Treaty of Versailles

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The Treaty of Versailles[1] (German: Versailler Vertrag or Versailler Diktat), signed 28 June 1919, enacted on 10 January 1920, was the imposed peace treaty which officially ended World War I between the Allied powers and Germany.

Although the armistice signed on 11 November 1918 put an end to the fighting on all fronts (including naval), it took six months of inter-Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude a peace treaty. Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most controversial provisions required Germany to accept full responsibility for causing the war and, under the terms of articles 231-248, disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Allies.[2] In Germany it was regarded as a national humiliation.[3] China refused to sign the treaty, the American Senate refused to give its sanction to the treaty[4] and it was condemned as a travesty[5][6] by every subsequent German Chancellor and government[7][8].

In 1925, Max Graf von Montgelas published The Case for the Central Powers – an Impeachment of the Versailles Verdict, in an early attempt to put the record straight. Two years later history Professor Harry Elmer Barnes stated: "There is no competent and informed historian in any country who has studied the problem of the genesis of the World War in a thorough fashion who does not regard the theory of war guilt held in Articles 227 and 231 in the Versailles Treaty to be wholly false, misleading, and unjust."[9]

The United States will not interfere in the internal affairs of or the wars between European powers. ~ USA Monroe Doctrine.
It has come to be felt that there is a moral taint about treaties signed under duress"...[making them] morally discredited.[10]

The Treaty was widely flouted, and ignored, almost from the outset. It was publicly disavowed by Germany on 30 January 1937.[11][12]

The Big Four; Left to Right: David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau (de) of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States, the principal architects of the Treaty of Versailles, and all Liberals except Clemenceau who entered Parliament for the Far-Left. See also: Causes of World War I

Political issues for the Allies

Max Graf von Montgelas, diplomat and author of The Case for the Central Powers

For the Central Powers they entered the war defending themselves against aggressive neighbours and therefore without "Aims" as such. During 1914-18 war however aims had altered for all sides and there had been significant developments: 1916 was a crucial year for a number of reasons. On 8 July Britain abrogated the 1909 Declaration of London, which had recognized and formalized the right of neutral convoy. On November 5th, the Central Powers proclaimed the independence of the former Russian 'Congress' Kingdom of Poland, which was now in their hands. On the same day, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected as President of the U.S.A. On December 5th, Liberal David Lloyd George became Prime Minister of Great Britain. On December 12th the German Government submitted a Peace Proposal addressed to the still neutral U.S.A., and the Pope, requesting their arbitration for peace. On December 18th, Wilson submitted his Peace Note to the belligerents. On the penultimate day of December the Allies refused the German peace offer, which resulted in unrestricted U-boat warfare. Revolution in Russia broke out on 12 March 1917 and the monarchy fell. On March 30th the Russian Revolutionary government acknowledged the independence of Poland; and on April 10th repudiated Imperialism and the Tsarist government's desire to conquer Constantinople. On 19 July 1917 the German Reichstag voted for "peace with no annexations or indemnities" by 214 to 116. The Peace of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March 1918 between Russia and the Central Powers[13] and was ratified by the Fourth Congress of Soviets on March 16th.[14]

In Britain, on 14 December 1918, a General Election returned a new coalition government on the slogan "the enemy must be made to pay!".[15] Wartime propaganda and the massive losses of combatants had created this public feeling. British influences and propaganda organisations had also been busy in the United States during their years of supposed neutrality.[16] The political leaders of France, Britain, and the United States now stated their differing objectives for the peace conference. All united in placing the blame for the war on Germany (especially France) before any forensic examination of the subject had taken place. They were angry, vindictive and wanted redress.[17] France (who had collaborated with Imperial Russia for a war against Imperial Germany since 1891) wanted Germany to be punished severely. Britain had wanted Germany to be punished also, but unlike France wanted a relatively strong, economically viable Germany[18] as a counterweight to French and Russian dominance in continental Europe (although this had changed following the Russian Revolution), and the United States wanted the creation of a permanent peace as quickly as possible, crucially with repayment of its war loans and financial compensation for its military expenditures.

The result of these competing and sometimes incompatible goals among the victors was a compromise that left nobody satisfied.

Aims of France

France had suffered very heavy casualties during the war (some 1.4 million military and 400,000 civilians dead), and most of the western front had been fought on French soil. Thus, Far-left and violently anti-monarchist French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau wanted Germany to pay. He wanted to impose policies deliberately intended to cripple Germany militarily, politically, and economically. Much of northern France was in ruins, with extensive damage to historic and important buildings and resources. Clemenceau wanted financial reparations from Germany to rebuild the war-torn country. In all, approximately 750,000 houses and 23,000 factories had been destroyed, and money was demanded to pay for reconstruction.

Clemenceau's intentions were therefore simple: punitive reparations and Germany’s military to be not only weakened for the time being, but permanently weakened so as never to be able to invade France again. Clemenceau also wanted to symbolically destroy the old, militaristic Germany — something that could have been achieved by never allowing the pre-1914 politicians back into politics, and by hanging the Kaiser (who had abdicated towards the end of the war). He also wanted to protect secret treaties and impose naval blockades around Germany so that France could control trade imported to and exported goods from the defeated country. Clemenceau was the most radical member of the Big Four, and received the nickname "Le Tigre" (Tiger) for this reason.

The French government also wanted control of many of Germany's factories and coal from the Ruhr industrial region, which was to be transported to France by train. The French military had taken over towns in key locations such as Gau Algesheim, forcing homelessness upon its inhabitants. In response, German railroad workers sabotaged coal shipments to France and around 200 German railroad workers involved in sabotage were executed by French authorities.

In addition, France demanded the "return" of Alsace and Lorraine, which provinces had been invaded and annexed by France in the 17th century, but regained by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. Ignoring the wars of Louis XIV and Napoleon which devastated Germany, Clemenceau wanted to guard against the possibility of an attack ever coming from Germany again(!), and demanded a demilitarization of the Rhineland in Germany, and Allied troops to patrol the area. This was to be called a "territorial safety zone".

France, totally ignoring her own pre-war activities and conspiracies, not only wanted to publicly punish Germany; it wanted to preserve its empire and colonies. While the United States of America put forward a belief in national or ethnic "self-determination", France and Britain were strongly motivated by a desire to hold onto their empires. Furthermore, France in particular felt that Germany’s colonies should be taken from it and distributed among the victors.[19]

Clemenceau's aims can be summarized by the 4 'R's, as follows:

  • 1. "Return" of Alsace and Lorraine to France,
  • 2. Ruin of Germany, so it will never attack France again,
  • 3. Revenge for the damage done by Germany,
  • 4. Reparations, compensation for the damage Germany caused.

Aims of Britain

Though Britain had not been invaded, vast numbers of British soldiers died on the front line in France; so many people in Britain also wanted revenge. Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George supported reparations, but to a lesser extent than the French. Lloyd George was aware that if the demands made by France were carried out, France could become extremely powerful in Europe, and a delicate balance could be unsettled. Although he wanted to ensure this didn't happen, he also wanted to make Germany pay. Lloyd George was also worried by Woodrow Wilson's proposals for "self-determination" and, like the French, wanted to preserve his own nation's empire. This position was part of the competition between two of the world's greatest overseas empires, and their battle to preserve them. Like the French, Lloyd George also supported the Allied naval blockades[20] and secret treaties.

It is often suggested that Lloyd George represented the middle ground between the idealistic Wilson and the German-hating Clemenceau. However, his position was a great deal more delicate than it first appears. The British public, who had been fed the "German sole responsibility for the war" myth, wanted to punish Germany in a similar fashion to the French, and had been promised such a treaty in the December 1918 General Election that Lloyd George's coalition government had won. There was also pressure from the Conservatives (who were part of the national wartime coalition government) demanding that Germany be punished severely in order to prevent such a war in the future. Lloyd George did manage to increase the overall reparations payment and Britain’s share by demanding compensation for widows, orphans, and men left unable to work through injury. Both he and Clemenceau felt threatened by Wilson’s "self-determination", which they saw as a direct threat to their respective empires.

