When World War II ended, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris in 1919. In this treaty, the Germans lost land and were also required to make reparations of material goods and cash payments. Germany was not happy with this. They did not even want to sign the treaty at first, but were convinced because of threats from the Allied nations. The Locarno Treaties were meant to improve this tense post-war situation by reaching compromises in order to help prevent future wars.
Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia participated in the Locarno Conferences in Switzerland. These conferences opened up a possibility that the biggest threat to the tranquility of Europe, the ever existing hostility between France and Germany, might at last be extinguished. Austin Chamberlain of England, one of the leaders at Locarno, was accurate in calling it "the real dividing point between the years of war and the years of peace". He and the other two leaders at Locarno, Aristide Briand of France and Gustav Stresemann of Germany, were confident that these agreements would give way to an era of peace.
France and Germany wanted more security from each other. Through the Locarno treaties they were able to achieve this by setting Germany's Western border. A central aspect of the treaties was that Germany would not choose combat as a means of resolving differences with France or Belgium. Instead, they would use diplomatic measures in order to sort out their problems. In addition, the other countries would come without delay to the aid of the attacked country should this agreement ever be broken. The treaties would assure that the frontiers between Germany and France and between Germany and Belgium be kept. France's safety was only modestly improved, however, because the other countries in the agreement would only come to its aid if the act committed against it was considered severe. Moreover, the agreement did not restrict the Eastern border.
The treaties gave way to a sense of global goodwill, known as the "spirit of Locarno". They also helped straighten the way for Germany's admission into the League of Nations the next year. Finally, Germany was being treated as a friendly nation by its enemies.
Soon after joining the League however, the "spirit of Locarno" ran into strong opposition in Germany and France and eventually dissolved completely. The Germans were upset that their borders were so restricted, and many felt that Locarno had brought disgrace and dishonor. France was opposed to it because they felt that they were not well enough protected from Germany. Though its ideals were good and its promises were hopeful, the Locarno treaties could not prevent World War II.
Brierly, J.L., rewritten by Reynolds, P.A., Selection from New Cambridge Modern History, Volume 12 Revised Edition Ed. Mowat, C.L. (Great Britain; Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1968) p. 250.
Jones, Eugene and Schmidt, Gustav, Selections from Modern Germany Volume 2 Ed. Buse, Dieter K. and Doerr, Juergen C. (New York; Garland Publishing Incorporated, 1998) pp. 968, 1059.
Sharfman, Glenn R., Selection from World War II In Europe: An Encyclopedia Volume 1 Ed. Zabecki, David T. (New York; Garland Publishing Incorporated, 1999) p. 111.
Internet Source: Smitha, Frank E. "Germany, Hitler, and the Twenties" In "Frank E. Smitha: World History Narrative" <http://www.fsmitha.com/index.html >. 1998.
Researched and Written by:
History 2260: The Modern World
September 16, 2003
Text © 1996-1999 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.