Treaty of Versailles file photo

The Treaty of Versailles

28 Jun 1919

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Depending on who answers the question "when did WW2 start?", the answer is often different. Many will say Sep 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, some say Jul 1937 when Japan invaded China, and a few will even say Sep 1931 when the Japanese Army instigated the Mukden Incident in the Manchuria region of China. Some historians date the start of WW2 even further; they say that WW2 became unavoidable when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.

After the horrendous carnage that was the trench warfare of WW1, the European powers were fearful of any future warfare altogether. After six months of negotiations, the Allied powers decided that Germany must be stripped of all of its war-making capabilities so that the country could never commence another aggressive war again. This was done by stripping Germany of her colonial possessions and some European territory, severely restricting her military's quality and quantity, and forcing her to pay large sums in reparations. While the territorial losses and the military restrictions had already driven the proud German people to shame, the reparations clause drove them to near rage. Initial clause placed the weight of repaying 269 billion gold marks to the Allied powers; an amendment passed in Jan 1921 reduced the amount of 132 billion. Even at the reduced amount, it was an impossibly astronomical figure that would require Germany to continue paying until 1987 before the entire amount was paid off. The efforts to pay the war debts created a hyperinflation in Germany, and eventually it led to a complete economic meltdown. "The terms [of the treaty] were exorbitant, vindictive, and preposterous", said William Manchester. John Maynard Keynes did not see merit in it either, calling the peace that it promised nothing but "a Carthaginian Peace". Fellow British Winston Churchill summed up the treaty as "monstrous" and "malignant". Paul von Hindenburg, German Chief of Staff during WW1, was asked about the treaty; he responded by saying that sometimes he could not "help feeling that it were better to perish than sign such a humiliating peace."

It was in this mixture of damaged national pride and severe hardship endured by the German people that gave Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party the opportunity gain popularity. Germany, ravaged by the war, the harsh treaty, and the Great Depression, wanted to see a bright future for Germany; Hitler offered such a hope, and the German people bought into his twisted vision for a glorious German Reich.

The text of the Treaty of Versailles can be found on the website the First World War.

Sources: the Last Lion, Wikipedia.

The Treaty of Versailles Timeline

18 Jan 1919 The Paris Peace Conference opened in Versailles, France.
16 Jun 1919 The victorious powers gave a ultimatum to Germany to agree to the Treaty of Versailles by 24 Jun 1919.
24 Jun 1919 The German Reichstag agreed to the Treaty of Versailles.
28 Jun 1919 The Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations were signed in Paris, France.

Photographs

Lloyd George, Orlando, Clemenceau, and Wilson met in Paris to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, 1919Australian soldiers carrying Billy Hughes along George Street, Sydney, Australia after his return from the Paris Peace Conference, 1919




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. G. Mallette says:
    17 Apr 2007 08:59:53 PM

    Thank you! I am working on a work for school and find in your site the inspirations to do it... thanks again!!
  2. Bill says:
    31 Dec 2009 10:03:19 PM

    "There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
    and with his sickle keen,
    He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
    and the flowers that grow between."

    -Longfellow-
    The Reaper and the Flower

    With the End of World War I, The Stage was
    Set For World War II. And Once Again The
    Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will ride.

    "War, Famine, Pestilence And Death"
  3. Kodey says:
    7 Mar 2010 10:45:34 PM

    Though we have the hindsight of the Treaty as a failure for the French at the time this was what was planned. They wanted Germany weaked and the blame for the war pinned on Germany. For the Germans it was an insult, it is only human nature that they retaliate. Unfotunately, Hitler was smart and realised that he could easily get Germany into an uproar easily. He took advantage of this and *BAM* World War Two.
  4. Anonymous says:
    21 May 2010 06:53:32 AM

    well the info is alright but i didnt find the info i wanted well yeah. and why do we have to do this ecurity code man. goodness me what loosers.
  5. Bill says:
    5 Oct 2010 05:59:46 PM

    WORLD WAR ONE WAS OVER, WORLD WAR TWO WAS IN
    THE FUTURE:

    Despite the end of the war, German sentries
    still guarded a POW camp, the vast majority
    of prisoners were Russians, and none of the
    Fatherland's rolling stock had been spared
    to transport them back to the Motherland.

    Outside the air was cold,with frost sparkling
    in the moonlight. At midnight the guards
    changed, the new guard sheltered inside his
    wooden guard booth, had much to think about.
    Too much dissatisfaction, and corroding
    disappointments, thwarted longings and
    potential hatred seething his soul, to give
    him any rest.

