Treaty of Versailles

(redirected from The Treaty of Versailles)
Also found in: Dictionary, Encyclopedia.

Treaty of Versailles

Most of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were set at the Paris Peace Conference, which was dominated by (l-r) Lloyd George of Great Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Most of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were set at the Paris Peace Conference, which was dominated by (l-r) Lloyd George of Great Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States.

The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement negotiated during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 that ended World War I and imposed disarmament, reparations, and territorial changes on the defeated Germany. The treaty also established the League of Nations, an international organization dedicated to resolving world conflicts peacefully. The treaty has been criticized for its harsh treatment of Germany, which many historians believe contributed to the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

President woodrow wilson played an important role in ending the hostilities and convening a peace conference. When the United States entered the war in January 1917, Wilson intended to use U.S. influence to end the long cycle of peace and war in Europe and create an international peace organization. On January 8, 1918, he delivered an address to Congress that named Fourteen Points to be used as the guide for a peace settlement. Nine of the points covered new territorial consignments, while the other five were of a general nature. In October 1918 Germany asked Wilson to arrange both a general Armistice based on the Fourteen Points and a conference to begin peace negotiations. On November 11 the armistice was concluded.

The Paris Peace Conference began in January 1919. The conference was dominated by David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Wilson of the United States, with Vittorio Orlando of Italy playing a lesser role. These leaders agreed that Germany and its allies would have no role in negotiating the treaty.

The first of Wilson's Fourteen Points stated that it was essential for a postwar settlement to have "open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view." Wilson's lofty vision, however, was undercut in Paris by secret treaties that Great Britain, France, and Italy had made during the war with Greece, Romania, and each other.

In addition, the European Allies demanded compensation from Germany for the damage their civilian populations had suffered and for German aggression in general. Wilson's loftier ideas gave way to the stern demands of the Allies.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. The terms dictated to Germany included a war guilt clause, in which Germany accepted responsibility as the aggressor in the war. Based on this clause, the Allies imposed reparations for war damage. Though the treaty did not specify an exact amount, a commission established in 1921 assessed $33 billion of reparations.

The boundaries of Germany and other parts of Europe were changed. Germany was required to return the territories of Alsace and Lorraine to France and to place the Saarland under the supervision of the League of Nations until 1935. Several territories were given to Belgium and Holland, and the nation of Poland was created from portions of German Silesia and Prussia. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled, and the countries of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania were recognized. All German overseas colonies in China, the Pacific, and Africa were taken over by Great Britain, France, Japan, and other Allied nations.

France, which had been invaded by Germany in 1871 and 1914, was adamant about disarming Germany. The treaty reduced the German army to 100,000 troops, eliminated the general staff, and prohibited Germany from manufacturing armored cars, tanks, submarines, airplanes, and poison gas. In addition, all German territory west of the Rhine River (Rhineland), was established as a demilitarized zone.

The Treaty of Versailles also created the League of Nations, which was to enforce the treaty and encourage the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. Many Americans were opposed to joining the League of Nations, however, and despite Wilson's efforts, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the treaty. Hence, instead of signing the Treaty of Versailles, the United States signed a separate peace treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, on July 2, 1921. This treaty conformed to the Versailles agreement except for the omission of the League of Nations provisions.

The Treaty of Versailles has been criticized as a vindictive agreement that violated the spirit of Wilson's Fourteen Points. The harsh terms hurt the German economy in the 1920s and contributed to the popularity of leaders such as Hitler who argued for the restoration of German honor through remilitarization.

Further readings

Boemeke, Manfred F., Gerald D. Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser, eds. 1998. The Treaty of Versailles: 75 Years After. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Marks, Sally. 2003. The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe, 1918–1933. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

References in periodicals archive ?
For, indeed, it has been one of the main purposes of the Treaty of Versailles to make the Polish problem an international issue.
Through maps, archival photographs, fact boxes and thought-provoking quotes, readers will learn about the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the creation of the League of Nations, and the Treaty of Versailles.
To make matters worse, the Treaty of Versailles imposed such harsh reparations on Germany that their economy was debilitated.
Some say German anger over the terms of the Treaty of Versailles aided in the rise of Hitler.
Wilson expended great capital negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, which set the terms of peace and, on Wilson's insistence, contained the League of Nations covenant.
The next stupid obligation was given to Poland in 1919 at the Treaty of Versailles.
Kramer does not espouse (or reject) Lenin's distinction between defensive and offensive nationalisms but indicates that Ho Chi Minh subscribed to Woodrow Wilson's liberal principles of the self-determination of nations until Indochinese claims to self-determination were ignored at the Treaty of Versailles and Lenin's socialist version of national self-determination seemed appropriate for Asian anticolonial struggles (159-160).
The year 2119 will be 200 years after the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I and the institution of the League of Nations as a means of guaranteeing the right of self-determination.
Aghast at the loss of life and physical damage as well as the psychological harm the war caused, the victors, as they drew up the Treaty of Versailles, unwittingly planted the seeds of the Second World War.
According to Norwood, American higher education of the 1920s and 1930s was dominated by professors who were antisemitic, Germanophile, supportive of Germany in its desire to revoke the Treaty of Versailles, and largely unresponsive when it came to taking a stand against anti-intellectual, anti-feminist, and antisemitic policies in Nazi Germany.
Wilson was unable to get the Treaty of Versailles to reflect his 14 points fully, although it did include several of them, including the establishment of an association of states that proved to be the forerunner of today's United Nations.
Consequently, the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, placed all blame for the war on Germany and required it to pay 132 billion German marks--he current equivalent of $400 billion--to the winners, primarily France, Britain, the U.