|Thegermanarmy.org - The German Army 1657-1945||
|Treaty of Versailles|
|The Treaty of Versailles (French:
Traité de Versailles) was one of the peace treaties at the end of
World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.
It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination
of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side
of World War I were dealt with in separate treaties. Although the armistice,
signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months
of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty.
The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on
21 October 1919, and was printed in The League of Nations Treaty Series.
Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required "Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war (the other members of the Central Powers signed treaties containing similar articles). This article, Article 231, later became known as the War Guilt clause. The treaty forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. It liberated numerous nationalities in Central Europe from oppressive German rule. In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion Marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US $442 billion or UK £284 billion in 2013). At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes predicted that the treaty was too harsh—a "Carthaginian peace", and said the figure was excessive and counterproductive. However, many historians have judged the reparation figure to be lenient, a sum that was designed to look imposing but was in fact not, that had little impact on the German economy and analyzed the treaty as a whole to be quite restrained and not as harsh as it could have been.
The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left none contented: Germany was not pacified or conciliated, nor permanently weakened. The problems that arose from the treaty would lead to the Locarno Treaties, which improved relations between Germany and the other European Powers, and the renegotiation of the reparation system resulting in the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and finally the postponement of reparations at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. The reparations were finally paid off by Germany after World War II.
The First World War (1914–1918) was fought in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Countries beyond the war zones were affected by the disruption of international trade, finance and diplomatic pressures from the belligerents. In 1917, two revolutions occurred within the Russian Empire, which led to the collapse of the Imperial Government and the rise of the Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Lenin.
On 8 January 1918, the President of the United States Woodrow Wilson issued a statement which became known as the Fourteen Points, calling for a diplomatic end to the war, international disarmament, the withdrawal of Central Power forces from the occupied territories, the creation of a Polish state, the redrawing of Europe's borders along ethnic lines and the formation of a League of Nations to afford "mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike".
After Operation Faustschlag on the Eastern Front, the new Soviet Government of Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the German Empire on 3 March 1918. Russia ceded Russian-Poland and the Baltic States to Germany, recognized the independence of Ukraine, and agreed to pay six billion Marks in reparations.
In autumn 1918, the Central Powers collapsed and signed armistices while nationalist groups established successor states. In Germany the army began to disintegrate, desertion increased and civilian strikes drastically reduced war production. On the Western Front, the Allied forces launched the Hundred Days Offensive and decisively defeated the German western armies. Sailors of the Imperial German Navy at Kiel mutinied, which prompted uprisings in Germany, which became known as the German Revolution. The German Government tried to obtain a peace settlement based on the Fourteen Points and was able to negotiate an armistice beginning on 11 November, when German forces were still in France and Belgium.
In late 1918, a Polish Government was formed and an independent Poland proclaimed. In December, Poles launched an uprising in the Province of Posen which had been under German rule since the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795). Fighting lasted until February 1919, when an armistice was signed leaving the area under Polish control but technically still German. In late 1918, Allied troops entered Germany and began an occupation of the Rhineland. A Peace Conference was convened in Paris to formally end the war. The Treaty of Versailles was the name given to the settlement between German Reich and the Allies; treaties with the other former Central Powers were made and named after the Paris suburbs where they were signed.
Negotiations between the Allied powers started on 18 January in the Salle de l'Horloge at the French Foreign Ministry, on the Quai d'Orsay in Paris. Initially, 70 delegates of 27 nations participated in the negotiations. Having been defeated, Germany, Austria, and Hungary were excluded from the negotiations. Russia was also excluded because it had negotiated a separate peace with Germany in 1918, in which Germany gained a large fraction of Russia's land and resources. The treaty's terms were extremely harsh, as the negotiators at Versailles later pointed out.
At first A "Council of Ten" comprising two delegates each from Britain, France, the United States, Italy and Japan), met officially to decide the peace terms. It became the "Big Four" when Japan dropped out and the top person from each of the other four met in 145 closed sessions to make all the major decisions, which were later ratified by the entire assembly. Apart from Italian issues, the main conditions were determined at personal meetings among the by the leaders of the "Big Three" nations: British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and American President Woodrow Wilson.
The minor nations attended a weekly "Plenary Conference" that discussed issues in a general forum but made no decisions. These members formed over 50 commissions that made various recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the final Treaty.
As the only major allied power sharing a land border with Germany, France was chiefly concerned with weakening Germany as much as possible. The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau described France's position best by telling Wilson: “America is far away, protected by the ocean. Not even Napoleon himself could touch England. You are both sheltered; we are not.” Clemenceau wished to bring the French border to the Rhine or to create a buffer state in Rhineland but this demand was not met by the treaty. Instead France obtained the demilitarization of the Rhineland, a mandate over the Saar and promises of Anglo-American support in case of a new German aggression, but the United States did not ratify the treaty.
So far as possible, therefore, it was the policy of France to set the clock back and undo what, since 1870, the progress of Germany had accomplished. By loss of territory and other measures her population was to be curtailed; but chiefly the economic system, upon which she depended for her new strength, the vast fabric built upon iron, coal, and transport must be destroyed. If France could seize, even in part, what Germany was compelled to drop, the inequality of strength between the two rivals for European hegemony might be remedied for generations.
