Last Updated 21 Apr 2020

Asses the Significance of the Treaty of Versailles

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The Treaty of Versailles did not dismantle Germany from its ability to wage war; it neither made the people grateful towards the allies. As the Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli of the 1500’s stated “___________”. The Treaty imposed many demands of the war weary country, these demands did not have an immediate effect on the country, and it instead gave a long-term legacy of bitterness and humiliation. The defeat of the German military was a shock to most Germans, as they were made to believe that they would be the victors in the “Great War”.

The Treaty came as an equal shock, as it gave the government no chance to negotiate the terms. The terms included military provisions to be changed, territories to be given away and reparations to be paid. The military of Germany was to be reduced to 100,000 and Germany was not allowed to produce any guns, poisonous gas or tanks. These terms affected many Germans especially wealthy industrialists who made large profits from the business. Those thousands employed into factories to build weapons also lost their jobs.

The German military was at a time four million strong before the war with the reduced military this put thousands of trained men onto the streets without employment, these men would prove later to be enemies of the new republic. The German General Staff was dismantled, therefore putting influential generals such as Ludendorff and Hindenburg unemployed but most importantly there loyalty was to nobody since the Kaiser abdicated. This allowed ambitious politicians to take advantage of the famed generals as they persuaded them to join their political parties.

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An example of this is Hitler having Ludendorff join him in his 1924 failed Munich Beerhall Putsch, he was used as a symbolic figure supporting Hitler’s regime. The powerful navy that German had, was to be reduced to a mere few ships, and the U-boats were strictly forbidden. This had the same affect as it did with the army; it put hundreds of sailors on the streets unemployed and angry. Since it was not the Military that decided to sign the armistice they felt a sense of betrayal from the new government.

This was to be called the “Stab in the back” theory, which was used by the military to explain why they were defeated and recalled. This theory was made to preserve the unscathed honor of the German military. The territories that the Treaty demanded were immense. The long held provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were taken by France. These provinces had been held by Germany since 1871, the people were a generation of Germans and the immediate change came as a shock. The Allies also claimed economic control over the rich coal-producing area of the Saar basin, its workers were German but the production was to go to France.

This had a dramatic effect on the amount of coal German was producing, before the war Germany war producing 277 million tonnes and 14 million tonnes of steel. Because of the economic control of the Saar basin both of these vast industries were badly disabled, this therefore effected Germany producing an effective income from these industries that it prospered. The large region of Posen was created into a new country called Poland, but the allies determined that the new nation needed access to the sea.

Therefore part of West Prussia was given to Poland, this area was called the Polish Corridor where many Germans lived, now under the new country Poland. The large city of Danzig was also taken from Germany and taken by the control of the new-formed League of Nations. Schleswig a region farthest north of Germany and south of Denmark was to be given to the government of Denmark, as the regions of Eupen and Malemdy was given to Belgium. The large area of the Rhine land, which lied on the border of Belgium and France, was to be demilitarized effectively stopping any further motivations to invade France.

Germany had ten colonies based in Africa and Asia; these colonies had an overall population of fifteen million, adding trade and tax income to Germany’s government. But the Allies stated in the Treaty that Germany was “Colonially Unworthy” and as a result lost control of all her colonies. These colonies were controlled and administrated by the League of Nations. All these territorial demands from the Treaty of Versailles not only had an economic impact to the German country but it had a morale effect of humiliation to the German populace.

Many articles in German Newspapers such as the Deutsche Zeitung stated, “German honor is being carried into its grave…. The German people will with unceasing labor press forward to reconquer the place among nations to which it is entitled. ” and as well politicians used this as propaganda promising that their party will reclaim German honor. The Treaty also forced Germany to take full responsibility of the war. The Allies made them accept that it was their fault and that the countries all suffered because of Germanys selfishness.

Because they were blamed for the war the Allies saw fit that they were to pay for the reparations of the war. This amount concluded to 32 billion American dollars, this was but a mere partial cost to the war but Germany still tried to resist paying the total amount. The reparations were not paid until 1921 a full three years after the signing of the Treaty. The initial German reaction the terms of the treaty was shock and anger. Since the Kaiser abdicated it fell upon the new government to sign the treaty, because of this the Weimar Republic was always held accountable for disgracing Germany.

There were many in Germany, who urged a rejection of the treaty like Hindenburg, but many more had a realistic perspective and insisted that the government sign it; these people were General Groener and other members of the Reichstag. The initial anger and outbursts the treaty invoked on the people was of hopelessness, the reality was that Germany had little choice other than to accept the treaty. If the Government did not sign the Treaty the country would have been dismantled like it was after World War 2. The Treaty of Versailles importance is clearly exemplified in its determined effect of Germany.

The country lost about thirteen percent of its territory, 12 percent of its population and a combined 64 percent of its iron and coal industries. But Germany still remained one of the strongest countries on the continent. As the Treaty effected the country on an emotionally level, the Germans of all classes were disgraced and angry at the Weimar Republic for signing the treaty. The Treaty obviously did not destroy Germanys ability to create an army (WW2) nor did it encourage them to not go to war. The effect of the Treaty forced a generation of Germans to swear vengeance on the Allies.

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