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German Disarmament Evasions--The Rapollo Treaty (1922)


Figure 1.--Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Rapallo Treaty (April 16, 1922). This was the first international conference in which the Soviet Union participated. The resulting Rapallo Treaty commited the Soviet Union to manufacture illegal war material for Germany which had been prohibited by Versailles Treaty. In exchange the Doviets recieved German steel manufactoring technology. The Treaty also established ecnonomic relations and some political ties. Reichwehr officers traveled to the Soviet Union and worked cooperatively with Red Army officers.

Germany and the Soviet Union negotiated the Rapallo Treaty (1922). The last treaty signed by Germany (Imperial Germany) and the Bolsheviks was the Treaty Of Breast-Litovsk (1918), a humiliating treaty ending World War I which had detached the Ukraine. German nationalists who depised the Versailles Treaty ignored the the even harsher Breast-Litovsk Treaty Germany had imposed upon the Russians. That Armistice (1918) forced the Germans to abrogate the Breast-Litovsk Treatty. The situation was very different in 1922 when the Rapallo Treaty was signed. Both countries were defeated nations a pariahs throughout Europe, the Soviets because of Communism and the Germans because of the War. The Rapallo Treaty was a step out of diplomatic isolation for the Soviets. For the Germans it offered a possible way of pressuring the Allies. It also offered the possibility of deceloping and testing new weapons in secrercy. Even this was a advatage to the Soviets as it meant they would have access to advanced German technology. The Allied Control Commission had no way of investigating in the developing Soviet police state. Despite the benefits to the German military, German Foreign Minister Rathenau who negotiated the Treaty was assasinated by right-wing nationalists. Another less well understood impact of the Rapollo Treaty was to boost given the Soviet armaments industry by cooperating with German military and industrial experts. This also had major consequences in World War II. Junkers airplane company built an airplane factory in Russia financed by the Reichwehr. The Germans built other airplane factories near Moscow, and in Samara (Kuibyshev) and Saratow. This was in essence the foundation of the Rusdian aircraft industry. The Reichwehr built a poison gas factory. The Russians in particular had suffered from German poison gas attacks dutring Woirld War I. They had no poison gas plants and could not even equip their soldiers with gas masks. Krupp opened a plant in Russia which produced heavy artillery, especially howitzers. Two curious incidents were to result from the Rapallo Treaty cooperation. Three Russian ships docked in Stettin with about 350,000 of illegal grenades (October 1926). This came to light because the dock workers were suspicious of the Soviet ships. They insisted on seeing the contents. It was thus determined thsat they were an illegal shipment for the Reichwehr. Ironically the German Communists who were highly critical of German militarism rejected thev news reports as they involved a criticismm of the Soviet Union. The other curious development is that years later a Red Army officers involved in the Rapollo cooperation with the Germans were arrested in the Moscow purges (1936). They were accused of working with German officers. This was of course was true, but they had been ordered to do so. [Gumbel] The program was in fact emensly important in the modernization of the soviet armament industry. The resulting trials and executions cost the Red Army some of its most technically competent officers.

Versailles Peace Treaty (1919)

The Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I was signed on June 28, 1919, about 7 months after the Armistice stopping the fighting on November 11, 1918. It was one of the mos important treaties of the 20th century. It had a huge impact on the international status of Germany, impacting the country territorially, militarily, and economically. Germany was made a pariah country and largely blamed for the start of the War. Of major significance, the Germany being published was the Germany of the Weimar Republic and not Imperial Germany as the Kaiser had abdicated. As a result, the domestic German opposition to the changes, including the territorial changes, came to be directed at the Weimar Republic and not the Imperial Government that had conducted the War. The NAZIs and other right-wing groups were to saddle democratic politicians with the "shame of Versailles". Aircraft were first seriously developed for war during 1914. The fairmly primitive aircraft in 1914 were raidly imprived during the War. Bombers were being built for a strategic bombing campaign in 1919, but the War ended before that occurred. The Germans had, however, used Zephlins to bomb British towns. In an effort to criple future German military operations, the Versailles Treaty prohibited Germany from both army and naval military aviation.

Background

The last treaty signed by Germany (Imperial Germany) and the Bolsheviks was the Treaty of Breast-Litovsk (1918), a humiliating treaty ending World War I which had detached the Ukraine. German nationalists who depised the Versailles Treaty ignored the the even harsher Breast-Litovsk Treaty Germany had imposed upon the Russians. That Armistice (1918) forced the Germans to abrogate the Breast-Litovsk Treatty. The situation was very different in 1922 when the Rapallo Treaty was signed. Both countries were defeated nations a pariahs throughout Europe, the Soviets because of Communism and the Germans because of the War.

Negotiation

Germany and the Soviet Union negotiated the Rapallo Treaty (1922). The Treaty wassigned by Germany and the Soviet Union at Rapallo, Italy. It was nehotiated by German Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau and Foreign Minister of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic G. V. Chicherin. The two were attending the Conference of Genoa. (This was a Cionference in which 34 countries participated to begin the reconstruction of European finance and commerce after World War I. . It was the first international conference in which the Germany and the new Soviet Union participated as fully acredited participants.) The negotiations did not end at Rapollo. A supplementary agreement signed at Berlin (November 5). which extended the Treaty to cover Germany's relations with Russian controlled (or heavily influenced) Soviet republics (Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Far East (Chita) Republic. A secret annex was signed (July 29).

