Disarmament

   World War I ended with the victors agreed that German militarism must be checked. Although the delegates engaged in heated debate, they soon drafted disarmament clauses (Articles 159-213) demanding that Ger-many's army be reduced to 100,000 men, including a maximum of 4,000 offi-cers. The Versailles Treaty* also stipulated voluntary enlistment, with officers serving twenty-five years and other ranks serving twelve. It specified a demili-tarized zone extending fifty kilometers east of the Rhine River, and it proscribed an air force, tanks, poison gas, heavy artillery, and a General Staff. The mighty High Seas Fleet was reduced to a coastal defense force of six old battleships, six light cruisers, twelve destroyers, and twelve torpedo boats; it was permitted 15,000 officers and men, all long-term volunteers. Finally, an Inter-Allied Mil-itary Control Commission (IMCC) was formed to oversee destruction of equip-ment and monitor treaty execution.
   German disarmament regularly plagued relations with Paris. Until 1925 Ger-many was repeatedly penalized for failure to comply with treaty clauses. Indeed, the army continued General Staff work in secrecy, concealed arms caches, tested forbidden weapons in Russia, made preparation for initiating war production, and planned for at least a threefold increase in size. Although sanctions often followed from delinquent reparation* payments, suspicion ran high that Ger-many was also violating disarmament stipulations. Because of France's inability to form a military alliance with either Great Britain or the United States, Paris viewed German disarmament as vital to French security. In December 1924 the IMCC reported on Germany's failure to properly disarm, thus confirming French suspicions. Gustav Stresemann* responded by offering Paris formal assurances against German aggression. In the resultant Locarno Treaties* Germany pledged to keep the Reichswehr* behind the Rhine, while Britain pledged to view a crossing of that river as an attack on France. Since the signatories were obliged to come to the aid of France or Belgium if Germany violated the Rhineland's demilitarized status, this Rhineland Pact, signed in October 1925, helped defuse the disarmament issue. Although Germany never fully complied with disarma-ment demands, both Britain and France agreed in 1927 that remaining lapses were largely trivial. With the withdrawal from Germany of the IMCC, the Allies accepted the logic of Britain's Foreign Secretary, Austen Chamberlain: "Law or no law, treaty or no treaty, no power on earth can keep Germany disarmed indefinitely."
   German efforts to alter the disarmament clauses did not end with Locarno. According to Versailles, the League of Nations assumed responsibility for German disarmament upon removal of the IMCC (Article 213). As a member from 1926 of the League's assembly and council, Germany could represent its interests from a position of equality with its former enemies. In the era preceding Hitler's* seizure of power, the army tirelessly pressed the Foreign Office to gain further modifications. (Among its goals were reduction in the period of military service, lifting of the sanctions against such weapons as tanks and heavy artil-lery, formation of a domestic militia, and the "rounding out" of the army to 160,000 men.) Militarily inferior to its old enemies, Germany promoted the logic and right of equality of armaments, and while the Germans publicly demanded that France disarm to levels comparable to those required of Germany—a de-mand favored in Great Britain and the United States—they secretly and fla-grantly violated those same levels. Finally, German participation in the League-sponsored World Disarmament Conference* of 1932-1933 encouraged the illusion, especially in Britain, that Germany was in agreement with the con-cept of disarmament. In fact, the Germans were careful not to renounce further rearmament.
   REFERENCES:Bennett, German Rearmament; Carroll, "Germany Disarmed"; Gatzke, Stresemann; Jacobson, Locarno Diplomacy; Alan Sharp, Versailles Settlement.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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