France, which suffered much damage and the heaviest human losses among allies, was adamant on the payment of reparations. The failure of the Weimar Republic to pay reparations led to the Occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian forces.
Britain had suffered little land devastation during the war and Prime Minister David Lloyd George supported reparations to a lesser extent than the French. Britain began to look on a restored Germany as an important trading partner and worried about the effect of reparations on the British economy.
Before the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson put forward his Fourteen Points, which represented the liberal position at the Conference and helped shape world opinion. Wilson was concerned with rebuilding the European economy, encouraging self-determination, promoting free trade, creating appropriate mandates for former colonies, and above all, creating a powerful League of Nations that would ensure the peace. He opposed harsh treatment of Germany but was outmaneuvered by Britain and France, He brought along top intellectuals as advisors, but his refusal to include prominent Republicans in the American delegation made his efforts partisan and risked political defeat at home.
Impositions on Germany
Article 227 charges the former German Emperor, Wilhelm II, with "supreme offence[s] against international morality and the sanctity of treaties", and that Allied and Associated Powers would "request ... the Government of the Netherlands [to] surrender to them of the ex- Emperor in order that he may be put on trial."
Articles 228–230 of treaty note the right of the "Allied and Associated Powers to bring before military tribunals" people believe to have committed war crimes and compelled Germany to "furnish all documents and information of every kind, the production of which may be considered necessary to ensure the full knowledge of the incriminating acts, the discovery of offenders and the just appreciation of responsibility." The treaty also ensured that in all cases, the accused would have the right to choose their own consul.
Article 231 (the so-called "War Guilt Clause") stated Germany accepted responsibility for "all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." Similar wording was used in the treaties signed by the other Central Powers, having them accept responsibility for the damage they and their allies caused.
Occupation of the Rhineland
As a guarantee of compliance by Germany, Part XIV of the Treaty provided that the Rhineland would be occupied by Allied troops for a period of 15 years.
Part V of the treaty begins with the preamble, "In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses which follow."
German armed forces will number no more than 100,000 troops, and conscription will be abolished.
Enlisted men will be retained for at least 12 years; officers to be retained for at least 25 years.
German naval forces will be limited to 15,000 men, six battleships (no more than 10,000 tons displacement each), six cruisers (no more than 6,000 tons displacement each), 12 destroyers (no more than 800 tons displacement each) and 12 torpedo boats (no more than 200 tons displacement each). No submarines are to be included.
The import and export of weapons is prohibited.
Poison gas, armed aircraft, tanks and armoured cars are prohibited.
Blockades on ships are prohibited.
Restrictions on the manufacture of machine guns (e.g. the Maxim machine gun) and rifles (e.g. Gewehr 98 rifles).
German armed forces were prohibited from entering or fortifying any part of German territory west of the Rhine or within 50 kilometres east of the Rhine.
Germany?s borders in 1919 had been established nearly 50 years earlier, at the country?s official establishment in 1871. Territory and cities in the region had changed hands repeatedly for centuries, including at various times being owned by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kingdom of Sweden, Kingdom of Poland, and Kingdom of Lithuania. However, Germany laid claim to lands and cities that it viewed as historically "Germanic" centuries before Germany?s establishment as a country in 1871. Other countries disputed Germany?s claim to this territory. In the peace treaty, Germany agreed to return disputed lands and cities to various countries.
Germany was compelled to yield control of its colonies, and would also lose a number of European territories. Most of the province of West Prussia would be ceded to the restored Poland, thereby granting it access to the Baltic Sea via the "Polish Corridor" which Prussia had annexed in the Partitions of Poland. This turned East Prussia into an exclave, separated from mainland Germany.
Alsace and much of Lorraine—both originally German-speaking territories—were part of France, having been annexed by France?s King Louis XIV, who desired the Rhine as a "natural border". After approximately 200 years of French rule, Alsace and the German-speaking part of Lorraine were ceded to Germany in 1871 under the Treaty of Frankfurt. In 1919, both regions were returned to France.
Northern Schleswig was returned to Denmark following a plebiscite on February 14, 1920 (area 3,984 km2 (1,538 sq mi), 163,600 inhabitants (1920)). Central Schleswig, including the city of Flensburg, opted to remain German in a separate referendum on 14 March 1920.
Most of the Prussian provinces of Province of Posen (now Poznan) and of West Prussia which Prussia had annexed in the Partitions of Poland (1772–1795) were ceded to Poland (area 53,800 km2 (20,800 sq mi), 4,224,000 inhabitants (1931)) without a plebiscite. Most of the Province of Posen had already come under Polish control during the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918–1919.
The Hultschin area of Upper Silesia was transferred to Czechoslovakia (area 316 km2 (122 sq mi) or 333 km2 (129 sq mi), 49,000 inhabitants) without a plebiscite.
The eastern part of Upper Silesia was assigned to Poland, as in the Upper Silesia plebiscite inhabitants of about 45% of communities voted for this (with general results of 717,122 votes being cast for Germany and 483,514 for Poland).
