The Early Years - The Impact of the Treaty of Versailles Flashcards Preview

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What was the Treaty of Versailles?


Allies met at Versailles in January 1919 and Germany were not invited and saw the terms of the treaty on 7 May. German gov suggested changes but the allies agreed to very few, 16 June gave German gov 7 days to accept. 28 June the treaty was signed by all the powers. Germans saw it as dictated peace and hatred of the treaty and of the politicians who signed it, would continue to cause political divisions.


What things did the terms of the treaty cause?

Territorial losses.
Disarmament of Germany.
War guilt. 
Effects on the Rhineland.
Effects on the Saarland.
Other terms.

How did the treaty cause territorial losses?

  • Removed over 70,000km2 (13%) of Germany’s territory and all Germany’s overseas colonies.
  • Most of the territory was either given back to other countries or given to countries around Germany/the Allies. Danzig became a free state.
  • Due to this severe territory loss Germany lost 75% of its iron ore, 68% of its zinc ore, 26% of its coal and 15% of its arable land.
  • All of Germany’s overseas colonies in Africa and the Far East were placed under League of Nation’s control (divided between the Allies).

How did the treaty cause disarmament of Germany?

  • Germany had to surrender all heavy weapons and dismantle fortifications in the Rhineland and on the island of Heligoland.
  • Conscription to the German armed forces was forbidden and the German army was limited to a mx of 100,000 men.
  • Army forbidden to use tanks or gas.
  • Navy limited to 15,000 men.
  • Navy allowed a mx of 6 battleships, no submarines and a small number of coastal defence vessels.
  • Forbidden from having an air force.

How did the treaty cause Germany to face war guilt?

  • Under article 231 Germany had to accept responsibility for starting the war.
  • This made Germany liable to pay reparations to the Allies.
  • Final amount of reparations fixed in 1921 at £6.6 billion.
  • Germany had to hand over most of its merchant shipping fleet, railway locomotives and rolling stock, patents and overseas investments.

How did the treaty effect the Rhineland?


Western bank of the Rhine and a 50km strip of the Eastern side was permanently demilitarised.
- An Allied army of occupation was based in the Rhineland to ensure Germany fulfilled its treaty obligations.


How did the treaty effect the Saarland?


This area contained rich reserves of coal and was separated from Germany and placed under the League of Nation’s control for 15 years. Germany would supply France, Belgium and Italy with free coal as part of the reparations. France was allowed to exploit coal mines in the area.


What were other prominent terms of the treaty?

  • Austria was forbidden from uniting with Germany.
  • Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations.
  • The Kaiser and other Germans were to be put on trial for war crimes.

What were the consequences on Germany due to the effects of the treaty?

  • territory loss completely dismantled Germany’s empire and effected their trade.
  • Disarmament of Germany may of made people feel weak an lose their nationalism as Germans were proud of their army. Also left Germany very vulnerable.
  • War guilt meant the Germans had to accept that they had lost and take responsibility. It was humiliating. Led to Germans resenting France and their new gov due to ‘stab in the back theory’. War guilt also put Germany in Great debt due to reparation payments.
  • The Rhineland meant they couldn’t defend their borders properly and the Saarland meant they lost a considerable amount of income.
  • The other terms of the treaty makes it extremely hard for Germany to establish good foreign relations.

What were the German reactions to the treaty?


The army did not make the public aware of the dire situation they were in so it came as a surprise to many ordinary soldiers and civilians. The abdication of the Kaiser and signing of the armistice also came as a shock. Germany’s resented the ‘dictated’ peace agreement and refused to accept moral responsibility for fulfilling the terms of the treaty.


What were common Germany objections to the treaty?

  • Wilson’s fourteen points stressed the importance of the right of national self determination but this right was denied to the Germans themselves as millions of people who spoke and considered themselves to be German were now living in non-German states. The separation of East Prussia from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor was a major source of resentment.
  • ‘War guilt clause’ was seen as unjust since Germans believed they had been forced into a just war against the Allies, who had attempted to encircle Germany.
  • Reparations were seen as too high and unjustified due to them not accepting the war guilt clause.
  • Occupied areas caused tension. German nationalists outraged by the outlawing of nationalist groups and banning of German patriotic songs and festivals in areas under French control.
  • The disarming of Germany and its exclusion from the League of Nations were seen as unjust discrimination against a proud and once powerful nation.

How could the Germans not be justified in their reaction of the treaty?