However, Lloyd George was also aware of the potential trouble that could come from an embittered Germany, and he felt that a less harsh treaty that did not engender vengeance would be better at preserving peace in the long run. Another factor was that Germany had been Britain’s second largest trading partner, and a reduced German economy due to reparations would affect Britain’s trade. Moreover, he (and Clemenceau) recognized that America’s status as an economic superpower would lead to the U.S.A. becoming a military superpower in the future, and subsequently, Wilson’s idealistic stance could not be laughed at if Britain and France were to remain on good terms with the United States. This helps to understand why the League of Nations, Wilson’s main idea (along with self-determination), was apparently jumped at by Britain and France when Wilson arrived at the peace conference. Furthermore, Britain wanted to maintain the 'Balance of Power' — no country within Europe being allowed to become too powerful. If France's wishes were carried out, then not only would Germany be crippled, but France would soon become the main superpower, and so disrupt the Balance of Power in two ways.

Lloyd George's aims can be summarized as follows:

  • 1. To defend British interests by preserving Britain’s naval supremacy that before the war was asserted to have been threatened by Germany, maintaining Britain’s empire and possibly increased colonial expansion;
  • 2. To reduce Germany’s future military power and to obtain reparations,
  • 3. To see Germany's future as a prosperous one and to help her economically to become a strong trading partner with Britain.[21]
  • 3. Not to create an embittered Germany that would seek revenge and threaten peace in the long term future.

Aims of the United States of America

Although there had been strong isolationist sentiment before and after the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, many Americans felt eager to extricate themselves from European affairs as rapidly as possible. The United States took a more conciliatory view towards the issue of German reparations and wanted to ensure the success of future trading opportunities as well as favourably collecting on their European debts.

In his famous speech before the United States Congress on 8 January, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson laid down his fourteen points as the "only possible program" for world peace which in some respects were less harsh than what the French or British wanted, and which the German public understood a Peace Treaty would be based around, giving them hope, albeit false hope.

Wilson also did not want any more secret diplomacy, e.g. secret alliances and treaties etc., which had been a hallmark of the war. He also demanded that Germany should have a reduction in armaments, and that their army be reduced to a smaller size to make another war completely out of the question. He wanted other nations to do the same, limiting the risk of war further, as he makes clear in point IV.

Here is a section from Woodrow Wilson's speech given during the Paris Peace Conference:

  • 1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
  • 2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
  • 3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
  • 4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
  • 5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
  • 6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
  • 7. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
  • 8. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
  • 9. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
  • 10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.
  • 11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.
  • 12. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of an autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
  • 13. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
  • 14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George sneered that Wilson came to Paris "like a missionary to rescue the heathen Europeans, with his 'little Sermonettes'". His French counterpart, Clemenceau reacted similarly to Wilson's sanctimony. Of Wilson's Fourteen Points he remarked acidly that God had been content with ten commandments.[22]


Negotiations between the Allied powers started on January 18 in the Salle de l'Horloge at the French Foreign Ministry, commonly known by its location, the Quai d'Orsay. Initially, 70 delegates of 26 nations participated in the negotiations. Having sued for an Armistice and for the war to end, Germany, Austria, and Hungary were excluded from the negotiations. Bolshevik Russia was also excluded because it had negotiated a separate Peace Treaty with the Central Powers in March 1918.

Until March 1919, the most important role for negotiating the extremely complex and difficult terms of the peace fell to the regular meetings of the "Council of Ten" (head of government and foreign minister) composed of the five major victors (the United States, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan). As this unusual body proved too unwieldy and formal for effective decision-making, Japan and - for most of the remaining conference - the foreign ministers left the main meetings, so that only the "Big Four" remained. After Italy left the negotiations (only to return to sign in June) having its territorial claims to Fiume rejected, the final conditions were determined by the leaders of the "Big Three" nations: United States, France and Great Britain. The "Big Three" that negotiated the treaty consisted of Prime Minister David Lloyd George of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau of France and President Woodrow Wilson of the United States of America. The Prime Minister of Italy, Vittorio Orlando, played a minor part in the discussions. Germany was not even invited to discuss the treaty. At Versailles, it was difficult to decide on a common position because their aims conflicted with one another. The result was an "unhappy compromise".

On April 29, the German delegation under the leadership of the foreign minister Ulrich, Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau, arrived in Versailles. On May 7 the Germans finally received the draft peace conditions agreed upon by the victors. Terms imposed by the treaty upon Germany included partitioning a certain amount of its own territory to a number of surrounding countries, being stripped of all of its overseas colonies, particularly those in Africa, and limiting its ability to make war again, by restrictions on the size of its military and the surrender of the overwhelming bulk of its navy. Because Germany was not allowed to take part in the negotiations, the German government issued a Formal Protest to what it considered to be unfair demands, and soon afterwards withdrew from the proceedings.

Germany's government under Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann resigned rather than sign the treaty. On June 20, a new government under Chancellor Gustav Bauer was installed. Under renewed Allied pressure (the Allied blockade was still in situ - causing starvation and economic strangulation) Germany finally agreed to the conditions by 237 to 138 votes in the Reichstag on June 23. As a result on June 28, 1919 the new German Foreign Minister, Hermann Müller, and the Minister of Transport, Johannes Bell, signed the treaty for Germany, and it was ratified by the newly erected League of Nations on January 10, 1920.

Treaty Terms

German territorial losses in Europe in the Versailles Treaty

The terms of the Treaty, which Germany was forced to accept, were announced on May 7, 1919. Germany lost:

  • 13% of its national territory
  • 16% of its coalfields, and half its iron and steel industry.
  • 12.5% of its population

In addition:

  • Union with Austria (Anschluss) was forbidden.
  • Article 231: Germany forced to accept sole responsibility for the war and promise to make good all the damage done to civilian population of the Allies. (Also known as the "War Guilt Clause".)
  • Article 227: former German Emperor, Wilhelm II, charged with "supreme offence against international morality" and to to be tried as a war criminal.[23] (This never happened).
  • Article 228-230: many others to be tried as war criminals.

Baltic States

Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia became independent states (already removed from Russia by the Central Powers Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918).

Military Restrictions on Germany

  • The Rhineland to be a demilitarized zone.
  • The German armed forces cannot number more than 100,000 troops with no conscription.
  • Enlisted men were to be retained for at least 12 years; officers were to be retained for at least 25 years.
  • Manufacturing of weapons prohibited.
  • Import and export of weapons prohibited.
  • Manufacture or stockpiling of poison gas prohibited.
  • Tanks prohibited.
  • Naval forces limited to 15,000 men, 6 battleships (no more than 10,000 tons each), 6 cruisers (no more than 6,000 tons each), 12 destroyers (no more than 800 tons each) and 12 torpedo boats (no more than 200 tons each).
  • Submarines prohibited.
  • Military aircraft prohibited.
  • Artillery prohibited.

Territorial Losses in Europe[24]

  • Alsace and Lorraine (Lotharingia), which had been ceded to Germany in accordance with the Preliminaries of Peace signed at Versailles on February 26, 1871, and the Treaty of Frankfurt of May 10, 1871, were returned to French sovereignty, without a plebiscite, as from the date of the Armistice of November 11, 1918. (Area 14,522 km², 1,815,000 inhabitants (1905) of whom only one-in-ten were French-speakers.[25]
  • Northern Schleswig including the German-dominated towns of Tondern (Tønder), Apenrade (Aabenraa), Sonderburg (Sønderborg), Hadersleben (Haderslev) and Lügum in Schleswig-Holstein, after the Schleswig Plebiscite, were ceded to Denmark (area 3,984 km², 163,600 inhabitants (1920)).
  • The area of the German cities Eupen and Malmedy ceded to Belgium. The trackbed of the Vennbahn railway also transferred to Belgium.
  • The province of Saarland to be under the control of the League of Nations for 15 years, after that a plebiscite between France and Germany, to decide to which country it would belong. During this time its coal to be sent to France.

