The Treaty of Versailles: The Inside Story It is the end of World War I (WWI). Germany has just been involved in, and lost, a war that would change the world forever. The countries that defeated Germany are furious. They blame Germany for starting the war and causing so much harm to their countries. They want and seek revenge. Finally, they come up with a way to get back at Germany. They write a treaty that says Germany is responsible for the war. The treaty takes away Germany’s land, people, money, and belongings. This is that story, the inside story of the Treaty of Versailles. What Is the Treaty of Versailles? Many experts in history say that World War II (WWII) began because of the Treaty of Versailles. This treaty was an agreement between the Allies, the winning countries of WWI, which were mainly France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The treaty was created primarily so that the Allies could decide and agree upon what they wanted to do to the Central Powers, the losing countries of WWI, which were mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. The Big Four and the Allies At the end of WWI, Allied representatives met in Paris at the Palace of Versailles to discuss and make peace treaties with the Central Powers. Woodrow Wilson (President of the United States), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), Georges Clemenceau (Premier of France), and Vittorio Orlando (Prime Minister of Italy), were known as the Big Four. These men were the leaders of the major Allied countries, and they were the four main people involved in deciding the fate of the Central Powers. Even before The Treaty of Versailles was written, many of the Allied governments, including Italy and Japan, had already made secret treaties with each other, dividing up certain parts of Germany and its colonies. The Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) and other Central Powers, were also to be divided up. In fact, Italy joined the Allies because of Allied promises to divide the Central Powers and give some of the land to Italy if it joined in the war against Germany. President Wilson didn’t like the idea of the secret treaties that were made. He didn’t want any terms of the secret treaties to be carried out, but he still felt that Germany should be punished for what it had done. He also wanted to help Germany form a democratic government. He felt that this would help rebuild Europe and prevent future wars. Consequences of War During WWI, there was much devastation done to Germany and other countries. People’s hopes and dreams were shattered. Almost 10,000,000 soldiers around the world died as a result of this war. The Allies wanted Germany to pay for this, so they wrote a treaty which held Germany responsible for WWI. It was called the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty said that Germany was the only country responsible for WWI. Some people say that Germany was not responsible for WWI. After all, it started when a Serbian shot an Austrian. Some Germans believed that Germany had been made a scapegoat, forcing it to take the blame for the entire war. The treaty also said that Germany would have to pay for all of the damage done to other countries. Germany’s size was reduced by 12.5%, resulting in a decrease in its population of 6,500,000. When the other countries took possession of German land, the people in it did not move. This made them "belong" to the countries that took over that land. Many things were taken away because of the Treaty of Versailles. Germany lost 16.7% of its farmland, 12.5% of its livestock, and 10% of its factories because of the Treaty of Versailles. It reduced Germany’s trading, eliminated its navy, and made its army very small. The treaty also allowed other countries to take away Germany’s colonies around the world. To see which countries took possession of which German land, please refer to the table below. Which Countries Took Possession of German Land? France took away: Provinces of Alsace Provinces of Lorraine German coal mines in the Saar Region for 15 years Belgium took away: Small areas of Eupen Small areas of Malmèdy Small areas of Moresńet Small areas of St. Vith Czechoslovakia took away: Small border area near Troppau (now Opava) Denmark took away: Northern Schelswig Poland took away: Most of West Prussia Much of the Posen (now Poznan) province The Allies took away: Germany’s Rhineland for 15 years The League of Nations took away: Danzig, (now Gdansk, Poland) To see a map of Europe before the Treaty of Versailles, please refer to the one below. The League of Nations President Wilson’s main goal was to set up the League of Nations. This was a group of countries agreeing to keep the peace. The League of Nations was mainly going to be made up of the Allies of WWI. President Wilson thought that other nations would feel threatened by the League of Nations because they had already gone to war against those countries and lost. President Wilson had discussed these ideas in his Fourteen Points, which was a guide with