The Treaty of Versailles was intended to be a peace agreement between the Allies andthe Germans. Versailles created political discontent and economic chaos 1in Germany.
The Peace Treaty of Versailles represented the results of hostility and revenge andopened the door for a dictator and World War II.November 11, 1918 marked the end of the first World War. Germany had surrenderedand signed an armistice agreement. The task of forming a peace agreement was now inthe hands of the Allies. In December of 1918, the Allies met in Versailles to start on thepeace settlement.
2 The main countries and their respective representatives were: TheUnited States, Woodrow Wilson; Great Britain, David Lloyd George; and France, GeorgeClemenceau. “At first, it had seemed the task of making peace would be easy”.3However, once the process started, the Allies found they had conflicting ideas andmotives surrounding the reparations and wording of the Treaty of Versailles. It seemedthe Allies had now found themselves engaged in another battle.Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924), the twenty-eighth President of the United States(1913 –1921).4 In August of 1914, when World War I began, there was no questionthat the United States would remain neutral.
“Wilson didn’t want to enter the EuropeanWar or any other war for that matter”.5 However, as the war continued, it becameincreasingly obvious that the United States could no longer ‘sit on the sidelines’.German submarines had sunk American tankers and the British liner, ‘Lusitania’, in May1915, killing almost twelve hundred people, including 128 Americans.6 This convincedWilson to enter World War I, on the allied side.
As the war continued, Wilson outlinedhis peace program, which was centered around fourteen main points. “They (fourteenpoints) were direct and simple: a demand that future agreements be open covenants ofpeace, openly arrived at; an insistence upon absolute freedom of the seas; and, as thefourteenth point, the formation of a general associat! ion of nations.”7 The fourteenpoints gave people a hope of peace and lay the groundwork for the armistice thatGermany ultimately signed in November 1918. Although the United States wasinstrumental in ending the war, Wilson was still more interested in a “peace withoutvictors”8 than annexing German colonies or reparations (payment for war damages).However, as the Allies began discussions of the peace treaty, the European alliesrejected Wilson’s idealism and reasoning. It soon became increasingly obvious that theallies were seeking revenge and Germany was destined to be crippled economically andDavid Lloyd George (1863 – 1945), who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain (1916 -1922), governed through the latter part of the war and the early post war years.
9Britain and Germany were, historically, always rivals. Before the war, for instance,Germany challenged Britain’s famous powerful and unstoppable navy by dramaticallyincreasing the amount of money spent on their navy. In terms of losses, Britainabsorbed thirty-six percent of the debt incurred by the allies and seventeen percent ofthe war’s total casualties.
10 After the war, Britain faced tough economic problems.Their exports were at an all time low due to outdated factories, high tariffs, andcompetition from other countries. As a direct result, Britain suffered from highunemployment, which of course, affected the well being of the country. Britain had itspride and nationalism stripped. The Treaty of Versailles would provide an opportunity toseek revenge for their losses. They were also seek! ing annexation of German coloniesGeorges Clemenceau (1841 – 1929) was the Premier of France (1906-1909) and(1917-1920).11 As Britain, France had a rivalry with Germany but the French’s illfeelings were even more intensive.
“Nationalism created tensions between France andGermany. The French bitterly resented their defeat in the Franco – Prussian War andwere eager to seek revenge. Moreover, they were determined to regain Alsace -Lorraine.”12 This gave the French the motivation of increasing their military strengthand ultimately, destroying their life-long enemies.
During the war, France’s portion ofthe war debt amounted to twenty percent. Their loss, in terms of war casualties, wasthirty-three percent.13 Most of the battles were fought on French soil. This resulted inthe destruction of “ten million farm acres, twenty thousand factories and six thousandpublic buildings”.14 After the war, France suffered terribly, economically. Inflation and adeflated French Franc spurned the French to ! take advantage of the armistice.
“Clemenceau wanted revenge as well as security against any future German attack.”15He also wanted a huge amount of reparations, to annex the coal rich Saar Basin, thereturn of Alsace – Lorraine and an independent Rhineland for a buffer zone betweenAll the leaders had different opinions and motives regarding the Treaty of Versailles.Coming to a consensus was difficult. The Treaty had to be revised several times beforethe final copy was signed on January 18, 1919. “There was scarcely a section of thetreaty which was not attacked, just as there was scarcely a section of the treatywhich was not attacked.”16 The German’s were reluctant to agree to such harsh terms.”Even the most humble German was appalled by the severity of the treaty.
“17 Franceand Britain were both eager to have revenge on Germany but selfishly wanted eachother’s benefits. “Clemenceau pointed out that the British were making no effort toplacate the Germans at the expense of British interests. They offered no proposals toreduce the number of German ships to be handed over, or to return Germany’s colonies,or to restore the German Navy, or to remove the restrictions on Germany’s overseastrade. Instead, it was always at the expense of F! rench interest that concessionswere to be made.
