The well-recognised Treaty of Versailles, signed on the 22nd June 1919, was one which has been the target of very crucial criticism over the ages. It was a treaty that subjected Germany and the other nations it was aligned with into a crisis of hardship, financially, socially and economically.
Although the treaty was known to contain traits of a positive peace agreement that would prevent future war from occurring, this was not entirely the case. The Treaty of Versailles has often been labelled as a contributing factor in the outbreak of the Second World War.It is also criticised for containing harsh reparations that were imposed on Germany, causing the nation to believe that this treaty was a diktat, shaped by French domination and influence. The Treaty of Versailles affected the whole of Europe. Although superficially it portrayed positive aspects of a peace making agreement when it was signed, this attribute was only transitional. Later it would contribute to a revolution. The treaty has since been the spotlight of continuous analysis, opinions and debate to try to unfold the mystery of what its true results actually were.The Treaty of Versailles was initially discussed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and was set up by the big three: Woodrow Wilson, the American president, Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Britain and Clemenceau, the French Premier, who decided to negotiate a peace treaty that would terminate World War I.
In order for the violence to cease, these allied nations decided to set out the provisions of the treaty in a way that would drastically disadvantage Germany, who through their eyes, the enemy or cause of the war.The reparations imposed under these provisions included the reduction of the German army to 100,000 mean, the expulsion of heavy guns, tanks or poison gas being made in Germany, the abolishment of a compulsory military service and German general staff and an inability to develop an air force. The German army was also reduced to a certain number of ships on coastal patrols which were stipulated under the treaty and the use of submarines was completely forbidden. These military provisions were imposed to weaken Germany so that it would no longer attack France. This would provide France with security.However the German nation, who were very patriotic in terms of their army and militaristic resources, did not take this lightly. Although the allies saw this as an opportunity to prevent Germany from causing further bloodshed, they failed to realise that Germany would one day seek its revenge against these harsh arrangements for peace that in fact contributed to its desire to wage yet another world war.
Besides the instability that was occurring in Europe during and after World War 1, The Treaty of Versailles imposed provisions which would cause further emotional outbursts.However, German had no choice but to sign the agreement or they would face allied aggression. Yet the territorial provisions set out under the treaty have been criticised as being harsh and inadequate terms of peacemaking. As a result of these regulations, Germany lost 13% if its land and the French territories which Germany conquered from the French in 1871 were returned, along with their rich coal producing area of the Saar Basin.
Profits from this lucrative coal-producing area, now under international control, would all be yielded to the French.Poland was also recreated and parts of Prussia were given away to the new Polish state. A new Polish corridor was created and Germany lost, along with the Baltic Sea lost, Danzig to Denmark. Thus Danzig was made into a free city controlled by the League of Nations. Unification between Austria and Germany was also forbidden and the Rhineland was demilitarised to protect the French from future German aggression. These elements demonstrate that in the eyes of the allied nations, Germany was viewed as being unworthy and not entitled to colonial possession.
Besides these restrictions, Clause 231 of the treaty blamed Germany for the damage incurred by war and forced the country to agree to pay financial reparations. Although the amount of the reparations was not initially released, the final amount Germany owed was $40US billion. Out of these payments the French were entitled to 52%, Belgium to 22% and Italy to 10%.
Of course due to Germany’s failed economic state as a result of the war, this large amount of money was impossible for them to remit unless they were given a chance to re-establish their economy.However, this financial recovery was impossible due to the punitive financial provisions that were imposed. As a result, this treaty was destined not to create any sort of peace in Germany’s eyes. Instead the treaty inspired hatred and humiliation. Thus the legacy of the treaty was long term bitterness amongst the Germans, so much so after 1919 the government sought to evade or reverse these terms.
Not only did the Treaty weaken the standing and prestige of the Weimar Republic and the policy of democracy in Germany, it also placed a huge burden on the German people.Therefore, this treaty could not have been a positive peace agreement for Germany. Nor could its effects have been positive for the allies, who were relying on German cooperation if this agreement was to function. When evaluating the positive contributions that this peace agreement had in terms of future goals and cooperation, there are two contrasting sides to take into account. Although German condemnation was at its peak when this treaty was signed, it must also be understood that the treaty could have been even more severe.Germany was acting hypocritically towards the severity of the treaty, as it was only a year prior to the peace arrangements that the Germans imposed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk on the Russians, who had just been defeated.
This treaty caused Russia to lose 25% of its territory along with 40% of its population and 70% of its industrial capacity, all of which were ceded to Germany. It could be argued that the Treaty of Versailles could have been much more severe if the French had dominated the negotiations.They were demanding that the Rhineland be taken away from Germany and that an independent buffer zone along the Franco – German border be created. However, the other allies did not agree with these suggestions.
Therefore Germany remained intact and maintained its reputation as the most powerful, largest nation. Another contributing factor was that the war was fought outside Germany. This meant there was limited war damage as compared to the harm inflicted on French territory. It can therefore be argued that this peace treaty was not a negative arrangement for Germany’s future.By 1924 the German economy was in recovery and expanding.
It was able to evade clauses of the treaty that were not fully enforced. Therefore besides the positive outcome of the war coming to an end, the treaty would not change future circumstances in the long run. There were other reasons why The Treaty of Versailles was not a positive peace agreement for the future.
These reasons are reflected in criticisms that have been made, such as the fact that it failed to solve the problem of future German aggression. Instead it left the nation in a state of fury and determination to undo the treaty.It also redrew the map of Europe in order to create new states. The problem with these new states was that they made no reference to the major powers of Germany or Soviet Russia, which created difficulty for their long-term existence. The treaty also created German-speaking minorities in Poland and Czechoslovakia. This ignored Wilson’s idea of each nation being entitled to self- determination. It also placed unrealistic economic demands on Germany when it was clear that these obligations were almost impossible to meet. During this crucial time, shock and anger spread through the country.
Germany remained very opposed to the treaty and willing to unite to conquer their struggle. These feelings were similar to those voiced by Chancellor Scheidemann in 1919, “We must hold together, we must stick together. We are one flesh and blood”. As for the future of Germany, the treaty had a negative impact. It contributed immensely to political and economic hardships experienced by the Republic in 1920, which caused events such as the Kapp Putsch, political assassinations , reparations and the occupation of the Ruhr to take place.
Overall the Treaty of Versailles was a peace agreement that had several positive and negative effects on the future. Although the treaty provided a resolution to end the war, it was forced on Germany. As a result, the treaty was never fully satisfying to all parties. There were many misunderstandings and different views on how fair or severe the treaty really was.
Consequently it brought about many destructive and negative effects which would contribute to uprisings in the future, causing further conflict and disruption throughout the European continent.