The area of Eupen-Malmedy was given to Belgium. An opportunity was given to the population to "protest" against the transfer by signing a register, which gathered few signatures. The Vennbahn railway was also transferred to Belgium.
The area of Soldau in East Prussia, an important railway junction on the Warsaw–Danzig route, was transferred to Poland without a plebiscite (area 492 km2 (190 sq mi)).
The northern part of East Prussia known as the "Memelland" or Memel Territory was placed under the control of France and was later annexed by Lithuania.
From the eastern part of West Prussia and the southern part of East Prussia, after the East Prussian plebiscite a small area was ceded to Poland.
The Territory of the Saar Basin was to be under the control of the League of Nations for 15 years, after which a plebiscite between France and Germany was to decide to which country it would belong. During this time, coal would be sent to France. The region was then called the Saargebiet (German: "Saar Area") and was formed from southern parts of the German Rhine Province and western parts of the Bavarian Palatinate under the "Saar statute" of the Versailles Treaty of 28. 6. 1919 (Article 45–50).
The strategically important port of Danzig with the delta of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea was separated from Germany as the Freie Stadt Danzig. Austria was forbidden from integrating with into Germany.
In article 22, German colonies were made trusteeships under the control of Belgium, Great Britain, and certain British Dominions, France, and Japan.
In Africa, Britain and France divided German Kamerun (Cameroons) and Togoland. Belgium gained Ruanda-Urundi in northwestern German East Africa, Britain obtained by far the greater landmass of this colony, thus gaining the "missing link" in the chain of British possessions stretching from South Africa to Egypt (Cape to Cairo), Portugal received the Kionga Triangle, a sliver of German East Africa. German South West Africa was mandated to the Union of South Africa.
In the Pacific, Japan gained Germany’s islands north of the equator (the Marshall Islands, the Carolines, the Marianas, the Palau Islands) and Kiautschou in China. German Samoa was assigned to New Zealand; German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and Nauru to Australia as mandatory.
Article 156 of the treaty transferred German concessions in Shandong, China, to Japan rather than returning sovereign authority to China. Chinese outrage over this provision led to demonstrations and a cultural movement known as the May Fourth Movement and influenced China not to sign the treaty. China declared the end of its war against Germany in September 1919 and signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921.
War Guilt and Reparations
The Treaty in section 231 laid the guilt for the war on "the aggression of Germany and her allies." This provision proved humiliating for Germany. Article 232 of the treaty noted Germany would pay "compensation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers and to their property during the period of the belligerency". Article 233 notes that the level of compensation to be paid would "be determined by an Inter-Allied Commission". The total sum of war reparations demanded from Germany—around 226 billion Marks (?)—was decided by an Inter-Allied Reparations Commission.
In January 1921, the total sum due was decided by an Inter-Allied Reparations Commission and was set at 132 billion gold marks. This figure was divided into three categories. The A Bonds amounted to 12 billion gold marks and the B bonds a further 38 billion marks, which equated to around 12.5 billion dollars "an amount smaller than what Germany had recently offered to pay" Class C bonds amounted for the remaining two-thirds of the total figure and were deliberately designed to be chimerical". "Their primary function was to mislead public opinion in the receiver countries into believing that the 132-billion mark figure was being maintained." Therefore, the sum Class C bonds "amounted to indefinite postponement". Germany was only obliged to pay the Class A and B bonds. The actual total payout from 1920 to 1931 (when payments were suspended indefinitely) was 20 billion German gold marks, worth about 5 billion US dollars or one billion British pounds. Of this amount, 12.5 billion was cash that came mostly from loans from New York bankers. The rest was goods like coal and chemicals, or from assets like railway equipment. The total amount of reparations was fixed in 1921 on the basis of the German capacity to pay, not on the basis of Allied claims. The highly publicized rhetoric of 1919 about paying for all the damages and all the veterans' benefits was irrelevant to the total, but it did affect how the recipients spent their share. Austria, Hungary, and Turkey were also supposed to pay some reparations but they were so impoverished that they in fact paid very little. Germany was the only country rich enough to pay anything; it owed reparations chiefly to France, Britain, Italy and Belgium; the US received $100 million. Historian Stephen Shucker notes how the overall payment amounts to "a unilateral transfer equal to a startling 5.3 percent of German national income for 1919-31."
In 1932, due to international agreement at the Lausanne Conference Germany stopped paying reparations. In 2010, Germany finished paying off loans that had been taken out during the 1920s to aid in making reparation payments.
The creation of international organizations
Part I of the treaty was the Covenant of the League of Nations which provided for the creation of the League of Nations, an organization intended to arbitrate international disputes and thereby avoid future wars. Part XIII organized the establishment of the International Labour Organization, to promote "the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week; the regulation of the labour supply; the prevention of unemployment; the provision of an adequate living wage; the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment; the protection of children, young persons and women; provision for old age and injury; protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own; recognition of the principle of freedom of association; the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures" Further international commissions were to be set up, according to Part XII, to administer control over the Elbe, the Oder, the Niemen (Russstrom-Memel-Niemen) and the Danube rivers