the Fourteen points i.e. along lines of nationality. In reality some national groups were amalgamated for practical reasons or to make them more viable (e.g. Yugoslavia = Serbs, Bosnians and Croats, and Czechoslovakia = Czechs and Slovaks).
Other arguments or pressures saw some people find themselves in minorities. Most obviously this was the case with Germans in the Czech Sudetenland and in the Polish Corridor. It was hoped that the new countries of Eastern Europe would be sufficiently strong and democratic to resist the spread of communism from Russia. The French also hoped they could be part of a system of mutual defence against Germany.
There were tensions in many of the Eastern European countries themselves over the exact lines of their border.
The Treaty of St. Germain 1919
The treaty with Austria. Cut the armed forces. Demanded reparations.
The Treaty of Sevres 1920
The treaty with Turkey. Cut the armed forces etc.
The Treaty of Lausanne 1923
The treaty of Sevres angered the Turkish so much they overthrew their government. The new president threatened war and so the treaty of Lausanne re-wrote parts of Sevres eg. gave Turkey some land back. Lausanne therefore sent the message that it wasn't always possible to enforce treaty terms and re-negotiation was possible.
US Reactions to the Versailles Treaty
The US Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. The US embarked upon a policy of isolation. The US was not even a member of the League of Nations.
The 'Little Entente'
France and the new Eastern European nations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia bound themselves in a series of treaties promising mutual protection in the event that any of them were attacked.
Finally set in 1921 at £6.6bn the Germans were immediately behind on their repayments. These fell (52%) chiefly to the French. A series of conferences in the early 1920s sought to find agreement and get the flow of war debts moving. Little was achieved, primarily as the French continued to insist on full repayment.
The 1923 Ruhr Crisis and the 1924 Dawes Plan
German failure to meet repayments saw French and Belgium troops occupy the Ruhr in 1923 causing considerable tension and some bloodshed. Reparations revision was clearly essential and in 1924 the Dawes Plan was put together by the USA to stabilise the German currency and provide her with a massive (800 million marks) loan to kick-start her economy.
Part 2: The League of Nations and international peace
The League of Nations
A key feature of the 14 points and the Treaty of Versailles was the League of Nations.
The League Covenant (like a constitution) was designed to ensure peace was kept and human rights infringements eradicated. All League members signed it.
All members (there were 41 originally, growing to 60 by 1934) were represented in the Assembly. Each member had an equal vote. All important decisions eg. imposing sanctions had to be unanimous. The Assembly met only once a year.
The Council remained in permanent session but reported its actions, and was answerable to, the Assembly.
A League civil service i.e. a body of experts in charge of League administration.
The International Court of Justice
The court sat to deal with legal disputes between member states.
There were lots of departments designed to improve lives and tackle problems e.g. The Refugee Commission and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). These were often successful e.g. blacklisting companies involved in the drug trade, and re-settling Russian refugees fleeing revolution/civil war there.
Keeping the Peace
Article 10 of the Covenant committed all League members to respect and preserve the territorial and political independence of other members against external aggression.
Articles 16 and 17 committed members to take action against aggressors. The League would begin with condemnation, and progress to economic sanctions. The League could only attempt military action if nations donated troops; there was no standing army.
Unfortunately no definition of "aggressor" was made or any satisfactory or binding means of tackling them constructed.
Not only had the USA opted out of the League but Germany and Russia were not allowed to join.
As a collective body aiming to act against its members, the lack of big members was problematic since it left Britain, France and Italy as the leading members, the League of Nations gave the impression of merely trying to enforce the Treaty of Versailles for the victorious powers. Actions in the Saar and Corfu (see below) seemed to prove this.
The League In Action
Aaland Islands: In 1921 dispute over the ownership of the Aaland islands between Sweden and Finland was resolved.
Upper Silesia: In 1921 ownership of Upper Silesia was divided between Poland and Germany after a League decision.
Bulgaria: In 1925 Greece invaded Bulgaria. The League asked the Greeks to leave; they did.
Departments: Some of the departments e.g. health dept. and refugee dept. also had some successes.
Early problems for the League: The Saar and Corfu (1923)
Vilna: In 1920 Poland took control of the Lithuanian city of Vilna. The League told Poland off but took no other action.
Saar: French commissioners in the Saar angered the Germans with their heavy handed approach; this reflected badly upon the League.