    His eyes darted from side to side, his mind
    busy forming half-formed, and shadowy
    ambitions his pallid, nervous face twiching
    with cold and concentration.
    Obergefreiter, Adolf Hitler was pondering
    the future...


    Obergefreiter (Lance Corporal)
  6. Anonymous says:
    5 Dec 2010 08:24:33 AM

    @Kodey

    Hitler didn't put Germany into an uproar at all. In fact, he consumed control of the government from within, and then rallied the people of Germany.
  7. Bill says:
    9 Dec 2010 08:03:23 AM

    Adolf Hitler had absolute authority over the
    German Reich. Not since the Roman Empire, had
    one man held such power over life and death.
    His Empire spread over Europe, to Russia and
    from Finland to Italy and into Africa.
    He was a master orator, with total control of all Germany's mass media.

    He was both designer and arbitrator of all changes and plans. The one-an-only decision maker. Ruled as both Fuhrer and Chancellor.
    In early elections the Nazis won 18% of the
    vote, and 107 seats in the Reichstag.
    The Nazis became the second largest party in
    Germany.

    Hitler's success was winning over the middle class who had been hit hard by the inflation of the 1920s.
    Farmers and War Veterans also supported Hitler However, the urban working class generally ignored Hitler. In 1932 the Nazis held 230 seats winning and becoming the largest pary.

    Hitler's election into office and his use of the German Constituation, have led to the myth that his country elected him as dictator, and that the majority supported him.
    He was made Chancellor by legal appointment by President Hindenburg, who was elected legally. At the last free elections, the Nazis polled 33% of the vote, winning 196 seats out of 584. Even in the 1933 elections with terror and violence, the Nazi Party received 44% of the vote.
    The Nazis gained control of a majority of seats in the Reichstag, through coalition and additional votes needed to pass the infamous Enabling Act, that invested Hitler with dictatorial authority.

    Adolf Hitler achieved authoritarian control without ever suspending, or violating the Weimar Constituation, but Hitler undermined democracy to do so.
  8. Bill says:
    8 Mar 2011 02:19:55 PM

    THE BIG FOUR: AT VERSAILLES 1919

    From left to right are Prime Minister Lloyd George of Britain, Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Prime Minister Georges
    Clemenceau of France and President Woodrow Wilson of the United States.
    Secret meetings, Political wrangling became intense led to secret treaties and the territorial rearrangement of Europe.

    The defeated Central Powers were not allowed to sit at the conference table.
    Germany wasn't given the opportunity to influence or object to the terms, it was for them take it or...it was a dictated peace, an armistice for the next twenty years.

    Many of the Allies were not happy with the treaty Italy was angry that it didn't get the land it was promised in 1915 that went to the new state of Yugoslavia.

    France wanted more war reparations from Germany to pay off the USA.
    Britain felt the treaty was too harsh for Germany.
    America felt the treaty was too harsh as well
    and as a result didn't join the League of Nations. President Wilson issued his famous
    fourteen points, that led one politician to say, and God only gave us ten!

    DID YOU KNOW...

    The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 five years to the day, of the
    assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungray on June 28,1914 location: Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary


    TREATY OF VERSAILLES: LAYING THE SEEDS OF
    THE SECOND WORLD WAR

    German war reparations: (6.6 billion pounds)
    Lost terrirory to: Poland, France, Denmark
    and to Czechoslovakia.

    WHAT THE ALLIES WANTED:

    Britain: wanted Germany punished, but not too
    harshly Lloyd George didn't want Germany to seek revenge in the future.

    France: wanted to cripple Germany so they would't attack again the French wanted Germany to be broken down ito smaller states to weaken them. France had been invaded in 1871 and 1914 added reparations were the coal fields in the Saar for 15 years.

    France suffered in World War I, Clemenceau was under great pressure to make Germany pay huge war reparations this woulld weaken Germany while help France recover.

    Germany: lost 10% of its land, 12.5% of its
    population, 16% of its cornfields, 50% of its Iron and Steel Industries the loss of land would make paying reparations more difficult.
    Germany lost all its overseas colonies, Alsace-Lorraine went to France, Western Prussia and Upper Silesia went to Poland, Danzig became a free city protected by the League of Nations.
    The Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up
    into the New Nations of Europe. Germany was
    to have no conscription, a standing army of no more than 100,000 men one officer said, you mean 100,000 officers for the future, no heavy equipment, no air force, no submarines
    no large warships. No alliance with Austria,
    no German troops in the Rhineland.

