The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Opening Address for the United Kingdom
(Part 3 of 17)


Neither was that development arrested with the adoption of the Covenant. The right of war was further circumscribed by a series of treaties -- numbering nearly one thousand -- of arbitration and conciliation embracing practically all the nations of the world. The so-called Optional Clause of Article 36-of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice which conferred upon the Court compulsory jurisdiction with regard to most comprehensive categories of disputes and which constituted in effect the most important compulsory treaty of arbitration in the postwar period, was widely signed and ratified. Germany herself signed it in 1927; her signature was renewed and renewed, for a period of five years, by the National- Socialist Government in July 1933. (Significantly, that ratification was not renewed on the expiration of its validity in March 1938.) Since 1928 a consider-able number of States signed and ratified the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes which was designed to fill the gaps left by the Optional Clause and the existing treaties of arbitration and conciliation.

All this vast network of instruments of pacific settlement testified to the growing conviction that war was ceasing to be the normal and legitimate means of settling international disputes. The express condemnation of wars of aggression, which has already been mentioned, supplied the same testimony. But there was more direct evidence pointing in that direction. The Treaty of Locarno of 16 October 1925, to which I will refer later and to which Germany was a party, was more than a treaty of arbitration and conciliation in which the parties undertook definite obligations with regard to the pacific settlement of disputes that

[Page 600]

might arise between them. It was, subject to clearly specified exceptions of self-defense in certain contingencies, a more general undertaking in which the parties agreed that "they will in no case attack or invade each other or resort to war against each other". This constituted a general renunciation of war and was so considered to be in the eyes of jurists and of the public opinion of the world. For the Locarno Treaty was not just one of the great number of arbitration treaties concluded at that time. It was regarded as the corner stone of the European settlement and of the new legal order in Europe in partial, voluntary and generous substitution for the just rigours of the Treaty of Versailles. With it the term "outlawry of war" left the province of mere pacifist propaganda. It became current in the writings on international law and in official pronouncements of governments. No jurist of authority and no statesman of responsibility would have associated himself, subsequent to the Locarno Treaty, with the plausible assertion that, at least as between the parties, war had remained an unrestricted right of sovereign States.

But although the effect of the Locarno Treaty was limited to the parties to it, it had a wider influence in paving the way towards that most fundamental and truly revolutionary enactment in modern international law, namely, the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War of 27 August 1928, known also as the Pact of Paris, or the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the Kellogg Pact. That Treaty -- a most deliberate and carefully prepared piece of international legislation -- was binding in 1939 upon more than sixty nations, including Germany. It was -- and has remained -- the most widely signed and ratified international instrument. It contained no provision for its termination, and was conceived as the corner-stone of any future international order worthy of that name. It is fully part of international law as it stands today, and has in no way been modified or replaced by the Charter of the United Nations. It is right, in this solemn hour in the history of the world when the responsible leaders of a State stand accused of a premeditated breach of this great Treaty which was and remains a source of hope and faith for mankind, to set out in detail its two operative Articles and its Preamble:

"The Preamble "The President of the German Reich, ***

"Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind;

"Persuaded that the time has come when a frank renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy should be

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made to the end that the peaceful and friendly relations now existing between their peoples may be perpetuated;

"Convinced that all changes in their relations with one another should be sought only by pacific means and be the result of a peaceful and orderly progress, and that any signatory Power which shall hereafter seek to promote its national interests by resort to war should be denied the benefits furnished by this Treaty;

"Hopeful that, encouraged by their example, all the other nations of the world will join in this humane endeavour and by adhering to the present Treaty as soon as it comes into force bring their peoples within the scope of its beneficent provisions, thus uniting civilized nations of the world in a common renunciation of war as an instrument of their national policy;

*******

"Article I

"The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

"Article II

"The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

In that General Treaty for the Renunciation of War practically the entire civilized world abolished war as a legally permissible means of enforcing the law and of changing it. The right of war was no longer of the essence of sovereignty. Whatever the position may have been in 1914 or in 1918 (and it is not necessary to discuss it) no International lawyer of repute, no responsible Statesman, no soldier concerned with the legal use of Armed Forces could doubt that with the Pact of Paris on the Statute Book a war of aggression was contrary to positive International law. Nor have the repeated violations of the Pact of the Axis Powers in any way affected its validity. Let this be firmly and clearly stated. Those very breaches, except to the cynic and the malevolent have added to its strength; they provoked the sustained wrath of people angered by the contemptuous disregard of the great Statute and determined to vindicate its provisions. The Pact of Paris is the Law of Nations. This Tribunal will enforce it.

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Let this also be said. The Pact of Paris was not a clumsy enactment likely to become a signpost for the guilty. It did not enable Germany to go to war against Poland and yet rely, as against Great Britain and France, on any immunity from warlike action because of the provisions of the Pact of Paris. For that Pact laid down expressly in its Preamble that no State guilty of a violation of its provisions may invoke its benefits. When on the outbreak of the Second World War Great Britain and France communicated to the League of Nations the fact that a state of war existed between them and Germany as from 3 September 1939, they declared that by committing an act of aggression against Poland Germany had violated her obligation assumed not only towards Poland but also towards other signatories of the Pact of Paris. A violation of the Pact in relation to one signatory was an attack upon all the other signatories and they were fully entitled to treat it as such. This point is to be emphasized lest any of the defendants should seize upon the letter of the Particulars of Count Two of the Indictment and maintain that it was not Germany who initiated war with the United Kingdom and France on 3 September 1939. The declaration of war came from the United Kingdom and France; the act of war and its commencement came from Germany in violation of the fundamental enactment to which she was a party.


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