Thursday, December 11, 2008

Salle De La Conference

Sometimes it seems as if you spend the first two thirds of your life acquiring things and the last third sorting through them and disposing of them. If this is the case, I suspect I have just crossed over the threshold of the Third Stage. I remember my parents, towards the end of their lives, seemed to be driven by a need to rid themselves of practically all material possessions, driven not by a desire to prepare their spirits for life ever-after but by a good, old-fashioned Yorkshire desire not to leave a mess for their children to clear up. I am pleased to say that I have not, as yet, progressed that far. I am still at the stage where I wish to leave a collection of neatly labelled filing cabinets to the Young Lad when my time comes.
Anyway, yesterday I was continuing the "Big Tidy" when I came across a group of three old postcards I must have bought thirty or forty years ago. One of them in particular caught my attention and it is reproduced above. It is headed "Conference of Locarno, 5-16th October 1925" and the main photograph shows the conference delegates seated around the table. Down the left-hand side is a list of the most important participants including the Foreign Secretaries of Britain, France and Germany: Austin Chamberlain, Aristide Briande, and Gustav Stresemann. There is no message on the back of the postcard, it is simply stamped "Salle De La Conference". What is perhaps most interesting about the postcard is that it contains what appears to be the autographs of all the participants.
Now I am sure that these are not the actual original autographs - such a document would be worth a small fortune - merely a print of an autographed photograph - but still it would appear to be quite rare. I have done a search of a number of vintage postcard sites and found no other copy of the card. The Locarno Conference itself is comprehensively covered (see, for example the UN's 75th Anniversary Exhibition) as it represented an important stage in inter-war European political developments. In 1925 Europe was at a crossroads, the Treaty of Versailles had failed to deliver a peaceful continent but men like Briande and Stresemann were a powerful symbol of hope for the future. The various treaties signed in October 1925 in Locarno just might lead towards a peaceful path for the continent, that must have been the feeling of a majority of those men sat around the conference table as they smiled into the camera. The majority, but, I suspect, no all. Look carefully and you will spot Benito Mussolini representing a growing band of people who had a very different future for Europe in mind.

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