Treaty of Versailles Final Paper
The impact of total war on the continent of Europe was very
broad. Governments began to take control of everything in their
countries. Governments took control by rationing goods, setting up
price controls, taking over transportation, taking over the press and
eventually the free market system was gone. During a total war all the
citizens in the country were involved in some way in the war effort.
You did not need to live close to a battlefield to be impacted. The
government expanded all of its powers to a point where they controlled
During the Paris peace conference France,
Britain and the United States each had different motivations and
desires. Georges Clemenceau was the premiere of France and they wanted
revenge and security against Germany. France wanted Germany stripped
of weapons and wanted them to pay reparations to cover the cost of the
war. France also wanted a new country called Rhineland as a buffer
state between them and Germany. David Lloyd George the Prime Minister
of Great Britain wanted to make the Germans pay for the war. Woodrow
Wilson had a more idealistic desire. He thought World War I was a war
fought so big and small nations could have international independence.
The effects of the Treaty of Versailles
crushed Germany’s economy after World War I. Germany lost land they
needed to grow food, boats and water rights they needed to bring in
raw supplies from abroad and the government could not afford to pay
back reparations promised to the Allied nations which caused inflation
to soar; making Adolf Hitler's Nazi party promise to build a new
Germany look attractive to the desperate Germans.
Although Germany had once been an
agricultural powerhouse in Europe their economy became more industrial
and they were unable to feed their own population without importing
goods (Brockdorff-Rantzau). Forty million Germans needed the potato
and wheat crops that were grown in the East part of Germany that was
now under Allied control. Germany said if it lost its territory in the
East that they would lose 21 percent of their wheat and potato
production. All of this would come back to haunt Europe and the United
States when German citizens would eventually embrace fascism out of
Germany could not import food because
they had lost their merchant marine vessels (Keynes). Germany said
that it had transformed from an agricultural to an industrial state
and now could not feed 40 million inhabitants if it had to give up its
merchant marine vessels and a significant portion of their wheat and
potato production. The Treaty of Versailles literally put a
stranglehold around Germany and it directly led to death by starvation
Germans could not feed themselves let
alone begin to start paying back reparations for the war, which will
eventually affect all of Europe. The Treaty of Versailles was five
separate peace settlements with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria
and Turkey. The treaty with Germany was the most important and the
harshest. Article 231, the war guilt clause, said that Germany and
Austria were responsible for starting the war. Article 231 said that
Germany had to pay reparations for all damages that the Allied
governments had sustained as a result of the war.
Many citizens could not find work and the
German currency was devalued to the point that it became worthless (deJonge).
Inflation was so bad at one point in 1923 that prices were being
marked up by 20 percent every day. People had money that was literally
worthless. The United States attempted to rectify some of their money
problems but the depression in the United States hit Germany very hard
as well. I agree with Germany that their country will probably
collapse. But as the saying goes to the victor goes the spoils!
Germany should suffer. I do not believe they should necessarily suffer
with mass casualties from starvation but I do feel that they should
suffer. The Allies should have simply taken over Germany. The allies
could move in and run Germany like a colony. Because the United States
is so far away, France and Great Britain could take over the daily
workings of the government of Germany. After Germany had paid a
percentage of profits from their industries, over time when Germany
and France felt that they are strong enough to hold elections they
could elect a new leader and go on their way. It probably sounds
harsh, but if France and Great Britain had taken over Germany maybe
World War II would have never happened.
Germany believed that its industries
would be extinct. They will not be able to feed their people. Germany
felt that many of their citizens would move away. 1,750,000 people
were killed in the war and one million were killed as a result of the
blockade that made their people starve. Germany felt that this would
happen again and millions more would die.
John Maynard Keynes wrote a book about
the economic consequences of the peace agreement that Germany signed.
His book outlined the economic collapse that Germany would eventually
go through after World War I. Keynes felt that Germany was too
industrialized and did not have enough land to produce food for their
people (Keynes). He predicted that Germany would never be able to
comply with the harsh terms imposed on them by the treaty. He believed
that the entire country would fall into financial collapse. He
believed that Germany’s economic collapse would cause political
repercussions all throughout Europe and all over the world. Germany
simply could not afford war reparations at that level. He was an
outspoken critic of the Treaty of Versailles. He would eventually be
proven correct. Germany did not pay back their war reparations and
their country did fall into an economic depression.
