What is a German view of Germany
Germany and the Versailles Treaty
When the Allied and Associated Powers presented the draft of the Versailles Peace Treaty on May 7, 1919, German Foreign Minister Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau said about the treaty:
"Gentlemen! We are deeply penetrated by the sublime task that has brought us together with you: to give the world a lasting peace quickly. We are not mistaken about the extent of our defeat, the degree of our powerlessness.
We know that the violence of the German arms has been broken; we know the force of hatred that confronts us here, and we have heard the passionate demand that the victors make us pay as conquered and punish us as guilty at the same time.
We are required to confess ourselves to be the only guilty party; such a confession would be a lie in my mouth. We are far from shifting any responsibility for the fact that this world war came about and that it was waged in this way, from Germany.
The attitude of the previous German government at the Hague Peace Conferences, its actions and omissions during the tragic twelve days of July may have contributed to the calamity, but we emphatically deny that Germany, whose people were convinced that it was going to wage a defensive war, is solely to blame is.
Public opinion in all the countries of our opponents echoes the crimes that Germany committed during the war. Here, too, we are ready to admit wrong done.
We did not come here to lessen the responsibility of the men who waged the war politically and militarily and to deny the atrocities committed against international law.
We repeat the declaration that was made in the German Reichstag at the beginning of the war. Belgium has been wronged and we want to make it right again.
But Germany was not the only one lacking in the manner of waging war. Every European nation knows deeds and people whose best national comrades are reluctant to remember. I do not want to answer reproaches with reproaches, but if we are being asked to repent, we must not forget the armistice.
It took six weeks to receive it, six months to find out about your terms of peace. Crimes in war may not be excusable, but they happen in the struggle for victory, in concern for national existence, in a passion that dulls the conscience of the peoples.
The hundreds of thousands of non-combatants who perished in the blockade since November 11th were killed with cold deliberation after our opponents had won and guaranteed victory. Keep this in mind when you speak of guilt and atonement.
The degree of guilt of all those involved can only be determined by an impartial investigation, a neutral commission, before which all the main characters of the tragedy have their say, to which all archives are opened. We have requested such an investigation and we repeat the request.
The individual principles demand heavy national and economic sacrifices from us. But the sacred fundamental rights of all peoples are protected by this treaty. The conscience of the world stands behind him; no nation will be allowed to harm him with impunity.
On this basis you will find us ready to examine the preliminary peace that you put before us with the firm intention of working together with you to rebuild what has been destroyed, to rectify the injustice that has occurred, primarily the injustice against Belgium, and that To show mankind new goals of political and social progress.
Given the bewildering number of problems raised by the common purpose, we should have the individual main tasks discussed as soon as possible by special commissions of experts on the basis of the draft that you have submitted.
It will be our main task to restore the devastated human power of the peoples involved through international protection of the life, health and freedom of the working classes.
Our mutual experts will have to examine how the German people can meet their financial obligation to pay compensation without collapsing under the heavy burden.
A breakdown would deprive those entitled to substitute benefits to which they are entitled and lead to incurable confusion for the whole of European economic life.
Victors as well as the vanquished must be on their guard against this impending danger with its unforeseeable consequences. There is only one way to banish them: the unreserved commitment to the economic and social solidarity of the peoples in a free and comprehensive League of Nations. "
Source: Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau, documents. Charlottenburg 1920.
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