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The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was one of five peace treaties that ended World War One. It dealt with peace
with Germany. Many experts in history say that World War II (WWII) began because of the Treaty of
Versailles. This treaty was an agreement between the Allies, the winning countries of WWI, which
were mainly France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The treaty was created
primarily so that the Allies could decide and agree upon what they wanted to do to the Central Powers,
the losing countries of WWI, which were mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the
Ottoman Empire.
The Treaty of Versailles was Signed on June 28th 1919 and ended to the First World War. It was
supposed to ensure a lasting peace by punishing Germany and setting up a League of Nations to solve
diplomatic problems. Instead it left a legacy of political and geographical difficulties which have often
been blamed, sometime solely, for starting the Second World War.
Background
The First World War has been fought for four years when, on November 11th 1918, Germany and the
Allies signed an armistice. The Allies soon gathered to discuss the peace treaty they would sign, but
Germany and Austria-Hungary weren't invited; instead they were only allowed to present a response to
the treaty, a response which was largely ignored. Instead terms were drawn up mainly by the Big
Three: British Prime Minister Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Frances Clemenceau and US
President Woodrow Wilson.
The Big Three
Each had different desires:

Woodrow Wilson: Wanted a 'fair and lasting peace' and had written a plan the Fourteen Points
to achieve this. He wanted the armed forces of all nations reduced, not just the losers, and a League
of Nations created to ensure peace.
Frances Clemenceau: Wanted Germany to pay dearly for the war, including being stripped of land,
industry and their armed forces. Also wanted heavy reparations.
Lloyd George: While he personally agreed with Wilson, he was affected by public opinion in
Britain which agreed with Clemenceau.
Selected Terms of the Treaty of Versailles

Territory:

Alsace Lorraine, captured by Germany in 1870, was returned to France.


The Saar, an important German coalfield, was to be given to France for 15 years, after which a
plebiscite would decide ownership.
Poland became an independent country with a 'route to the sea', a corridor of land cutting Germany
in two.
Danzig, a major port in East Prussia (Germany) was to be under international rule.
All German and Turkish Colonies were taken away and put under Allied control.

Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Czechoslovakia were made independent.


Austria-Hungary was split up and Yugoslavia was created.

Arms:

The left bank of the Rhine was to be occupied by Allied forces and the right bank demilitarized.
The German army was cut to 100,000 men.
Wartime weapons were to be scrapped.
The German Navy was cut to 36 ships (including 6 battleships) and no submarines.
Germany was banned from having an Air Force
An anschluss (union) between Germany and Austria was banned.
There was an anti-poison-gas prohibition in the Versailles agreement

Reparations and Guilt:

In the 'war guilt' clause Germany has to accept total blame for the war.
Germany had to pay 132 billion marks (6,600 million, $31.5 Billion) in 1921 in compensation.
Adjusted to inflation, this would be like $400 billion dollars in 2007 money. Germany did try and
pay reparations when she could do so. In 1922, Germany could not produce what was needed that
year and this led to the French invasion of the Ruhr. In the 1920s it was the Allies who took the
decision to reduce reparations and eased Germanys plight in so doing. The first instance of refusal
to pay reparations came in 1933 when Hitler announced that Germany would not pay - and the
Allies did nothing.

The League of Nations:

A League of Nations was to be created to prevent further world conflict. The United States failed to
ratify the treaty or approve the League of Nations so it lacked U.S. military support. Technically, the
war did not end for the United States and Germany until 1921 with The Treaty of Berlin 1921.
Reactions

Germany lost 13% of its land, 12% of its people, 48% of its iron resources, 15% of its agricultural
production and 10% of its coal. Perhaps understandably, German public opinion soon swung against
this 'Diktat', while the Germans who signed it were called the 'November Criminals'. Britain and
France felt the treaty was fair they actually wanted harsher terms imposed on the Germans but the
United States refused to ratify it because they didn't want to be part of the League of Nations.
Results

The map of Europe was redrawn with consequences which, especially in the Balkans, remain to the
modern day.
Numerous countries were left with large minorities groups: there were three and a half million
Germans in Czechoslovakia alone.
The League of Nations was fatally weakened without the United States and its army to enforce
decisions.

Many Germans felt unfairly treated, after all they had just signed an armistice, not a unilateral
surrender, and the allies hasn't occupied deep into Germany.
Other Peace Treaties

It is often forgotten, that with the energy put into the punishment of Germany, other countries fought on
her side and, equally, had to be dealt with. These countries were Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and
Turkey.

Austria-Hungary had to sign two peace settlements, indicative of the fact that this state was shortly
to be divided into two.
Austria signed the Treaty of Saint Germain.
Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon.
Austria and Hungary were treated as two completely new countries after these treaties were signed.
Both lost land to neighboring countries; the new state of Czechoslovakia was effectively created
out of this carve up of land; large blocks of land went to Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. Part of
Austria went to Italy.
Both new countries had to reduce their military capability and both states had to pay reparations for
war damage. However, the figures involved were nowhere near as high as the figure imposed on
Germany.
Bulgaria had to sign the Treaty of Neuilly. Bulgaria lost land to the new state of Yugoslavia, had
to reduce her military capability and had to pay reparations.
Turkey - or the Turkish Empire to be precise - had to sign the Treaty of Sevres.
This was a very harsh treaty. Why was Turkey treated this way? Memories were still clear to many
people on the Allied side of what had happened at Gallipoli when the ANZACS suffered appalling
losses at the hands of the Turks in what was one of the Allies greatest defeat of World War One.
To an extent, there was an element of revenge on "Johnny Turk" who had had the audacity to
inflict defeat on one of the major powers of the world - Great Britain.
Turkey lost: Most of her land in Europe. Turkey was left with but a toe hold on what is considered
Europe. The Turkish Straits was put under the control of the League of Nations at a time when it
was dominated by Britain and France. The land held by Turkey in Arabia was made into a mandate
- the land was ruled by the British and French until the people of the areas were ready to govern
themselves. Syria and Lebanon went to France while Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine went to
Britain.
Armies from Britain, France, Greece and Italy occupied what was left of Turkey - the area known
as Asia Minor.
The treaty only served to anger the nationalist Turks who sought to overturn it. This they started to
do in 1921.