  • If Germany had won the war the peace settlement would have been very harsh on the Allies stated in their 1914 war aims.
  • Reparations bill was much lower than demanded by the French.
  • Treaty did not punish Germany as harsh as they punished Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. They broke up the western part of the Russian empire and annexed large swathes of territory.
  • The treaty could of been worse if the French had gotten their way.
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the armistice made it clear that Alsace-Lorraine would be returned to France, a new state of Poland with access to the sea would be created, that Germany would be expected to hand over some of her assets and that considerable German disarmament would be expected.

What was the political crisis of June 1919?


In May ministers agreed with Chancellor Scheidemann that excepting the treaty would be incompatible with German honour but at this stage it seemed possible to negotiate terms. When Germany was given 7 days to accept a political crisis as caused in Germany. Scheidemann and some of his ministers wanted to reject the treaty but the majority of the cabinet and the SPD believed Germany had no other choice.
Some officers in the army, with the support of Hindenburg, discussed the possibility of resisting the treaty through military action and President Ebert told General Groener that he would support rejection of the treaty if there was any chance of the military being successful. Groener informed Ebert that military resistance would be worthless and the Bauer cabinet signed the treaty.


What happened to Scheidemann during the June 1919 political crisis?


He resigned and a new coalition cabinet was formed and led by Gustav Bauer.


What was the reaction of pro-republican parties to the Treaty of Versailles?


SPD and allies were aware that their decision to sign the treaty could rebound upon them, they even asked their main opponents to state that those who voted for the treaty were not being unpatriotic.
They also wanted to carry out the policy of fulfilment. However, the treaty turned some (even former supporters) against the Weimar Republic. People were happy to accept the new constitution but could not accept politicians who appeared to have betrayed an unbeaten country. The treaty cause political demoralisation and people began to associate the republic with weakness and failure. To the public, the gains of the revolution seemed unimpressive.


What was the reaction to the Treaty of Versailles on the right?

  • Right-wing resentment of the republic was intensified.
  • German nationalists refused to accept Germany’s military defeat and the establishment of the Republic.
  • The signing of the Treaty lead many to join groups committed to overthrowing the Republic. Extreme nationalists believed the republic lack any legitimacy as the politicians had betrayed the ‘Fatherland’ by dethroning the Kaiser, the signing of the armistice and the acceptance of the treaty of Versailles.
  • The German army carried no responsibility for the defeat of 1918.
  • The fact that Ludendorff advised the Kaiser that the army was on the verge of defeat in 1918 was conveniently forgotten. He even advised the Kaiser to appoint a civilian led gov in hope of better peace terms and the high command would avoid responsibility.
  • But him and Hindenburg promoted the ‘stab in the back’ myth which was the justification for nationalist attacks on the Republic.

In the eyes of right-wing extremists what were the politicians who accepted the Treaty of Versailles known as going forward?


The politicians became labelled as the ‘November criminals’ and their actions of betrayal were referred to as the ‘stab in the back’.


What was soldiers reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?

Reactions on the right was particularly appealing to ex soldiers who believed they they were fighting for a noble cause but who received humiliation when they returned to a Germany during a revolution. 
However, many working-class soldiers supported the new democratic system and while most supported the SPD other gravitated onwards communism. Many could not adjust to normal life and joined the Freikorps and right-wing nationalist groups. As a result, the Weimar Republic was under threat from violent nationalist groups.

What was the British reaction to the Treaty of Versailles?


The British public opinion was satisfied that Germany had lost their overseas empire and were now unable to threaten European peace. Privately, Lloyd George believed that Germany should not be so weak that it would be unable to resist the expansion of the USSR and he wanted Germany to become a strong trading partner again. Many in Britain believed the French were too greedy and harsh, a growing feeling in Britain believed that Germany had been treated unfairly at Versailles.


What was British economist John Maynard Keynes opinion about the Treaty of Versailles reparations?


He believed the level of reparations was too high and “was one of the most serious acts of political unwisdom for which our statesmen have ever been responsible”.


What was the French opinion on the Treaty of Versailles?


They felt they had suffered the most in the war and were determined to seek revenge which is why many of there demands had to be met. Many in France still believed the Treaty was too lenient and this was shown when PM Clemenceau was defeated at the next election in 1920. Marshal Foch, wartime military commander, said “this is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years”.


What was the US opinion on the Treaty of Versailles?


They were generally negative. Many believed the treaty was unfair on Germany and that Britain and France used the Treaty to enrich themselves at Germany’s expense. Republicans in the American Congress opposed the treaty and Wilson failed to win the Congressional vote to ratify the treaty, leaving the USA to make a separate peace with Germany in 1921. The USA refused to join the League of Nations and, in the 1920s, retreated from involvement in European affairs.