What Did the Treaty of Versailles Do?
The Treaty of Versailles brought an end to World War I, making peace between Germany and the Allies. However, its treatment of Germany laid the foundation for many of the problems that led to World War II.
The negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles had much to do with the views that Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain and France, respectively, had about the treatment of Germany. While Lloyd George publicly advocated strict sanctions against Germany, privately he felt that Germany should be left strong enough to stand as a wall against Communism, which many thought would spread like a flame across Europe after its success against the tsars in Russia. However, suggesting any mercy for the Germans would have been politically suicidal.
Clemenceau represented the French view that Germany should be so handcuffed that it could never instigate another war. The utter destruction of northeastern France was a testament to the cruelty of German warfare, and his belief was that Germany should never have the tools of war at its disposal again.
Wilson had been shocked at the outright savagery of the Great War, and while he wanted Germany to be punished, he also wanted ultimate European reconciliation.
As a result, the treaty limited Germany’s army to 100,000 and forbade tanks or an air force. Some of the territory that Germany lost took away vital natural resources for its economy. Most importantly, Germany was ultimately ordered to pay 6.6 billion pounds in reparations. The Germans had no part in the negotiations, but since their military was in a shambles, it had to sign. The resulting anger in Germany led to the rise of the Nazi Party and Germany’s attempt, in World War II, to gain revenge on the victors in World War I.