League of Nations

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League of Nations

Co-official flag of the League of Nations

Member States of the League of Nations and areas dependent on them, League of Nations mandates (orange) and non-members (gray)
English name League of Nations
French name Société des Nations
Seat of the organs Geneva , SwitzerlandSwitzerlandSwitzerland 
Secretary General United KingdomUnited Kingdom Eric Drummond
(1920–1933) Joseph Avenol (1933–1940) Seán Lester (1940–1946)

Member States 58
Official and working languages

English , French


January 10, 1920


April 18, 1946

Geneva, House of the League of Nations (photo from 1931)
Gustav Stresemann on the way to the League of Nations conference in Lugano in 1928

The League of Nations ( French Société des Nations , English League of Nations , Spanish Sociedad de Naciones ) was an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva . Created as a result of the Paris Peace Conference after the First World War , it began work on January 10, 1920. Its goal of peace through arbitration settle international conflicts, international disarmament and a system of collective security to ensure permanent, he could not fulfill. After the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations (UNO), the remaining 34 members decided unanimously on April 18, 1946 to dissolve the League of Nations with immediate effect.

History and structure


The idea of ​​a federation in a community of states and the expression " international law " were first presented in 1625 by the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius in his book De iure belli ac pacis ("On the law of war and peace") as "foundations for international law". The Konigsberg philosopher Immanuel Kant demanded in 1795 in his book Perpetual Peace , the International Law , where he described the idea of a "consistently peaceful community of nations" for the first time in detail. The ideas of the Enlightenment spawned an international peace movement in the 19th century and led to the Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907 . But the “Hague Association of States”, as Walther Schücking, who was trained by Kant, called the institution, failed above all in the German Reich on the issue of mandatory international arbitration.

Foundation and goals

A program to implement the Kantian demand, triggered by the horrors of World War I , was taken up in the 14-point program of US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson of 1918. The statutes of the League of Nations were part of the Paris suburb treaties (largely initiated by Lord Robert Cecil ) and thus also the Treaty of Versailles . The statutes of the League of Nations were adopted on April 28, 1919 by the plenary assembly of the Versailles Peace Conference. In order to accommodate the US Senate, the statutes also included compatibility with the Monroe Doctrine , which was later included in the Charter of the United Nations . With the Versailles Treaty , the states involved also signed the statutes of the League of Nations on June 28, 1919 - the union was part of the treaty. When it was ratified on January 10, the League of Nations was officially founded and met for the first time on November 15, 1920. Lord Robert Cecil became President of the League of Nations in 1923 and remained so until it was dissolved in 1946.

The League of Nations should both promote international cooperation , mediate in cases of conflict, and monitor compliance with peace treaties. In contrast to the UN, its statute contained an obligation for the member states to immediately and directly , i.e., immediately , in the event of an act of war by a state against a member state . H. without the prior decision of a body to rush to military aid to the affected state.

Based in Geneva

The League of Nations was given the unofficial name of the Geneva League because of its location and location . The first seat was in the Palais Wilson building complex in Geneva , which he continued to use after moving in 1933/1936 and which currently serves as the seat of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). Between 1933 and 1936 he moved to the newly built Palais des Nations (League of Nations) complex in Geneva’s Ariana Park, where the institution’s headquarters remained until its dissolution in 1946.

After the founding of the United Nations in 1945, which initially had its headquarters in London before moving to New York City in 1952 , they took over the palace from the League of Nations in 1945, significantly expanded it in the following years and continue to use it today. Since 1966, the Palais des Nations has been the European headquarters of the United Nations ( United Nations Office in Geneva ) and houses the UN Human Rights Council and the UN treaty bodies .

organization structure

Organization chart of the League of Nations (1930)
The League of Nations meeting room in Geneva, in front of the building of the Palais des Nations

The organization of the League of Nations anticipated the organization of the United Nations . The biggest difference to today was, on the one hand, the much smaller number of full-time employees and, on the other hand, the fact that almost all resolutions had to be passed unanimously. The ability of the League of Nations to act was therefore severely restricted. There was no need for the permanent members to have a right of veto.

