The Locarno Treaties are seven international agreements that were negotiated in Locarno ( Switzerland ) from October 5 to 16, 1925 and signed in London on December 1, 1925 after the parliaments had approved. They came into force on September 10, 1926, when Germany joined the League of Nations .
Germany, on the one hand, and France and Belgium, on the other, refrained from forcibly altering their borders drawn up in the Versailles Peace Treaty , for which Great Britain and Italy assumed the guarantee. Germany reserved the right to revise the eastern borders.
Germany only had to fear a French attack if it was the aggressor itself in a conflict with Poland . Great Britain rejected stipulations regarding Germany's eastern borders, which meant that Germany retained options for action.
Participants in the Locarno conference were the German Chancellor Hans Luther , the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann and the representatives of Italy ( Benito Mussolini for a short time ), Great Britain ( Austen Chamberlain ), Belgium ( Émile Vandervelde ), France ( Aristide Briand ), Poland ( Aleksander Skrzyński ) and Czechoslovakia ( Edvard Beneš ). The representatives of the latter two countries only took part in the negotiations which were directly related to them. An important, but informal, preparatory conversation was held between Luther and Briand on October 7, 1925 in Ascona.
There was no chairman of the conference.
Security, Rhine or Western Pact
The final protocol, which was signed in London, comprised a so-called guarantee pact between the Weimar Republic, France and Belgium . Germany thereby recognized the western border established in the Versailles Treaty , which was guaranteed by the United Kingdom and Italy : if Germany attacked Belgium or France ( as in 1914 ) or if Belgian or French troops marched into Germany ( as in 1923 ), the guaranteeing powers would become military intervene on the part of the attacked person.
The guarantee powers should also intervene in the event of a breach of the contract. In arbitration agreements between Germany and France and Germany and Belgium it was agreed to refer disputes to the League of Nations or to international courts.
Germany's eastern borders
Germany also signed arbitration agreements with Poland and Czechoslovakia . The peaceful settlement of disputes was agreed. The German eastern borders were not recognized in these treaties, so Germany kept their change open. It was not until the National Socialist era that Germany concluded a non-aggression pact with Poland in 1934 .
In the event of a German attack, the defensive treaties between France and Poland or Czechoslovakia provided that the other party would march in and involve Germany in a two-front war. Germany recognized these treaties. Great Britain, on the other hand, did not guarantee the borders of these two East Central European states. The French guarantee, however, remained meaningless because the League of Nations was not given permission to operate on German soil in the event of sanctions. Overall, the Locarno Treaty offered a partial guarantee for the territorial integrity of the contracting states.
Sanction obligations of the League of Nations
Preparations were also made for Germany's entry into the League of Nations, which, however, received a special regulation with regard to Article 16 of the Versailles Treaty. This article obliged all member states to sanction a state that tries to resolve disputes through war. Germany only has to participate in sanctions to the extent that its geographical and military location allows it. This arrangement was seen primarily as a disadvantage for Poland, because in the event of a Soviet attack, the troops of the Western powers would have found it difficult to assist him if they were not allowed to march through Germany.
The European victorious powers of World War I tried to normalize relations with the loser Germany with the help of the treaties. In the background was the fact that the unilateral most-favored nation treatment that the German Reich had to grant the victorious powers under the Versailles Treaty had expired on January 10, 1925. Since then, Germany has been able to determine its own trade policy , which led export-oriented entrepreneurs in France and Great Britain to urge a general, also political relaxation.
There was also skepticism on the part of the Western powers over the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo between Soviet Russia and Germany . The negotiations were triggered by correspondence between Great Britain, France and Germany in the summer of 1925, after the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann made a proposal on February 9 for a mutual guarantee of the borders of his country. A peaceful development in Europe was also the prerequisite for the important loans from the USA .
