Versailles #35: An Innocent Abroad?
You know the story of 'plucky little Belgium', but what about the Belgium after the war? After all they had been through, facing the might of the German Army in its initial unrelenting phase, Belgium had unquestionably been through the ringer. The question was though, what would the Belgian Foreign Minister Paul Hymans now ask for in return? The answer to that question was more incredible - read, ridiculous - than any of the allies could have imagined. As Hymans put forward his laundry list of demands, with no thought for how Belgium's neighbours would be compensated, visions of disaster were pouring forth from French strategists.
Linking the Low Countries and France together was essential, it was said, if this war was to be avoided in the future. The guilty Germans would certainly try again if they sniffed any hints of weakness in the west, but what of the innocents, innocents like Belgium, who had been caught up in the midst of this Franco-German enmity, and been utterly destroyed? In return for this ordeal, Paul Hymans would demand a high price, but neither his aims nor the eerily prophetic French fears could ever be humoured to the extent that either party felt was deserved.
This, of course, was the nature of the Peace Conference. Using detailed secondary sources and the actual minutes of the meetings where the Belgian Foreign Minister poured out his heart, I am privileged to be able to bring this story to you now. The allies had to listen to the naive Belgian ramble, but whether they would actually heed his warnings or accede to his demands was another story altogether, and it's a story which is well worth your time!
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