Treaty of Versailles

Overview

  • The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, and officially ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers.
  • The controversial War Guilt clause blamed Germany for World War I and imposed heavy debt payments on Germany.
  • The Treaty of Versailles was a major contributing factor in the outbreak of the Second World War.

Terms of the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles established a blueprint for the postwar world. One of the most controversial terms of the treaty was the War Guilt clause, which blamed Germany for the war. The treaty forced Germany to get rid of much of their army and weapons, to give up a lot of land, and to pay the Allied powers the staggering amount of five billion dollars.
Although US President Woodrow Wilson was opposed to these harsh terms, he was outmaneuvered by the French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau. France was the only Allied power to share a border with Germany and had suffered the most. The French aimed to weaken Germany as much as possible.

Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles

The United States never became a member of the League of Nations even though Wilson, the US president played a large part in its creation. Many members of Congress didn’t want to pledge to fight for the other countries in the League.
An American political cartoon suggesting that Germany was crushed by the giant reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles. New York World, 1921. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1934, his government began to violate many of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. They stopped payments and started building their military. Some historians believe that the terms of the treaty laid the groundwork for the rise of the Nazi party because they used the anger people had about the treaty to gather their support.

What do you think?

Was the Treaty of Versailles a direct cause of World War II? Why or why not?
(edited from article written by Dr. Michelle Getchell. This article is licensed under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.)