The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Aggression Against Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg
(Part 1 of 6)

[Page 760]

The independence of Belgium, which for so many centuries was the cockpit of Europe, was guaranteed by the great European powers in 1839. That guarantee was observed for 75 years, until it was broken by the Germans in 1914, who brought all the horrors of war, and the even greater horrors of German occupation, to Belgium. History was to repeat itself in a still more catastrophic fashion some 25 years after, in 1940.

Among the applicable treaties are the Hague Convention of 1907 (TC-3; TC-4), the Locarno Arbitration and Conciliation Convention of 1925, in which Belgium's independence and neutrality were guaranteed by Germany; the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, by which all the Powers renounced recourse to war; and the Hague Convention of Arbitration and Conciliation May 1926 between Germany and the Netherlands (TC-16). Article I of the latter treaty provides:

"The contracting parties" (the Netherlands and the German Reich) "undertake to submit all disputes of any nature whatever which may arise between them which it has not been possible to settle by diplomacy, and which have not been referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice, to be dealt with by arbitration or conciliation as provided." (TC-16)

Subsequent clauses deal with the machinery of conciliation. The last article, Article 21, provides that the Convention shall be valid for ten years, and then shall remain in force for successive periods of five years until denounced by either party. And this treaty never was denounced by Germany at all.

The last of the applicable treaties, all of which belong to the days of the Weimar Republic, is the Treaty of Arbitration and Conciliation between Germany and Luxembourg, executed at Geneva in 1929 (TC-20). The first few words of Article 1 are familiar:

"The contracting parties undertake to settle by peaceful means all disputes of any nature whatever which may arise between them and which it may not be possible to settle by diplomacy." (TC-20)

Then follow clauses dealing with the machinery for peaceful settlement of disputes, which are in the common form.

Those were the treaty obligations between Germany and Belgium at the time when the Nazi Party came into power in 1933. Hitler adopted and ratified the obligations of Germany under the

[Page 761]

Weimar Republic with regard to the treaties which had been entered into. Nothing more occurred to alter the position of Belgium until March 1936. Germany reoccupied the Rhineland and announced the resumption of conscription. And Hitler, on 7 March 1936 purported in a speech to repudiate the obligations of the German Government under the Locarno Pact, the reason being given as the execution of the Franco-Soviet Pact of 1935. There was no legal foundation for this claim that Germany was entitled to renounce obligations under the Locarno Pact. But Belgium was left in the air, in the sense that it had itself entered into various obligations under the Locarno Pact in return-for the liabilities which other nations acknowledged, and now one of those liabilities, namely, the liability of Germany to observe the act, had been renounced.

And so on 30 January 1937, perhaps because Hitler realized the position of Belgium and of the Netherlands, Hitler gave solemn assurance he used the word "solemn" -- which amounted to a full guarantee (TC-3). In April 1937, France and England released Belgium from her obligations under the Locarno Pact. Belgium gave guarantees of strict independence and neutrality, and France and England gave guarantees of assistance should Belgium be attacked. It was because of those facts that Germany on 13 October 1937, gave a clear and unconditional guarantee to Belgium:

"I have the honor on behalf of the German Government to make the following communication to Your Excellency: The German Government has taken cognizance with particular interest of the public declaration in which the Belgium Government defines the international position of Belgium. For its part, it has repeatedly given expressions, especially -through the declaration of the Chancellor of the German Reich in his speech of 30 January 1937, to its own point of view. The German Government has also taken cognizance of the declaration made by the British and French Governments on 24 April 1937 ***

"Since the conclusion of a treaty to replace the Treaty of Locarno may still take some time, and being desirous of strengthening the peaceful aspirations of the two countries, the German Government regards it as appropriate to define now its own attitude towards Belgium. To this end, it makes the following declaration: First, the German Government has taken note of the views which the Belgian Government has thought fit to express. That is to say, (a) of the policy of independence which it intends to exercise in full sover-

[Page 762]

eignty; (b) of its determination to defend the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces against any aggression or invasion and to prevent Belgian territory from being used for purposes of aggression against another state as a passage or as a base of operation by land, by sea, or in the air, and to organize the defense of Belgium in an efficient manner to this purpose. Two: The German Government considers that the inviolability and integrity of Belgium are common interests of the Western Powers. It confirms its determination that in no circumstances will it impair this inviolability and integrity and that it will at all times respect Belgian territory except, of course, in the event of Belgium's taking part in a military action directed against Germany in an armed conflict in which Germany is involved. The German Government, like the British and French Governments, is prepared to assist Belgium should she be subjected to an attack or to invasion. ***" (TC-34)

The following reply was made:

"The Belgian Government has taken note with great satisfaction of the declaration communicated to it this day by the German Government. It thanks the German Government warmly for this communication." (TC-34)

Thus, in October 1937, Germany gave a solemn guarantee to this small nation of its peaceful aspiration towards her, and its assertion that the integrity of the Belgian frontier was a common interest between her and Belgium and the other Western Powers: Yet eighteen months afterwards Germany had violated that assurance.

That this declaration of October 1937 meant very little to the leaders and to the high command of Germany can be seen from a document which came into existence on 24 August 1938, at the time when the Czechoslovakia drama was unfolding, and when it was uncertain whether there would be war with the Western Powers. This Top Secret document is addressed to the General Staff of the 5th Section of the German Air Force, and deals with the subject, "Extended Case Green -- Appreciation of the Situation with Special Consideration of the Enemy." Apparently some staff officer had been asked to prepare this appreciation. The last paragraph (No. H) reads:

"Requests to Armed Forces Supreme Command, Army and Navy. ***

"Belgium and the Netherlands would, in German hands, represent an extraordinary advantage in the prosecution of the air war against Great Britain as well as against France.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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