After a quick overview of World War I along it?s war ending accord, the Treaty of Versailles, the general assumption that this agreement set up the perfect scene for World War II to start came up for discussion, leaving no other option but to detailly study the Treaty to further understand how it could have caused the start of World War II. In order to have an accurate judgement on whether the peace treaty of Paris was really responsible for the start of World War II it was key to do an analysed research on the agreement. The result of this research was very clear leaving the final answer that the Treaty of Versailles was indeed the main case of the start of WWII due to the harsh sanctions put on Germany after the war, along with that the way that it put down all German morale leading Adolf Hitler the perfect opportunity to spread nationalistic ideas that promoted the start of the war..
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The Treaty of Versailles was a treaty signed in Versailles, France, in June 1919, with the aim of ending a war that had devastated the entire world and never before seen in the history of mankind. Its purpose was to establish the guidelines of world peace and avoid future conflicts that would lead to a catastrophe similar to the one recently experienced.
The following research paper will try to explain how this treaty was signed by some of the world’s greatest powers and, once explained, try to demonstrate at what level it can be considered one of the causes of the Second World War, emphasizing the points considered more conflictive and whose consequences could give reason to future international conflicts.
To carry out this work, I will rely especially on the Treaty of Versailles and its relationship, direct and indirect, with Germany, since in my opinion, this was the most affected country and was the nation where the terms of the treaty had the most repercussions, giving rise to subsequent reactions of great importance when it comes to establishing a why to the Second World War. In addition, it is in my opinion appropriate to make an attempt to represent the main interests of each of the nations involved, at the end of the First World War, which were reflected in the preparation of the treaty.
The Defeat of the Central Powers
The German spring offensive of 1918 was launched by Ludendorff in a last desperate attempt to win the war before too many American troops arrived and before the discontent in Germany unleashed a revolution. The attempt was about to succeed: by taking advantage of all the additional troops unoccupied in the east, the Germans made their way into the Somme (March) and by the end of May they were only 65 kilometers from Paris; where the allies seemed to fall apart. However, under the general command of Marshal Marshal Foch managed to maintain themselves, while the German advance lost momentum and created a stifling congestion.
The Allies launched a counter-offensive near Amiens, with hundreds of tanks attacking on the basis of rapid attacks at many different points instead of attacking a narrow front, forcing the Germans to retreat on all fronts. Slowly but firmly, they were forced to retreat until by the end of September by that time Allies had crossed the Hindenburg line. Although Germany had not yet been invaded, Ludendorff was convinced that they would be defeated in the spring of 1919. He insisted had the German government call for an armistice to President Wilson , in the hope of obtain less severe conditions in accordance with Wilson’s Fourteen Points. By calling for peace in 1918, Germany would be saved from being occupied and preserve the army’s reputation. When the Allies began to advance in the summer of 1918, the contest continued for another 5 weeks, but in the end an armistice was signed on November 11. The Central Powers not only admitted the defeat, but collapsed and the revolutions were distributed, by the autumn of 1918, around all central and south-eastern Europe, as before in Russia .
Problems To Make a Peace Arrangement
At the beginning of the war, none of the participants had a precise idea about what they hoped to achieve, apart from the fact that Germany and Austria wanted to preserve the Habsburg Empire and considered it necessary to destroy Serbia. Germany had also begun years ago a “competition” with Britain for which of the two powers was better armed, and with France to see which of the two was more industrialized. The World War appeared as a perfect scenario to define these confrontations.
Considering that in the past practically none of the non-revolutionary and non-ideological wars had been waged as a fight to the death or even total exhaustion, why, then, did the major powers on both sides consider the First World War to be a conflict in the one who could only contemplate victory or total defeat? Eric Hobsbawm says “The reason is that, unlike other previous wars, driven by limited and concrete reasons, the First World War pursued unlimited goals.”
Faced with the prolongation of the conflict, some of the governments involved, perhaps with a view to encouraging their troops by presenting them with some concrete objectives to fight for, began to enumerate their war objectives.
Although the main intention of the Treaty of Versailles was to restructure the map of Europe, both to weaken and control Germany and to fill the large empty spaces that had remained in Europe, when the peace conference met in January 1919, It soon became clear that it would be difficult to reach an agreement because of the different ideas of the Allies on how to deal with the vanquished powers. Wilson, for the United States, in spite of his main interest in his last point (that of the League of Nations), had originally been in favor of a benign peace, but Wilson’s attitude changed as the Germans did he ignored his Fourteen Points and imposed on Russia the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk; now he thought that the Germans needed to be punished, and he agreed with the English and French demands regarding reparations, and German disarmament. Wilson was also in favor of self-determination. The French delegation, represented by Clemenceau, was interested above all in their security and to achieve it demanded a severe peace to ruin Germany economically and militarily. Italy, with Orlando at the head, struggled to be granted what had been promised in 1915 in exchange for his entry into the war (Trento, Trieste, Istria, etc.) to which in the points of Wilson was alluded only in a very ambiguous way. Great Britain, with its minister Lloyd George, was very little interested in the League of Nations, but first of all wanted to defend its colonial interests, improve its share of German reparations, and secure its former naval supremacy. Although England was in favor of a less strict arrangement that allowed Germany to recover quickly and reinsert itself in the economic scheme , George had just won an election campaign based on slogans such as “hang the Kaiser” and offers to obtain from Germany all “the juice that can be squeezed from a lemon and a little more”, so the people wanted a severe fix.
