The Treaty of Versailles was intended to be a peace agreement between the Allies and the Germans instead it created political and economic chaos in Germany. By the end of the first World War, Germany had surrendered and signed a peace agreement. The task of forming a peace agreement was now in the hands of the Allies. In December of 1918, the Allies met in Versailles to start on the peace settlement. The main countries and their representatives were: The United States, Woodrow Wilson; Great Britain, David Lloyd George; and France, George Clemenceau. It had seemed that making peace agreement would be easy. Once they started, the Allies began having different ideas about the wording of the Treaty of Versailles. The Allies found themselves in another battle. The Peace Treaty of Versailles represented the results of hostility and revenge and opened the door for a dictator and World War II.
When World War I began there was no question that the United States would remain neutral. ?The United States, President Woodrow Wilson didn’t want to enter the European War or any other war for that matter. (Watt, 439) As the war continued, it became obvious that the United States would no longer sit on the sidelines. ?German submarines had sunk American tankers and the British liner, Lusitania, killing almost twelve hundred people, including 128 Americans.?(Watt, 400) This convinced Wilson to enter World War I, on the allied side. As the war continued, Wilson outlined his peace program, which was based on fourteen main points. Wilson was more interested in peace than capturing German colonies. As the Allies began discussions of the peace treaty, the European allies rejected Wilson’s ideas and reasoning. Soon the allies were seeking revenge and Germany was to be hurt economically and socially by its enemies.
Britain and Germany were always rivals. Before the war, Germany challenged Britain’s famous powerful and unstoppable navy by increasing the amount of money spent on their navy. Britain paid thirty-six percent of the debt incurred by the allies and seventeen percent of the war’s total casualties. After the war, Britain faced tough economic problems. Their exports were at an all time low due to outdated factories, high tariffs, and competition from other countries. Britain suffered from high unemployment, which affected the well being of the country. The Treaty of Versailles would provide an opportunity to seek revenge for their losses. They also wanted German colonies in Africa.
As Britain, France had a rivalry with Germany but the French’s ill feelings were even more intensive. Nationalism created tensions between France and Germany. The French resented their defeat in the Franco – Prussian War and wanted revenge. France was determined to take Alsace ? Lorraine. This gave the French the motivation of increasing their military strength and ultimately, destroying their life-long enemies. After the war, France suffered terribly, economically. Inflation and a deflated French Franc encouraged the French to take advantage of the peace settlement. France wanted revenge as well as security against any future German attack. France also wanted a huge amount of reparations, and the return of Alsace ? Lorraine.
All the leaders had different opinions and motives regarding the Treaty of Versailles. Coming to an understanding was difficult. The Treaty had to be revised several times before the final copy was signed on January 18, 1919. There was scarcely a section of the treaty which was not attacked, just as there was scarcely a section of the treaty which was not attacked.(Watt, 110) The German’s did not want to agree to such harsh terms. France and Britain wanted revenge on Germany but wanted each other’s benefits. Clemenceau pointed out that the British were making 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 handed over, or to return Germany’s colonies, or to restore the German Navy, or to remove the restrictions on Germany’s overseas trade. Instead, it was always at the expense of French interest that concessions were to be made. Wilson thought both France and Britain were being too mean and unreasonable. The allies used Wilson’s Fourteen Points program to convince Germany to sign an armistice. However, once Germany complied, these points were ignored. The French, for example, had no intention of abandoning what Wilson castigated as the old diplomacy, with its secret understandings and interlocking alliances.(Watt, 448-449) In the end, the European Allies, including France and Britain, received what they wanted from the treaty.
France and Britain’s motives to see Germany become a non country was the need for Germany to pay such huge reparations. Germany had the guilt of the entire war, and the huge reparations of 132 billion. Germany also lost one eighth of its land, all of its colonies, all of its overseas financial assets and limiting their once powerful military. Britain and France would receive large sums of the reparations and German colonies in Africa as mandates. France also received its wishes with Alsace-Lorraine. However, the main interest for France and Britain was seeing Germany suffer.
The biggest problem Germany had with Versailles was the war guilt, which was stated in article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. The Allies were surprised to find this particular paragraph was the most violently disputed point in the entire treaty. Article 231 stated: The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.(Watt, 438) Both sides were fighting and killing but only the Germans were punished. All of Germany became very upset about the whole treaty. The future of Germany looked grim and had no optimism in the near future.
After Versailles was finished, Germany became a very weak country, seeking to take revenge on their allies. Germany suffered from great economic problems after the war. They had already lost many people and casualties during the war, but now they were responsible for paying the reparations. The Germans tried paying their debts by borrowing and printing more money. Instead they found that incredible inflation was the result. The hardships caused by the inflation of the 1920’s contributed to the political unrest of Germany after WWI.(Watt, 84) After the war, Germany became a republic called the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic had many problems from the very start. Many Germans despised the Weimar Republic because it had signed the hated Versailles Treaty. There were revolts by both a communism party and a fascism party. The fascists party was favored because they were extreme nationalists, who despised the Versailles Treaty and spook out against the democratic goals of the Weimar Republic. With the 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 kept expanding, benefiting from growing unemployment, fear of communism, Hitler’s self-certainty, and the difference of his political rivals.?(Gay, 136) When Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, he began rebuilding a future for Germany. He promised jobs and benefits to all classes of people. Almost all Germans felt compelled to listen and obey Hitler’s ideas of fascism because he was their last hope. Hitler knew how to win people’s obedience, through their fears and insecurities. Hitler succeeded and began to regain Germany’s strength. ?Germany was too powerful to be suppressed for long.(Gay, 137) Hitler broke many rules contained in the Treaty of Versailles. For example, Hitler sent troops into the peaceful Rhineland part of France. France did not respond so Hitler invaded other countries and Poland, which started World War II. When WWII began dreadful horrors of the Holocaust appeared. Hitler had ordered the deaths of at least five million Jews. Not only did he order these mass murders, but he also influenced countless individuals to think and act in the same disgraceful manner. Hitler may have had sick and 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 weaknesses to win their loyalty.
The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to represent the peaceful ending to World War I, but it became the start to another war. It was originally an effort to restore order and provide a peaceful conclusion to World War I. The ill feelings and economic upheaval that resulted provided the perfect climate for Hitler’s dominance in post-war Germany. The different allies had different motives behind the peace agreement other than a peace settlement. Their selfish actions resulted in, not only the economic hardship of Germany, but inflation and unemployment in all of Europe. The severity of the reparations contained in the Treaty of Versailles set the stage for another war.
1. Bailey, G. (1972). Germans. Canada: World Publishing
2. Gay, P. (1968). Weimar Culture. New York: Harper ; Row.
3. Watt, R.M. (1968). The Kings Depart. Great Britain: Weiden Feld and Nicolson.