Signed on 28 June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was an attempt to establish lasting world peace by punishing Germany and creating the League of Nations. The Allies, who drafted the Treaty of Versailles, were confident that it was not only a just settlement of the Great War, but that that it also provided the basis upon which the peoples of Europe can live together in friendship and equality. Sadly, the treaty failed to bring neither peace nor justice, but only to pave the way to a second, more devastating, world war (Lu, ‘02).
A major drawback of the Treaty of Versailles that proved to be detrimental for its success was its hostile attitude towards Germany, which was held entirely responsible for The First World War and therefore made to pay heavily for its misgivings towards other nations. Germany felt cheated by the treaty because it had not taken into consideration Wilson’s Fourteen Points which were supposedly to form the basis of the armistice. Much of the treaty contained clauses that were essentially against the Germans which were bound to be despised by the citizens.
The most glaring disagreement of the people of Germany would fall on the war guilt clause under Article 231 of the treaty which holds Germany primarily responsible for the war. Through this article, the Allied and Associated Governments affirmed, while making Germany accept, the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage which the Allied and Associated Governments and suffered (Versailles, 1919).
This made it mandatory that Germany shouldered all responsibility and shell out millions in terms of reparations. Paradoxically enough, war is fought between at least two nations and no one country could be held solely responsible for it. Rather, war should be understood as a collective responsibility of all belligerents. Also, the Germans believed that other countries such as Austria and Russia were to blame for the war spreading and therefore should not be the lone bearer of all culpabilities for the war.
Another clause under the treaty which the average German citizen would have detested was the disarmament article 159. This requires Germany to disarm, restricting its army to 100,000 troops which was barley enough to maintain law and order within the country. No sophisticated weaponry like tanks, torpedoes, aircrafts etc was to be allowed to remain in excess in the hands of the Germans. Germans felt stripped off their right to protect themselves from eventualities such as external aggressions.
It seemed unfair to them because even as a loser country, they did have the right to protect themselves as a sovereign nation. Moreover, this was also a manifestation of the highhandedness of the Allied countries much to the dismay of the Germans because there was also no all-round disarmament of all the countries; it was a requirement only from the defeated ones. Therefore this disarmament had led to loss of confidence among the people and there prevailed a sense of fear and insecurity.
This would have pained the German patriotic sentiments gravely. The Germans would also have equally been against Article 49 of the treaty through which Germany was made to renounce in favor of the League of Nations, the government of the its important territories such as the Saar Basin. Adding to this, Germany had to give up many of her territories including the control over Alsace¬Lorraine which was returned to France much to their humiliation.
Losing its territories in Europe for Germany was an insult just short of losing its sovereignty, the people and productive land. This was bound to have a great impact on the people of Germany in terms of their economic and social stability. Moreover, the loss of territories to other countries also created problems for the Germans residing in those areas because they become the minorities once the land is merged with another governing entity. They become subject to immense discrimination and hatred as citizens of a war mongering country.
Another question in this regard may be raised as to why union bet between Austria and Germany was not allowed under the idea of self determination that applied to other peoples such as the Czechs and the Slavs. It is largely a case of denial of self-determination to the people of the defeated country and this would not have gone down well with the German citizens. These three clauses among others, under the Treaty of Versailles may be said to have been most difficult for the average German citizen to come to terms with.
References Boemeke, Manfred Franz. , Feldman, Gerald D. , & Glaser, Elisabeth. (Eds. ). (1998). The Treaty of Versailles: A reassessment after 75 years. London, Cambridge University Press. Lu, Catherine. (2002). Justice and Moral Regeneration: Lessons from the Treaty of Versailles, International Studies Review, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 3-25, Blackwell Publishing. Treaty of Versailles, 1919. (2009, January 18). Treaty of Versailles, 1919, Retrieved April 13, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.