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Sub-series · 1933.01.19-1937.02.26
Fait partie de Private Archives

The Status of Danzig:
The Free City of Danzig was an autonomous Baltic port and city-state established on January 10, 1920, in accordance with the terms of Treaty of Versailles of 1919.

When Poland was reconstituted under the Peace Treaty of Versailles, the country was ensured a free and secure access to the sea by what is known as the Polish or Danzig Corridor, formerly territory of the ancient Polish province of Romorze. This restoration and establishment of Polish territory, taken from German occupation, made a frontier that cut right through eastern Germany, separating east Prussia from the rest of Germany. This partitioning arrangement was bitterly resented by Germans, and stood in the forefront of the Nazi programme for treaty revision.

Poland's interests in Danzig are both political and economic. The Versailles Treaty gave her charge of the foreign affairs of the Free City and, in 1922, also by treaty, Danzig entered the Polish Customs Union.

Danzig was placed under the protection of the League of Nation. The chief preoccupation of the League of Nations during that period 1934-1936 was connected with Danzig.

A point not generally recognised is that this "free city" was, in fact, a tract of territory nearly as large as Wales. Danzig included not only the Free City of Danzig proper, but several other considerable towns, and no fewer than 252 villages (SLP-1936-Aug-25-P). The Free City of Danzig was far larger than Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco or San Marino. It comprised not only Danzig itself, but several other considerable towns and no fewer than 252 villages (SLP-1936-Sep-22-P).

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On 30 September 1936, the League of Nations Council decided to appoint S. Lester as Deputy Secretary-General, in replacement of Pablo de Azcarate, although his appointment as High Commissioner in Danzig had been prolonged till October, 1937. S. Lester was to take up new responsibilities in February 1938.

S. Lester's departure from Danzig caused consternation among the opponents of the Nazi regime, and satisfaction among the Nazis, who regarded S. Lester as an obstacle to the establishment of a totalitarian State in Danzig, it was mainly a victory for A. Forster, the Nazi district leader and A. Greiser, the President of the Danzig Senate.

S. Lester succeeded P. Azcarate, who resigned the post of Under Secretary-General to become Spanish Ambassador in London.

September 1936, S. Lester appointed League of Nations Under Secretary-General, a position previously held by Ascarati, of Spain. S. Lester's appointment will take effect when his successor in Danzig is announced. By the appointment S. Lester became the second highest official at Geneva and will be in charge whenever Joseph A.C. Avenol, Secretary-General, is absent.

5 October 1936: the Council considered the position of the High Commissioner in Danzig. The Council asked Poland to take up matter on their behalf, i.e. abandon all formal attempt to hold up Danzig Constitution. Poland did not act. Nazi Government liquidated opposition press, abolished opposition Parties, arrested or forced out opposition leaders.

The Council reluctantly decided to maintain pretence (F. Walters) and to appoint a new High Commissioner in February 1937.

S. Lester placed in a special envelope, marked "Secret-Private Diary" his notes and some letters-copies for a crucial period July-December 1936. This envelope was mislaid but found many years later, after the rest of his papers (perhaps in the early eighties). Its contents have now been incorporated in the general collection of S. Lester papers, chronologically.

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18 February 1937, S. Lester officially took up his functions of Deputy Secretary-General, a post on which he was appointed in September 1936, and that was previously held by Ascarati of Spain. S. Lester's appointment took effect when C. Burckhardt, his successor in Danzig, was appointed. By this appointment S. Lester became the second highest official at Geneva and was in charge whenever Joseph A.C. Avenol, League of Nations Secretary-General, was absent.

The Committee of Three including Britain, France, and Portugal replaced by Sweden, was set up in July 1936 to deal with Danzig affairs.

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26 July 1940, J. Avenol, Secretary-General of the League of Nations asked S. Lester to act as Secretary-General par interim. This created an ambiguous situation, J. Avenol deciding one day to resign and the following day no longer to resign. J. Avenol, who was appointed Secretary-General in 1932, officially resigned on 31 August 1940. On 1 September 1940, S. Lester officially became Acting Secretary-General.