After Europe was left shattered by World War I, peace was made concrete between Germany and the Allies with The Treaty of Versailles. A rather hefty document, the treaty featured approximately 440 articles over 15 sections and contained numerous annexes to satisfy the polarized opinions of those involved in its creation. Many wanted Germany completely destroyed, while others were more tempered and cautious about the effects of a violent response.
While the Treaty of Versailles is a long, complicated document, there are ten main facts that can be said about its creation and the results thereof:
- The treaty was signed on June 28th, 1919, after many months of staunch negotiation about what would be included in the document.
- The treaty was signed in Versailles Palace and received its name from that venue. The palace was considered the most appropriate location simply because it was large enough to hold the many hundreds of people involved in the process and finalization of the document.
- A trio of men who came to be called the “Big Three" were the most important figures in the creation of the treaty: David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Clemenceau of France and Woodrow Wilson of the United States.
- As a part of the treaty, approximately 13.5 percent of Germany’s territory was taken away and distributed among several other countries. Alsace-Lorraine was given to France; Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium; Northern Schleswig was given to Denmark; West Prussia, Posen and Upper Silesia were given to Poland; and Hultschin was given to Czechoslovakia.
- The largest consequence of surrendering land was the loss of important industrial territory for Germany, primarily the coal from Saar and Upper Silesia. Losing these lands crippled Germany’s ability to rebuild its economy, and combined with required financial reparations, it would seem the Allies were seeking to bankrupt the country.
- One of the most dramatic results of the treaty was the reduction of Germany’s army. The force was reduced to 100,000 men, and the army was not allowed tanks, heavy artillery, an airforce, or submarines. Only six capital naval ships were left allowed, and most of the area around the Rhine River was demilitarized. No German soldier or weapon was permitted into this demilitarized zone.
- A League of Nations was established to help maintain world peace, and in fact, the first 26 clauses of the Treaty of Versailles deal with the founding of the League of Nations exclusively.
- Perhaps the most intangible requirement of the treaty was what came to be referred to as the “War Guilt Clause." It required that Germany take full responsibility for starting the war and pay reparations, primarily to France and Belgium. The number was not set at the time of the treaty signing, but was later place at £6.6 billion, far out of the range of ability for Germany to pay back completely.
- Many people in Germany did not wish for the treaty to be signed but understood that it was the less damaging of the two options. Essentially, the choices Germany was given were to sign the document or be invaded by the Allies. Germany’s army had all but crumbled, and they were in no position to continue to fight.
- The treaty has come under come criticism in later years, believing it may have led to the rise of the Nazis in later decades. The treaty left Germany angry, with many believing they had been unfairly treated.