TREATY OF VERSAILLES: unfair, yet often misjudged
-Katrina Besler, bl.B
On November 11th, 1918 at 11 o’clock in the morning, World War One, arguably the greatest war of all time up until that point, came to an end. They called it ‘the war to end all wars’, denoting that it would result in peace; unfortunately for the world, quite the opposite occurred. The ‘winners’ of the war, known as the Allies, assembled in Paris soon after the guns ceased their blazing and the triumphant, though terribly exhausted and both physically and emotionally scarred, troops returned home. Some, like the French and Belgians, came home to an agitated, war- ravaged land, while the Germans were saluted by their president with the words, “we greet you undefeated”. (MacMillan, Interview, p.11) The irony is that Germany actually lost. This disillusion that the German people were guided into was part of the reason why they were so shocked and outraged when they received the product of the Allied powers’ conference: the infamous Treaty of Versailles. Another reason for their reaction was that the treaty was “signed under duress” (IA, p.43) and the Allies were “rejecting all arguments” (G view TOV, p.1) in Germany’s counter- proposal; it was also because they were expecting a peace based on Wilson’s fourteen points, and were astonished at the harshness of the resultant treaty. (V: WGC, p.1) Finally, a significant part of the anger of the German people toward the Treaty of Versailles was because, collectively, it just wasn’t fair. Granted, as David Thomson says in Europe since Napoleon, the negotiators were “constricted not only by their wartime agreements with one another and by pledges at home but also by the accumulated debris of war itself, they could do no more…” (Lewis, WWI aftermath, p.11), or at least it would be tremendously difficult to attain a better peace than what they had generated; but, some of the Treaty’s terms were intolerable. The restriction of Germany from the League of Nations, the failure to include Germany in discussion about reparations and the subsequent signage of a figurative blank check, the failure of other nations to demilitarize with Germany (and thus the military restrictions, to some extent), some of Germany’s territorial losses, the payment of interest on reparations, and the handover of part of Germany’s merchant marine to Britain, the laying of blame for the entire war on Germany, her colonial losses, and the manner in which the treaty was made and presented were unjust and “could have been handled more prudently” (Sandy, How…peace, p.5). The terms that were reasonable- including the military restrictions, reparations paid to France and Belgium for physical damage caused, the presence of the War Guilt Clause (some blame on Germany and the inclusion of the clause in the treaty were sensible), the prohibition of Anschluss, the relinquishing of the Saar coalfields to France for 15 years, and some of the actions and attitudes of the Allies with respect to their demands for the treaty and how those were carried out- did not outweigh those that were not, however, the blame laid on the treaty and its authors is excessive. In the words of Paul Birdsall, “the prosaic truth is that elements of good and bad were combined in the treaties” (TCV, p.63) and “it satisfied nobody” (how b3 felt, p.1)
The creators of the Treaty of Versailles each had different objectives upon commencement of the Paris Peace Conference, including worldwide peace, revenge, compensation, economic resurgence, and more; some of these aims were addressed more thoroughly than others, and these proportions contributed to the unfairness of the treaty. The first meeting scheduled to fulfill these goals took place on January 18th, 1919, the date that the German Empire was established forty-eight years earlier. This was a “deliberate humiliation of Germany” (D: TWR, p.2), and the beginning of a series of similar dealings against her. While some of...
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