Treaty of Versailles


In 1914 Germany, Russia, Austria- Hungary, France and Britain found themselves at a war that would eventually alter the course of history in Europe, the First World War. By the time this war was coming to an end Germany on one hand and the allied powers including the USA Britain and France were counting their losses in terms of relationship, property and lives. The treaty of Versailles was an allied powers pact that was intended to subdue Germany and her allies into the payment of huge amounts in reparations and ceding of territories formerly occupied (Chambers, 2010). However the success of this treaty of Versailles was short lived due to the fact that it was unrealistic and unattainable. It is arguable that the Treaty of Versailles was neither fundamentally unfair nor unreasonable but postwar economic and political troubles made it appear so.

This war eventually led to the signing of a number of treaties signed the treaty of Versailles being one of them. The treaty of Versailles was signed on 28th June 1919. The Germanys on one hand and the United States of America, Britain and France on the other hand.

This treaty was on the 25th October 1920 registered by the League of Nations. This treaty aimed at compelling Germany to take full responsibility for causing the war. A disarmament of Germany was also stipulated. Germany was also to make numerous payment of reparations and cede certain territories. The total sum in reparation payments imposed on Germany was however considered unrealistic by most economists leading to the undermining of the treaty in the early 1930s.

The treaty of Versailles required Germany to cede Alsace – Lorraine and coal mine area of Saar area in France (Chambers, 2010). They were also required to cede Posen and main part of West Prussia to Poland. Cameroun and Togo in East and South West Africa were also reclaimed from Germany.

Additionally all Germany properties in foreign countries was seized. Germany was barred from stationing any troops on the border of the River Rhine. The size of the Germany armed forces was regulated as well to not more than 100,000 men and a navy of 15,000 men.

Germany was also barred as a member in the League of Nations. All of the sub oceanic communication links owned by Germany were confisticated. “In Germany the treaty was an intolerable Djktat that German delegates had no chance to discuss until it was drafted” (Chambers, 2010, p.802).

This treaty also bound Austria to cede South Tirol to Italy while Turkey ceded all foreign possessions. The payments / reparations by Germany were latter reduced progressively by Dawes and Young whereupon in 1932 the Germans were completely forgiven.

The Treaty ‘s adverse effects on the Germany economy and currency eventually became evident. Germany’s political stability was also adversely affected leading to protests and street riots (The Treaty of Versailles, 2010).

This volatile situation within Germany is what eventually brought Adolf Hitler to the reigns of power in Germany. The riots had been orchestrated by the Nazi and the Communist elements within Germany then.

The £6,600 million reparation in payments an equivalent of $32 Billion imposed on Germany by the allied powers in the treaty served to further severe the already crumbled Germany economy. This payments were considered as harsh and were projected by economists to take Germany up to 1988 if they were to be paid in full, which was however not the case.

A critical analysis of these facts alone indicates the fact that the allied powers were more concerned with Germany never rearming again and by imposing this reparation they aimed at ensuring that Germany was greatly humiliated. These conditions therefore served more or less to humiliate Germany. However they scarcely stopped Germany’s later participation in the Second World War which commenced after a few years. Germany came forth full force determined to recover what she had lost during the First World War and perhaps with a hope of reversing the roles where the villain would turn the victor and therefore impose harsher reparations on the allied powers.

Noticeably negotiations among the allied powers prior to the signing of the treaty of Versailles were conflicting; due to varied interests the allied powers had. Unfairly as it seemed though Germany was never given a hearing during this signing though they too suffered the devastations of the war in equal measure as the French and the other allies.

France was interested in her security. Due to the heavy casualties and massive property destruction a factor that they shared with Belgium, France decided to benefit from the reparations imposed on Germany while indirectly crippling Germany’s future threat.

Clemenceau was determined to reclaim Alsace – Loraine which was ceased by Germany during the war of 1871, the France – Prussian war. As such this region was an important industrial and economically potential region.

Britain on the other hand another member of the allied powers experienced lower devastation degree during the war as compared to the French. That being the case Britain was somewhat lenient in the imposition of reparations while considering Germany as a potential future economic partner. Britain’s premier Lloyd George later increased the reparations covering compensations for the population affected by the war. This further lend to the fact of the unfair and unreasonable approach used by the allied powers to try and subdue the Germany threat (Wilde, 2010).

The United States of America another of the allied powers played a more interventional role in the war. She therefore assumed a more reconciliatory approach during the signing of the treaty. The US  considered Germany as a potential trade partner in the future and therefore was not about to hand down total support on the impositions made on Germany.

Germany did suffer financially. The $32 Billion reparation repayments imposed on her adversely affected her economy that was already tattered by the war. This combined with a high casualty figure of about 2 million badly affected the Germany economy not to mention the social miseries that this brought with it. Other casualties were Russia with about 1.8 million, France with 1.4 million, Hungary-Austria with 1.2 million, Britain Ottoman Empire and U.S.A with a combined figure of over 2.3 million (Chambers, 2010).

Politically the treaty of Versailles as signed by Germany ignited some protests. A resigning government that did not want to sign the humiliating treaty ushered in a new government that had no choice but to sign the treaty. This created mistrust between the politician and the army with the latter blaming the former for loosing the war. The fact that a ceasefire was signed by the Weimar Republic whereas her troops were still holding ground in France caused a lot of disgust and discontentment at home towards the Weimar government.

“This directly resulted in uprisings such as Munich putsch initiated by Adolf Hitler” (Chambers 2010, p.808) which were direct indicators of this discontent. Further humiliation was demonstrated in the treaty’s clause on the trial of Kaiser who was at the time holed up in the Netherlands which effectively ended the monarchy in Germany.

Germany became politically isolated and was treated with suspicion causing her to turn to the east the Union of Socialist States of Russia (USSR) as a partner.

The fact that the three main allied powers who were signatories to the treaty of Versailles had conflicting interests clearly indicates the discrepancies among the framers. Each allied partner had been drawn into the war for their own varying reasons and therefore their expectations after the war would not be easily reconciled (Wilde, 2010).

Basing on this fact therefore its highly likely that the fairness of the treaty’s stipulations were questionable.  The fact that Germany neither received a fair hearing nor were considered though they also suffered considerable devastation from the war lends a hand to this view. Subsequently public opinion goes further to lend a hand to the fact that fairness was not exercised even when increased public protests against the Weimar Republic stand concerning this matter. Germany back in the fray served further to point to indicate that the treaty of Versailles framers had to a greater part intended to humiliate Germany and thus it was unfair and unreasonable.

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