VersaillesThe Treaty of Versailles was intendedto be a peace agreement between the Allies and the Germans. Versaillescreated political discontent and economic chaos in Germany. The Peace Treaty of Versailles represented the results of hostility andrevenge and opened the door for a dictator and World War II.
November 11, 1918 marked the end of thefirst World War. Germany had surrendered and signed an armisticeagreement. The task of forming a peace agreement was now in the handsof the Allies. In December of 1918, the Allies met in Versaillesto start on the peace settlement. The main countries and theirrespective representatives were: The United States, Woodrow Wilson; GreatBritain, David Lloyd George; and France, George Clemenceau.
“At first,it had seemed the task of making peace would be easy”. However,once the process started, the Allies found they had conflicting ideas andmotives surrounding the reparations and wording of the Treaty of Versailles. It seemed the Allies had now found themselves engaged in another battle. Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924), the twenty-eighthPresident of the United States (1913 –1921). In August of1914, when World War I began, there was no question that the United Stateswould remain neutral.Order now
“Wilson didn’t want to enter the European Waror any other war for that matter”. However, as the war continued,it became increasingly obvious that the United States could no longer ‘siton the sidelines’. German submarines had sunk American tankers andthe British liner, ‘Lusitania’, in May 1915, killing almost twelve hundredpeople, including 128 Americans. This convinced Wilson to enterWorld War I, on the allied side.
As the war continued, Wilson outlinedhis peace program, which was centered around fourteen main points. “They (fourteen points) were direct and simple: a demand that future agreementsbe open covenants of peace, openly arrived at; an insistence upon absolutefreedom of the seas; and, as the fourteenth point, the formation of a generalassociation of nations. ” The fourteen points gave people ahope of peace and lay the groundwork for the armistice that Germany ultimatelysigned in November 1918. Although the United States was instrumentalin ending the war, Wilson was still more interested in a “peace withoutvictors” than annexing German colonies or reparations (payment forwar damages). However, as the Allies began discussions of the peacetreaty, the European allies rejected Wilson’s idealism and reasoning.
It soon became increasingly obvious that the allies were seeking revengeand Germany was destined to be crippled economically and socially by itsenemies. David Lloyd George (1863 – 1945), whowas the Prime Minister of Great Britain (1916 – 1922), governed throughthe latter part of the war and the early post war years. Britainand Germany were, historically, always rivals. Before the war, forinstance, Germany challenged Britain’s famous powerful and unstoppablenavy by dramatically increasing the amount of money spent on their navy. In terms of losses, Britain absorbed thirty-six percent of the debt incurredby the allies and seventeen percent of the war’s total casualties. After the war, Britain faced tough economic problems.
Their exportswere at an all time low due to outdated factories, high tariffs, and competitionfrom other countries. As a direct result, Britain suffered from highunemployment, which of course, affected the well being of the country. Britain had its pride and nationalism stripped. The Treaty of Versailleswould provide an opportunity to seek revenge for their losses.
Theywere also seeking annexation of German colonies in Africa. Georges Clemenceau (1841 – 1929) was thePremier of France (1906-1909) and (1917-1920). As Britain,France had a rivalry with Germany but the French’s ill feelings were evenmore intensive. “Nationalism created tensions between France andGermany. The French bitterly resented their defeat in the Franco- Prussian War and were eager to seek revenge. Moreover, they weredetermined to regain Alsace – Lorraine.
” This gave the Frenchthe motivation of increasing their military strength and ultimately, destroyingtheir life-long enemies. During the war, France’s portion of thewar debt amounted to twenty percent. Their loss, in terms of warcasualties, was thirty-three percent. Most of the battles werefought on French soil.
This resulted in the destruction of “ten millionfarm acres, twenty thousand factories and six thousand public buildings”. After the war, France suffered terribly, economically. Inflationand a deflated French Franc spurned the French to take advantage of thearmistice. “Clemenceau wanted revenge as well as security againstany future German attack. ” He also wanted a huge amount ofreparations, to annex the coal rich Saar Basin, the return of Alsace -Lorraine and an independent Rhineland for a buffer zone between Germanyand France.
All the leaders had different opinionsand motives regarding the Treaty of Versailles. Coming to a consensuswas difficult. The Treaty had to be revised several times beforethe final copy was signed on January 18, 1919. “There was scarcelya section of the treaty which was not attacked, just as there was scarcelya section of the treaty which was not attacked. ” The German’swere reluctant to agree to such harsh terms.
