The Treaty of Versailles: Fair or Unfair?

The Treaty of Versailles, signed June 28 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference, was a treaty created by the Allied powers that ended the war five years after it started. The treaty reprimanded and condemned Germany for its overt aggression that started the war. The Allied powers—specifically the Big Three of the United States, Great Britain, and France—sought reparation for damages resulting from the war. The treaty disallowed Germany from entering the League of Nations for fifteen years, gave France certain territories back, created a demilitarized zone, and weakened Germany’s armed forces.1 The language in the treaty is demanding and forthright, as it does not resist in expressing its desire for reparations; Germany views many of the demands as impossible to meet or simply too strict. However, having lost significant amounts of resources, troops, and money as a result of the war, Germany subsequently forced to agree to the demands of set forth in the treaty as they had no choice. However, after ratification, the treaty was eventually revised, giving Germany much more breathing room.

The treaty was created not only to reprimand Germany, but to send a message to Germany and its allies that over-aggression is not accepted in the international community. Any disregard of the law would result in significant punishment. However, the Treaty of Versailles backfired on the Allied powers and the rest of the world, as the strict demands inspired German nationalism. In effect, the Treaty of Versailles inspired Germany to reignite its military, leading to the rise of Hitler and Germany’s power during World War II.

I’m interested to potentially look into this more in the future, whether that be personal research or through taking a World War I class. Though Germany deserved its punishment for starting the war, (some people may disagree) I’m wondering if the Allied powers envisioned such an angry response. Do you think the demands listed in the Treaty of Versailles were too much, or not? Why was Germany so angry? How could Germany have responded in a much more peaceful way? Or, do you think Germany really shouldn’t have been punished much at all? I’m curious to see your responses to this.

  1. From The Treaty of Versailles and After: Annotations of the Text of the Treaty []

6 thoughts on “The Treaty of Versailles: Fair or Unfair?

  1. Hindsight bias tells us that the Treaty of Versailles was one of the worst diplomatic blunders in history. Even without the benefit of hindsight, the political, military, and diplomatic elite responsible for the Treaty’s provisions should have known the possible repercussions of completely crippling a traditionally powerful and advanced nation. It unfortunately required an equally devastating war to learn that rebuilding defeated nations is a necessary step towards achieving lasting peace in a postwar era. When looking at the severity of sanctions placed on Germany after World War I, the ensuing rise of a nationalistic tyrant becomes less than surprising.

  2. I too believe that the sanctions imposed by the big three of the United States, Great Britain, and France were too harsh. At the same time these powers were trying to send a message that breaking the law results in consequence. With the imposed sanctions reduced in later years, we now see Germany gaining more nationalism as well as a certain man named Adolf Hitler coming to power.

  3. The Treaty of Versailles failed at bringing Germany back to a normal state after World War I. With the treaty placing all the blame on Germany for the war being started, it left a bitter taste in the mouth of the German people. The treaty called for unimaginable, large reparations from Germany which in return would leave the country in economic strife. At a time when the market economy was rising, trade between countries was necessary for economic stability. The treaty hurt this notion and allowed Germany to fall. This situation is very similar to the reconstruction era after the civil war, as the north needed to bring back the south to normalcy but in this case were too lenient with their defeated enemy.

  4. Although, it was meant to be “a peace treaty” if it could actually had been called one, as it seems to be, a false one, which means WWI and WWII, with no fighting for 20 years, and are the same war, which ended on 15th March 1991, preace treaty; the treaty of versaille would be especially false, if Germany and her allies weren’t allowed in the discussion, and if the Allies threaten to go to war again; I am sure, the Allies would had known, the Archduke of Ferdinand was shot, and so they shouldn’t have an excuse to blame Germany, yet the allies had right to punished Germany for invading Belguim.
    The allies were to harsh on Germany.

  5. i think they were punished too much and they lost so much weapons and had to pay too much money and they should’t have been the only one punished because it was their ally astro-hungry that started the war as well so they should have been punished and blamed for the war and lost the weapons, land, money, and army, and navy.

  6. The Treaty of Versailles was a compromise between the desires of France to completely crush Germany (after having been bloodily invaded twice in 45 years), and the US and Britain which sought to make Germany financially responsible for the war but still a viable economic trading partner.

    The end result was a compromise that made no one happy, that no one except France had a vested interest in enforcing, and left Germany both beaten and angry instead of either defeated or conciliatory.

    However, the failures of the Treaty of Versailles are not much so much between January and June 1919, but rather particularly between 1933 and 1939 when the French and British (and the US) failed to work together to stand up to the threat of Japanese , Italian, and German aggression in Manchuria, Abyssinia and Europe. Each failure of the Big 3 at Versailles to enforce the world they created emboldened the other Fascist states to use aggression for expansionism.

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