On Germany's eastern frontier:

  • Danzig and adjacent surrounding territory (area 1,893 km², 408,000 inhabitants - 98% German (1929) removed without a plebiscite from both West Prussia and Germany and erected into a sovereign Free City under the League of Nations (with special harbour, customs and railway concessions to the new Poland). Danzig was forbidden reunion with Germany.
  • The province of West Prussia (Pomerelia) was given to the new Poland without a plebiscite, thereby giving Poland direct access to the Baltic Sea (without having to pass through Germany as with previous centuries), by which Germany now became cut off from her province of East Prussia and Danzig.
  • The province of Posen, which had been acquired by Prussia by treaty in the 1772 partition of Poland, was likewise ceded to the new Polish state.
  • The eastern part of Upper Silesia annexed by Poland (area 3,214,km², 965,000 inhabitants) after an armed insurrection.
  • A significant portion of coal-rich and industrially developed Upper Silesia was also ceded to Poland (area 53,800 km², 4,224,000 inhabitants (1931), including 510 km² and 26,000 inhabitants from Upper Silesia) following illegal insurrections launched from across the Polish border and a plebiscite held under open terrorist conditions deliberately aided by the French supervising forces.
  • The Hlučínsko Hulczyn area of Upper Silesia was awarded to Czechoslovakia (area 316 or 333 km², 49,000 inhabitants) without a plebiscite.
  • A small area of East Prussia, along the eastern bank of the Vistula, ceded to Poland (against the Marienwerder Plebiscite results).
  • The area of Soldau in East Prussia (on the Warsaw-Danzig route) ceded to Poland (area 492 km²) (against the Plebiscite results).
  • The northern-most part of East Prussia known as the Memelland placed under control of the League of Nations and to be policed by France (without a plebiscite).

Colonial losses[26]

In President Wilson's address of 11 February 1918 he said "there shall be no annexations, no punitive damages....peoples are not to be handed about from one sovereignty to another by an international conference..." However, by Article 119 of the Treaty of Versailles Germany surrendered her colonial possessions not to the League of Nations (as Wilson had wished), but to the Allied and Associated Powers. It was therefore by the Allied Supreme Council, and not by the League, that the distribution of Mandates was made, and the rights of supervision were delegated to the League through the Permanent Mandates Commission. As a result, the majority of the Mandates were granted to Great Britain, France, and the Dominions, as well as Ruanda-Urundi to Belgium.[27] General Smuts had argued for "suitable powers" be appointed to act as Mandatories of the League of Nations, arguing that "the German colonies are inhabited by barbarians who not only cannot possibly govern themselves, but to who it would be impracticable to apply and idea of self-determination in the European sense."[28]

German colonies had not been British war aims according to the leader of the British Conservative Party Andrew Bonar Law (subsequently Prime Minister 1922-23) who, on the 20th February 1917, addressed the British House of Commons:

"The British Empire is large enough and I have no desire to see any addition to it. Our business is to develop what we had. We are not fighting for additional territory."[29]

However Lloyd George had pushed for a colonial settlement before the League of Nations Covenant had been drafted, and later stated "All (at Paris) were agreed to oppose the restoration of the German colonies."[30] Also, a number of secret treaties had already been concluded between the Allied powers involving the transfer of Central Powers and Ottoman territories in the event of an Allied victory[31]:

  • Franco-British Notes of 29 March and 11 May 1916, on the division of Togoland and Kamerun.
  • An Agreement between the Allies and Japan of March 1917 over Germany's Pacific possessions north of the Equator.
  • The clause in the April 1915 Treaty of London which promised Italy compensation, if France and Britain extended their colonial possessions in Africa.

All of Germany's overseas colonies were taken from them including Kamerun, Togoland, German East Africa, German South-West Africa, Tsingtau (on the China coast), their numerous Pacific Islands, and German New Guinea. Although these colonies were still being developed economically, they had arguably been symbols of Germany as a world-power.

Article 156 of the Treaty transferred the German colonial concessions in the Shandong peninsula, Kiachow (Tsingtau), China, to Japan, rather than returning them to China. Chinese outrage over this provision led to demonstrations and a cultural movement known as the 'May Fourth Movement' and influenced China not to sign the Versailles Treaty. China did not declare the end of its war against Germany until September 1919, and signed a separate peace treaty with Germany in 1921.

League of Nations

The treaty provided for the creation of the League of Nations, a major goal of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The League of Nations was intended to arbitrate international disputes and thereby avoid future wars as well as take ultimate responsibilty for the Free City of Danzig and the colonial and other mandated territories. Only three of Wilson's Fourteen Points were realized, since Wilson was compelled to compromise with Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Orlando on some points in exchange for retaining approval of Wilson's "fourteenth point", the League of Nations. It has also been said that Wilson himself was the second-largest obstacle to his own proposal here, primarily because he refused to support the treaty with any of the alterations proposed by the United States Senate. As a result, The United States did not join the League of Nations, despite Wilson claiming that he could:

"predict with absolute certainty that if the United States of America does not join the League of Nations, then there will be another war within 20 years."

Germany, initially excluded from the League, then refused to join the League (until 1926), saying that it was an "Allied Instrument", "the steward of injustice", "the bad conscience of the Entente", and an "unholy alliance of victors".[32]

Reaction to the Treaty

"What should we in France have said if after the war of 1870-1 the victorious Germans had demanded the cession of our fleet, of all our colonies, and of our mines, if they insisted on our complete disarmament, had imposed a crushing impost on our exports, and in addition had required us to bear the costs of the war! We should have been called thieves, extortioners, and bandits, who dishonoured their victory." ~ M. Louis Guetant, Hon.Vice-President of the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme and author of Marchand-Fashoda.[33]

Yet in the eyes of the French people, Clemenceau failed to achieve all of their demands, notably colonial, through the Treaty of Versailles. As a result, he was voted out of office in the elections of January 1920.

Many in Britain felt that the Treaty was harsh to Germany, causing dissatisfaction that might potentially lead to trouble in the future especially because of the new German eastern frontiers. (Plebiscites in Masuria, southern Warmia, Upper Silesia were to be held) and creation of the Free City of Danzig which had a 98% German population. Lloyd George said "whatever mistakes the Germans may have made, they are a very advanced nation, and you cannot put millions of them under the rule of the Poles, who are far less civilised."[34] However, he stated on 3 July 1919 that he thought "the Treaty, though stern, was just, a compromise between sentimental weakness and savage revenge".[35] Lloyd George later wrote: "The French claims were at the outset of a most extravagant character. When M. Loucheur brought in his first bill for damages he estimated the cost of reconstruction of the devastated regions in North-east France at three billion pounds sterling, though the entire house property of France was valued in Annuaire Statistique de France (1917) at only £2,360,000,000, or far less than he proposed to charge for reconstruction of the war zone alone, and the areas of substantial devastation was only about 4 per cent of the total area of France. According to an official French statement published by Le Temps of 15th February 1932, the actual sums expended by France in repair of war damages totalled £830,000,000 at par of exchange."[36] In addition, reconstruction in France was complete by 1932, and everywhere far better and more valuable new buildings had replaced the old.[37]

The day after the Treaty was signed General Smuts (Union of South Africa) issued a statement pointing to the faults in the treaty, and calling for a change of heart in the victors as well as in the vanquished, saying "I have signed the Peace Treaty, not because I consider it a satisfactory document, but because it is imperatively necessary to close the war, because the world needs peace.......there are territorial settlements which will need revision; there are indemnities stipulated which cannot be expected, without grave injury, and which it will be in the interests of all to render more tolerable and more moderate.[38]

In the United States, it was seen as Europe’s problem, but it was also widely believed that the Treaty was too harsh. The United States Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, making it invalid in the United States and effectively hamstringing the nascent League of Nations envisioned by Wilson. The largest obstacle faced in the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles was the opposition of Henry Cabot Lodge.