Immediate Results

Germany recognized (de jure) the Soviet Government. This was the first Government to do so. The two countries mutually canceled all pre-War debts and renounced war claims. This invalidated Article 116 of the Versailles Peace Treaty which gave Russia the right to reparations from the Germans. Germany benefitted from a most-favored-nation clause and extensive trade agreements. The Rapallo Treaty was a step out of diplomatic isolation for the Soviets. For the Germans it offered a possible way of pressuring the Western Allies. And the Allies were not pleased, fearing that it would compromise the post-war Versailles order. They were especually concerned about Poland which had just survived a war with the Bolshevicks. Lenin regarded the sucessful conclusion of the Rapallo Treaty gaining diplomatic recognition and developing mutually favorable economic contacts as a great success. Lennin wrote, "True equality of the two property systems, if only as a temporary state until such time as the entire world abandons private property and the economic chaos and wars engendred by it for the higher property system is found only in the Treaty of Rapallo." Lenin] When British fiplomats at the the Genoa Conference demanded repayment bof Tsarist debts and the return of private property, Lennin ibstructee the Soviet delegation to direct them to the privisions of the Rapollo Treary.

Secret Provisions

The Treaty also offered the possibility of deceloping and testing new weapons in secrercy. Even this was a advatage to the Soviets as it meant they would have access to advanced German technology. The Allied Control Commission had no way of investigating in the developing Soviet police state.

Assasination of Foreign Minister Rathenau

Despite the benefits to the German military, German Foreign Minister Rathenau who negotiated the Treaty was assasinated by right-wing nationalists.

German Evasions

The Rapollo Treaty allowed the cGermans to evade many provisions of the Versailles Treaty. Germany was not allowed an airforce. Many younger German military men interested in aviation got their initial instruction in Russia. German officers dismissed from the army to meet the Versailles quotas went to Russia as civilians. Afrer training there they returned to Germany and reentered the army with higher ranks. German companies like Junkers worked on new plane types.

Soviet Arms Industry

Another less well understood impact of the Rapollo Treaty was to boost given the Soviet armaments industry by cooperating with German military and industrial experts. This also had major consequences in World War II. Russia's major weakness in World War I was tghat it was unable to properly equip its army with modern weapons. Some of Germany's leading industrial concern were involved in the Rapollo arrangements.

Aircraft

Junkers airplane company built an airplane factory in Russia financed by the Reichwehr. The Germans built other airplane factories near Moscow, and in Samara (Kuibyshev) and Saratow. This was in essence the foundation of the Rusdian aircraft industry.

Poison gas

The Reichwehr built a poison gas factory. The Russians in particular had suffered from German poison gas attacks dutring World War I. They had no poison gas plants and could not even equip their soldiers with gas masks. Poison gas was manufactured by a German owned and staffed plant. [Rosenbaum] The German parner was Stolzenberg. Bersol was manufactured as a poison gas plant near Samara. The plant was disguises as a civilian plant. The German War Ministry provided the needed financing. The Yale Russian Archive Project has found a range of docunents from the 1920s involving Gernan-Soviet cooperatiom on various aspects of chemical warfare, including aerial sprayers and gas masks.

Artillery

Krupp opened a plant in Russia which produced heavy artillery, especially howitzers.

Grenade Incidents (1926)

The Rapollo military cooperation was conducted in secret. One incident occurred which provided an inkling to the public as to what was going on. Three Russian ships docked in Stettin with about 350,000 of illegal grenades (October 1926). This came to light because the dock workers were suspicious of the Soviet ships. They insisted on seeing the contents. It was thus determined that they were an illegal shipment for the Reichwehr. Ironically the German Communists who were highly critical of German militarism rejected thev news reports as they involved a criticismm of the Soviet Union.

Red Army Purges (1936-38)

Large numbers of Red Army officers were involved in a range of cooperative programs with German military and indusyry personnel. With the rise of Stalin, the NKVD looked very suspiciously on Russians with foreign assiciation. And with the rise of he NAZIs, associations with Germans arounsed great suspicion. The other curious development is that years later a Red Army officers involved in the Rapollo cooperation with the Germans were arrested in the Moscow purges (1936). They were accused of working with German officers. This was of course was true, but they had been ordered to do so. [Gumbel] The program was in fact emensly important in the modernization of the soviet armament industry. The resulting trials and executions cost the Red Army some of its most technically competent officers. The Germans may have played on Stalin's suspicious mind to instigate the purges.

Sources

Gumbel. E.J. Disarmament and Clandestine Rearmament under the Weimar Republic. Gumbel was a pacifist who helped expose the German rearmament program. He was as a result charged with high treason by the NAZIs. He fled to France and was almost arrested and extradited after the Germans occupied France, but managed to escaope to America.

Lenin, Vol. 33, pp 3 56-35 7.

Posenbaum, Kurt. Community of Fate: German-Soviet Diplomatic Relations, 1922-28 (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1965), 325p.

Trush, M. "Lenin's diplomacy in April-July 1922," Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn (Moscow's main foreign policy monthly) (January 1978).






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Created: 6:30 AM 1/6/2010
Last updated: 6:30 AM 1/6/2010


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