fourteen ideas to make a peace settlement. The other Allied leaders didn’t completely agree with President Wilson. Georges Clemenceau of France mainly wanted to hurt Germany’s economy, army, and land. David Lloyd George of the United Kingdom mainly wanted to leave Germany with enough supplies for trade, but not for war. The other Allies, especially Italy and Japan, were just interested in controlling Germany’s land and taking it for themselves. Finally, the other countries gave in. They decided that the League of Nations was a good idea. President Wilson modified many of his points in order to win support for certain changes concerning the League of Nations, and he also modified them because many people disagreed with them. Due to this decision, many of Italy & Japan’s secret treaties, which President Wilson originally was against were allowed to stand, and Italy received part of Austria and Hungary. Japan received German colonies in the North Pacific Ocean and German holdings in China. A Land of New Boundaries The Allies had a lot of trouble trying to redraw the boundaries of the countries bordering Germany. Finally, they thought of a way to divide up that land. They thought of everyone, except for the Germans. The Allies redrew the borders so that people who spoke the same language were part of the same country. For example, the area that had people that spoke French, became part of France. They did that with France, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. After dividing up all of that land, the pieces of Germany that remained became Germany. Before the Treaty of Versailles, a part of Europe was known as the Austro- Hungarian Empire. As a result of the Allies’ decision to change boundaries based on languages spoken, this land was divided into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and a part of Romania. Also, land that had been part of Russia became Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, East Prussia, and Poland, all of which Russia had once taken over and turned into territories of the Russian Empire. The Treaty of Versailles made Russia give back these lands. Even though they won, some countries, like Japan and Italy, were upset about the treaty. Italy felt that it should have received more land than it got. Japan was given the German territories in the Pacific, but it wanted more land. Reactions and Thoughts of Revenge In early May 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was shown to Germany. Germany was forced to agree to the treaty, or the Allies threatened to enforce the treaty by invading Germany. Many Germans were angry that the government agreed to the treaty, and they wanted revenge. German officials strongly disagreed with the treaty, but they were forced to accept it. German officials thought that the treaty would be much easier on them due to Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Germany, and all of the major Allies except China and the United States, agreed to the treaty. Citizens of the United States didn’t approve of President Wilson’s agreement to let Germany be treated the generous way that it was. They thought that Germany should be punished even more for causing so much devastation around the world. In March 1920, the U.S. Senate refused to accept the Treaty of Versailles. Even though President Wilson helped set it up, the United States never joined the League of Nations. However, in August 1921, Germany and the United States created a separate peace agreement called the Treaty of Berlin. The Treaty of Versailles caused Germany to go through a depression, a time when businesses and people lost a lot of money. Due to this depression, many people lost their jobs. People who could not find jobs joined the Communist and National Socialist parties. The National Socialist Party’s leader, Adolf Hitler, was gaining more and more power because the German people were upset that their government did little to help them and that the government agreed to the Treaty of Versailles. Many Germans were mad that Germany lost so much land because of the Treaty of Versailles, and it had to pay huge amounts of money to Allied countries. They were also mad because the treaty said that Germany alone caused WWI. Many Germans wanted revenge. This is when more Germans began to look up to Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party. Coffman, Edward M. "World War I." World Book Encyclopedia, 2001. Gelfand, Lawrence E. "Treaty of Versailles." World Book Encyclopedia, 2001. Marwil, Johnathan. Personal Interview. 24 Jan. 2002. Modern World History: The Treaty of Versailles. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/modern/versaill/versafla.htm> Last visited: January, 2002. Outline Map of Europe. <http://geography.about.com/library/blank/europe.jpg> Last visited: January, 2002. Ropp, Theodore. "World War II." World Book Encyclopedia, 1982. Stokesbury, James L. "World War II." World Book Encyclopedia, 2001. The Changes in Europe. <http://www.learn.co.uk/versailles/1919/maps.htm> Last visited: January, 2002.