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sembly and it was decided to sign unconditionally.
During the week that the decision had been in abeyance the Allies had set on foot extensive military preparations, and the armies in the zone of occupation were ready to move eastward into Germany at a moment's notice. Plans were made also for an immediate resumption of the blockade.
On the very eve of the German acceptance an event took place which aroused the indignation and hardened the determination of the allied nations. On June 22 the great German fleet which had been surrendered on Nov. 21, 1918, under the terms of armistice and interned at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, was sunk by the German crews which had been left on board as caretakers. The sinking was concerted and simultaneous. The seacocks were opened and the vessels sank quickly, the crews escaping in small boats. The order for the sinking was given by Admiral von Reuter, who explained the act by stating that in his belief the armistice had expired and he was no longer bound by its terms. He was arrested and held for trial. The tonnage sunk was 400,000, and the value of the ships was placed at over $200,000,000.
The act was regarded by the Entente nations as a glaring instance of perfidy, and this feeling was intensified by the action of German officers in Berlin, who burned a number of French flags which by the terms of the treaty were to have
been sent back to France. A note from the Peace Conference to the German Government at Weimar stated that punishment would be meted out and reparations demanded.
The plenipotentiaries, who, after a mystifying delay of several days, were appointed to sign the treaty, were Dr. Hermann Muller, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Johannes Bell, Minister of Colonies. They reached Versailles on June 28, the date set for the signing of the treaty.
The place selected for the signing of the treaty was the Hall of Mirrors in the Trianon Palace; the place where Bismarck, at the conclusion of the FrancoPrussian War, had rebuffed the pleadings of Favre and Thiers for France; the same hall where Wilhelm I. had been proclaimed German Emperor.
The ceremony was simple, the settings austere. The German delegates signed first and then the allied delegates, headed by President Wilson, affixed their signatures in turn. General Jan Smuts accompanied his signing with a written protest against some of the terms. The Chinese delegates refrained from signing.
The entire ceremony took less than an hour. The war was ended.
On June 28, 1914, the shot was fired at Serajevo that furnished the pretext for the war. June 28, 1919, five years later to a day, witnessed the downfall of the power that had sought the hegemony of the world.