“Even the most humbleGerman was appalled by the severity of the treaty. ” Franceand Britain were both eager to have revenge on Germany but selfishly wantedeach other’s benefits. “Clemenceau pointed out that the British weremaking no effort to placate the Germans at the expense of British interests. They offered no proposals to reduce the number of German ships to be handedover, or to return Germany’s colonies, or to restore the German Navy, orto remove the restrictions on Germany’s overseas trade. Instead,it was always at the expense of French interest that concessions were tobe made.
” Wilson thought both France and Britain were beingtoo vindictive and unreasonable. The allies used Wilson’s FourteenPoints program to convince Germany to sign an armistice. However,once Germany complied, these points were ignored. “The French, forexample, had no intention of abandoning what Wilson castigated as the “olddiplomacy,” with its secret understandings and interlocking alliances. “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 132 billion gold marks in reparations. Germany also lost one eighth of its land, all of its colonies, all of itsoverseas financial assets and limiting their once powerful military. “Britain and France would receive large sums of the reparations and Germancolonies in Africa as mandates. France also received its wisheswith Alsace-Lorraine. “France would recover Alsace-Lorraine outright. “However, the main delight for France and Britain was seeing Germany suffer.
The biggest problem Germany had with Versailleswas the war guilt, which was stated in article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. The Allies were astonished to find this particular paragraph was the mostviolently disputed point in the entire treaty. Article 231 stated:”The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibilityof Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to whichthe Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjectedas a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germanyand her allies. ” It seems weird that they would treat Germany thatway after they too had been in the war.
Fighting and killing weredone by both sides but only the Germans were punished. “If our armyand our workmen had known that peace would look like this, the army wouldnot have laid down its arms and all would have held out to the end. “All Germany became very upset about the whole treaty. “This arousedintense nationalist bitterness in Germany.
” The future lookedgrim and had no cause for optimism in the near future. After Versailles was ‘in stone’, Germanybecame a very weak country, seeking to avenge the vindictiveness and totallack of empathy shown by the allies. “The German people could notresist, but, in unanimity, they could still hate. ” Germanysuffered from great economic problems after the war. They had alreadylost many lives and things during the war, but now they were responsiblefor paying the reparations.
The Germans tried paying their debtsby borrowing and printing more money. They were shocked to find thatincredible inflation was the result. “The hardships caused by theinflation of the 1920’s contributed to the political unrest of Germanyafter WWI. ” After the war, Germany became a republic (calledthe Weimar Republic).
The Weimar Republic had many problems fromthe very beginning. “Many Germans despised it (the Republic) becauseits representatives had signed the hated Versailles Treaty. “There were revolts by both a communism party and a fascism party. In the end, the fascists party was favoured because “they were extremenationalists, who denounced the Versailles Treaty and opposed the democraticgoals of the Weimar Republic. ” With the rise of fascism camethe rise of Hitler and his Nazi Party. Adolph Hitler, of the Nazi Party, preacheda racist brand of fascism.
His party “kept expanding, benefitingfrom growing unemployment, fear of communism, Hitler’s self-certainty,and the difference of his political rivals. ” When Hitler becamechancellor in January 1933, he began rebuilding a promising future forGermany. He promised jobs and benefits to all classes of people. Almost all Germans felt compelled to listen and obey Hitler’s extreme ideasof fascism because for some, he was their last hope.
Hitler knewhow to win people’s obedience, through their fears and insecurities. “Hitler successfully appealed to a Germany that was humiliated by defeatin World War I and the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. ” Hitlersucceeded and began to regain Germany’s strength. “Germany was toopowerful to be suppressed for long. ” Hitler broke many rulescontained in the Treaty of Versailles.
For example, Hitler sent troopsinto the demilitarized Rhineland and the French did not respond. This and other scenarios gave Hitler the incentive to invade other countriesand ultimately, invade Poland and started World War II. With WWIIcame the dreadful horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler had ordered thedeaths of at least five million Jews.
Not only did he orchestratethese mass murders, but he also influenced countless individuals to thinkand act in the same disgraceful manner. Hitler may have had sickand shameful ideas but he certainly knew how to be a manipulative leader. He played on the fears and insecurities of the people and used their weaknessesto win their loyalty. In conclusion, The Treaty of Versailleswas supposed to represent the peaceful ending to World War I, however,it became the prelude to another war.
It was originally an effortto restore order and provide a peaceful conclusion to World War I. The ill feelings and economic upheaval that resulted provided the perfectclimate for Hitler’s dominance, in post-war Germany. The contributors/participantsof Versailles had other motives behind the ‘peace agreement’ other thana peace settlement. Their selfish actions resulted in, not only theeconomic hardship of Germany, but inflation and unemployment in all ofEurope. The severity of the reparations contained in this documentset the stage for history to repeat itself. “Therefore, the veryway in which the Treaty of Versailles was forced on the German people storedup the material for the next round.”