It is now nearly six weeks since the Germans were presented with the Allied peace terms. Since then there has been grave disquiet in Germany, with many feeling that their country is being roughly treated. The draft treaty’s provision that Germany bears the responsibility for starting the war is particularly galling, as are the reparation payments being demanded. Some in Germany have talked of rejecting the Allied terms and resuming the armed struggle, but wiser voices (including Groener, the army’s chief of staff) have pointed out that this would be a recipe for disaster. Since the armistice the German army has fallen into a parlous state while the Allies now occupy bridgeheads across the Rhine; in the event of the war’s resumption then the Germans would be unable to stop an Allied advance into the heart of their country.
Nevertheless, the Germans still have not signalled that they are willing to sign the peace treaty. On the Allied side it is starting to look as though the Germans are playing for time. And Allied leaders fear that time is not on their side, that if the final peace is delayed much longer they will not be able to restart the war. Much of the victorious Allied armies of last year have now been demobilised, with only 39 divisions of the 198 from November remaining on the Western Front. The remaining soldiers are understandably keen to return home as soon as possible, and war-weariness is increasingly gripping the home fronts, where people want their menfolk returned and a reduction of the wartime tax burden.
The Allies therefore decide to push the issue while they still can. Brockdorff-Rantzau and the rest of the German delegation are summoned to be informed that Germany has three days to agree to the Allied terms. If the Germans do not accept then the Allies will renew the war.
It is thought likely that the Germans will follow Brockdorff-Rantzau’s urgings and reject the treaty. But the Allies are ready for this eventuality. The British are ready to renew their naval blockade in all its harshness. And Foch, the supreme Allied commander, has made plans for an invasion of the German heartland.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch (Wikipedia)