The Treaty of Versailles was among the several peace treaties formed at the end of World War I. Furthermore, it put an end to the state of war that existed between the Allied Powers and Germany. The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, which was exactly 5 year after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. The other central powers on the war’s German side were dealt with, as well, although in separate treaties. While the armistice that was signed on November 11, 1918 ended the battle, it took about six months of negotiation at the Peace Conference in Paris in concluding the treaty. The League of Nations‘ secretariat registered the treaty, and it was printed in the League’s Treaty Series.
Provisions in the Peace Treaty
Of all the several provisions stipulated in the treaty, the most significant and controversial was Germany’s obligations to accept full responsibility of the war’s effect. The country was required to take the blame for causing World War I, aside from Hungary and Austria. Moreover, these nations that caused the war were obliged to surrender their firearms, make territorial concessions, and settle massive reparations to countries that were severely affected during the war.
In 1921, the cost of reparations was estimated at $31.4 billion, which was rather counterproductive and excessive during that period. Although John Keynes, a notable economist, believed that the amount was quite harsh, the French seemed unmoved. However, this did not leave Germany weakened, and it even served as a factor that caused the second world war.
On January 18, there were negotiations that existed between the members of the Allied Powers. These negotiations were held at the Salle de l’Horoge, which was located in the Foreign Ministry of France, in Paris. At first, only 70 delegates coming from 27 nations joined in these negotiations. However, Russia was not included because the country had already negotiated with Germany in another peace treaty. In that negotiation, Germany obtained a huge fraction of resources and land from Russia. According to analysts, the terms of the treaty were quite harsh, as pointed out by the negotiators at Versailles.
By 1919, the primary task of negotiating the difficult and complex terms of peace was assigned to the meetings of the group known as the Council of Ten. This included the government leaders and ministers of five victors such as France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States. As the unusual body seemed rather formal and unwieldy for practical decision-making, only the leaders of the distinguished “Big Four” has remained. Moreover, Vittorio Orlando (Italy’s prime Minister) left the negotiation and returned in June to sign.
The last conditions of the treaty were established by the leaders of several nations including France, United States, and Great Britain. In spite of the small size of the group, it was rather difficult to form a common position because the goals of these nations tend to oppose one another. Hence, an “unhappy compromise” was the effect of these negotiations.
Military Restrictions and Other Conditions by the Peace Treaty
The fifth part of the treaty stipulated Germany’s obligation to observe the naval, air, and military clauses such as the limit placed on the number of troops and conscription. In addition, enlisted men are required to be retained for a minimum of 12 years, while officers must be retained for about 25 years.
Aside from these conditions, the naval forces of Germany was limited to only 15,000 men, 6 cruisers, 6 battleships, 12 torpedo boats and 12 destroyers. The country was also prohibited from exporting or importing war weapons. Hence, the Germans were not allowed to use armored vehicles, armed aircrafts, poison gas and blockades on ships. There were also restrictions on manufacturing machine guns and rifles.
As for the territorial changes, Germany was expected to comply with several conditions. For instance, the borders acquired in 1919 were established about 50 years earlier. The cities and territories in the region experienced repeated transitions before the country was established formally in 1871. In the conditions explained in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to return these disputed cities and lands to several countries that it had conquered in the past.
Moreover, Germany was obliged to put an end to its control of various colonies, and it was required to lose some of its European territories. A number of West Prussia provinces would also be ceded to Poland, and East Prussia became an independent territory that was no longer a part of mainland Germany.
Strict Conditions that Germany was Expected to Accomplish
Because of the massive damages that Germany caused during World War I, the country was expected to comply with a number of restrictions and conditions stated in the Treaty of Versailles. Some negotiators believe that these conditions were rather harsh and impossible to execute, yet the country was still expected to carry the demands of the peace treaty. This only sparked greater problems as Germany was even more motivated to attain its goals of becoming a dominant nation in the world.
It was quite evident that the Versailles reparations were applicable in various forms, which included steel, intellectual property, agricultural products and coal. Since monetary reparations may only lead to hyperinflation, which was evident in the post-war Germany. Hence, this has decreased the benefits obtained by Britain and France. In addition, this only caused greater problems by several nations during the World War II.
For Germany, war reparations that were in the form of coal had become an intensive punishment. The treaty stated that the country was entirely responsible for the destruction and deterioration of the coal mines situated in Northern France, as well as some parts of Italy and Belgium. Thus, France was granted full possession of the coal-bearing “Saar Basin” in Germany for a considerable period. In addition, Germany was obliged to provide Belgium, Italy and France with tons and millions of coal for about a decade. However, when Adolf Hitler took control of the country during the beginning of World War II, Germany ceased the massive deliveries of coal for a number of years. Hence, this violated the terms and conditions in the peace treaty.