Would making the terms of the Treaty of Versailles less harsh have had the desired effect of lessening the threat posed by Germany, or would taking a more conciliatory stance in fact have had the opposite effect by enabling it to remilitarize faster?
While this question is open to interpretation, one could argue that a more conciliatory treatment of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles would have been the best approach, as it would have allowed Germany to reenter European economics and would have given the government that took over after the Kaiser's abdication a reasonable chance at survival. This would have been a major step in preventing future European conflicts.
After the unrest that took over Germany in the late summer and fall of 1918, the country was already less of a threat to the Allied powers than ever. Germany's allies had already signed separate peace deals with the Allied powers, thus leading the country to stand alone. The British blockade of the North Sea was leading to starvation throughout Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II did not abdicate under threat of Allied takeover; rather, he was more worried about a Bolshevik uprising in his own country. The liberals that took over the government sought to severely limit the power of Hindenburg and Ludendorff and bring about democratic changes in Germany. The Germans were actually thrilled that Woodrow Wilson was coming to the treaty talks, because they hoped that Wilson would favorably note Germany's shift towards democracy and would hold British, French, and Italian interests in check.
By making the conditions of the peace harsh on Germany, the German economy would never recover. The people never fully backed the Wiemar Republic and they sought national prestige through Hitler's Nazi Party in 1933. The German treaty signers in 1919 even acknowledged that they were signing their own death warrants, since Germany was expected to pay for the entire war with no infrastructure or stable currency of its own. The Versailles Treaty placed the postwar German government in an unwinnable situation. France was not threatened by Germany in 1918, but in order to placate French families who had lost so much for four years, Germany had to pay a heavy price at the Versailles table. If the treaty had not been so vengeful, Germany would likely not have had the will to remilitarize a generation after it had lost heavily in WWI.
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