It became clear how it is reflected that the United States wanted a “peace without victory” , while France and Great Britain wanted a “peace with victory” .
The Treaty of Versailles could thus be presented to Germany in May 1919 and was finally accepted by the German government (which rejected it in the first instance) on June 28. The Treaty reflected the purposes of each of the representatives of the Allies. The “Peace Agreement” obliged Germany to return Alsace and Lorraine to France, to surrender their colonies to Great Britain, France and South Africa under the formula of “mandates” (and those of Asia, to Japan, Australia and New Zealand), to also give up part of their territories from the east to the new Poland and Schleswig to Denmark. The Saar region came under the administration of the League of Nations and French occupation until 1935; that of the Rhine was demilitarized and occupied by allied forces. In the east, Poland was effectively rebuilt. Danzig, a German majority city on Polish territory, was declared a Free City but a “Polish corridor” was drawn between Danzig and the German border to allow Poland access to the sea, thereby cutting East Prussia from the rest of Germany. At the other end of East Prussia, the port of Memel was delivered, under international control to Lithuania. The German army was reduced to 100,000 men. By clause 231, the treaty declared Germany guilty of the War and held him liable for the losses and damages caused, although the estimate of the amount to be paid for repairs was left to a commission (6,500 million lire plus interest) .Meanwhile, Germany was obliged to hand over to the Allies, in advance, its merchant and war fleets (the sailors sank the latter before doing so), certain quantities of coal and the properties of German citizens abroad. Finally, the possible unity of Germany with Austria was forbidden. The Treaty of Versailles invalidated that of Brest-Litovsk. In addition to Poland, also Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were recognized as independent countries. Finally, on January 16, 1920, the League of Nations was established in Geneva, the body that, as a democratic assembly of sovereign nations, was to guarantee cooperation between them and the resolution through arbitration and open diplomacy of conflicts and international disputes. The League of Nations was also completed with the International Labor Organization, to extend labor legislation, and with the International Court of Justice, based in The Hague.
How can the Main Points of the Treaty of Versailles be Reflected in a Future War?
The main thing and the common reaction to all the points of the treaty was the discontent and the feeling of rage and revenge of the German people towards the Allies, which motivated them to do something. The level of tension of the population increased to the maximum and a future crisis was evident with consequences such as the Second World War.
That was an imposed Peace: “the Germans were not admitted to the Versailles conference, they were simply presented with the conditions and forced to sign.” Although they were allowed to criticize them in writing, all their protests (except one regarding the territory to give way) were discarded. ” This led Hitler to base his political campaign against the Treaty of Versailles and against those who had signed it and thus come to power. Once in power he stated that since peace was equivalent to a diktat, it should not be considered morally binding. “Germany was imposed a peace with very harsh conditions, justified on the grounds that it was solely responsible for the war and all its consequences, …, in order to keep that country in a situation of permanent weakness . “
Many of the stipulations did not agree with the 14 points: The Germans felt cheated because they claimed that they had promised that the treaty would be based on the famous Fourteen Points, but in fact it had not been like that. Even the Germans were referring to the fact that the United States had not signed the Treaty of Versailles precisely for that reason. It must be emphasized once again that situations like this led to a rise in the level of tension of the German people.
Loss of territory in Europe and the world: As main references were the delivery of Alsace and Lorraine to France, the loss of Prussia and all African colonies. Germany lost two thirds of its industrialized territory and much of it was ceded to France to benefit it. In addition to these terms weakening Germany, the German people began to carry out strikes and riots such as those on the Rhine coast to show that they did not accept such conditions. These conflicts could become greater and end in major international conflicts.
The disarmament clauses caused deep resentment: The Germans objected that only 100,000 men were not enough to maintain calm and security in the town in times of political disturbances and national reorganization. Similarly, the displeasure of the Germans increased later when the other powers showed no interest in disarming and point 4 said “general disarmament.” Thus disarmament was not carried out by any power. Added to the feeling of revenge and reaction that reigned in Germany, it was not the safe
The guilt clause of the war: The Germans claimed that they were not entirely to blame for what happened, but it was a further demonstration of the Allies’ attempt to destroy Germany even though the war was over. Despite the fact that later studies may attribute blame for what happened to Germany, it is almost impossible that in the space of six weeks in 1919 the Special Commission on War Responsibility would do so.
The definitive humiliation: The reparations were established in an amount impossible to pay for Germany. This was recognized even by the economic adviser of the delegation of Great Britain, J.M. Keynes. Failure to pay brought a crisis because the Allies had the German money to pay their own war debts and did not receive it on time or in the amount fixed. Thus came the “Wall Street crisis of 1929” affecting the whole world. France even tried to force the Germans to pay, thus creating a new conflict that would trigger in some others until the amount to be paid was reduced by 2.2 billion lire. The greatest humiliation, however, was that the Treaty was signed at the Palace of Versailles, where the German Empire had been established some 50 years earlier.
All these reasons were exploited by Hitler to acquire power in Germany and gave birth to people a feeling very exploited by the fh??rer that were the main cause of the Second World War.
The Treaty of Versailles was, in fact, a treaty that attempted to end the war and establish world peace, but failed to do so, either because of the opposing and erroneous interests of the intervening powers as well as because of the ingenuity of Germany and the other affected powers to resuscitate and take advantage of the smallest conjuncture of the treaty.
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