German reparation requirements will keep
the citizens of Germany poor and politically unstable for years to
come. Citizens could not find work and the German currency was
devalued to the point that it became worthless. Germans had to change
and adjust their lives significantly due to the economic crisis during
1919-1923 (deJonge). Money became worthless by late 1923 and
hard-working couples were suddenly beggars on the street. Germany had
become a barter society. Shoe factories paid their workers in shoes.
People paid their bills with butter. Many people in Germany were
forced into prostitution or illegal activities because they had no
choices (deJonge). Many families were tossed onto the streets and had
to beg to survive. Foreign travelers came in and snatched up German
antiquities and treasures for almost nothing.
The United States tried to stabilize the
German economy with the Dawes plan from 1924 to 1929. The Dawes plan
was a series of loans from foreign investors including the United
States meant to soften the burden of war reparation payments. The
Dawes plan only provided short-term economic benefits to the German
economy. It brought in increased foreign investments but now Germany
was dependent on foreign markets and their economies. The Great
Depression in the United States affected Germany as well because now
their economy was dependent upon the United States economy
flourishing. The Dawes Plan worked until the United States economy and
the stock market collapsed. After the stock market collapsed Germany's
industrial output fell by 40 percent and unemployment was at 40
The economic crisis in Germany led to significant changes in
the daily life of Germans. People were literally starving in the
streets. The people of Germany were desperate and looking for a new
leader. Adolf Hitler's Nazi party promised to build a new Germany.
Adolf Hitler used propaganda to convince Germans that he was a good
choice that only he could solve the economic problems. Hitler came to
power by appealing to the sense of national honor. He took control of
the German workers party. Hitler tried to take over the government in
1923 but was crushed and he was sentenced to prison. Hitler realized
he needed to seize power legally. Hitler became chancellor in 1933 and
created a new government. He took complete control over Germany and
passed the Enabling Act which gave the government the power to ignore
the Constitution for four years.
Adolf Hitler had a nationalistic and militaristic response to
the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1935 he began a
military draft that would expand the German army and created a new Air
Force. Hitler sent German troops into the Rhineland in 1936. Hitler
gained new allies like Mussolini of Italy. Nazis thought the Germans
were the only true descendents of Aryans and they would create another
empire like the one ruled by ancient Romans. All of their goals were
to further the Aryan master race. The Nuremberg laws defined who was a
Jew. They excluded Jews from German citizenship and they were required
to wear yellow stars of David and carry identification. Lebensraum
upholds the right of superior individuals to gain authoritarian
leadership over the masses through the theory of lebensraum or living
space through expansion. The theory emphasizes the right of the strong
shall rule over the weak. Mein Kampf was the book Hitler wrote while
he was in jail and it outlined his basic ideas. The book was anti-semitic
and anti-communism and it talked about how superior nations and
individuals needed to gain authority over the masses.
Hitler had taken over Germany through the Nazi party. He set up
concentration camps for people who opposed him. By 1933 Hitler had set
up a totalitarian state. Hitler became sole ruler of Germany. He
started Hitler youth that had 5.4 million members. In 1935 Hitler
created a new Air Force and a military draft in violation of the
Treaty of Versailles. He sent German troops into Rhineland in 1936. In
1936 Germany and Italy sent troops to Spain. In 1936 Mussolini and
Hitler made the agreement to work together. Germany and Japan signed a
pact in 1936 against communism. He threatened Austria with invasion in
1938 and Austria gave in and let Germany annex it. In 1939 Germany
signed a treaty with the Soviet Union that promised not to attack each
other. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France
declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Poland. When Germany
started adding to their military forces and taking over countries
Great Britain began to practice a policy of appeasement. This policy
was meant to stabilize Europe by satisfying the reasonable demands of
While Adolf Hitler was taking over central Europe Asia was
having its own problems with militaristic leaders. Japan needed
Chinese natural resources so they took over Manchuria in 1931. In 1937
Japan seized the Chinese capital. Japan sent troops into China but the
Chinese fought back fiercely. Japan surprised everybody by attacking
the United States. Japanese aircraft attacked the US naval base at
Pearl Harbor in Hawaii December 7, 1941; they forced the United States
into a war. The two sides of World War II were now all in place. The
Allied powers were Britain, United States and Russia. The Axis powers
were Germany, Italy and Japan.
After World War I Germany was so beaten down they looked for a
radical leader to regain some of their nationalistic pride. The Allied
nations did nothing when Germany started building up their military
and taking over countries and this would come back to haunt them.
