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 []