Versailles #73: The German Counterproposals

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After weeks of waiting, Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau finally broke radio silence on 29th May 1919, when he communicated the full extent of Germany's answer to the draft peace treaty from 7th May. And oh boy, was this communique full in its extent. Consisting of more than 100 pages, what came to be known as the German 'counterproposals' was half a document half as large as the peace treaty itself, and it packed quite a punch. Initially, it was necessary to translate the document to discover its ramifications, so it wasn't until 31st May that true consideration of it was possible for the non-German speakers. This delayed matters, and facilitated speculation among the big three over what the Germans could be after. Before long, the document would be unwrapped - the Germans, in a very roundabout way, were saying Nein.


In this episode, we examine a forgotten answer to that forgotten question - that being, what did the Germans have to say about the allied draft peace treaty? So often we are presented with the simple narrative of A-B, where the treaty is presented on 7th May, and approved on 28th June. Here, we are reminded that matters were rarely if ever so simple. The Germans had been waiting on the sidelines, following the peace conference as best as they could. Now utterly depressed and disillusioned by what they had been given, the Germans started writing immediately after 7th May, and came to discover that they had an awful lot to get off their chests. The allies, technically, did not have to listen to their proposals, yet in the atmosphere of emotional post-war morality politics, the big three discovered that not only would they have to listen to these proposals, they would also have to absorb them, consider them, and mount a rely. This was a process which, it was feared, the vaunted unity of the big three up to this point might not survive...

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