World War II was started because of unchecked aggression by Germany.
Self-determination in the Middle East was made more difficult
by secret deals made before-and-after World War I led the Arab people
to not trust the British, French and American governments (Spielvoegl).
According to Glencoe World History there was an agreement between the
Arabs and the British in World War I. In exchange for military support
the Western Allies needed the allies promised to recognize the
independence of Arab states. The allies needed air support against the
Ottoman Turks during World War I. The Western Allies nations lied and
when the war was over did not recognize the independence of many Arab
states. After the war France controlled Lebanon and Syria. Britain
controlled Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The backlash from this decision
would have serious ramifications in the future for the Middle East.
Many people inside the borders of these countries were divided and
they had no strong identification with their designated countries.
British and French diplomats forged the
secret Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 (Spielvoegl). The agreement would
cut up the Ottoman Empire after World War I ended. The agreement
effectively gave control of Syria, Lebanon and part of Turkey to the
French. The agreement gave Palestine, Jordan and areas around the
Persian Gulf and Baghdad to Britain. The agreement also allowed huge
areas of land around Syria and Mesopotamia to be under French
influence and land in the Jordan Valley and Arabia to be under British
influence. The Arabs expected to be able to run their own countries
after helping the allies fight the Turks during World War I.
The Balfour declaration further
deteriorated relations between the West and the Middle East. Britain's
foreign secretary James Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild a
leader of the Jewish community in Britain (Spielvoegl). This letter
was eventually published in the Times of London. The British
government wanted Jewish support for the allies and the letter
expressed support for a national home for the Jews in Palestine. The
declaration made more Jews move to Palestine. When the Nazi regime in
Germany led to the Holocaust 6 million Jews were killed and even more
Jews fled to Palestine. The violence between the Jews and the Muslims
increased in Palestine. Britain declared in 1939 that only a certain
number of Jews would be allowed to move into the area and that caused
even more bloodshed.
After World War I when countries acquired
foreign land it was referred to as the mandate system (Spielvoegl).
According to the system a nation officially governed another nation as
a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations but did not own the
territory. The mandate system was simply colonialism in disguise.
Britain controlled Iraq, which was artificially created out of three
former Ottoman provinces. Iraq had been politically stable when
different ethnic and religious groups live together but when one
country is built out of three provinces Britain found that the people
would have preferred to rule themselves rather than be ruled by the
Arabs. A Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority until quite
recently. The British ignored the problems because Iraq is an oil rich
nation that they now controlled.
is not surprising that after so many lies and false promises there was
very little trust between the Europeans, Americans and the Arab Middle
East. There were long-lasting effects in the Middle East because of
these broken promises. The lasting impact on relationships, not only
between Arab and Israel, but Arab and Western countries have been
strained since. Middle Eastern states were drawn by European powers in
ways that would benefit themselves and didn't take into consideration
the wants and desires of the people inside of these borders. There
were cultures that became instant minorities and had no real power to
rule themselves. They could not elect their own leaders because they
did not have the numbers. Many countries still claim ancestral
territories including Israel and Palestine with the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. Arab nationalism had grown because although the Arabs were not
a nation they were united by language, Islamic culture and religious
heritage. The Arab Israeli war of 1948 was caused because both sides
believed they had rights to a single piece of land. Each had deals
with Western Allies to own this land and both were lied to. Secret
deals made before-and-after World War I have lasting effects in the
Middle East to this day.
The Treaty of Versailles also negatively impacted Vietnam.
Point five of President Wilson's 14 Points said that “questions of
sovereignty interest of the populations concerned must have equal
weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to
be determined”(Wilson). Point five would require nations that have
shown to have an imperialistic nature to reject their claim on these
colonies and work together with the interests of the populations
living in these colonies. Realistically most of these populations did
not want to be colonies at all but independent countries. Apparently
this outcome had not occurred to Wilson. The failure of
self-determination diminished the allure of democratic-capitalism and
eventually led many countries to embrace communism (Spielvoegl).
Self-determination was discussed at the Paris Peace Conference but it
turned out to be all talk. In reality some of the people of Eastern
Europe became instant minorities when they drew boundaries along
ethnic lines. France wanted a barrier against Germany and the new
borders left ethnic minorities within nations they had little in
common with. These borders would lead to greater conflicts in the
future. The minorities in colonized lands numbers were so small they
could not realistically elect a leader of their choosing, so there was
no democracy for them.
