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Treaty Versailles Essay

In 1914 a world war initiated. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars but instead, it was a war that demolished millions of lives, left many people without families that they used to have, and caused hatred that lasted for generations.1 After 4 years of destruction, an armistice was signed in 1918 to end the war until a peace treaty was agreed upon.2 Without options Germany had to sign the treaty or their country would immediately encounter invasion.3 On the 28th of June 1919, two Germans were forced to sign the peace treaty, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, near Paris.4 The Treaty of Versailles was intended to be a peace agreement between the Allies and the Germans but instead, it ended up causing more problems than it solved because it left Germany very poor, angry and ready for revenge.

World War I was started by a number of aspects but sparks of anger flew when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand happened. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in Sarajevo. He was killed by Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary demanded action by Serbia to those responsible for the assassination. 5 When Serbia failed to take any actions, Austria-Hungary decided to attack Serbia for revenge on July 28 1914.6 Russia, who was allied to Serbia, sent a vast army for defence against Austria-Hungary. 7 Germany, who was allied to Austria-Hungary, viewed the Russian mobilization as an act of war against Austria-Hungary, so Germany declared war with Russia on August 1 1914.8 Then one thing led to another when France, who was allied to Russia found itself at war against Germany and Britain joined after being allied to France.

Since Britain entered the war, all of her colonies offered military and financial assistance. This included Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.9 Japan entered the War followed by Italy and the United States.10 Within weeks, almost all of Europe was a part of the war because of the complex overlapping agreements of international alliances.11 Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on September 29 1918 followed by Turkey, Austria and Hungary leading up to Germany who signed on November 11, 1918. This armistice ended the war. 12 The Paris Peace Conference started in January 1919. The purpose of the meeting was to secure the terms of peace after World War I.13 Although World War I had involved nearly 30 nations; the conference was dominated by the representatives of Britain, France, the United States and Italy, also known as the “Big Four”.

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14 Woodrow Wilson (President of the United States), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (Italy) and Georges Clemenceau (France); these men were the leaders of the major Allied countries and also the four main people involved in deciding the fate of Germany.15 Agreements at the Paris Peace Conference were not easy. Treaty negotiations were also affected by the absence of other important nations such as Russia and Bolshevik. 16 The defeated parties; Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria were excluded from the conference.17 Each of the countries representatives had a different motive of the wording of the Treaty of Versailles.18

France had lost about 1.5 million military troops and about 400 000 civilians to World War I. Much of industrialized northern France lay in forsaken ruins. 1914 had been the second time that Germany had invaded France. The French were determined that this would never happen again so, they wanted to split Germany up and take away her economic and military ability to make war.19 The French, in particular, were very bitter towards their defeated German enemy and Georges Clemenceau vowed to cripple Germany militarily, politically and economically so the invasion of France would never be possible.20 Not only did they want to punish Germany but to keep her weak.21 David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Britain supported reparations but to a lesser measure than the French. It was clear that if the demands made by France were met, France could become the most powerful force on the continent.

22 The United States took a more disarming view towards the issue of German reparations. Woodrow Wilson wanted to ensure that the benefit of future trading opportunities was secured on the European debt and hoped to avoid future wars.23 He wanted a treaty-based on his 14 points which would allow Germany to be quickly restored as a leading European power and he wanted the creation of a League of Nations which would prevent another war from ever breaking out.24 There were a total of 440 clauses in the final Treaty. 25 The first 26 clauses appointed with the establishment of the League of Nations and the remaining 414 clauses unfolded Germany’s punishments.26 The terms of the treaty required Germany to make territorial sacrifices, to restrict its military forces and installations, and to pay reparations.27 German representatives were strictly not allowed to participate in the treaty discussions and the terms were non-negotiable.28

The Treaty of Versailles altered the geography of Europe. The treaty had clauses that resulted in lands taken away from Germany.29 Germany was not allowed to unite with Austria. Germany encountered large territorial losses. The provinces of Alsace-Lorraine returned to France, Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium; North Schleswig was given to Denmark. The land was also taken from Germany and given to Czechoslovakia and Poland. 30 But it wasn’t just in Europe that Germany suffered territorial losses. All of Germany’s overseas colonies were taken over by the Allies.31 In total, Germany lost over one million square miles of land.32 The Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for the First World War.33 As a result, Germany was to pay for the damages caused by the war. The payments, called reparations would be paid monthly to the Allies and would total  ½6600 million. This figure was agreed upon by the Allies after the signing of the treaty.

34 Not only was Germany responsible for paying money but also Germany had lost some of the most precious sources of Raw materials.35 Coal, in particular, was an economic loss.36 The cost of the war for Germany was approximately $39 billion. In addition to this, the massive losses of lives are also considered. Germany suffered the loss of 1.7 million young men, with another 4.3 million men wounded. The total misfortune ended to over 7 million. This includes the men who were prisoners or listed as missing.37 It was stated that Germany must disarm and reduce its army to 100 000 men and no tanks were allowed. Germany was only allowed six battleships and no submarines. There was no military aircraft or air force allowed. Germany would demilitarize the Rhineland.38 The purpose of the Treaty of Versailles was to bring peace between all the allies and Germany. Instead, the Treaty of Versailles made everything worse. The Germans felt pain and anger. Obviously, they felt that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair especially since they had not been allowed to participate in the discussions.