Corfu: In 1923 Mussolini bombarded Corfu in order to force Greece to pay him compensation for the mysterious assassination of an Italian general. Greece referred the incident to the league who ruled that they should pay; this was a victory aggression.
Diplomacy outside the League
The Washington Conference 1921-22
Little was done by the League about the promised disarmament.
A significant early step towards disarmament was taken at the Washington Conference convened by the USA.
The primary outcome was the Washington Naval Agreement in which a ratio of ships was established; the USA and Britain were allowed the most, followed by Japan and then Italy anbd France at a ratio of 5:3:2.
The Dawes Plan 1924
The Locarno Treaty 1925
The Locarno treaties of 1925 were regarded as concluding the security of Western Europe. Germany, France and Belgium signed treaties to guarantee their mutual borders. Italy and Britain agreed to intervene if either side broke the treaties.
With Poland and Czechoslovakia Germany signed an agreement to submit future border disputes to arbitration. Germany would not guarantee the integrity of their Eastern border - a significant flaw in the treaty.
Germany joins the League 1926
Locarno had been an important step. Under Stresemann's guidance Germany was following a more pacific policy, in keeping with Versailles (called fulfilment) and was being treated as an equal.
Certainly Locarno fostered better relations; this became known as the "spirit of Locarno".
In 1926 Germany was admitted to the League of Nations.
The Kellog-Briand Pact 1928
Devised by the French foreign minister Briand and his US counterpart, Kellogg, over 60 nations signed an agreement to renounce aggression when solving disputes.
The Young Plan 1929
The Young Plan reorganised Germany's reparation payments, reducing the annual amount and extending the repayment term. Acceptance by Germany saw the allies agree to evacuate the Rhineland by June 1930.
The Collapse of the League
The Geneva Disarmament Conference 1932-34
The League of Nations encouraged disarmament talks. These began in 1926 and were joined by the USSR a year later. These continued into the 1930s. Although amicable no concrete settlement was reached; a full disarmament conference was planned for 1932.
Hitler withdrew Germany from the talks soon after coming to power in 1933. He also withdrew Germany from the talks soon after coming to power in 1933. He also withdrew Germany from the League of Nations.
International security after the wall street crash
The Wall Street Crash in late 1929 brought about a collapse in the world economy. Debt repayments faltered and discussions failed. The new Nazi government ended reparation payments. Economic desperation encouraged people to support extremist parties e.g. the Nazis in Germany (as unemployment rose to 6 million in 1932 the Nazi vote rose to nearly 14 million).
With no agreements being reached between countries they looked to their own solutions e.g. for some it meant a more aggressive foreign policy.
The Manchurian Crisis 1931-1933
In 1931-32 Japan took control of Manchuria in North East China and even landed troops in Shanghai to force the Chinese to capitulate. They created a puppet kingdom called Manchukuo.
Manchuria: The Lytton Commission
At the end of 1931 the League of Nations appointed Lord Lytton to head a commission to investigate. It took a whole year to compile a report. It called not for action against Japan but for the creation of an independent Chinese administration in Manchukuo.
Manchuria: Japanese Withdrawal from the League 1933
The Japanese refused to accept the Lytton report and withdrew from the League. No further action was taken. In fairness, military action would have been logistically very difficult and almost impossible to justify to the people of Britain, France etc. Either way collective security had failed.
The Abyssinian Crisis 1935-1936
In 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia). This time the League denounced Italy under Article 12 of the Covenant, referring the disagreement to arbitration.
In November the League members imposed economic sanctions against Italy. Crucially this did not include certain goods e.g. steel and oil.
Abyssinia: The Hoare-Laval Pact
Desperate for a peaceful solution the British and French foreign ministers drew up the Hoare-Laval Pact giving Abyssinia to Italy. Again, the League looked hopelessly weak.
The League continued to promote disarmament and several conferences met in the early 1930s. Agreement was not reached and in October 1933 Germany withdrew from the meetings and also from the League of Nations.
Commencing rearmament and introducing military service (conscription), at first in secret and then openly, Hitler used the excuse that the other powers had refused to disarm.
The USSR Joins the League 1934
In 1934 Soviet fears over German growth saw her join the League of Nations.
Part 3: The Origins of the Second World War
Hitler's aims and early foreign policy
- The extension of Nazism either by direct control or the establishment of puppet or allied regimes. This would include the imposition of a Nazi racial order.
