The Treaty of Versailles was a peace treaty signed by the Central Powers and Allies when World War I ended. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919 at the Palace of Versailles in Paris, codified the terms of peace between the victorious Allies and Germany. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany responsible for starting the war and imposed heavy fines on the loss of territory, large compensation payments and militarization. In early 1918, the Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany when it failed to address the fundamental issues leading to war instead of the “failed peace” described by US President Woodrow Wilson in his famous Fourteen Points. The economic hardship and resentment of the German treaty fueled intense nationalist sentiment that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler, his Nazi Party, and the two decades after World War II.
When was the treaty of Versailles signed?
The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Central Powers and Allies on June 28 1919, when World War I ended. World War I ended on June 28 1919, and the peace treaty came into force on January 10 1920.
What is Paris Peace Conference?
The Paris Peace Conference began on January 18th in 1919. It denotes the anniversary of the coronation of German Emperor Wilhelm I at the Palace of Versailles at the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871.
In 1919, France and its Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau did not forget the losses and sought revenge in a new peace treaty.
The Treaty of Versailles got drafted at the Paris Peace Conference, with the national leaders dominating the discussions. The leaders came to be known as the “Big Four” – David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France; Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America; and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando.
The first three made crucial decisions. None of the failed countries had any role in drafting the treaty. The German representatives got a special gift as they were shocked at the seriousness of the terms and objected to the contrasts between the war agreements and the promises made when negotiating the original treaty.
The following is a summary of the fourteen points:
No secret agreement between two warring nations shall exist. Diplomacy shall be the subject of a public document.
Free navigation of oceans for all countries.
No economic barriers between countries and free trade would be a norm.
All countries to abstain from an arms race to enhance public security.
Fair and unbiased claims about colonies.
Establishment of resettlement of lost territories in Russia.
Belgium to gain independence as it was before 1914.
Lorraine to return to France and France to be completely independent.
To draw Italy’s borders to identify separate nations.
The right to self-determination for various ethnic groups of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Balkan states to ensure self-determination and independence.
People under Ottoman and Turkish rule to have self-determination.
Establishment of an independent Poland.
Creation of a common association of nations to arbitrate international disputes.
When German leaders signed the war treaty, they assumed that Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points would lead to a future peace treaty. Future events proved otherwise.
What are the signing terms of the Treaty of Versailles?
The Big 4 signed the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris Peace Conference on January 18, 1919. The attendees did not miss out on the importance of this date as it marked the anniversary of the coronation of Wilhelm I at the end of the Frank-Prussian War, 1871.
The French, therefore, considered it appropriate to avenge their humiliating loss on the same date.
However, during the Paris Peace Conference, the Big 4 were not on the same page as each leader had their own goals, which conflicted with the other. The French wanted to prevent future invasions of Germany. The British wanted to rebuild Germany to gain a strong trading partner.
The Italians wanted to expand their power and influence in post-war Europe to be on par with other European powers. The Americans opposed any territorial changes and tried to implement a world order consistent with the Fourteen Points.
Other European leaders considered the Fourteen Points to be unrealistic to translate into policy. Ultimately, the European allies agreed with Germany to cede all its overseas colonies and 10% of its land.
Other aspects of the agreement are as follows:
Germany limited the size of its army and navy and did not allow an air force to maintain it.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of Germany, was held accountable for war crimes.
The treaty included a “war guilt” that blamed Germany alone for starting the war and the war losses of the Allies.
What is the criticism of the Treaty of Versailles?
The Treaty of Versailles provoked the Germans, who suggested dictatorship or peace. The country’s compensation burden eventually peaked at 132 billion gold, and no one expected Germany to be able to pay such a large sum in full.
Those who supported the Weimar Republic (the German government following the war) were called ‘November Criminals’. Socialists, Democrats and Catholics were supporters of the Weimar Republic, so they were called November Criminals.
In the years following the Treaty of Versailles, many ordinary Germans believed the “November Criminals” led the leaders to sign the treaty and form the post-war government. Far-right political forces – notably the National Socialist Workers’ Party (NSW) or the Nazis, gained support by promising to replace the disgrace of the Treaty of Versailles in the 1920s and 1930s. With the onset of the Great Depression after 1929, economic unrest destabilized the already weak Weimar government, paving the way for the rise to power of the unfortunate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933.
What is the effect of the Treaty of Versailles?
World War I began when Gavrilo, a Serb nationalist, killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife in Principality Sarajevo. Gavrilo was a member of the Black Hand, a Serbian national group that aimed to unite Serbs living outside the country. It prompted the Austro-Hungarian Empire to declare war on Serbia, and in turn, the Serbian allies declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The German people were outraged that the Allies ignored this fact and blamed Germany for all the horrors of World War I.
Economic hardship and resentment for Germany was a fertile ground for extreme nationalist sentiment, which Hitler used to strengthen his Nazi Party to seize power and lay the groundwork for World War II.
Know more about the impact of World war I on Germany.