As Zacharie Barrière shows, for Lausanne’s hotels the Near East Conference brought risk and reward in equal measure.
When it came to discussing venues for the Near East Conference in mid-October 1922 Lord Curzon noted that Lausanne enjoyed many advantages:
- It is on the direct line of the Orient Express to Istanbul (which Geneva is not);
- It has excellent hotel accommodation and a good climate even in winter;
- It was the seat of the peace conference between Turkey and Italy in 1912;
- The League of Nations could supply a large and trained staff of typists, shorthand writers, and translators:
- The central position of Lausanne would enable foreign delegates to go to and from with comparative ease.
Lausanne’s hotel capacity certainly proved an asset to diplomats like Curzon as well as lobbyists and others drawn to the conference. While the Château d’Ouchy (above) was the official seat of the conference, the Beau-Rivage, Beau-Séjour and Lausanne Palace hosted the associated plenary sessions, galas and press pack respectively.
As the historian Bertrand Müller has noted, when it came to assigning hotels it was recognized that enemy delegations could not be accommodated in the same establishment. This was further complicated by the fact that some nations (including the British and Turks) housed their delegations as a bloc, while others (such as the Greeks and Bulgarians) distributed them across several hotels, sorted according to their rank within their delegation.
The British, American, Italian and Romanian delegations were allocated the Beau-Rivage; the Bulgarian, Russian and Serbo-Croat-Slovene the Cecil, Savoy and Balmoral hotels respectively. The Turkish, French and Japanese resided at the Lausanne Palace, a safe distance from the Greek delegation, spread across the Savoy, Royal and Alexandra hotels. As the archives of the Société des Hôteliers de Lausanne-Ouchy indicate, a night at the Beau-Rivage cost 320 CHF – the Balmoral just 75 CHF.
Mssrs. Egli and Steiner, directeurs of the Beau-Rivage and Lausanne Palace respectively undertook to relay the arrival times of the delegations and provide facilities for a special detachment of 63 officers assigned to protect conference hotels – among them the two agents photographed stationed at the entrance to the Château d’Ouchy (below). Despite their numbers, they proved unable to prevent the notorious assassination of a delegate, the Russian Vorovsky, shot while dining in the Hotel Cecil. There were other, more minor incidents, such as the assault of an English journalist named Jones on a member of the Italian delegation, in the latter’s room at the Beau-Rivage.
The hotels were well-rewarded for their services to diplomacy. In the case of the Beau-Rivage, receipts for the first half of January 1923 (102,992 CHF) were more than 70% higher than those for the same period in the previous year. The hotel’s grateful director donated 900 CHF to the police benevolent fund. Not that all hotels benefited equally, however: despite its felicitous name the Hôtel de la Paix was one of a number of hotels which appear to have prospered less.
A century on, Lausanne’s hotels continue to play host to high-profile diplomatic talks, including the Iranian Nuclear talks, held at the Beau-Rivage Palace in 2015.
Translated from the French by Jonathan Conlin
This is the second in a series of blogposts contributed by students of Lausanne University, drawing on the police archives of the Canton of Vaud and other local archives as part of their study of Global History. To find out more about this innovative pedagogical response to the Covid emergency, click here. We would like to thank Guillaume Beausire and Thomas David for making this collaboration possible.
 Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, f.s., vol. 18, London: HMSO, 1972, 188-190.
 Bertrand Müller, “Construire l’événement: Le Beau-Rivage Palace et la Conférence de Lausanne de 1922-1923” in Nadja Maillard, ed., Beau-Rivage Palace. Histoire(s) (Paris: Infolio, 2009), pp. 116-128.
 Journal de surveillance de la police de sûreté, ACV S112 95, Archives cantonales vaudoises.