What were the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, and what were the effects for Germany?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the parties to the war that ravaged much of Europe from 1914 to 1918.  Concluded at the Palace of Versaille outside of Paris in 1919, the treaty imposed a number of conditions on Germany as follows:

The following regions were broken away from Germany and given to the victorious nations:  Alsace-Lorrain was to France; Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium; Northern Schleswig was given to Denmark; Hultschin was given to Czechoslovakia, West Prussia, Posen and Upper Silesia were given to Poland; and the Saar, Danzig and Memel were put under the international control of the newly established League of Nations.  

In addition to the territorial losses endured by Germany -- including territories with sizable German-speaking populations -- restrictions were imposed on that country's ability to rearm following the extensive losses of the war.  Germany was seriously limited in the number of soldiers it could have under arms, and it was not allowed tanks, the emerging and newly dominated weapon system.  It was also prohibited from maintaining an air force, thereby ensuring its vulnerability to the air forces of the British and French.

Particularly difficult for Germany was the burden of financial reparations it was required under the terms of the treaty to pay to the victors, including the wholesale loss of its most important industrial regions.  Finally, the treaty required Germany to accept full responsibility for the war that became known as World War I.

The effects of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, as noted, were substantial, and highly humiliating.  The requirement to repay reparations was extremely burdensome given the damage to its own economy from a war for which it was little more responsible than France and Britan, and the acceptance of responsibility for the outbreak of the war would exacerbate tensions between Germans and the neighboring French for years to come.

The conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles helped to set the stage for the rise of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party, which exploited German resentment over the restrictions of the treaty and the losses of sizable and economically vital territories.  While Hitler and the Germans were overwhelmingly responsible for the incredible devastation of World War II -- and were wholly responsible for the Holocaust, in which six million European Jews and millions of others (homosexuals, Roma, Poles, Russians, the mentally and physically disabled) were systematically and brutally murdered -- the conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles certainly helped establish the conditions under which that war would be inevitable.