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The Treaty of Versaille
The Treaty of Versaille
"It was neither a vindictive, harsh peace
nor a lenient one, desdigned to reconcile." How far does this description
of the Treaty of Versailles explain why it contained the seeds of the Second
In 1919, the major world powers met at
the Paris peace conference to determine the fate of Europe at the end of
World War 1. Europe was in turmoil. Five empires had disappeared, millions
of people were dead, both military and civilians, and revolution fuelled
by the forces of nationalism and socialism seemed ready to destroy the
hopes of a future and lasting peace. The major world leaders were hoping
to accomplish a miracle at Versailles, peace. Nevertheless, the conditions
that they were faced with made that hope only more difficult not only in
the writing of the treaty but also in reaching its objectives. The dream
of a Settlement to satisfy both winners and losers was both impossible
and contradictory. For Germany the outcome in years to come was the exact
objective that the Treaty had tried all along to impede - domination of
What went wrong? Why? These questions
have plagued historians for years. If only the players had acted in a different
fashion would the future outcomes have been different. Or was the situation
of Europe such at the time that the future was fated no matter what.
What did the leaders want to do? The Council
of Five (Britain, the U.S., Italy, Japan and France) wanted to destroy
Germany\'s power in Europe and to make her pay for the costs of war. They
wanted peace but Germany was to pay for that peace, not only by reducing
its army, reducing its fishing fleet and relinquishing part of its heavy
shipping fleet, but also by ceding land, sending coal, livestock, machinery
and money to those countries who had suffered by the war. Germany was pronounced
to be the sole aggressor of the war and therefore it was Germany who had
to \'pay the bill\'.
Supposedly, Germany was to be treated as
an equal in Europe but at the same time, Germany was not invited to participate
in the writing up of the Treaty. Rather, they were literally given the
ultimatum to sign the treaty with no option whatsoever. Germany was to
have an Allied Army in its land and they were to pay for that Army. How
can these terms be considered to being treated as an equal? Furthermore
the coal of the Saar region had to be sent to France for a period of fifteen
years at the end of that time it would be decided under whose area of jurisdiction
the Saar was to be under.
Obviously the Treaty was written up in
a way so as to diminish the power of Germany, at home and abroad. At the
end, there was no abroad, since Germany lost all its colonies.
What was the treaty like? The potential
of Germany military and economic superiority in Germany was a strong threat
to the writers of the Treaty. This had to be stopped at all costs. The
easiest way for the writers of the Treaty to achieve this goal was to require
financial retribution for the war. If Germany was stripped of its economy
then industrial growth would not be possible. Furthermore if the fruit
of that industry had to be sent to the countries who had suffered during
the war, then Germany would produce for the victors and not for themselves.
In this way, enough would be left for Germany to get by, but not enough
for it to become a power again.
Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to France. France
was thrilled, if they had had their way; perhaps another area of Germany
would have been ceded to them, the Saar, a major coal producing area.
German rivers were internationalized.
This is important in the feeling of humiliation of Germany because until
that time, Germany was very closed and did not like foreign presence on
their land, particularly in this way.
The map of Western Europe was redrawn.
Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Estonia, and
Latvia were created. Many of these new countries had to accommodate substantial
minorities within their borders. Families, who were once citizens of one
nation, suddenly found themselves citizens of two different nations because
of the new map. More importantly, large groups of German-speaking people
suddenly found themselves as citizens of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
It was very difficult for the writers
of the Treaty to accomplish what they had set out to do because of many
factors. To begin with, 27
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