Reaction in Germany

Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann resigned rather than agree to Germany signing the treaty.

The treaty evoked an angry and hostile reception in Germany from the moment its contents were made known. The Germans were outraged and horrified at the result - since Wilson's idealistic fourteen points had envisaged a different outcome. They did not feel that they were responsible for starting the war (see: Causes of World War I), nor did they feel as though they had lost. The German people had understood the negotiations at Versailles to be a peace conference and not a surrender. At first, the new government refused to sign the agreement, and on June 21 the German navy scuttled its interned ships in protest at the draft treaty. The sinkings hardened Allied attitudes and the Allies demanded, by ultimatum, that Germany sign the treaty within twenty-four hours. The alternative was understood to be a resumption of hostilities, with the fighting to extend to German soil. Faced with this crisis, the German provisional government in Weimar was thrown into upheaval What hand would not wither that binds itself and us in these fetters? asked Chancellor Philipp Scheidemann, who, with his government, then resigned rather than agree to the Treaty. Army Field-Marshall Paul von Hindenburg did the same, after declaring the army unable to defend Germany against another Western attack. With four hours to go, the new German President Friedrich Ebert agreed to the terms. The German delegation to Paris signed the treaty under protest on June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The German Government stated:

No nation, even amongst the Allied and Associated Powers, can expect the German people to accept peace-terms which must detach vital members from the body-corporate of Germany without any consultation of the populations involved.[39]

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders began to speak critically about the peace, and Weimar politicians, socialists, communists, and Jews were viewed with suspicion due to their extra-national loyalties. Mainly because of that many who had not supported the war were accused of playing a role in selling out Germany to its enemies. Some blamed Germany's failure on strikes in the arms industry at a critical moment of the offensive, leaving soldiers without an adequate supply of materiéls. The 'November Criminals', and those who seemed to benefit from the newly formed Republic, were seen to have "stabbed Germany in the back" on the home front, by either criticizing German nationalism, by instigating unrest and strikes in the critical military industries, or profiteering. In essence the accusations were that the 'accused' committed treason against the "benevolent and righteous" common cause. These theories were given credence by the fact that when Germany signed the Armistice in the West on 11 November 1918, its armies were still on French and Belgian territory. Not only had the German Army been in enemy territory the entire time on the Western Front, but on the Eastern Front, Germany had already won the war against Russia (and Romania), concluded with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.[40] In the West, Germany had seemed to come close to winning the war with the March Spring Offensive that year.

Gustav Stresemann, German Foreign Minister.

Domestic betrayal resonated within Germany, and its claims would add considerably to the public support for the emerging NSDAP and their nationalism. In a speech made on 12 April 1922 Hitler referred to the Treaty as "a crime". Anti-Semitism was intensified by Jewish communist agitators such as Rosa Luxemburg in Berlin, and the Bavarian Soviet Republic, a Communist government which ruled the city of Munich for two weeks before being crushed by the Freikorps militia. Many of the Bavarian Soviet Republic's leaders were Jewish, a fact that allowed anti-Semitic propagandists to make the connection with "Communist treason".

The assassinated (1922) Jewish Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, and his successor, Gustav Stresemann (1923- Oct 1929), sought to re-establish Germany's position among the international great powers by what were seen as "appeasement policies" - the revision of the Versailles Treaty by peaceful means, which included co-operation with both the Western powers and the Soviet Union, and the revision of the eastern border with Poland based upon Article 19 of the League of Nations' Covenant (which was incorporated in the Treaty), which said "The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable and the consideration of international conditions which might endanger the peace of the world."[41]

At the Treaty of Locarno (comprising five pacts), signed on 16 October 1925, Germany's western borders as laid down in the Versailles Treaty were confirmed (huge demonstrations against this in Berlin), but the question of the eastern border with Poland remained unresolved.[42] In addition, Stresemann proclaimed himself the leader of Germany in her passionate repudiation of the notorious War Guilt clause of the Treaty in a speech to the Reichstag on 14 December 1925.[43]

In 1929 the nationalist parties in the Reichstag forced a referendum to be held on the Young Plan, item (1) being "The Government is to advise the foreign Powers that the forced acknowledgement of war guilt in the Versailles Treaty is contrary to historical truth, is based on false premises, and is not binding in international law." Only 14.59 per cent voted instead of the more than half required by Article 75 of the Constitition, and the proposal in the referendum therefore failed.[44]

A year after Stresemann's death, Hitler contributed an article to the London newspaper The Sunday Express in September 1930, in part of which he stated: "We, the National Socialists, demand the revision of the Versailles Treaty; we demand the revision of the Young Plan; we demand the return to Germany of the Polish Corridor, which is like a strip of flesh cut from our body as it cuts Germany in two. It is a national wound that bleeds continuously, and will continue to bleed till the land is returned to us. We will rouse all Germans against this [the Versailles Treaty] injustice."[45]

In a special radio broadcast to America on 29 July 1932, the Chancellor of Germany, Herr von Papen, stated that the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles were the root cause of Germany's present difficulties.[46]

Treaty Violations

The German economy was so weak that only a small percentage of reparations were paid in money. However, even the payment of this small percentage of the original reparations (219 billion Gold Reichsmarks) still placed a significant burden on the German economy, accounting for as much as one third of post-treaty hyperinflation. Furthermore, the provisions forcing the uncompensated removal of resources and industrial equipment sowed further resentment.[47]

British occupying troops in the "demilitarised" Rhineland.

Violations or avoidances of the provisions of the Treaty began almost immediately and included:

  • On 6 December 1918 the British Army marched into Cologne (Koln) in the supposedly demilitarised Rhineland where they remained until leaving 7 years later on 31 January 1926. By the end of 1919 this force numbered 55,000.[48]
  • In 1919 the dissolution of the German General Staff appeared to happen. However the core of the General Staff was hidden within another organization, the Truppenamt, where it rewrote all Heer (Army) and Luftwaffe (Air Force) doctrinal and training materials based on the experience of World War I.
  • Despite signing the Minorities Treaty of 28 June 1919, an adjunct to the Treaty of Versailles, Poland began 20 years of persecution and expulsions of the German population in the disputed provinces which Versailles had awarded them.[49][50][51]
  • On October 9, 1920 Poland invaded the province of Vilna in Lithuania, drove out the Lithuanian garrison, and proclaimed the city and its province part of Poland.
German poster about Poland's theft of part of Upper Silesia
  • Emboldened by their illegal actions at Vilna, Poland now determined to take Upper Silesia, a German industrial heartland, which, by all authorities, was "essentially German"[52][53][54] but had a large Polish minority (mainly through immigration from Russian 'Congress Poland'[55]). The province was placed, initially, under French military policing until a final decision had been arrived at following a plebiscite, to be organised under a Commission comprising of French, British and Italian officers. In 1920 and 1921 Poland, sending troops from General Haller's army across the Polish border to act in concert with local terrorists, aided two minority insurrections in Upper Silesia in an attempt at annexation by force.[56] The first failed, but the second had some success, as they were almost openly supported by the French who had deliberately attempted to gerrymander the plebiscite votes. Fortunately on 8 March 1921 four battalions of British troops arrived in Upper Silesia and the situation calmed down. On 24 April the Plebiscite's official figures were published: in general, a majority of the communes, all the key cities, and 60 per cent of the total vote had opted for the province to remain part of Germany. On the night of the 2/3 May Polish terrorists, refusing to accept the vote, began their second insurgency "threatening to repeat the German devastation in Northern France" by destroying everything they could not have. The French troops quietly stayed in their barracks and the British were insufficient to fight back. German Freikorps now took up the fight against the insurgents. In June more British troops arrived and a ceasefire was agreed.[57][58] In the end, an artificial borderline separating about a third of Upper Silesia was reluctantly accepted, and that third was annexed by Poland.[59]
  • In 1921 a number of German firms (among them Junkers, Krupp and Stolzenberg) were encouraged and partly financed by the Reichswehr to provide military-technical assistance for the Soviet Union in return for co-operation.[60]
  • The Treaty of Rapallo was an agreement reached and signed in the Italian town of Rapallo on 16 April 1922 between Germany (the Weimar Republic) and the Russian SFSR under which each renounced all territorial and financial claims against the other following the Treaty of Brest Litovsk and World War I. In addition, German diplomats viewed the Rapallo treaty as a step further in their goal for revision of their Eastern borders with Poland. A secret annex signed on 29 July allowed Germany to train their military in Soviet territory. By 1924 this had led to the creation of a joint German-Soviet company for the manufacture of poison gas, and a factory for aircraft production as a German concession. Of three German military bases the first and most important was a flying school at Lipetsk, about 250 miles south-west of Moscow, which was started in 1924, conducting training courses for German fighter pilots. Observer training was added to the programme in 1928, the year that also saw Lipetsk emerge as an important centre for technical and operational testing of prototypes of new German combat aircraft. These projects required the services of as many as 200 German technicians and plans were made for mass production.[61]
  • On 10 January, 1923, Lithuania made a surprise illegal attack upon the German Memel territory and city, at three points, and seized the railway, all then supposedly under League of Nations protection. The French High Commissioner, Petisné, who had bragged he would "defend the integrity of the territory to the last man" with his troops, surrendered after some minor clashes and evacuated.[62]
  • On 11 January 1924 French and Belgian troops illegally occupied the Ruhr and took over management of its industries, driving the German currency, already badly inflated, to become worthless.[63] "The Crown lawyers of Great Britain said there was no legal basis for this occupation - the Treaty had been violated by President Poincaré."[64]
  • Polish representatives at the Peace Conference had argued that Danzig was vital to Poland because of its harbour and access to the sea. However Danzig reverted to being a Free Port under League of Nations protection with special concessions for Poland. The Poles, however, almost immediately began construction, using a Franco-Polish consortium, of an entirely new port at the small fishing village of Gdynia at enormous expense, some $28,000,000 US dollars, between 1920 and 1935.[65] Danzig's Senate protested to the League of Nations that this was a blatant violation of treaty obligations to make use of their port. The Poles pressed on with French loans to enable them to construct new railway connexions again at enormous cost, with Gdynia, bypassing Danzig, with the formerly German Upper Silesian coalfields. By 1926 there was lively traffic in the new port and by 1930 it was well-established, with a new-town population of 30,000.(By 1939 this was 100,000). Each year from 1924 shipping was being diverted by Poland, and Danzig lost traffic to Gdynia causing grave anxieties. By 1933 Gdynia's annual traffic surpassed that of Danzig. Poland had ignored her legal obligations. The League of Nations set up a Commission of Experts to consider the matter which found that Poland was not entitled to benefit Gdynia to the injury of Danzig. Despite promises, Poland simply ignored the League.[66] Using her economic and other rights at Danzig, Poland "threatened economic disaster for the old Hanseatic city."[67]
  • In April 1926 Germany and the Soviet Union concluded the Treaty of Berlin. Germany believe that this would strengthen her hand in further negotiations with the Western Powers and would permit her to continue her evasion of the most irksome military restrictions, and, finally, would facilitate a speedy revision of Germany's disputed eastern borders; Berlin saw this as a possibility of being transformed into an alliance if Germany was not accommodated in such matters as the evacuation of the Rhineland, reparations, armaments, and political equality. Because the Foreign Ministry [correctly] regarded Paris as the chief pillar of the Versailles settlement and the main obstacle to its revision the Berlin Treaty was to be used as an anti-French instrument. A month before the initialing of the Berlin Treaty, a Soviet military mission headed by Unshlikht[68], Deputy Commissar of War, arrived in Berlin with suggestions for an astonishing increase in military collaboration. In the autumn of 1926 a shipment to Germany of about 300,000 pieces of ammunition led to sensational disclosures of the illicit arms traffic. A tank school and testing centre was established near Kazan firstly as a training ground for tanks, artillery and communications from 1926. It entered its most important phase in 1929 as a testing site for prototypes of heavy and light tanks (by Krupp and Rheinmetall on contract to the Reichswehr) and the adaption of foreign-made tanks for German purposes. Also scheduled to begin operations in 1926, the gas centre near Saratov did not get under way until 1928. The base functioned with a small group of German technicians and Soviet staff and was used for experiments in the production of poison gas and for the testing of gas delivery devices and protective equipment such as gas masks. The German bases on Soviet soil permitted the development of prohibited types of weapons. General Blomberg described the Soviet operations as "vital for our army" and termed as "beyond question" the significance of the bases for Germany's rearmament.[69]
German Chancellor Brüning and his Foreign Minister, Julius Curtius, April 1931, key opponents of Versailles.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler who announced Germany's repudiation of the Versailles Treaty on 30 January 1937.
Germany breaks free from the chains of Versailles.
  • In 1927 Germany decided upon a formula to bypass both the Versailles Treaty as well as the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922 by creating heavy cruisers but mounting guns of the calibre of a capital ship. These were announced on June 27 as a Panzerschiffe (instead of Linienschiffe), and in October 1928 the contract for the construction of the first Panzerschiffe, the Deutschland, was awarded. She was launched on 19 May 1931 by President von Hindenburg. The British named these pocket-battleships after being impressed by the Admiral Graf Spee which took part in the Coronation Naval Review at Spithead for King George VI in May 1937.[70] The naval programme was generally stepped up in the later 1920s with two new light cruisers. Under the Versailles Treaty German destroyers could not exceed 800 tons (the size of an average torpedo-boat). At the beginning of the 1930s the Kriegsmarine commissioned designs for new destroyers around 1,600 tons, but by the time the first of these destroyers was being built estimates had grown to 2,2343 tons, almost as big as a small cruiser before the First World War.[71]
  • In March 1930 German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning and his government embarked on restructuring the Weimar state with the ultimate goal to overturn the Versailles Treaty.[72]
  • On 21 March 1931 Brüning and his Foreign Minister Julius Curtius announced a projected Customs Union with Austria as a first step towards the union of German and Austria. It was raised by France at the League of Nations as a breach of the Treaty, and Curtius was forced to withdraw the proposal.[73] The French then withdrew a number of short loans they had made to Austria; the withdrawal of which helped to cause the collapse of Creditanstalt, Austria's largest bank, in May 1931, which in its turn brought about a series of banking collapses all over Central Europe in the summer of 1931[74]. Curtius was intimately involved in the negotiations that led to the issuing of the Hoover Moratorium by the U.S President Herbert Hoover that halted war reparations payments by Germany in June 1931 as part of the effort to limit the financial fall-out of the banking collapse.
  • In January 1932 German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning announced that his country could pay no more reparations.[75]
  • In July 1934 Poland declared to the Assembly of the League of Nations that she no longer recognised the right of the League to concern itself with minorities questions in Poland - a virtual denunciation of the Versailles Minorities Treaty.[76]
  • In January 1935 the Saar district was returned to Germany following a plebiscite held on the 13th of that month in which 99 per cent voted for Germany.[77]
  • On 16 March 1935 Germany re-introduced compulsory military conscription fixing the peace-strength of the Germany army at 36 divisions[78][79], and stepped up the rebuilding of the armed forces: this included continuing to add to the Kriegsmarine, the first (official) full armoured divisions (Panzerwaffe), as well as the Air Force (Luftwaffe). Bizarrely, given the assistance the Russians had given Germany in the 1920s, on April 17th Soviet Commissar Maxim Litvinov called upon the League of Nations to condemn Germany's "equality in armaments".[80]
  • In March 1936, German troops re-occupied their demilitarized Rhineland.
  • On 30 January 1937 Germany formerly repudiated and withdrew from the Versailles Treaty.[81]
  • On 12 March 1938, Germany and Austria were united (Anschluss). From 1919 every Austrian Chancellor bar the last two had called for union with Germany: Chancellor Karl Renner from 1919 onwards had proposed a union of Austria with Germany, using the word "Anschluss".[82] Like other Austrian socialists, Renner believed that the best future course was to seek union with Germany.
  • On 23 March 1938 following agreements between Germany and Lithuania, Memel and its adjacent Memelland returned to German sovereignty.[83]
  • On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland following the failure of a diplomatic solution to 'the Corridor' and Danzig.[84]