Organs of the League of Nations:

  • League of Nations Assembly: It met once a year, each member country had one vote, most of the decisions required unanimity.
  • League of Nations Council : It had permanent members ( United Kingdom , France , Italy (until 1937), Japan , German Empire (1926–1933), USSR (1934–1939)) and twelve non-permanent members. Decisions had to be made unanimously; the parties involved in the conflict had no right to vote in the corresponding vote .
  • President Robert Cecil 1923–1946
  • Permanent General Secretariat and General Secretary .
  • Administrative court of the League of Nations , responsible for the labor law issues of the employees of the League of Nations

The General Secretaries of the League of Nations were:


Final session of the League Council in Geneva in 1926
Meeting of the League of Nations in Lugano in 1928

Since the US Senate refused to ratify the Versailles Treaty , the United States never became a member of the League of Nations. The Senate felt ignored by Woodrow Wilson, who had driven forward the ratification of the statutes of the League of Nations on his own initiative without consulting the Senate beforehand. The Weimar Republic was reached after long negotiations on September 8, 1926 a member of the League of Nations; after the seizure of power of the Nazis , the declared German Reich on 14 October 1933 its withdrawal from the League of Nations, and left at the same time the Geneva Conference on Disarmament . Due to a two-year notice period, Germany remained a de jure member of the League of Nations until 1935 .

Initially, the League had some success in the solution is less conflict, for example, to Spitsbergen , the Åland Islands and Corfu . Major disputes such as the Ruhr conflict , the Spanish civil war and the Sudeten crisis were fought outside of the League of Nations. But he was a pioneer in decolonization , fighting hunger and looking after refugees, and gained experience in finding consensus.

The failure of the League of Nations to intervene in the Japanese attack on China in 1931 was controversial . Japan withdrew from the League on March 27, 1933 because of its approval of the Lytton Report . In 1935 he finally demonstrated his powerlessness in the Italian attack on Abyssinia : the most severe sanctions imposed remained ineffective; Both the USA (oil) and the German Reich (coal) continued to supply Italy, thereby demonstrating the body's impotence. The Soviet Union, a member since 1934, was expelled in 1939 because of the attack on Finland (" Winter War ").

The federal government had no significant influence on the prehistory of the Second World War . Efforts to negotiate the German Reich in its place when it increasingly leveraged the Versailles Treaty since 1933 were unsuccessful. The later diplomat of the Federal Republic, Walter Truckenbrodt , described this process in 1941 from the perspective of the “German Reich” and called the federal government “platonic” because it had no real power base. The constitutional lawyer Carl Schmitt also called the Geneva League in 1936 a mere "label", a facade behind which the political content changed regularly. The League of Nations had no military troops of its own with which to intervene in crisis regions. A theoretical decision on military action could have been taken by the League of Nations, but the dispatch of troops was left to the members in national organization. The conflict on the Greek-Bulgarian border between October 25 and 28, 1925 is a successful example: After the Bulgarian government had called the General Secretary of the League of Nations in accordance with Article 11, Paragraph 1 of the League of Nations statutes, French, British and Italian officers sent to the region.

On March 19, 1938, Isidro Fabela protested , as a representative of Mexico and on behalf of the then President Lázaro Cárdenas , as the only government representative in the League of Nations, against the " Anschluss " of Austria by National Socialist Germany.

On the initiative of the foreign ministers of China, Great Britain , the USSR and the USA, the United Nations was founded in 1945 as the de facto successor organization to the League of Nations. The League of Nations officially dissolved itself on April 18, 1946 at its 21st Federal Assembly. Due to the occasional parallel existence of the League of Nations to the UN, it should be documented that the latter is not a successor organization.

Problems and failures

Various reasons are given for the failure of the League of Nations:

  • At no time did all the great and medium powers belong to it permanently (the USA never; the German Empire, Italy, the Soviet Union and Japan only temporarily).
  • The statutes did not provide for an absolute war ban analogous to the Briand-Kellogg Pact . The conflict with the German Reich hindered international disarmament. After the disarmament imposed by the Versailles Treaty, it refused to comply with the more far-reaching disarmament demands of the Federation, and wanted its disarmament measures based on the Versailles Treaty to be counted towards general disarmament, which the League of Nations refused. As a result, disarmament was not continued.
  • The resolutions were often blocked by members out of self-interest. In particular, the two great powers of the time, France and Great Britain, which had the greatest influence on the League of Nations and its members, behaved in this way. In conflicts in which other Central Powers were involved, both often made concessions to prevent them from being drawn into the conflict. This behavior can be found in the Manchuria Crisis (1931/32), the Italo-Ethiopian War and the Spanish Civil War ; in these conflicts the League of Nations made many concessions to the aggressors Japan, Italy and the German Empire.
  • The main reason is the general reluctance of the members, who often acted in their own interest. Hans Wehberg recognized this as early as 1924 : “However, one must urgently warn against any further development of the form of the League of Nations alone to be expected. The future of the League of Nations ultimately depends on the strength of the moral forces behind it. Even without substantial further training of the League of Nations, the League will be able to achieve great things if, unlike in the past, it is inspired by the spirit of justice and humanity. "

