World War One was the most gruesome war of its time until World War Two. It set the stage for what a modern war would be like in the early 1900s, not only this but, it also set the stage for how all future wars would be fought in the 20th century. Through this though, we learned how not to treat the losers of a war since some historians believe that ultimately the Treaty of Versailles caused the rise of Nazi ideology and Fascism in the 20th century.
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In this essay, I intend to explain to you how The Treaty of Versailles ultimately caused World War Two because of the clauses that limited the German economy and land space which allowed for the rise of the Nazi party.
Now as for the Treaty’s immediate impact on the Germans the primary issue was border changes. Many people were displaced and became different countries citizens all the sudden because of these changes. One of the bigger border changes is that loss of Alsace-Lorraine which is a resource-rich land area near the German-France border. (77) This change is area angered the Germans as they felt that the had rightly earned the territory after the Franco-Prussian war and many German people had moved over to this new territory. Therefore this change displaced many German citizens and made them French Citizens overnight. This displacement upset the displaced people as the French government was not keen on letting those ex-germans full French citizenship. Not only did Germany lose Alsace-Lorraine but they also lost the Rhine lands to France. The Rhineland prevented France from being an immediate threat to Germany and vice-versa. This change in land borders caused a change in power that made it so that Germany wasn’t a dominant power in central Europe anymore. In addition to these land losses the Germans also lost control of the Saar Bassin which France had wanted. France specifically getting this written in by adding As compensation for the destruction of the coal-mines in the north of France and as part payment towards the total reparation due from Germany for the damage resulting from the war(Treaty of Versailles 23). This allowed France to take a major economic power from Germany as well as this was one of the main coal mines used by the Germans.
Additionally, another major impact on Germany due to the Treaty was the fact that they weren’t able to join the League of Nations. The League of Nations would have allowed the Germans more negotiating power after the treaty was signed and may have let them loosen other restrictions placed on them, however, because they were not let into the League of Nations they had no chance of being able to negotiate for fewer restrictions.
As well as not being able to join the League of Nations Germany was also required to pay back a sum of around 33 Billion dollars in reparations (Williams 483). This sum of money ultimately was the crux of Germany’s fate. As the document originally did not specify what the amount had to be. Rather the treaty only said that the Germans were required to pay back all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and to their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air(Treaty of Versailles 92). When this was handed down to Germany by the Allies, Germany was consigned to having an unreasonable amount of debt put onto their agenda that they would never have been able to pay back. It should also be noted that the reason the amount of debt was so high is that as Keynes would put it Few sentences in History have given so much work to the sophists and the lawyers (Keynes 115). The reason Keynes words this in the way he does is that the nature of Article 232 is that every country who has been impacted by the Germans got to determine what they were owed by the Germans instead of an impartial third party. Therefore those who wanted to see the Germans and Germany itself crushed underfoot for good were the ones determining who got to decide how much the felt they were owed. One such instance that is referenced Keynes’ book is that France wanted to include in their share of reparations compensation for anything stolen by the enemy governments(117).
Now the issue arises of how much could really be solely set on Germany and not their allies. As Germany was not an independent army in the belligerence of the war it wouldn’t be fair for them to Assume all the debt. Austria-Hungry, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire all had, at least in some small part, their fair share in the destruction of the Allies territory. Most would agree that Austria-Hungry and Bulgaria did not have much left nor did the Ottoman Empire however it would be unfair to put all the blame on Germany. Never the less all the blame was put onto her and therefore she was forced to pay back all the preparations that were asked for on her own.
This blame ultimately drove the German economy into the ground as the repayment plan was aggressively written. The Germans were initially expected to pay 20,000,000,000 Marks gold bearer bonds, payable not later than May 1, 1921(Treaty of Versailles 103). Twenty billion marks roughly convert to about five billion USD. The issue is that this was only 15% of what was asked of Germany and the rest was due with 5% interest on the bonds that were to be set out. This was handed to a country with a mediocre economy, to begin with and not only that but their military spending was cut down to 6 battleships of the Deutschland or Lothringen type, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 12 torpedo boats(Treaty of Versailles 82). For those who studied how the United States came out of the Great Depression, you will understand that limiting military spending ultimately is what will, and did, cause the downfall of the German Economy. Due to them not being able to continue producing materials for the cause of a war the German economy would come to a halt as the entire economy had been geared towards the war effort. Without the war industrial production fell and Germany also would not be able to export any war goods.
Along with a drop in the number of vehicles that were allowed the number of troops that Germany was allowed to have at any given time was reduced. It was set to around 100,000 by the Treaty in Article 160. This, in theory, would allow the Germans to pay back their reparations(Mantoux 123). However due to the fact that money rotates through a system the depletion of the German army
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