Comments of the German
Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference on the
Conditions of Peace
President Wilson, in his speech of October 20th, 1916, has acknowledged that "no single fact caused the war, but
that in the last analysis the whole European system is in a deeper sense responsible
for the war, with its combination of alliances and understandings, a
complicated texture of intrigues and espionage that unfailingly caught the
whole family of nations in its meshes,"... Germany is to
acknowledge that Germany and her
allies are responsible for all damages which the enemy Governments or their
subjects have incurred by her and her allies' aggression.... Apart from the consideration that there is
no incontestable legal foundation for the obligation for reparation imposed
upon Germany, the
amount of such compensation is to be determined by a commission nominated
solely by Germany's enemies, Germany taking
no part.... The commission is plainly to have power to administer Germany like the
estate of a bankrupt.
are innate rights of man, so there are innate rights of nations. The
inalienable fundamental right of every state is the right of
self-preservation and self-determination. With this fundamental right the
demand here made upon Germany is
incompatible. Germany must
promise to pay an indemnity, the amount of which at present is not even
stated. The German rivers are to be placed under the control of an
international body upon which Germany's delegates are always to be but the
smallest minority. Canals and railroads are to be built on German territory
at the discretion of foreign authorities.
instances show that that is not the just peace we were promised, not the
peace "the very
principle of which,"
according to a word of President Wilson, "is equality and the common participation in a common
In such a
peace the solidarity of human interests, which was to find its expression in
a League of Nations, would
have been respected. How often Germany has been given the promise that this
League of Nations would unite the belligerents, conquerors as well as
conquered, in a permanent system of common rights!...
contradiction to them, the Covenant of the League
of Nations has been framed without the cooperation of Germany. Nay,
still more. Germany does not
even stand on the list of those States that have been invited to join the League
of Nations.... What the treaty of peace proposes to establish, is
rather a continuance of the present hostile coalition which does not deserve
the name of "League
of Nations."... The
old political system based on force and with its tricks and rivalries will
thus continue to thrive!
again the enemies of Germany have
assured the whole world that they did not aim at the destruction of Germany....
contradiction to this, the peace document shows that Germany's position as a world power is to be
utterly destroyed. The Germans abroad are deprived of the possibility of
keeping up their old relations in foreign countries and of regaining for Germany a share
in world commerce, while their property, which has up to the present been
confiscated and liquidated, is being used for reparation instead of being
restored to them....
war, a new fundamental law has arisen which the statesmen of all belligerent
peoples have again and again acknowledged to be their aim: the right of
self-determination. To make it possible for all nations to put this privilege
into practice was intended to be one achievement of the war....
the treatment described above of the inhabitants of the Saar region as
accessories to the [coal] pits nor the public form of consulting the
population in the districts of Eupen, Malmedy and Prussian Moresnet--which,
moreover, shall not take place before they have been put under Belgian
sovereignty—comply in the least with such a solemn recognition of the right
is also true with regard to Alsace-Lorraine. If Germany has
pledged herself "to right
the wrong of 1871," this
does not mean any renunciation of the right of self-determination of the
inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine. A cession of the country without consulting
the population would be a new wrong, if for no other reason, because it would
be inconsistent with a recognized principle of peace.
other hand, it is incompatible with the idea of national self-determination
for two and one-half million Germans to be torn away from their native land
against their own will. By the proposed demarcation of the boundary,
unmistakably German territories are disposed of in favor of their Polish
neighbors. Thus, from the Central Silesian districts of Guhrau
and Militsch certain portions are to be wrenched
away, in which, beside 44,900 Germans, reside at the utmost 3,700 Poles....
disrespect of the right of self-determination is shown most grossly in the
fact that Danzig is to be separated from the German Empire and made a free
state. Neither historical rights nor the
present ethnographical conditions of ownership of the Polish people can have
any weight as compared with the German past and the German character of that
city.... Likewise the cession of the commercial town of Memel, which
is to be exacted from Germany, is in
no way consistent with the right of self-determination. The same may be said
with reference to the fact that millions of Germans in German-Austria are to
be denied the union with Germany which
they desire and that, further, millions of Germans dwelling along our
frontiers are to be forced to remain part of the newly created Czecho-Slovakian State.
Even as regards
that part of the national territory that is to be left to Germany, the
promised right of self-determination is not observed. A Commission for the
execution of the indemnity shall be the highest
instance for the whole State. Our enemies claim to have fought for the great
aim of the democratization of Germany. To be
sure, the outcome of the war has delivered us from our former authorities,
but instead of them we shall have in exchange a foreign, dictatorial power
whose aim can and must be only to exploit the working power of the German
people for the benefit of the creditor states....
that this is an age in which economic relations are
on a world scale, requires the political organization of the civilized world.
The German Government agrees with the Governments of the Allied and
Associated Powers in the conviction that the horrible devastation caused by
this war requires the establishment of a new world order, an order which
shall insure the "effective
authority of the principles of international law," and "just and honorable relations between the nations."...
no evidence of these principles in the peace document which has been laid
before us. Expiring world theories, emanating from imperialistic and capitalistic
tendencies, celebrate in it their last horrible triumph. As opposed to these
views, which have brought unspeakable disaster upon the world, we appeal to
the innate sense of right of men and nations, under whose token the English State developed,
the Dutch People freed itself, the North American nation established its
independence, France shook
off absolutism. The bearers of such hallowed traditions cannot deny this
right to the German people, that now for the first
time has acquired in its internal polities the possibility of living in
harmony with its free will based on law.
 A Reparations Commission
appointed by the Peace Conference set the final sum at $33 billion in 1921.
In the meantime Germany was required to make an interim payment of $5 billion.
 After fifteen years, the people of the Saar would
have a plebiscite to decide if they would remain under the administration of
a League of Nations commission or become part of France or Germany. In 1935 they voted to become part of Germany.
 Moresnet, an area of some
fourteen hundred acres and the site of a valuable zinc mine, was annexed
outright by Belgium. In Eupen and Malmedy,
those who objected to the transfer of the areas to Belgium could sign their names in a public registry. On the basis of
this "plebiscite," both areas became Belgian.
 Danzig was
administered by the League of
Nations, but its economy would be controlled
 This concern was well-founded. After the Germans fell
behind in their payments in 1923, the French-controlled Reparations
Commission ordered French, Belgian, and Italian technicians into Germany’s Ruhr region to collect coal and transport it to the border under
Credits: "Comments of the German Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference on the
Conditions of Peace, Oct., 1919," in International Conciliation, Oct.
1919 (no. 143).