Germany's later technical advantages

Since neither rockets nor glider aircraft were mentioned in the Versailles Treaty, after January 1933 Germany under the National Socialists spent money on these technologies, including Wernher von Braun's rocket experiments, which in no doubt helped the development of the future space industry. Large glider aircraft designs led to the design of the large Me-321 during World War II which later was motorized and became the Me-323, the largest land-based plane at the time.


Professor Francesco Nitti who wrote several books on the subject of Versailles.
William Harbutt Dawson, the English expert and author of many books on Germany.

This treaty was felt to be unreasonable at the time because it was a peace dictated by the victors that wrongly put the full blame for the war on Germany.

The German Foreign Minister, Count Ulrich Karl von Brockdorff-Rantzau, who led the German peace delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, resigned rather than sign the Treaty of Versailles.[85] He was replaced as Foreign Minister by Hermann Müller (SPD) who almost immediately stated, in July 1919: "The German government would leave in no doubt its intentions to revise this treaty."

Hjalmar Schacht, the famous economist, wrote: "What is called the Peace Treaty of Versailles is no treaty, and it has not brought peace. The essence of a treaty is that two parties, after stating their cases, reach a common agreement. The Treaty of Versailles was written by one party alone. It was presented to the Germans, and they were compelled, under threat of force, to sign it. It was an act of dictatorship, and does not deserve the title of treaty......Never yet in modern history has a peace treaty so flown in the face of the basic principles of morality as the Treaty of Versailles."[86]

"It will remain forever a terrible precedent in modern history that against all pledges, all precedents and all traditions, the representatives of Germany were never even heard; nothing was left to them but to sign a treaty at a moment when famine and exhaustion and threat of revolution made it impossible not to sign it..." ~ Francesco Nitti, Prime Minister of Italy (1919-20). He subsequently wrote further: "The [eastern] frontiers of Germany, as laid down by Articles 27 and 28 of the Treaty, constitute the greatest violation of the principles of self-determination, and are mere allotments of territory, marked out at random, and in violation of International Law....The labour of centuries was destroyed at a blow."[87]

William Harbutt Dawson, British expert on Germany, who was at the Paris Conferences, wrote "In 1815 Lord Castlereagh declared it to be the true policy of his country 'not to collect trophies' but to 'bring the lately warring nations back to peaceful ways'. At Versailles it was the lust for trophies that conquered. Viewed coldly as an act of policy the imposition upon Germany of a Treaty which not only contained penalties of unexampled severity but outlawed it from the comity of nations, was a blunder of the first magnitude."[88]

Harold Nicolson, the British Diplomat, wrote: "The historian, with every justification, will come to the conclusion that we were very stupid men... We arrived determined that a Peace of justice and wisdom should be negotiated; we left the conference conscious that the treaties imposed upon our enemies were neither just nor wise."

Sun Yat-sen, former President of the Republic of China wrote: "When the war was in progress, England and France agreed wholeheartedly with the Fourteen Points. As soon as the war was won, England, France, and Italy tried to frustrate Wilson's program because it was in conflict with their imperialist policies. As a consequence, the Peace Treaty was one of the most unequal treaties ever negotiated in history."

Fritz Thyssen, the famous industrialist who was one of the members of the German Peace Delegation in 1919, stated: "it is clear to everybody that the Treaty imposed on Germany was nefarious".[89]

Georges Clemenceau, France's Premier, was the most vigorous in his pursuit of revenge against Germany, the Western Front of the war having been fought chiefly on French soil. Not all French Men of Letters agreed with him:

Jacques Bainville, the French historian and Fellow of the Académie Française, who although anti-German, wrote in 1920: "It can be said, that the peace treaty of Versailles organized an eternal war."

Dr. Rudolf Breitscheid (SDP politician) said: "No German can ever recognise the demarcation of the frontiers in the East as just or practical."[90]

Ferdinand Foch, French Marshal, wrote: "This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years"....."There (the Polish Corridor) lies the root of the next war."[91]

André Tardieu, who became Premier of France on 3 November 1929, attempted to carry on the policies of Clemenceau in the aftermath of Versailles.[92] On 14 November 1930 he stated: "The day a programme of revision is placed on the table with any chance of success will mean war."[93]

What should we in France have said if after the war of 1870 the victorious Germans had demanded the cession of our fleet, of all our colonies, and of our mines, if they had insisted on our complete disarmament, had imposed a crushing impost on our exports, and in addition had required us to bear the costs of the war! We should have called them thieves, extortioners, and bandits, who dishonoured their victory. ~ M. Louis Guetant, the French publicist, author, and Hon. Vice-President of the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme.[94]

"The most terrible of all wars results in a peace treaty, which is not a treaty of peace, but the continuation of war. Europe will perish because of it unless it chooses reason to be its guide." ~ Anatole France (1944-1824), French poet.

Julius Curtius, German Foreign Minister (Liberal DVP), on 20 November 1930: "There are parts of this Treaty which cannot remain the law of Europe if our continent is to live in peace and security. This is an unshakeable truth. It has deepened existing dissensions and made the unrest in Europe more complete."

"As for the 'Polish Corridor', it may be definitely said that Germany will never tolerate a condition of things by which East Prussia is separated from the German Reich." ~ Tomáš G. Masaryk[95].

Famous economist Hjalmar Schacht
British historian Edward Hallett Carr, another critic of Versailles.

