how did the treaty of versailles lead to world war 2 

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Treaty of Versailles was well intentioned, but created more problems than it solved. It contributed to the outbreak of World War II in a number of ways:

  • The "war guilt clause" compelled Germany to assume complete responsibility for the war, which of course is ridiculous. There were many causes; but this language was forced upon Germany. Article 231 stated:

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

  • In addition to saddling Germany with responsibility for the war, the Allies also insisted that Germany assume full responsibility for the costs of the war. Article 232 provided:

The Allied and Associated Governments recognise that the resources of Germany are not adequate, after taking into account permanent diminutions of such resources which will result from other provisions of the present Treaty, to make complete reparation for all such loss and damage.

The Allied and Associated Governments, however, require, and Germany undertakes, that she will make compensation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers and to their property during the period of the belligerency of each as an Allied or Associated Power against Germany by such aggression by land, by sea and from the air, and in general all damage as defined in Annex l hereto.

Reparations were intended to cripple Germany as well as indemnify the Allies. Total reparations were eight times the entire GDP of Germany. Had Germany paid all reparations, the last payment would have been made in 1998.

Finally, in attempting to create an "independent Poland with access to the sea" as Wilson proposed in his Fourteen Points, a portion of German territory was ceded to Poland even though the people there were ethnically German.

These several factors caused deep resentment in Germany, which played into the hands of Adolf Hitler and others who blamed the Treaty for Germany's post-war woes.