“18 Wilson thought both France and Britain were being too vindictiveand unreasonable. The allies used Wilson’s Fourteen Points program to convinceGermany to sign an armistice. However, once Germany complied, these points wereignored.
“The French, for example, had no intention of abandoning what Wilsoncastigated as the “old diplomacy,” with its secret understandings and interlockingalliances.”19 Therefore, in the end, the European Allies, including France and Britain,received what they wanted from the treaty.”The actual costs, for Germany, included: the guilt of the entire war and, paying 132billion gold marks in reparations. Germany also lost one eighth of its land, all of itscolonies, all of its overseas financial assets and limiting their once powerful military.”20Britain and France would receive large sums of the reparations and German colonies inAfrica as mandates.
21 France also received its wishes with Alsace-Lorraine. “Francewould recover Alsace-Lorraine outright.”22 However, the main delight for France andBritain was seeing Germany suffer. The biggest problem Germany had with Versailles was the war guilt, which was statedin article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. The Allies were astonished to find this particularparagraph was the most violently disputed point in the entire treaty.
Article 231stated: “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts theresponsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which theAllied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as aconsequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and herallies.”23 It seems weird that they would treat Germany that way after they too hadbeen in the war. Fighting and killing were done by both sides but only the Germanswere punished.
“If our army and our workmen had known that peace would look likethis, the army would not have laid down its arms and all would have held out to theend.”24 All Germany became very upset about the whole treaty. “Th! is aroused intensenationalist bitterness in Germany.”25 The future looked grim and had no cause forAfter Versailles was ‘in stone’, Germany became a very weak country, seeking toavenge the vindictiveness and total lack of empathy shown by the allies. “The Germanpeople could not resist, but, in unanimity, they could still hate.
“26 Germany sufferedfrom great economic problems after the war. They had already lost many lives andthings during the war, but now they were responsible for paying the reparations. TheGermans tried paying their debts by borrowing and printing more money.
They wereshocked to find that incredible inflation was the result. “The hardships caused by theinflation of the 1920’s contributed to the political unrest of Germany after WWI.”27After the war, Germany became a republic (called the Weimar Republic).
The WeimarRepublic had many problems from the very beginning. “Many Germans despised it (theRepublic) because its representatives had signed the hated Versailles Treaty.”28 Therewere revolts by both a communism party and a fascism ! party. In the end, the fascistsparty was favoured because “they were extreme nationalists, who denounced theVersailles Treaty and opposed the democratic goals of the Weimar Republic.”29 Withthe rise of fascism came the rise of Hitler and his Nazi Party.Adolph Hitler, of the Nazi Party, preached a racist brand of fascism. His party “keptexpanding, benefiting from growing unemployment, fear of communism, Hitler’sself-certainty, and the difference of his political rivals.
“30 When Hitler becamechancellor in January 1933, he began rebuilding a promising future for Germany.31 Hepromised jobs and benefits to all classes of people. Almost all Germans felt compelled tolisten and obey Hitler’s extreme ideas of fascism because for some, he was their lasthope. Hitler knew how to win people’s obedience, through their fears and insecurities.”Hitler successfully appealed to a Germany that was humiliated by defeat in World War Iand the Treaty of Versailles of 1919.”32 Hitler succeeded and began to regainGermany’s strength.
“Germany was too powerful to be suppressed for long.”33 Hitlerbroke many rules contained in the Treaty of Versailles. For example, Hitler sent troopsinto the demilitarized Rhineland and the Frenc! h did not respond. This and otherscenarios gave Hitler the incentive to invade other countries and ultimately, invadePoland and started World War II. With WWII came the dreadful horrors of theHolocaust.
Hitler had ordered the deaths of at least five million Jews.34 Not only did heorchestrate these mass murders, but he also influenced countless individuals to thinkand act in the same disgraceful manner. Hitler may have had sick and shameful ideasbut he certainly knew how to be a manipulative leader.
He played on the fears andinsecurities of the people and used their weaknesses to win their loyalty.In conclusion, The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to represent the peaceful endingto World War I, however, it became the prelude to another war. It was originally an effort to restore order and provide a peaceful conclusion to WorldWar I. The ill feelings and economic upheaval that resulted provided the perfect climatefor Hitler’s dominance, in post-war Germany. The contributors/participants of Versailleshad other motives behind the ‘peace agreement’ other than a peace settlement.
Theirselfish actions resulted in, not only the economic hardship of Germany, but inflation andunemployment in all of Europe. The severity of the reparations contained in thisdocument set the stage for history to repeat itself. “Therefore, the very way in whichthe Treaty of Versailles was forced on the German people stored up the material for theBibliography: