SINCE the day when the German Foreign Minister, Walter Rathenau, closed his celebrated speech at the Genoa Conference with the impressive words "Peace! Peace! Peace!" and since Locarno and Thoiry laid the foundations for the triumph of conciliation, it has been impossible to silence the cry of the European peoples for enduring peace and security. Indeed, the peace movement among the nations of Europe in general has been gaining ground steadily. The underlying principle of the League of Nations, however imperfectly realized in practice, aims at nothing more than the settlement of differences of opinion between peoples in a peaceful way. Unfortunately in many parts of the continent there are unmistakable sources of danger; to those already present before the war, the unhappy Treaty of Versailles has added. Whoever is earnest in wishing for European peace, for world peace, must keep close watch on these points of tension. In particular, who can ignore the danger of military complications between France and Germany which exists today as a result of a whole series of phases in the historical and cultural development of the two nations, as a result even of their geographical situation? For over a thousand years they have waged a bitter struggle, with ever varying fortune. Here is always a glowing spark which only too easily can be fanned into a fierce destroying flame unless it is held rigidly under control.

The German people want peace, with that earnestness, that whole-heartedness, that integrity of mind which is characteristic of them. They want peace, not because they are weak, but because they have a clear realization of how intensely the cultural progress of humanity suffers from the scourge of war, and that even the victors do not escape! The German people has shown its will to peace in more than words. It has carried out the disarmament imposed upon it so thoroughly that even the Allied Disarmament Commission has been constrained to acknowledge the fact. It has lived up to the spirit of the Treaty of Locarno and joined the League of Nations. If all the German cabinets since the signature of the Versailles Treaty are considered one by one, it will be seen that not only have they announced their unfaltering devotion to peace but have demonstrated their full sincerity in action.

Paralyzing the honest efforts of the German Government toward understanding and conciliation, agitating and embittering the population at the very time when the European world seemed ripe for reconciliation and quiet, one fact, rising out of the Treaty of Versailles, looms like a great grey ghost on the horizon: the occupation by French, Belgian and British troops of German territory. Like an arrow in the flesh, this military burden has been goading the German people for over ten years, an ever-present menace to peace. The northern part of the Rhineland has been freed from this occupation since January, 1926; the second zone is to be evacuated in 1929; the third zone, however, embracing principally the Hessian and Bavarian Palatinate, is doomed to wear the chains of occupation until 1935. And this with a completely disarmed nation! In March 1928 there were over 67,000 foreign troops on German soil.

It is hard to imagine the depth of spiritual and physical misery which such an occupation entails. To appreciate it, one must have experienced the degradation of it at close quarters. It will be left for future generations to realize the heroism of spirit and the strength of character shown by the population of the occupied regions in patiently enduring the oppression of the last long years -- the curtailment of their personal liberty and the enormous financial and commercial losses which individuals and communities have had to suffer. The requisitioning of the best rooms of dwellings for the quartering of troops during months and years, the sharing of kitchens or else their complete monopolization, the continual danger of disputes between the occupying forces and the inhabitants, leading to innumerable trials before foreign courtsmartial and heavy punishments, the difficulties put in the way of trade between one community and another, the prohibition of the singing of the national anthem and of parades -- these are a few of the more obvious indignities and difficulties. Even since the two countries achieved better relations through the Locarno agreements there has been no appreciable improvement in these matters. Almost every month there have been incidents due to drunken soldiers and the maltreatment of peaceful citizens.

It must certainly not be lost sight of that the Rhineland Commission as well as individual army commanders have tried to mitigate the confusion and disorder. But they have met with very slight success. Only the severest discipline could have held in check the soldiers, non-commissioned officers and minor officials, who unfortunately are the very ones to come into closest contact with the population. But the courts of the occupying Powers have shown very little insight in punishing disciplinary lapses. The extent to which this failure has chilled any feeling of enthusiasm for the spirit of conciliation and compromise among the peoples of the occupied territory can hardly be exaggerated.

The figures giving the number of the troops of occupation on German soil speak for themselves.

The official figures show that on December 1, 1921, there were in the occupied territory 138,500 men, of whom 93,000 were French, 25,300 Belgian, 7,800 British and 12,300 American. The numbers of the army of occupation reached their highest peak on December 15, 1923, during the year of the Ruhr struggle; the total then was 163,000 men, of whom 116,000 were French, 36,200 Belgian and 11,300 British. In the middle of 1926 this number fell to about half; of the 84,500 men, 69,100 were French, 7,400 Belgian and 8,000 British. In spite of Locarno and the entrance of Germany into the League of Nations, in spite of the testimony of the Allied Control Commission that Germany had been disarmed, the forces of occupation in the spring of 1928 comprised 67,259 men -- 54,900 French, 5,500 Belgian and 6,700 English.

Is it not demanding more than can be expected of human nature that ten years after the end of a war any people should still be called upon to endure such masses of foreign troops camped on their very doorsteps? The statesmen of France could have made a material contribution to the cause of human culture and to the triumph of the spirit of peace had they recognized the needs of the times and acted accordingly.

We are challenged to a comparison with the attitude of Bismarck after the victorious termination of the War of 1870. Bismarck proved himself a great statesman when, taking into consideration the natural sensibilities of a great nation, he met the French wishes half-way and withdrew the German troops of occupation more speedily than the Versailles Armistice and the Treaty of Frankfurt obligated him to do. The last German soldier actually left French soil by September 1873, or scarcely two and a quarter years after the conclusion of peace.