A powerful leader would emerge in Vietnam
during this time period. Ho Chi Minh was a young Vietnamese patriot
that went to the Paris Peace Conference on behalf of people living
within the French Empire in Indochina (Spielvoegl). He believed in the
principle of national sovereignty and self-determination that
President Woodrow Wilson had promised. His desire was to free Vietnam
from colonial rule by France. But like other advocates of colonial
independence who came to Paris he discovered that Wilson's pledge was
in fact too good to be true. The British and the French refused to
enforce self-rule for all of their colonies and they ignored Ho Chi
Minh. He pursued a more radical solution to Imperial rule in Vietnam
when he figured out that the democratic process did not include the
Vietnamese people. While he was in France he joined the Communist
Party and he took his teachings home to Vietnam and decided to lead
them in a revolution. In 1941 he was ready to take on France but World
War II had started and the Japanese took over Vietnam. After Japan
lost the war Ho Chi Minh found Vietnam cut into North and South and
France had taken over again. By the end of 1946 the Franco-Vietnamese
War had begun with Ho Chi Minh's nationalist forces fighting the
Ho Chi Minh learned about communism
through Lenin’s revolutionary strategy for spreading communism
outside of the Western world (Spielvoegl). Lenin spread the work of
Karl Marx through an organization called Comintern. Comintern was a
worldwide organization of communist parties formed to advance
communism and world revolution. Karl Marx believed that the
proletariat would be a class of workers with no national affiliation
when it rose up against its bourgeoisie oppressors. Lenin believed
that a single communist state could not survive against all the
capitalist nations so he needed more and more socialist and communist
countries to band together.
When Russia successfully changed their
government after a revolution in 1917 Lenin wanted to tell the world
that the Marxist party could overturn their governments as well. Lenin
trained agents in communism and have them return to their own
countries to form Marxist parties there. Nearly every colonial society
in Asia had a Communist Party by the end of the 1920s (Spielvoegl).
Lenin's communism promised a violent revolution against major world
empires that would lead to redistribution of land to peasants,
economic equality, plenty of food for everyone, social services for
everyone and true self-determination.
Lenin and Ho Chi Minh believed that
Democratic capitalistic nations could be taken over by Soviet
communism. All that Vietnam needed to do to spread communism was work
together, not necessarily as a nation, but as an ideology. That
ideology was communism. Self-determination would bring conflicts
between Democratic capitalism and communism for many years to come.
After World War II the United States and
the Soviet Union became political rivals for many years. President
Truman adopted a foreign policy of containment aimed at the Soviet
Union’s influence and the expansion of communism. The United States
feared the spread of communism in Europe so they began to send aid to
countries that might “otherwise have turned to communism’ (664
Spielvoegl). The United States, Canada and 10 Western European nations
formed the NATO in 1949 as a defensive military alliance. The Soviets
developed the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The long-term issues between
Democratic-Capitalism and Communism are what we call the Cold War.
The Treaty of Versailles destroyed
Germany on many levels. The Treaty crushed Germany's economy and took
away land that Germany needed to feed its people. The Treaty held
Germany responsible for the war and hurt Germany both economically and
militarily. Many countries wanted to bring Germany to its knees
calling for Germany to pay huge sums of money in reparations that
ultimately Germany would never be able to afford. Germany was left
humiliated and destitute and in its desperation looked to fascism to
bring back national honor and pride. The significance of the Treaty of
Versailles cannot be overstated. The Treaty’s unrealistic assessment
of what Germany could actually afford to pay back in war reparations
angered many Germans and helped them embrace fascism down the road.
Many believe the Treaty of Versailles and its harsh treatment of
Germany was the direct cause of World War II.
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Keynes, John M. The Economic
Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, Inc.,
de Jonge, Alex. "Inflation in Weimar Germany". The
Social Dimension of Western Civilization, Vol. 2. Ed. Richard
Golden. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 260-271. Print
MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919,
Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2003.
The German Reply
Count Brockdorff-Rantzau. The
German Reply - May 13, 1919. S-H BULLETIN No. 277 May 15th, 1919
reprinted by the National Endowment for the Humanities, source: Norman
H. Davis, Box 44, Paris Peace Conference, Versailles Treaty,
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Manuscript. January 3, 2013.
Wilson, Woodrow. Speech on the Fourteen Points. Washington, D.C.:
Library of Congress, Congressional Record, 65th Congress 2nd Session,
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