For Germany, the treaty was particularly important to break its international isolation, not to let the revision policy come to a standstill and to achieve an evacuation of the occupied Rhineland . Stresemann was ready to formally renounce Alsace-Lorraine and Eupen-Malmedy for these goals , to have the Rhineland demilitarized and to submit to the decisions of the League of Nations in the event of border disputes. Locarno also invalidated the military alliance between France and Poland, which was concluded in 1921. Stresemann explained this connection on January 28, 1927 to the Reichszentrale für Heimatdienst (which corresponds to today's Federal Agency for Civic Education ):
"But if we want to change something in a peaceful way in the conditions that exist there today, then everyone must be clear that this is only possible if and only if we are in a relationship with the Western European powers, that we are sure of their tolerance and support. […] If you do not pursue a policy of understanding with France, then in every fight with Poland you will have France and Poland against you and will be crushed from left and right. That is why it is so foolish to say: This foreign minister only conducts western policy, is completely one-sided, only looks to the west. I never thought of our East more than when I was looking for an understanding with the West. "
Stresemann was therefore concerned with avoiding a two-front war in the event of a conflict with Poland, which he by no means ruled out ; Since a violation of the Franco-German border automatically meant intervention by the guaranteeing powers, France could no longer provide military support to Poland without coming into conflict with Great Britain and Italy. Foreign Minister Briand confirmed the French alliance with Poland by means of a formal guarantee treaty, which was also concluded on October 19, 1925; Nevertheless, it was clear to all informed contemporaries that Polish security had been considerably weakened with the international guarantee of the German western border. Polish attempts to close this security gap through a corresponding international guarantee of the German eastern border (the so-called East Locarno ) were rejected by Germany.
On September 7, 1925, shortly before Locarno, Stresemann wrote to the former Crown Prince Wilhelm and briefly outlined his goals for Locarno. The reparations had to be made bearable, the foreign occupation of German territory ended and peace secured. Germany must be able to protect Germans abroad , the German-Polish borders must be changed, Gdansk , part of Upper Silesia and the Polish Corridor regained. In the background is the connection of German Austria .
Domestic consequences in Germany
The Locarno treaties sparked a cabinet crisis in the Luther I cabinet . Due to Germany's preliminary work and, above all, the recognition of the western border, the nationalists in the Reichstag were against the Locarno treaties, although a revision at that time was illusory. The DNVP therefore withdrew from the government. On November 27, the treaties were ratified by the Reichstag with the votes of the DDP and the SPD . The government announced that it would resign after the contract was signed, which it did on December 5th. The extreme left was also against the treaties, fearing a union between Germany and the “capitalist” Western powers against the Soviet Union.
Foreign policy consequences
The Locarno Treaties were seen as the foundation of the improved Western European diplomatic climate in the period 1924–1930, although tensions with Eastern Europe persisted. The “spirit of Locarno” was seen in the admission of the German Reich as a permanent member of the League of Nations in September 1926 and in the demilitarization of the Rhineland in June 1930.
After the conclusion of the treaty, the Western Allies slowly ceased effective monitoring of German disarmament and replaced it in 1927 with a fictitious League of Nations control. This made it possible for Germany to rebuild a large army in later years, not at this point in time. The Allies began to evacuate the northern zone of occupation. In addition, Poland's international position was weakened and its ties with France were loosened.
The Soviet Union feared that Germany would commit to an anti-Soviet Western bloc, tried to prevent Germany from concluding the “Western Pact” and joining the League of Nations, threatened recognition of the Polish borders, a non-aggression pact with Poland and at the same time tried to close with France and Germany to come to an understanding. Stresemann met the fears of the Soviets. In April 1926 a German-Russian friendship and neutrality treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and Germany. He determined that if either country were attacked, the other would remain neutral and that neither country would participate in an economic or financial boycott of the other. Germany thus maintained the reinsurance of the Rapallo line . The German advantage of not being able to outplay the Western powers by the Soviet Union was that, in the event of a conflict with the Western powers, the Soviet Union did not have to fear that they would allow a massive rearmament in Germany.
End of the Locarno Treaties
Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists wanted to revise the results of the Treaty of Versailles with all determination - also by military means . The Locarno Treaties prevented them from advancing this revision.
