When the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, it marked the official end of World War I . The various provisions of the treaty were mainly negotiated by the statesmen commonly referred to as the Big Three: David Lloyd George of Britain, Woodrow Wilson of the United...
When the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, it marked the official end of World War I. The various provisions of the treaty were mainly negotiated by the statesmen commonly referred to as the Big Three: David Lloyd George of Britain, Woodrow Wilson of the United States, and Georges Clemenceau of France. The absence of Germany from the negotiations as well as disagreements among the three powers as to the purpose and provisions of the treaty created months of arguments and eventual egregious terms for Germany. The most controversial issue involved German payment of reparations.
Great Britain's David Lloyd George had contradictory viewpoints about how Germany should be treated. On the one hand, to satisfy the British public as a politician he had to appear to be tough on Germany. On the other hand, he saw Germany as an important buffer zone against the encroachment of Russian communism. France's Clemenceau wanted Germany to be crushed and dismembered so that it could never again wage war against France. America's public leaned towards isolation, and Wilson was mainly concerned with establishing a League of Nations.
The final treaty was a compromise between the three powers. Germany lost portions of its territory to France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. The size and weaponry of its army was severely restricted. The provision that was most difficult to accept, however, was the War Guilt Clause and the reparations that went with it. Germany had to admit complete responsibility for starting the war and for the damages caused by the war. As a result of this admitted responsibility, Germany had to pay reparations so that the countries affected, in particular France and Belgium, could rebuild. Although the exact amount was not established at the time but was fixed later, it turned out to be far more than Germany would ever be able to pay.
This was the worst provision of the treaty because it caused great animosity among the German people. They resented that they had not been consulted about the treaty terms and only signed because they were without choice in the matter. It left a lingering attitude of anger and resentment in the German people, who felt that the responsibility lay with the government at the start of the war, not the millions of people who suffered economically as a result of the treaty. This anger and resentment lingered and broke out openly when the Nazis came into power.