Members and non-members

Members and non-members of the League of Nations
  • Members
  • Colonies of the members
  • Mandates
  • Non-member
  • Colonies of non-members
  • Founding members

    The founding members were 32 allied states, namely the victorious powers of the First World War , which signed the Versailles Treaty. In addition to the British Dominions and India, this also included Czechoslovakia , which actually only formed after the war .

    When a country declared its exit, that exit took effect exactly two years later. In the literature, the first date is usually found, sometimes (example :) the second.

    Invited members

    As early as 1920, 13 states that were neutral during the war were invited to join the League of Nations.

    Later members

    Law on the Treaties of Locarno and Germany's entry into the League of Nations of November 28, 1925

    Many states were admitted later or only joined later, the first as early as the end of 1920.


    Some independent states remained completely absent from the League of Nations.

    League of Nations mandates

    Map of mandate areas
  • British mandate area
  • French mandate area
  • Belgian mandate area
  • Australian mandate area
  • Japanese mandate area
  • New Zealand Mandate Area
  • South African mandate area
  • Common mandate area
  • According to the Versailles Treaty (Articles 45 to 50), the League of Nations was responsible for the administration of the Saar area, which had been separated from the German Empire as reparations . The previously German colonies and the Arab territories separated from Turkey were transferred to the League of Nations . The parts of French Equatorial Africa ( New Cameroon ) ceded by France to Germany in 1911 were, however, reconnected to it. The League of Nations in turn awarded these areas as mandates to member states. After the Second World War they were administered as UN trust areas. In detail these were:

    Formerly Austro-Hungarian territories

    Formerly Ottoman territories

    Formerly German areas

    See also


    Until 1952

    • The Essential Facts About the League of Nations. Information Section, Geneva 1933 (ten editions published by 1939).
    • John Spencer Bassett: The League of Nations. A Chapter in World Politics. Longmans, Green and Co., New York NY 1930.
    • James C. Malin: The United States after the World War. Ginn & Company, Boston MA 1930, pp. 5-82, online .
    • Raleigh C. Minor: A Republic of Nations. A Study of the Organization of a Federal League of Nations. Oxford University Press, New York [u. a.] 1918 (Reprinted. Lawbook Exchange, Clark NJ 2005, ISBN 1-58477-500-9 ).
    • Francis P. Walters: A History of the League of Nations. 2 volumes. Oxford University Press, London [u. a.] 1952.
    • Woodrow Wilson: Woodrow Wilson's Case for the League of Nations. Compiled with his approval by Hamilton Foley. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1923, review .
    • Alfred Zimmer: The League of Nations and the Rule of Law, 1918–1935. Macmillan, London 1936.