    For the Germans it was swallow it, weather you like it or not. The German economy did recover in the second half of the 1920s and the amount of war reparations was reduced
    througout the 1920s the German people had little influence over the Kaiser and the Military and what happened to the Kaiser? he
    spent the rest of his life in Holland wasn't he responsIble for Germany's entry into WWI,
    and members of his Government.

    United States wanted a better more peaceful world, wanted a League of Nations to support each other and help promote world peace. The U.S. believed Germany should be punished but
    in a way that would lead to recoculation as opposed to war.
  9. Bill says:
    9 Mar 2011 10:07:29 AM

    OOPS!...Last sentence should read. The US believed Germany should be punished, but in a way that would lead to reconciliation as opposed to war. Misspelled reconciliation

    THE RISE OF ADOLPH HITLER:

    He fought in World War I, to Hitler Germany's
    surrender was a "Stab in the Back". In prison
    he wrote "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) in his book he laid out his plans for the future:
    He promised employment, public work projects
    fight the communists.
    He was attractive to the middle class and to the farmers, scrap the Treaty of Versailles
    and make Germany great again.

    Depression in 1929 led to wide unemployment
    he was a powerful public speaker, led to the rise of the Nazi party.
    In 1933 he became both Chanceller and Fuhrer of Germany. He changed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a Single political party dictatorship based on totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism.
    1938 Hitler takes over Austria, France and Britain do nothing.
    1938 Hitler wants parts of Czechoslovakia
    again France and Britain do nothing.
    1939 Hitler invades and takes over the rest of Czechoslovakia.

    WHEN DARKNESS FELL:

    Hitler invads Poland and World War II starts
    by this time France and Britain stand up to Hitler and declare war, but he has become so powerful, he couldn't be stopped it would take six long years of total war before the Nazis were defeated.
    the greatest conflict in the history of man
    would claim between 50 to 100 million lives change the course of history to the present day, lead to the division of Europe, both
    East and West, The Cold War and created the Military Superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union.

    FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY
  10. Bill says:
    13 Mar 2011 08:20:22 PM

    After the Armistice of November 1918 the German Army remained intact, returned to the Fatherland and was not forced to surrender.
    In years to come, Adolf Hitler would speak out against the Versailles Treaty, and gain much support.

    In 1919 Hitler was still in the army and became a informer in Munich, he also became a undercover agent for the German Army and assisted in weeding out Marxist influence within the ranks.

    He investigated any subversive political activities and organizations. Hitler was given the job of lecturing returning German
    POWs on the dangers of Communism, Pacifism
    and Democracy his lectures were well received by the weary soldiers, who were looking for someone to blame.
    An Army report on Hitler referred to him as as "a born orator".

    For his next assignment, he was ordered in
    September 1919 to investigate a small group in Munich known as the German Workers Party
  11. Bill says:
    13 Mar 2011 09:12:07 PM

    The German Workers Party name was changed by Hitler, who added the two words National Scialist, and was now known as the National Socialist German Workers Party in 1920 the party had about 3,000 members. The party was now called the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeilerpartei(NSDAP)now the party needed a symbol...

    The swastika was adopted by the Nazi Party
    Hitler made the swastika unique to the party by reversing the normal direction of the symbol so that it appeared clockwise.

    Prior to the Nazis this symbol was known for good luck, and was used by various religious groups.

    The Nazi Party needed a flag, the black swastika in a white circle against a red field, the Red and Black represented Blut und Boden, Blood and Soil.
    The colors of Black, White and Red were based on the Old North German Confederation
  12. Johan says:
    5 May 2012 10:44:02 PM

    Bill, in entry 7 you claim that no-one since the Roman Empire held such power over life and death as Hitler did. Maybe you haven't heard of people like Louis XIV of France or Peter the Great of Russia. Or even Hitler´s contemporary Stalin?
    My point is, that dictators will arise in every era but only those who ultimately are less than victorious will be judged as the tyrants they were.
  13. Bill says:
    24 Mar 2013 03:53:33 PM

    Thanks for your comment, yes I've studied history and I've read about all those you have mentioned.
    I should have said in the "Modern World" you could also rank Stalin with Hitler, but were just addressing one absolute authority Adolf Hitler.

    I'm glad you enjoy ww2db I hope to give others a new look at the history of WWII...click on People click on Government scroll down to Adolf Hitler

    Best wishes,

    Bill

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The Treaty of Versailles Photo Gallery
Lloyd George, Orlando, Clemenceau, and Wilson met in Paris to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, 1919
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