Disarmament Conference, Geneva, 1933


Sixty countries sent delegates to the Disarmament Conference that convened in Geneva in February 1932 to consider reductions in armaments, with particular emphasis on offensive weapons. Germany, whose army and navy already were limited by the Treaty of Versailles, demanded that other states disarm to German levels and, in the event they refused to do so, claimed a right to build up its armed forces. France, which feared the revival of German power, argued that security must precede disarmament and called for security guarantees and the establishment of an international police force before it would reduce its own forces. Deadlocked, the conference adjourned in the summer of 1932. It reconvened in February 1933, only days after Adolf Hitler had assumed power in Germany. Determined to rearm, Germany rejected all proposals that did not accord it immediate military parity with the Western powers. On October 23, 1933, Germany announced its withdrawal from both the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations, ostensibly in response to the Western powers’ refusal to meet its demand for equality. Prior to its withdrawal, Germany was represented at the conference by Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, who can be seen in this group portrait of the delegates (seated, at center). The photograph is included in the archives of the League, which were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Last updated: August 5, 2016