Is there no way, it may be asked, in which Germany may legally protest against the occupation of her territory by foreign troops? Since she has disarmed, entered the League of Nations, participated in the Treaty of Locarno and given many other proofs of her desire for peace, Germany most assuredly is legally entitled to request the evacuation of her territory. Article 431 of the Treaty of Versailles says: "If before the expiration of the period of fifteen years Germany complies with all the undertakings resulting from the present Treaty, the occupying forces will be withdrawn immediately." The representatives of Germany, and in particular Foreign Minister Stresemann, have repeatedly and emphatically demanded the evacuation of the occupied territories upon the strength of this article. And indeed, if the full range of the negotiations between the three Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and England during the last few years were carefully gone over, passages could certainly be quoted from Briand and Chamberlain recognizing Germany's right to put forth such a claim. It is noteworthy, incidentally, that Lloyd George, who is certainly in a position to judge the matter, declared at the meeting of the Liberal Party at Yarmouth on October 12, 1928, that the provisions of the Versailles Treaty in regard to the obligations of general disarmament were very explicit. They have been fulfilled by Germany both in letter and in spirit. The continuation of the military occupation of German territory by Allied troops is therefore a violation of a solemn treaty.

Germany is beyond question in a position to make good her legal claims. But it is only too true that to rely solely on a legal point of view in the presentation of a plea of this kind in no way assures that it will be given consideration. This whole question is a political one, and as such requires something quite impossible to find -- a judge capable of rendering a decision on a delicate question of right with the likelihood that his sentence will be carried out. But even from the purely political standpoint the German claim that the occupied territories be evacuated is in the highest degree well-founded.

There have been repeated demonstrations that nothing slows up the development of the spirit of peace and compromise with France so much as the prolongation of the occupation. The German Nationalists, especially when they are in the opposition, never let pass an opportunity of scoring the foolishness of the leading German statesmen who still expect salvation from the Treaty of Locarno; not a single advantage has accrued to Germany, they allege, in spite of every concession on her part--not even the hoped-for "reciprocity;" surely it is high time that the policy of reconciliation was abandoned. Briand's speech at the last session of the League was admittedly a bitter disappointment to all true friends of peace. It destroyed that spirit of confidence so essential in political as in human relationships -- a spirit which had been sedulously cultivated during the past few years by the quiet and consistent way in which Foreign Minister Stresemann conducted all his dealings with France and England.

On whose shoulders, then, lies the chief blame for the evil effects of the occupation of German territory? I am convinced that the answer to this question can only be unfavorable to France. Historically speaking, this is true of the responsibility for the antipathy which for over a thousand years has existed between the two neighbors. And now the present course of events furnishes a clear proof.

It is true that in the first months of the occupation all the Allied armies shared in rigorously carrying out the occupation and the oppression of the population. But the Americans almost at once, and the English shortly afterwards, attempted to make the occupation more bearable by cultivating better relations with the inhabitants of the occupied regions. Soon the Americans renounced all participation in the occupation and withdrew their troops. On that occasion and repeatedly thereafter Great Britain showed signs of being ready to withdraw its men also. Germany, however, preferred to have the British army of occupation remain. Its soldiers conducted themselves quietly and decently; and their presence assured the influence of England in the setting up and functioning of the Rhineland Commission. Excellent relations with the British army of occupation were established in the entire Cologne district. There were considerably fewer excesses among the British occupying forces than among the French troops. Discipline was excellent. Nor did the British participate in the occupation of the Ruhr, which led to especially harsh measures against the population and to the worst kind of encounters. In the few districts still occupied by English troops today their presence is hardly noticeable. Visitors to the famous city of Wiesbaden are almost unconscious of the fact that they are in an occupied city, though the occupation nevertheless is felt by the inhabitants and the city administration on account of the confiscation of rooms and the like.

In German circles it is freely admitted that during the past years England's attitude has been both correct and cordial. A break in this policy was seen last summer in the participation of a large number of British troops in the very extensive manœuvres of the French army in the Rhine provinces. It is self-evident that trouble and agitation among the population must result from such large military exercises, involving the calling out of army divisions and the use of numerous cavalry divisions.

How can it be denied that the occupying Powers have done all they could to crush the spirit of the German people and to destroy their budding confidence in the possibility of building up of peaceful relationships between nations? It is being made increasingly difficult for the German Government to pursue the policy to which it has held for years in spite of every discouragement. Yet from this policy the Government must not and will not deviate. Like the majority of the German people, it realizes that this policy alone can achieve enduring success and that it must therefore be carried through in spite of every obstacle if one is not to give up hope of the progress of humanity. It is able to persevere with this policy only because it can rely on the firm determination of the majority of the German people and above all on the heroic strength of character of the population of the occupied regions, whose recent declaration, regardless of party affiliations, deserves the admiration of the whole world. The inhabitants of the occupied regions are determined that the German people as a whole shall not undertake any further burden or obligations in order to bring about an earlier evacuation; rather will they drain their bitter cup to the dregs. A people of this sort can be trusted to carry out what it acknowledges to be right. The German people want peace. Clear the way to peace by removing this heavy load from their shoulders.

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