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the German economist (and sometime President of the Reichsbank), wrote: "The Versailles diktat had the tendency to deprive Germany of her possibilities of livelihood. Until the Dawes Plan (1924) Germany was bled of 42 billions of gold marks, especially in the transfer of property, to say nothing of the enormous losses entailed by the cession of territory. Germany was forced to make yearly reparation payments of 2.5 billion gold marks. The Layton Report of 1931 states that since the implementation of the Dawes Plan Germany had not had any surplus in her trade and service balance from which reparations could have been made. The Allied governments therefore received reparations until the end of 1930, amounting to 10.3 billions, in taxation from German citizens with 5 billions being borrowed by the State. Germany now has foreign debts of 15 billion Reichsmarks with foreign capitalists for reparations alone. It remains difficult to understand that the responsible financial authorities in foreign countries did not realise the enormous danger of the reparation problem, which they must have seen, long before the financial breakdown of 1931....the policy of the victorious powers has been to maintain the Versailles system of oppression, only changing the methods of its application."[96]

John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, referred to the Treaty of Versailles as a "Carthaginian peace"[97]. The French economist Étienne Mantoux wrote a reply to Keynes entitled The Carthaginian Peace, or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes, in which he claimed many of the predictions Keynes said would result from the Treaty had not come to pass. For example, Keynes believed European output in iron would decrease but by 1929 iron output in Europe was said to be up 10% from the 1913 figure. Keynes also argued that German coal mining efficiency would decrease but labour efficiency by 1929 had increased on the 1913 figure by 30%. Keynes contended that Germany would be unable to export coal immediately after the Treaty (given the catastrophic loss of the Silesian coalfields) but German [read French] net coal exports were 15 million tons within a year and by 1926 the tonnage exported reached 35 million. He also put forward the claim that German national savings in the years after the Treaty would be less than 2 billion marks: however in 1925 the German national savings figure was estimated at 6.4 billion marks and in 1927 7.6 billion marks. (This must be counterbalanced by the total collapse of the Reichsmark in the early 1920s.) However, read Schacht[98], who demolishes Mantoux's claims. They were also demolished by the English expert on the German economy and history, William Harbutt Dawson. Nitti too ridiculed Mantoux's claims pointing out, amongst other things, that German production of raw iron fell from 1,340,000 tons in 1913 to 643,745 tons in 1921, and the production of steel from 2,080,000 tons to only 986,046 tons. In 1913 the Saar had produced 13,204,000 tons of coal. In 1921 all coal production was taken by France. German industry had to purchase German coal from the French.[99]

British Professor Edward Hallett Carr: "It has come to be felt since the war that there is a moral taint about treaties signed under duress. This feeling attached itself mainly to the Versailles Treaty, signed by Germany under the duress of a five-day Ultimatum.......This act of unwisdom morally discredited the treaty."[100]

Margaret MacMillan (b.1943), Professor of History at Oxford University, England, and great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George wrote: "Many in the English-speaking world came to agree with the Germans that the Treaty of Versailles, and the reparations in particular, were unjust, and that Lloyd George had capitulated to the vengeful French."

Henry Kissinger wrote, much later: "A brittle compromise agreement between American utopianism and European paranoia — too conditional to fulfill the dreams of the former, too tentative to alleviate the fears of the latter."

Norman Lowe, the British historian wrote: "In conclusion it has to be said that this collection of Paris peace treaties was not a conspicuous success. It had the unfortunate effect of dividing Europe into the states which wanted to revise the settlement (Germany being the main one), and those which wanted to preserve it. On the whole, the latter turned out to be lukewarm in support... and it became increasingly difficult to apply the terms fully. But it is easy to criticise after the event. Gilbert White, an American delegate at the Conference, put it perfectly when he remarked that given the problems involved, 'it is not surprising that they made a bad peace; what is surprising is that they managed to make peace at all'."

More recently it has been bizarrely argued (for instance by the Jewish-American historian Gerhard Weinberg in his book A World At Arms (1994/2005)), that the treaty was in fact quite advantageous to Germany, the Bismarckian Reich being maintained as a political unit instead of being broken up, and Germany having largely escaped general post-war military occupation (in contrast to the situation following World War II) - ignoring the British and French occupations in the Rhineland and their presence in Silesia.[101] Moreover it could be argued Germany was "broken up".

See also

Further reading

  • Temperley, H. W. V., the official British History of the Peace Conference of Paris, Oxford University Press (UK), 1920 and reprinted 1969, 5 volumes.
  • Beer, George Louis, and Gray, Louis Hebert, African Questions at the Paris Peace Conference, MacMillan, New York, 1923.
  • Fabre-Luce, Alfred, The Limitations of Victory, English-language edition by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1926.
  • Martel, René, The Eastern Frontiers of Germany, London, 1930.
  • Lengyel, Emil, The Cauldron Boils, New York, 1932.
  • Dawson, William Harbutt, Germany Under The Treaty, New York & London, 1933.
  • Kimmich, Professor Christoph M.,The Free City - Danzig and German Foreign Policy 1919-1934, Yale University Press, 1968.
  • Watt, Richard M., The Kings Depart - The Tragedy of Germany: Versailles and the German Revolution, London, 1969, ISBN 0-297-17858-X
  • Kimmich, Professor Christoph M., Germany and the League of Nations, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1976, ISBN 0-226-43534-2
  • Mee, Charles L., The End of Order - Versailles 1919, London, 1980, ISBN 0-436-27650-X
  • Sinclair, David, Hall of Mirrors London, 2001, ISBN 0-7126-8389-5
  • Brentano, Lujo, What Germany has paid under the Treaty of Versailles (The book in HTML)
  • Ferguson, Professor Niall, The War of the World - History's Age of Hatred, London, 2006, ISBN: 0-713-99708-7
  • Benton L. Bradberry: The Myth of German Villainy, AuthorHouse, 2012, ISBN 978-1477231838 [454 p.]
  • Tooze, Professor Adam, The Deluge - The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931, London, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-846-14034-1
  • Gerwarth, Professor Robert, The Vanquished - Why the First World War Failed to End, London, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-846-14811-8

