Treaty of Locarno

In 1929 the German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann proposed that France, Germany and Belgium should recognize as permanent their frontiers that was agreed at Versallies. This included the promise not to send German troops into the Rhineland and the acceptance that Alsace-Lorraine was permantely part of France. The French foreign minister, Aristide Briand, agreed with Stressemann's proposals and signed the treaty. However, as Germany refused to guarantee its eastern frontiers France sought to give Poland and Czechoslovakia they security they required by signing treaties with them.

The Treaty of Locarno was signed in October 1925. This enabled Germany to be admitted to the League of Nations. However, Adolf Hitler tore up the treaty when he sent in the German Army into the Rhineland in 1936.

Primary Sources

(1) Gustav Stresemann, speech after the signing of the Locarno Treaty (16th October, 1925)

At the moment of initialling the treaties that have here been drafted will you allow me to say a few words in the name of the Chancellor and in my own. The German delegates agree to the text of the final protocol and its annexes, an agreement to which we have given expression by adding our initials. Joyfully and wholeheartedly we welcome the great development in the European concept of peace that has its origin in this meeting at Locarno, and as the Treaty of Locarno, is destined to be a landmark in the history of the relations of States and peoples to each other. We especially welcome the expressed conviction set forth m this final protocol that our labours will lead to decreased tension among the peoples and to an easier solution of so many political and economic problems.

We have undertaken the responsibility of initialling the treaties because we live in the faith that only by peaceful cooperation of States and peoples can that development be secured, which is nowhere more important than for that great civilized land of Europe whose peoples have suffered so bitterly in the years that lie behind us. We have more especially undertaken it because we are justified in the confidence that the political effects of the treaties will prove to our particular advantage in relieving the conditions of our political life. But great as is the importance of the agreements that are here embodied, the treaties of Locarno will only achieve their profoundest importance in the development of the nations if Locarno is not to be the end but the beginning of confident cooperation among the nations. That these prospects, and the hopes based upon our work, may come to fruition is the earnest wish to which the German delegates would give expression at this solemn moment.

(2) Gustav Stresemann, speech on the Locarno Treaty (December, 1925)

At the moment when the work begun at Locarno is concluded by our signature in London, I should like to express above all to you, Sir Austen Chamberlain, our gratitude for what we owe you in the recognition of your leadership in the work that is completed here today. We had, as you know, no chairman to preside over our negotiations at Locarno. But it is due to the great traditions of your country, which can look back to an experience of many hundred years, that unwritten laws work far better than the form in which man thinks to master events. Thus, the Conference of Locarno, which was so informal, led to a success. That was possible because in you, Sir Austen Chamberlain, we had a leader who by his tact and friendliness, supported by his charming wife, created that atmosphere of personal confidence that may well be regarded as a part of what is meant by the spirit of Locarno. But something else was more important than personal approach, and that was the will, so vigorous in yourself and in us, to bring this work to a conclusion. Hence the joy that you felt like the rest of us, when we came to initial those documents at Locarno. And hence our sincere gratitude to you here today.

In speaking of the work done at Locarno, let me look at it in the light of this idea of form and will. We have all had to face debates on this achievement in our respective Houses of Parliament Light has been thrown upon it in all directions, and attempts have been made to discover whether there may not be contradictions in this or that clause. In this connection I say one word! I see in Locarno not a juridical structure of political ideas, but the basis of great developments in the future. Statesmen and nations therein proclaim their purpose to prepare the way for the yearnings of humanity after peace and understanding. If the pact were no more than a collection of clauses, it would not hold. The form that it seeks to find for the common life of nations will only become a reality if behind them stands the will to create new conditions in Europe, a will that inspired the words that Herr Briand has just uttered. '

I should like to express to you, Herr Briand, my deep gratitude for what you said about the necessity of the cooperation of all peoples - and especially of those peoples that have endured so much in the past. You started from the idea that every one of us belongs in the first instance to his own country, and should be a good Frenchman, German, Englishman, as being a part of his own people, but that everyone also is a citizen of Europe, pledged to the great cultural idea that finds expression in the concept of our continent. We have a right to speak of a European idea; this Europe of ours has made such vast sacrifices in the Great War, and yet it is faced with the danger of losing, through the effects of that Great War, the position to which it is entitled by tradition and development.

The sacrifices made by our continent in the World War are often measured solely by the material losses and destruction that resulted from the War. Our greatest loss is that a generation has perished from which we cannot tell how much intellect, genius, force of act and will, might have come to maturity, if it had been given to them to live out their lives. But together with the convulsions of the World War one fact has emerged, namely that we are bound to one another by a single and a common fate. If we go down, we go down together; if we are to reach the heights, we do so not by conflict but by common effort.

For this reason, if we believe at all in the future of our peoples, we ought not to live in disunion and enmity, we must join hands in common labour. Only thus will it be possible to lay the foundations for a future of which you, Herr Briand, spoke in words that I can only emphasize, that it must be based on a rivalry of spiritual achievement, not of force. In such co-operation the basis of the future must be sought. The great majority of the German people stands firm for such a peace as this. Relying on this will to peace, we set our signature to this treaty. It is to introduce a new era of cooperation among the nations. It is to close the seven years that followed the War, by a time of real peace, upheld by the will of responsible and far-seeing statesmen, who have shown us the way to such development, and will be supported by their peoples, who know that only in this fashion can prosperity increase. May later generations have cause to bless this day as the beginning of a new era.