Versailles #76: OTD 16th June 1919 - A Show of Unity
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On This Day in history a century ago, a significant milestone in the history of the Paris Peace Conference was reached, and like so many others we have come across, its significance is largely lost in the narrative. This allied response, examined in this episode, represented a solid defence of their peace treaty, and a rebuke of Germany’s pretences to be standing for the Fourteen Points. The allied response was devastating and formidable, in that it was effectively the answer to Germany's claims to any moral high ground. Germany could claim no such high ground, said the allies, for their past behaviour disqualified them from any such claims.
The historian George Creel wrote on the allied response: "It is to be wished that the two documents – the German of May 29th and the Allied reply of June 16th – could be printed in every language and placed in every school and library, for they furnish in themselves a complete and dramatic exposition of the whole Peace Treaty, permitting the formation of an intelligent and independent opinion with respect to the confused question of justice or injustice."
The significance of the communications could never be in doubt. What was in doubt was what might happen next. The allied language was certainly arranged to leave no doubt: "It is only justice that restitution should be made and that these wronged peoples should be safeguarded for a time from the competition of a nation whose industries are intact and have even been fortified by machinery stolen from occupied territories. If these things are hardships for Germany, they are hardships which Germany has brought upon herself. Somebody must suffer for the consequences of the war. Is it to be Germany, or only the peoples she has wronged?" There could be no doubt according to the big three - the Germans had to admit their wrongdoing, and what was more, this was the end of the debate. "In conclusion", their reply said, "the Allied and Associated Powers must make it clear that this letter and the memorandum attached constitute their last word."
Failing the successful adherence by the Germans to these terms, "The said Armistice will then terminate, and the Allied and Associated Powers will take such steps as they think needful to enforce their Terms." It was, in short, do or die for the German government, and On This Day the scales finally fell from the German eyes...or did they? Listen to this fascinating examination of this forgotten moment to find out...
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