External links


  1. The Major International Treaties 1914-1973 by J.A.S.Grenville, Methuen & Co., London, 1974, "Treaty of Versailles" pps:59-73, ISBN 0-416-09070-2
  2. Germany Under The Treaty by William Harbutt Dawson, New York & London, 1933.
  3. I Paid Hitler by Fritz Thyssen, London, 1941, chapter two: 'National Humiliation'.
  4. Peaceless Europe by Francesco S. Nitti, former Prime Minister of Italy, London & New York, 1922, pps:viii & x.
  5. Max Montgelas, Count, The Case for the Central Powers - an Impeachment of the Versailles Verdict, translated by Constance Vesey, London, 1925. pps:255. Count Montgelas's father had been the Bavarian Government’s Ambassador in St. Petersburg, where the Count was born. He was a member of the Reichstag Committee of Enquiry (into the war) in 1918-19, and a member of the Commission sent to Versailles by the German Government in 1919, specially to investigate the question of responsibility for the war. He was one of the four signatories to the "Memorandum", presented on 29th May, in reply to the allegations made by the Commission appointed by the Allied and Associated Governments to report on the subject, and he was jointly responsible, with Delbruck, for the "Memorandum" replying to the "Allied Note" of 16th June 1919.
  6. The End of Reparations by Hjalmar Schacht, New York, 1931, Chapters 1 & 2.
  7. Woodward, Professor E.L. & Butler, Rohan, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Second series, vol.1, H.M.S.O., London, 1946, p.499.
  8. Germany and the League of Nations by Prof. Christoph M. Kimmich, Chicago & London, 1976, p.29.
  9. Genesis of the War by Professor Harry E. Barnes, 1927, p.679.
  10. Carr, Professor Edward Hallett, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919 - 1939 Macmillan, London, 1939, "The Sanctity of Treaties", p.241-1.
  11. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939 edited by Norman H. Baynes, New York, 1969, vol.ii, p.1335-6, address in the Reichstag.
  12. "The nation has as a matter of course a right to abrogate a treaty in a solemn and official manner for what she regards as a sufficient cause, just exactly as she has a right to declare war or exercise another power for a sufficient cause." Pringle, H. F., Theodore Roosevelt, p.309, cited in Carr, Professor Edward Hallett, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919 - 1939 Macmillan, London, 1939, "The Sanctity of Treaties", p.234.
  13. Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John, Brest-Litovsk - The Forgotten Peace March 1918, Macmillan, London & New York, 1966.
  14. History of the Peace Conference of Paris edited by H. W. V. Temperley, Oxford University Press 1920/1969, vol.iii, p.2-6.
  15. A History of Europe by H. A. L. Fisher, London, 1949, p.1158 & 1163.
  16. Propaganda for War - The Campaign against American Neutrality 1914-1917, by Professor H. C. Peterson , University of Oklahoma Press, 1939.
  17. Fisher, London, 1949, p.1158.
  18. Fisher, 1949, p.1164.
  19. The Colonial Problem, Royal Institute of International Affairs, Oxford University Press, 1937, p.24-5 where the events leading up to the Fashoda incident with threatening war with Britain as "France determined to extend her empire across Africa from Lake Chad to the Nile".
  20. Strengthened by the American fleet when the USA entered the war. Fisher, 1949, p.1142.
  21. Fisher, 1949, p.1164.
  22. Ferguson, Niall, The War of the World, Allen Lane pubs., London 2006, p.160n. ISBN:0-713-99708-7
  23. Schabas, Prof. William A., The Trial of the Kaiser, Oxford University Press, U.K., 2018, ISBN: 978-0-19-883385-7.
  24. Dawson, 1933, pps: 93-328
  25. Ferguson, 2006. p.161.
  26. Dawson, 1933, Chapter XII "The German Colonies"
  27. Germany's Colonial Demands by Alan L. C. Bullock, Oxford University Press, 1939, pps:18 * 28.
  28. Bullock, 1939, p.27.
  29. Dawson, 1933, p.350.
  30. The Truth about the Peace Treaties by David Lloyd George, London, 1938, vol.1, p.514.
  31. Bullock, 1939, p.21-5.
  32. Kimmich, 1976, p.27.
  33. Dawson, 1933, p.11.
  34. Dawson, 1933, p.13.
  35. What They Said At The Time - a survey of the causes of the Second World War by K. Freeman, D.Litt., London, 1945, p.18.
  36. The Truth about Reparations and War Debts by David Lloyd George, London, 1932, p.20-21.
  37. Dawson, 1933, p.14.
  38. Freeman, 1945, p.21-2.
  39. The Eastern Frontiers of Germany by René Martel, London, 1930, p.66.
  40. Brest-Litovsk - The Forgotten Peace, March 1918, by Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, K.C.V.O., C.M.G., O.B.E., D.C.L., Macmillan, London & New York, 1966.
  41. Danger Spots of Europe by Bernard Newman, London, 1938, p.20.
  42. Palmér and Neubauer, 2000, p.96-7.
  43. Cited in What They Said At The Time by K.Freeman, D.Litt., London, 1945, p.38.
  44. Documents in the Political History of the European Continent 1815-1939 edited by G. A. Kertesz, Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 1969, p.417.
  45. Baynes, 1969, vol.ii, p.994-5.
  46. Woodward, Prof. E.L., Butler, Rohan, & Lambert, Margaret, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Second series, vol.iv, HMSO, London, 1950, p.21.
  47. Schacht, 1931, whole book but particularly chapter 2: "Bleeding Germany White".
  48. The Weimar Republic by Torsten Palmér & Hendrick Neubauer, Cologne, 2000, p.67. ISBN 3-8290-2697-8
  49. Dawson, 1933, pps:275-299.
  50. The German Minority in Inter-war Poland by Winson Chu, Cambridge University Press, 2012/2013, ISBN: 978-1-107-63462-6
  51. The Cauldron Boils by Emil Lengyl, New York, 1932.
  52. Silesia Revisited 1929 by Lt.-Col. Graham Seton Hutchison, former member of the Upper Silesia Plebiscite Commission 1920-21, London, p.9.
  53. Martel, 1930, p.131-3.
  54. Dawson, 1933, Chapter V, "Upper Silesia - Plebiscite and Insurrection.
  55. The Formation of a Modern Labor Force - Upper Silesia 1865-1914, by Lawrence Schofer, London, 1975. ISBN 0-520-02651-9
  56. Hutchison, 1929, p.12-13.
  57. Dawson, 1933, Chapter V - Upper Silesia, Plebiscite and Insurrection.
  58. The British in Germany 1918-1930 - The Reluctant Occupiers, by David G. Williamson, New York, and Oxford (UK), 1991, pps:168-175, ISBN 0-85496-584-X
  59. Dawson, 1933, Chapter VII - Upper Silesia, the Partition and its effects.
  60. Weimar Germany and Soviet Russia 1926-1933 by Professor Harvey Leonard Dyck, London, 1966, p.20.
  61. Dyck, 1966, pps:18-19, 20, 27.
  62. Dawson, 1933, p.257-8.
  63. Kimmich, 1976, p.44-5.
  64. Thyssen, 1941, p.97-8.
  65. Mason, 1946, p.133-135.
  66. Mason, 1946, p.135-7.
  67. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1938, London, p.194.
  68. Józef Unszlicht or Iosif Stanislavovich Unshlikht (Russian: Ио́сиф Станисла́вович У́ншлихт) (1879–1938) was a Polish Jew and Bolshevik revolutionary activist, a Soviet government official and one of the founders of the Cheka.
  69. Dyck, 1966, pps:18-19, 20-23.
  70. German Pocket Battleships 1939-45 by Gordon Williamson, Osprey UK, 2003, pps:4,10.
  71. The German Navy 1939-1945 by Cajus Bekker, London, 1997 reprint, pps: 20,24.
  72. The Deluge - The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze, London 2014, p.490, ISBN978-1-846-14034-1
  73. Freeman, 1945, p.65.
  74. Germany and the Diplomacy of the Financial Crisis, 1931 by Edward W. Bennett, Harvard University Press, 1971.
  75. Freeman, 1945, p.75.
  76. Carr, Professor Edward Hallett, International Relations since the Peace Treaties MacMillan, London, 1937, revised 1940, 1941 and 1945, p.203.
  77. Freeman, 1945, p.122.
  78. New York Times 17 March 1935, published the full Proclamation
  79. The Times, London, 18 March 1935
  80. Freeman, 1945, p.137-8.
  81. Baynes, 1969, vol.ii, p.1335-6. Hitler's speech to the Reichstag.
  82. Ernst Panzenböck, Ein Deutscher Traum: die Anschlussidee und Anschlusspolitik bei Karl Renner und Otto Bauer. Materialien zur Arbeiterbewegung, PhD thesis, Vienna: Europaverlag, 1985 p.93.
  83. How War Came by Donald Cameron Watt, London, 1989, p.156-7. ISBN 0-434-84216-8
  84. "It is impossible to imagine a peaceful solution to the problem of the Polish Corridor", wrote Renner to the Foreign Ministry, 3 October 1930. Cited by Dyck, 1966, p.226.
  85. Thyssen, 1941, pps:90-92 & 105. Count von Brockdorff-Rantsau was the German ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1922 till his death in 1928.
  86. Schacht, 1931, pps:1-5.
  87. The Decadence of Europe by Francesco Nitti, London, 1923, p.87.
  88. Dawson, 1933, p.88.
  89. Thyssen, 1941, p.90.
  90. Woodward, Professor E.L. & Butler, Rohan, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Second series, vol.1, H.M.S.O., London, 1946, p.492.
  91. Cited in Dawson, 1933, p.93.
  93. What They Said At The Time by K. Freeman, D.Litt., London, 1945, p.62.
  94. cited in Dawson, 1933, p.13.
  95. Saturday Review, London, October 1930.
  96. The International Debit and Credit Problem, address delivered by Dr. Hjalmar Schacht to the International Conference for Agrarian Science, Bad Eilsen, 30 August 1934.
  97. The Economic Consequences of the Peace
  98. Schacht, 1931, entire book
  99. Nitti, 1923, p.83
  100. The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919 - 1939 by E. H. Carr, Macmillan, London, 1939, p.241-1.
  101. The British in Germany 1918-1930 - The Reluctant Occupiers by David G. Williamson, Oxford, U.K., 1991, ISBN 0-85496-584-X