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How metaphoric a setting for this treaty that ended World War I, but generated the German resentment that would create the environment for one such as Adolf Hitler. In the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, France, about 30 miles from Paris in the former residence of the resplendent and powerful King Louis XIV, the "Sun King," a treaty that deceived peace with "smoke and mirrors" was signed ion 28 June 1919 with the surrender of Germany.
Earlier in November of 1918, when German leaders signed the armistice in the Compiègne Forest, they were under the impression that President Wilson's Fourteen Points were to be the basis of the future peace treaty. However, Britain and France rejected Wilson's proposals dealing with territorial and political settlements and, instead sought to severely punish Germany by seizing its colonies. Thus, territories were awarded to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France. The overseas colonies of Germany were awarded to the League of Nations. Further, the treaty demanded the demilitarization and occupation of the Rhineland. Additionally, there was
...special status for the Saarland under French control. Plebiscites were to determine the future of areas in northern Schleswig on the Danish-German frontier and parts of Upper Silesia on the border with Poland.
Certainly, it was a humiliation to the Germans to have to sign this treaty as it also placed the blame for the war solely upon their country--Article 231 was called the "Guilt Clause" and assigned Germany great sums of money to be repaid. France's premier Georges Clemenceau especially imposed great fines upon Germany so that it would be crushed economically. It was also crushed militarily as the German Army was reduced to a 100,000 man security force, and the Navy was restricted to 100,000 tons; no submarines were allowed, nor was it allowed any air force. Moreover, Germany was required to conduct war crime trials against the Kaiser and other leaders. These trials, called the Leipzip Trials, were essentially a sham as the Kaiser or other leaders did not appear for the cases against them.
The exorbitant demands for reparation ($40 billion) were sums that Germany could not pay. Added to the stripping away of Germany's territories and the other stringent restrictions and humiliations, the time was ripe for radical parties, such as Hitler's Nazi Party to emerge and gain credibility with voters in the early 1930's as promises were made to regain the lost territories and Germany's prominence on the world stage.
The Treaty of Versailles was the treaty that ended World War 1. This was a peace treaty, but it also had many points which punished Germany, believing they caused the war. It took away their land, reduced their military, destroyed their economy, and made them take all blame for the war. This is said to be the cause of World War 2.
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