When the French National Assembly ratified the Assistance Pact signed with the Soviet Union on May 2, 1935 on February 27, 1936 , Germany took the legal position that France had broken the Locarno Treaty. Hitler was determined to use this as an excuse to break the treaty on his part. He did not wait for the final ratification by the French Senate : on March 7, 1936, a Saturday, he had the Wehrmacht march into the demilitarized Rhineland early in the morning . At 10.30 a.m., Reich Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath told the French Ambassador André François-Poncet that Germany was terminating the Locarno Treaty and offered negotiations on a bilateral demilitarization of the border. Albert Sarraut's French interim government was only ready to take military countermeasures if they were supported by Great Britain. This was not the case. The military strength of the Germans was overestimated. So it remained with sharp verbal protests. The Locarno partners accepted the occupation of the Rhineland and with it the end of the Locarno treaties.
- The Locarno Pact (No. 1344 a – d). In: Herbert Michaelis / Ernst Schraepler (ed.): Causes and consequences. From the German collapse in 1918 and 1945 to the state reorganization of Germany in the present. A collection of certificates and documents on contemporary history. Sixth volume: The Weimar Republic. The turning point in post-war politics 1924–1928. Rapallo - Dawesplan - Geneva. Document publishing house Wendler, Berlin 1961, pp. 379–387.
- Treaty of Mutual Assistance between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Republic of France, May 2, 1935
- Specialist literature
- Jacques Bariéty: Les relations franco-allemandes après la première guerre mondiale. 10 Nov. 1918 - 10 Janv. 1925 de l'exécution à la negociation . Pedone, Paris 1977, ISBN 2-233-00034-X ( Publications de la Sorbonne. Série internationale 8), ( Also : Paris, Univ., Diss., 1975).
- Edward D. Keeton: Briand's Locarno Policy. French Economics, Politics and Diplomacy, 1925–1929 . Garland, New York [u. a.] 1987, ISBN 0-8240-8038-6 ( Modern European History ), (at the same time: New Heaven CT, Yale Univ., Diss. 1975).
- Peter Krüger : The foreign policy of the republic of Weimar . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1985, ISBN 3-534-07250-2 .
- Karl J. Mayer: The Weimar Republic and the problem of security in German-French relations. 1918-1925 . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main [a. a.] 1990, ISBN 3-631-42628-3 ( European university publications 3: History and its auxiliary sciences 440), (At the same time: Tübingen, Univ., Diss., 1988).
- The Locarno Treaty, October 16, 1925 , in: 1000dokumente.de
- Law on the Locarno Treaties and Germany's entry into the League of Nations (text of the treaty on documentArchiv.de)
- The Locarno Conference at LeMO
- Wilfried Loth: History of France in the 20th Century , Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-596-10860-8 , pp. 69 f.
- Georg Dahm / Jost Delbrück / Rüdiger Wolfrum, Völkerrecht , Volume I / 3, 2nd edition, 2002, p. 819 f.
- RAC Parker : The Twentieth Century I. Europe 1918–1945 , In: Weltbild Weltgeschichte . Special edition in 36 volumes, Bechtermünz, Augsbgurg 2000, ISBN 3-89350-989-5 , p. 87 f.
- Hans-Ulrich Thamer : The way to war , Federal Agency for Civic Education / bpb, April 6, 2005.
- Wilfried Loth : History of France in the 20th Century , Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-596-10860-8 , p. 90.
- Wilfried Loth : History of France in the 20th Century , Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-596-10860-8 , pp. 102f.
- Jean-Baptiste Duroselle : La décadence 1932–1939 . Imprimerie nationale, Paris 1979, pp. 168-179; Heinz Höhne : "Give me four years". Hitler and the beginnings of the Third Reich. Ullstein, Berlin 1996, pp. 416-420 .; Claus W. Schäfer: André François-Poncet as ambassador to Berlin (1931–1938) . Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, p. 257 f.