Armistice ended World War One on Nov. 11, 1918, but the war wasn’t officially over until the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919. The date was chosen because it was the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event credited with starting the war.
The treaty was signed specifically with Germany. Separate treaties ended the war with the other Central Powers.
The world breathed a collective sigh of relief that the war was over. However, while the big powers were satisfied, Germany felt it had been wronged. Many smaller Allies also felt they had not been treated properly. All this set up grievances that would define the rest of the 20th century, some of which are unresolved today.
The Main Points
The treaty contained 15 parts and 440 articles. Negotiations had begun in January. France pushed for Germany to be punished more severely than the other Allies thought was necessary. They felt that being too harsh with Germany would lead to additional conflict, but France wanted to paralyze Germany and make it impossible for the nation to ever become a world power.
When the treaty was signed, these were the major points:
- The League of Nations was created. Germany was forbidden to join until 1926.
- Parts of Germany were given to Belgium, France, Poland, Lithuania and Denmark.
- Germany was forced to give up any land gained during the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the treaty that withdrew Russia from the war.
- Germany was declared responsible for all Allied losses.
- Germany’s colonies were given to the Allies.
- All nations were to limit their militaries and weapon stockpiles. The requirement for Germany, however, was much more severe than those for other nations.
- Germany was forbidden to unify with Austria.
- Germany was forced to recognize the newly independent nations of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
- Germany was forced to pay more than $30 billion (in 1919 currency) in war reparations. The final payment was made in September 2010.
Despite successfully ending the war, the treaty was flawed.
Its problems included:
- Negotiations were made with no participation from Germany. The nation was forced to sign under threat that the Allies would invade. Many in Germany felt the government had betrayed the nation.
- The U.S. never ratified the treaty President Woodrow Wilson worked to negotiate.
- Subsequent treaties modified Allied occupation of Germany and the timescale for payment of reparations.
- Japan felt it wasn’t being treated on equal terms.
Do you think the diplomats dropped the ball while writing the Treaty of Versailles? Leave a comment below.
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