39 They were very unhappy about the Treaty and thought it was too harsh. The Treaty stated that Germany was solemnly blamed for starting World War I but it was clear that there were many other countries involved. The Germans felt that at the very least the blame should have been shared.40 To make matters worse, Germany was expected to pay for all the damages caused by the war, since the blame was entirely on Germany.41 Because their army was reduced to 100 000, the Germans felt that their protection was at stake against other countries.42 The loss of territory caused German-speaking people to separate. Germans were forced to live in other countries.43 The Treaty caused Germany to go through a great depression.44 A lot of Germans were dissatisfied that their government did very little to help and voted Adolf Hitler in power.

45 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He started violating the Treaty of Versailles immediately. In 1926, Germany joined the League of Nations and accepted its western borders as a final and agreed not to try and change its eastern borders by force.46 Hitler was determined to destroy the League of Nations. 47Hitler secretly began rebuilding Germany’s army and weapons. In 1934, he increased the size of the army to half a million, began building warships and created an air force. 48 Although Britain, France and Italy knew about Hitler’s intentions but they didn’t do anything about it.49 In 1936, German troops were ordered by Hitler to enter the Rhineland. The army wasn’t very strong at that time and could have been defeated. They were given orders to retreat if France or Britain started to fight but neither France nor Britain was prepared to start another war.50 During this year, Germany also made two important alliances with Italy and Japan.51 Hitler then began taking back the lands that had been taken away from Germany. German troops invaded Austria in March 1938 demanding a union with Germany. A vote asking the Austrian people whether they wanted to be part of Germany or not was taken place.

52 This resulted in 99% of voters wanted a union with Germany. The Austrian leader asked Britain, France and Italy for help but again no actions were taken place.53 Six months after Germany obtained Austria back, Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was returned to Germany. Britain and Germany attempted to have an agreement that would prevent war. In the end, Hitler won the Sudetenland Region of Czechoslovakia promising that he will not invade the rest of Czechoslovakia.54 Obviously he didn’t keep his promise since Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. When Czechoslovakia called for help, neither Britain nor France was prepared to fight Hitler yet again.55 However, both France and Britain promised that action will be taken if Hitler ever invaded Poland. World War II broke out after the invasion of Poland on September 1st 1939.56 Without thinking of the consequences, Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles. To this result, a second world war began.

The Treaty was considered too harsh by many nations such as the United States and Britain but not harsh enough by some like France.57 France wanted to break down Germany into smaller states to keep them powerless. Since France had suffered the most during the war, France wanted to make Germany pay and beg for mercy! 58 Britain did not want to punish Germany too harshly since revenge in the future was not wanted.59 John Maynard Keynes who was an economist on the British delegation said that the Treaty was so harsh on Germany that there would likely be another war within twenty years. Marshal Foch, a general and a delegate for the French claimed that the treaty wasn’t hard enough on the Germans and that it would mean war within twenty years.60 In my personal opinion, John Maynard Keynes was more accurate with his prediction. The Treaty of Versailles was indeed too harsh.

Germany had suffered a great deal from the terms of the Treaty. Germany being entirely blamed for the start of World War I was first and foremost a harsh term. To only oppose the blame on one nation instead of sharing the blame was unfair. The other losing countries of World War I was given terms that they had to do, but in the end, Germany had it worse. Making Germany pay for all of the damages that were caused by the war in the victorious countries, risking their protection by taking away their forces and weapons is another term where unfairness was the only definition that can be used. Separating German-speaking people and crashing Germany’s economy was one of the results of the Treaty. When Germany was faced with two options, whether to sign the Treaty of Versailles which they had no control over or even had the chance to participate in the discussion of the terms or to face immediate invasion and defeat. Germany signed the Treaty obviously by force. By forcing Germany to sign the Treaty was clearly when the line was crossed.

The Treaty of Versailles was made up of 440 clauses. Many of those clauses were very unnecessary. If the time was taken to read the entire Treaty of Versailles, some clauses would be found to have taken great advantage of Germany, almost wanting Germany to literally disappear or beg for mercy. Some clauses are found to be unreasonable. Germany couldn’t afford to pay for all the damages. They would’ve been in debt forever. Because of these unreasonable and unnecessary clauses that were thrown in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany felt the need to take a stand a fight for what they believe which was fairness and rights. Hitler violated any terms of the Treaty because Germany didn’t have the power to meet the terms. He was out to seek revenge.

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One problem led to another, causing a second world war after the invasion of Poland. Granted this, John Maynard Keynes claimed that another war would break out in 20 years after the First World War. It definitely happened, not because the Treaty wasn’t harsh enough but because the Treaty was too harsh that it was unbearable. The Treaty of Versailles, one of the greatest conflicts in the history of the world. It was strived to bring peace between the allies and Germany but failed ultimately leaving the results that are still impacting the 21st century today.

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