The Versailes Treaty

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The Versailles treaty is a 1919 document that was signed by the associated and Allied powers and Germany in Versailles palace in France to bring an end to the first world war. The treaty took effect in January 1920 and was in operation until the commencement of the second world war. The main terms of the treaty were as discussed below

Firstly, Germany was forced to concede the Hutching district to Czechoslovakia and the Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium. In addition, Germany was to return to France Lorraine and Alsace which were annexed in 1871 following the war of Franco-Prussian. This resulted in Germany losing more than 10 percent of its population and 13 percent of its territory. In general, the treaty required Germany to pay around 31 billion dollars as a cost for starting the war. Andleman (2008) asserts that Germany lost huge tracts of land belonging to its territory including an approximate of 7,000,000 people. Poland gained more than any other nation as it acquired more than 20, 000 square miles from the German territory.   The treaty similarly called for referendums to establish the future of the northern Schleswig areas on parts of Upper Silesia, and an additional occupation and demilitarization of the Rhineland and special status to be given to Saarland under the control of the French. Further, all the overseas colonies for Germany were seized and given to the league of nation Mandates, and Danzig city became free, with its densely populated German people.

According to Collar (2012), article 231 of the treaty presented an extremely humiliating portion for German which was best regarded as the “War Guilt Clause”. In this clause, German was forced to assume absolute responsibility for the First World War and in this regard, it was to be held responsible for any material damages during the war. The premiere for France, Clemenceau, maintained on imposing big reparation payments because even though they were aware that this towering debt was too big for Germany to bear, the French and Clemenceau were still greatly afraid that German would rapidly recover and launch a new war on France. In this light, the French sought to limit the potential that German had of regaining superiority economically and rearming. The German army was further limited to just 100,000 men and they were forbidden from any kind of recruitment. The Navy vessels were restricted to about 10, 000 tons and maintaining or acquiring any submarine fleet was strictly restricted.

Finally, Germany was restricted from maintaining any force in the air. Finally, Germany was expected to conduct proceedings of war crimes against Kaiser for instigating destructive war. The Allied forces were concerned about Germany’s compliance with the terms of the treaty and as a result, seized and maintained parts of the German territory for a period amounting to 15 years.

The Impact of the Versailles Treaty on the Course of German History Over the Next 20 Years

            Germany was unpleasantly affected by the signing of the Versailles treaty. To begin with, Germany lost a lot of land to the Allied nations as a design to deteriorate it and prevent its uprising. By the end of the implementation of the treaty, Germany had lost 10, 12, and 16 percent of its land, population, and coalfields respectively, and an additional half of its steel and iron industry. Therefore, for the next few years, until the treaty failed, Germany had fewer people, less power, less land, and fewer taxes. All the wealth and power were seized and given to its enemies who in turn got stronger and this dismembered the whole of the German empire (Collar 2012, 57). All of the country’s colonies were seized and made mandates of the Allied forces and everything was put in place to ensure Germany would not unite with Anschluss (Austria). This made Germany among the weakest and ensured there was no future uprising or rearming since it was believed that the country could launch big and fierce attacks on its enemies if it ever got its powers back.

            Again, the decisions of the treaty that touched on Germany's territories adversely affected its economy. For instance, the loss of Saar greatly reduced the country's strength industrially and losing West Prussia was a big blow for the country as it took its richest land for farming away. According to Fuller (2018), the reparations, however, were the greatest economic hit for Germany as it affected the country for the longest time. The fact that Germany had to pay for all damages incurred during the war, meant that its economy would be crippled, and it really was. Germany was required to pay 6,600 million in dollar installments until the year 1984. This came as a big hit for both the current and future economy of the country and even resulted in the 1923 hyperinflation (Litvin 2018, 2).

 Correspondingly, Germany's armed forces were weakened by the treaty. Rhineland was demilitarized and a buffer zone was created between France and Germany to ensure France would not be invaded. This made the German forces so weak that it was not even able to deal with its own internal riots. The treaty forbade German from having any submarines or airplanes and was only allowed to have six battleships. Besides, according to Callaghan (2018), no recruitments to the army were allowed and soldiers were to be signed up to the army only as volunteers. In a nutshell, the treaty sought to weaken Germany’s armed forces to the smallest size and prevent it from being a danger to its neighbors. Germany was consequently at France’s mercy and in 1923 France invaded and took in kind the reparations which Germany was not able to pay (Hantke M, & Spoerer, M 2010, 823)


The main motive of the Allied nations in the signing of the treaty was to punish Germany for starting the war and they succeeded because its economy was left in ruins for more than 20 years and the country was in political and social chaos. The economies during the 1990s were interlinked and the rest of the globe suffered due to the economic crisis in Germany.

Works Cited

Andelman, A. (2008). A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today. New   York/London: J. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-78898-0.

Callaghan, J, (2018) "The problem of war aims and the Treaty of Versailles."Labour, British radicalism and the First World War. Manchester University Press.

Collar, P, (2012) The Propaganda War in the Rhineland: Weimar Germany, Race, and Occupation after World War I; I.B. Tauris, London, ISBN 9781848859463, p. 78

Fuller, M, (2018). The Second World War, 1939-45: a strategical and tactical history. Pickle Partners Publishing. 2018

Hantke, M, Spoerer, M, (2010). "The imposed gift of Versailles: the fiscal effects of restricting the size of Germany's armed forces, 1924–9"(PDF). Economic History Review. 63 (4): 849–864. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009. 00512.x.

Litvin, E. (2018), "Peace and future cannon fodder: The armistice and the treaty of Versailles."Agora 53.2 16. 2018

November 24, 2023

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World War I Europe

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