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An Introduction to the Treaty of Versailles

By Edited Sep 15, 2016 0 0

In November 1918 Germany and the Entente (France, Britain and USA) accepted an armistice that ended the years of conflict during World War One. At Foch's private carriage in the Compiegne Forest, German delegates met with Foch, who was only prepared to accept peace along the Entente's terms. With their army in retreat on the Western Front, the Germans felt they had to accept such terms.

After November it was left for the Entente to draft treaties for postwar Europe. These treaties changed the map of Europe, with the Austrian and Ottoman Empires being dissolved and new Eastern European countries emerging. Among the treaties drafted at the Hall of Mirrors in 1919 was the Treaty of Versailles, which outlined the postwar settlement with Germany.[1]

Although many national delegates attended Versailles, the Germans and the Russians remained absent. It was the French, British and Americans who were most influential in drafting the Versailles Treaty. More specifically, Georges Clemenceau, David George and Woodrow Wilson, who were not always in entire agreement as to the exact terms of the treaty. For example, while Wilson wanted greater moderation in accordance with his 14 points, Clemenceau aimed for sterner peace terms.

The outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles were largely more as Clemenceau had demanded. Firstly, Germany was required to pay millions of marks in reparations to France and Britain. Although specific figures were not entirely clear.

The German military was also greatly reduced. The treaty permitted a small standing army of a hundred thousand troops, along with a navy of less than 20,000 tonnes. Germany was not permitted to export and import armaments, and armored cars, tanks and aircraft were not allowed in the German army.

The Treaty of Versailles ensured Alsace-Lorraine returned to France. The Rhineland became a demilitarized zone. The Polish Corridor separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Danzig also became a League of Nations protectorate. In addition, Germany lost its colonies.

Another important term of the Versailles treaty regarded Austria. The First Austrian Republic was established after the war, and the treaty forbade that Germany and Austria unite.

The League of Nations was a new international organization that included a number of countries. Wilson hoped that this would ensure peace. In many respects, it was a predecessor to the current day United Nations. However, the USA never joined the League of Nations; and, under the terms of Versailles, Germany was not to join it either.

These were the main terms of the Versailles treaty. After years of war the Germans reluctantly accepted, aiming for potential treaty negotiations in the future. Such future negotiation did emerge at the Locarno Conference in 1925, when Germany was allowed to join the League of Nations. The Dawes Plan reduced and provided a clearer framework for reparations.

However, the demise of the Weimar Republic in the 1930s saw the rise of Nazi Germany. The party challenged the Versailles treaty more directly, and overturned a number of things in the treaty. Western Europe pursued a policy of appeasement to maintain peace in Europe, which allowed for German rearmament, abandonment of reparation demands, re-militarization of the Rhineland, Saar plebiscite and an Anschluss with Austria. Consequently, war could not be avoided in 1939.

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Bibliography

  1. "Primary Documents - Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919." First World War. 12/10/2015 <Web >

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