    From 1953

    • Ondrej Ditrych: 'International Terrorism' as Conspiracy: Debating Terrorism in the League of Nations. In: Beatrice de Graaf, Cornel Zwierlein (ed.): Security and Conspiracy in History, 16th to 21st Century (=  Historical Social Research . Vol. 38, No. 1, 2013 = Special Issue). Center for Historical Social Research, Cologne 2013, pp. 200–210, JSTOR 23644497 .
    • George W. Egerton: Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations. Strategy, Politics, and International Organization, 1914–1919. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC 1978, ISBN 0-8078-1320-6 .
    • Thomas Fischer: The sovereignty of the weak. Latin America and the League of Nations, 1920–1936 ( Contributions to European overseas history. Vol. 98). Steiner, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-515-10077-9 .
    • George Gill: The League of Nations from 1929 to 1946 (=  Partners for Peace Series. Vol. 2). Avery Publishing Group, Garden City Park NY 1996, ISBN 0-89529-637-3 .
    • Madeleine Herren : International Organizations since 1865. A global history of the international order , history compact, WB, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-534203659 .
    • Nigel Kelly, Greg Lacey: Modern World History for OCR Specification 1937. Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-435-30830-0 .
    • David Kennedy: The Move to Institutions. In: Cardozo Law Review. Vol. 8, No. 5, 1987, ISSN  0270-5192 , pp. 841-988, digitized version (PDF; 9.48 MB) , (reprinted in: Jan Klabbers (ed.): International Organizations. Ashgate / Dartmouth, Aldershot [ua] 2005, ISBN 0-7546-2447-1 ).
    • Paul Kennedy : The Parliament of Man. The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. Random House, New York NY 2006, ISBN 0-375-50165-7 .
    • Warren F. Kuehl, Lynne K. Dunn: Keeping the Covenant. American Internationalists and the League of Nations, 1920-1939 (=  American Diplomatic History. Vol. 10). Kent State University Press, Kent OH [u. a.] 1997, ISBN 0-87338-566-7 .
    • Peter Macalister-Smith, Joachim Schwietzke: Diplomatic Conferences and Congresses. A Bibliographical Compendium of State Practice 1642 to 1919, W. Neugebauer, Graz, Feldkirch 2017, ISBN 978-3-85376-325-4 .
    • Michel Marbeau: La Société des Nations (=  Que sais-je? 3593). Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-13-051635-1 .
    • Frederick S. Northedge: The League of Nations. Its Life and Times. 1920-1946. Holmes & Meier, New York [a. a.] 1986, ISBN 0-7185-1194-8 .
    • Susan Pedersen: The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-874349-1 .
    • Alfred Pfeil: The League of Nations. Literature report and critical presentation of its history (=  income from research. Vol. 58). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN 3-534-06744-4 .
    • Matthias Schulz : Germany, the League of Nations and the question of the European economic order 1925-1933 (=  contributions to German and European history. Vol. 19). Krämer, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-89622-009-8 (also: Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1997).
    • Ben Walsh: Modern World History. Reprinted edition. John Murray, London 1997, ISBN 0-7195-7231-2 .

    Web links

    Commons : League of Nations  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: League of Nations  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. Woodrow Wilson: Woodrow Wilson's Case for the League of Nations (compiled with his approval by Hamilton Foley), Princeton University Press, Princeton 1923. Review
    2. ^ Peter Macalister-Smith, Joachim Schwietzke: Diplomatic Conferences and Congresses. A Bibliographical Compendium of State Practice 1642 to 1919 , W. Neugebauer, Graz, Feldkirch 2017, pp. 263–267, 268–279 (reprint of the "Covenant of the League of Nations").
    3. Ernst Sauer: Basic theory of international law. 2nd edition, Verlag Balduin Pick, Cologne 1948, pp. 140 ff.
    4. ^ Thomas J. Knock: To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-691-00150-2 , p. 263.
    5. Klaus Hildebrand : The Third Reich (=  Oldenbourg floor plan of history , vol. 17). Oldenbourg, Munich 1991, p. 17; Richard J. Evans : The Third Reich. Vol. 2 / II: Dictatorship , DVA, Munich 2006, p. 748 f.
    6. Bruno Simma , Hans-Peter Folz : Restitution and Compensation in International Law. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 978-3-486-56691-8 , p. 34.
    7. See Walter Truckenbrodt: Germany and the League of Nations. The handling of Reich German affairs in the League of Nations Council from 1920–1939. Essener Verlagsanstalt, Essen 1941 (publications of the German Institute for Foreign Policy Research, Vol. 9).
    8. Cf. Carl Schmitt: Positions and terms in the struggle with Weimar - Geneva - Versailles . 1923-1939. Duncker & Humblot, 1988.
    9. Hermann Weber : From the League of Nations to the United Nations. German Society for the United Nations , Bonn 1987.
    10. Italy annexes Ethiopia - the League of Nations lets it happen (chronik.net)
    11. ^ Walter Poeggel: The League of Nations as an intergovernmental organization for world peace and the attitude of Germany. On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the League of Nations. Rosa-Luxemburg-Verein, Leipzig 1995, ISBN 3-929994-47-X , p. 62.
    12. a b c d page 53 below (PDF; 5.8 MB)
    13. With this step, the Brazilian government protested against the fact that only the great powers should have a permanent seat in the League of Nations. Spain did the same in 1926. On May 8, 1928, the Brazilian government rejected an offer from the League of Nations for re-entry.
    14. December 1937: Italy leaves the League of Nations. bio.bwbs.de, archived from the original on February 10, 2013 ; accessed on September 29, 2016 .
    15. one day - Spiegel Online
    16. bundesarchiv.de
    17. Nazi search for clues in the country Braunschweig: year-end 1933. www.ns-spurensuche.de, accessed on 18 February 2018 .
    18. Because of the two-year notice period de jure until 1935 member.