The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement that was signed at the end of World War I. It placed blame on the war squarely on the shoulders of Germany and exacted great punishments that harmed the country and its people. The Germans, almost immediately, protested the potential damage outlined in...
The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement that was signed at the end of World War I. It placed blame on the war squarely on the shoulders of Germany and exacted great punishments that harmed the country and its people. The Germans, almost immediately, protested the potential damage outlined in the treaty.
According to these complaints, the Treaty had the effect of making Germany a debtor slave to the other powers of Europe. In referencing the attached document, (Comments of the German Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference on the Conditions of Peace,) this argument is clearly focused with the following points: (#1)
- Germany will be administered like a bankruptcy case by the victorious nations of France and England.
- Germany must pay a penalty, or reparation, the amount of which is arbitrary and capricious in nature
- The control of Germany's rivers, and construction of infrastructure by outside powers will hamper Germany's economic development
- The property of German citizens abroad will be annexed and they will not be permitted to conduct trade with the civilized world.
While outlining the economic difficulty that Germany will endure under the treaty, the Germans point to how Wilson's vision for peace was compromised. The following points were made about that contradiction. (#2)
- Wilson did not place blame on a single country for starting the war, but rather the institutions and alliances that existed prior. The treaty places blame on Germany.
- Wilson's vision for peace was that the countries of Europe would be treated equally and have common participation in economic benefits to ensure peace. The treaty does not allow Germany this equality and participation.
- Wilson's vision for peace included a League of Nations that will meet to guarantee that differences are settled amicably. Germany protested that they would not be invited to that assembly.
- Wilson's vision of self-determination does not seem to apply to Germany.
Near the beginning of the document, an appeal is made that the fundamental law of rights should be applied. The writer makes the case that because there are innate rights that individuals possess, these fundamental rights should be applied to states. These rights include the right of self-preservation and self-determination. (#3)
The issue of whether Germany was being treated fairly is obviously an opinion question. It is also a question that is easier to answer in hindsight. All of the countries of Europe were devastated by the events of World War I. Their economies were severely damaged, infrastructure and property were in disrepair, millions were dead, and debt was acquired. It was in the best interests of the victors to recoup some of this damage from Germany. It was also in their best interests at the time for them to put Germany in proverbial shackles while they sought to recover. This was a very shortsighted vision, however, as it did not take into consideration the long-range consequences of such action.
Germany really was not being treated fairly. President Woodrow Wilson was the architect of a plan for peace in Europe that could have led to different outcomes. The European powers ignored most of the points made by Wilson and chose revenge instead. They looked out for their own interests. Germany was disarmed, unable to protect itself. Germany lost territory, which allowed hundreds of thousands of Germans to be ruled by foreign powers. While Britain and France were allowed to recover from the war, the treaty made it nearly impossible for Germany to heal politically or economically.
One should not dismiss the psychological impact of the treaty on Germany either. Germans were made to feel ashamed and inferior to the other powers of Europe because of the Guilt Clause. All of these things, when taken together, led to political and social unrest in Germany that led to the establishment of a fascist regime in the 1930's. (#4)