- Defy and revise the Treaty of Versailles
- The union of all German speakers into one great Reich.
- Create "living space" - Lebensraum in the east including the pursuit here of essential raw materials.
In 1935 Hitler introduced compulsory military service (conscription) and the German army grew to 1.4 million by 1939.
The Dolfuss Affair 1934
In 1934 the Austrian chancellor Dolfuss was murdered by Austrian Nazis in an attempted coup. Hitler encouraged the coup but did little to ensure its success. The coup failed.
In Italy Mussolini was increasingly concerned by German ambitions in Austria.
The Saar Plebiscite 1935
A plebiscite (referendum) was held under the League of Nations supervision in 1935, as per the Versailles Treaty. 90% voted in favour of reunion with Germany.
A success for Hitler, this marked the first step on the road to re-uniting all German speakers.
Remilitarisation of the Rhineland 1936
Hitler took a risk in March 1936 believing the west i.e. the French would not have the will to prevent his re-occupation of the Rhineland. French opposition was not sufficient with British unwillingness and even some sympathy for Germany. They protested but nothing more.
Rome-Berlin Axis 1936
Italian (in Abyssinia) and German (in the Rhineland) behaviour, and their mutual interference in support of fascists in the Spanish Civil War, saw them sign the Rome-Berlin Axis in October 1936. This was not a very detailed agreement.
Europe was effectively divided into two camps.
The Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
A month later Germany extended her alliance signing the Anti-Comintern pact with right-wing Japan. The Italians joined the pact a year later (1937).
The British Response: Appeasement
In Britain some (very) limited rearmament began, particularly concerned with air defences. The British foreign secretary visited Germany and listened sympathetically to Hitler's territorial grievances in the Polish Corridor, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The process of accepting and looking to rectify genuine German grievances has become known as "appeasement".
This approach was popular; the memory of death and destruction in World War One was still considerable. Many in Britain came to feel that Germany had been treated harshly at Versailles, even unfairly, especially as the principle of self-determination had not always been followed.
On top of this, Soviet communism on Germany's eastern border was considered by many (most?) a greater threat than Nazism.
Anschluss: Austria 1938
The Austrian chancellor's concerns about the Austrian Nazi party encouraged him to plan a referendum on Austria's future.
Concerned that this might not work in his interests Hitler sent his troops to occupy Austria on 12 March thereby beginning the process of a forced union of the two countries, achieving the forbidden Anschluss.
The international response was mere protests.
The Sudetenland and the Munich Conference, September 1938
In the summer of 1938 Hitler campaigned for the German speaking (4 million of them) Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia to become part of Germany. The Czechs mobilised troops. Fearing war British PM Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany for several meetings. This culminated in the Munich Conference at the end of September 1938. Here Chamberlain, the French PM Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler discussed the fate of the Sudetenland.
It was agreed that the Sudetenland would be given to Germany. Chamberlain and Daladier were hailed as peacemakers.
The Occupation of Czechoslovakia: March 1939
After some diplomatic bullying German troops entered Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Unwilling and largely incapable of defending themselves the Czechs did nothing. Hitler's aggressive intentions beyond the union of German speakers had been made clear.
The Polish Guarantee and the End of Appeasement: 1939
Fears of further German aggression saw Britain and France agree to guarantee Poland's frontiers on 31 March 1939. Hitler made clear to his generals that he thought the era of diplomatic expansion was over.
The Pact of Steel: May 1939
In May 1939 the Rome-Berlin Axis became a full-scale military alliance called the Pact of Steel.
The Nazi-Soviet Pact: August 1939
The USSR now became the key power. Britain and France could perhaps still stop Hitler if they worked with the USSR. Despite meeting with the Soviets the British did not want an alliance. Still, the British remained confident that communists and the Nazis hated each other enough for this not to matter.
The Germans, though, offered the Soviets guarantees of peace and land. In late August 1939 the two countries signed a non-aggression pact that included the division of Poland and the Baltic states. This Nazi-Soviet Pact was a shattering blow for Britain and France.
The Outbreak of War: September 1939
Hitler intensified his demands from Poland and then attacked on 1 September 1939. Even then Britain and France offered to negotiate if German troops would leave Poland.
Hitler rejected the offer and on 3 September 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany.