Why did the Treaty of Versailles punish Germany?
Germany was accused of starting the war and civilians from the countries forming the Allies piled pressure on their representatives to have Germany punished for the war. The Allies felt strongly that Germany was responsible for the damage caused by the war and should be held accountable by paying reparations.
It is important to note that Germany was not punished because it supported Austria-Hungary. In fact, Austria-Hungary was the aggrieved party because the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia deteriorated. Russia began military mobilization in support of Serbia. The situation forced Germany to ask Russia to demobilize. Russia rejected Germany’s request to demobilize, forcing Germany to declare war on Russia in support of Austria-Hungary. Russia, sensing weaknesses on its side, sought the support of France.
After the war and during the Paris Convention, the European Allies took the opportunity to address historical conflicts with Germany. For instance, France was still harbouring bitterness against Germany for losing Alsace-Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War. Germany was also punished in order to reduce its capacity to mobilize its resources for war efforts. The Allies remained uneasy with regards to Germany's ability and had to take protective measures against the nation.
The Versailles Treaty punished Germany. Even though Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia leading to the start of World War I, Germany received the harshest punishment. The Allies believed Germany was in a position to stop the war from occurring but chose not to do so.
Before Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Austria-Hungary asked Germany if Germany would support Austria-Hungary if they declared war on Serbia. Since Germany and Austria-Hungary had an alliance, Austria-Hungary believed Germany would support them. However, if Germany had said they wouldn’t have supported Austria-Hungary, it is possible Austria-Hungary wouldn’t have declared war on Serbia. Austria-Hungary knew Serbia and Russia were allies, and Austria-Hungary was concerned Russia would protect Serbia in case a war began. The Allies believed Germany could have taken the necessary step to keep the war from beginning. Because they chose not to do this, they were severely punished by the terms of the Versailles Treaty.
Germany also inflicted much damage on the Allied countries in World War I. The Allied nations suffered a great deal of destruction because of their fighting against Germany in the war. This also contributed to the harsh treaty being imposed on Germany.
Prior to the start of World War I Germany had begun a campaign to gain as much non-European territory as they could. They used aggressive tactics to forcibly take land from other European nations and began to preach the value of German nationalism or the idea that they were the one true race. They had also began to stock pile weapons and make mass preparations for future wars. The rest of Europe saw these actions as a threat and rightly so. At the end of the first World War the Treaty of Versailles was drafted with the idea of stripping Germany of its power and stopping it from growing or expanding any more. However, this plan backfired as the harsh fines leveraged against the German people lead to a collapse of the economy as well as internal turmoil regarding Germany's crushed nationalism. These times in Germany created the perfect storm to allow Adolf Hitler to rise to power as a symbol making Germany great again. After the humiliating loss Germany suffered previously it was ready to show the world how powerful it could be, thus resulting in the second World War.