Soon after World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was written. The diplomats of this treaty only intended to end all wars and redraw Europe, but this treaty marked the beginning of a disaster for Germany. After six months prior to the war, the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. The overall purpose of the treaty was to punish Germany for damages done during WWI so that they could realize the pain they inflicted on other countries. Germany was forced to sign the treaty, because if they had not France and Britain would continue a war Germany could not afford to fight. Germany was running out of food, raw material, men and ammunition, so there was a great chance of them losing the war. The Treaty of Versailles weakened Germany economically, socially, and politically. It left them in financial ruin, humiliated, and caused them greater animosity against allies.
Thanks to Article 231, Germany was made to take full responsibility for everything that was destroyed after World War I. Paying for these reparations left the Germany economy in dept. The Treaty of Versailles dictated what compensations had to be paid to the Allies. Germany’s economy was already failing because of the war and now they were made to pay reparations and build their own economy again. Germany had to pay back 6.6 million dollars to the damaged countries, but they could not afford to pay that amount. As a result of them not being able to pay the reparations France and Belgium troops invaded Ruhr and held the people captive. Germany was hopeless in defending these people because of their restricted army. Their army was reduced massively, which was humiliating because they were once a proud nation. They were allowed 100,000 solider, 15,000 navy soldiers, 6 battleships, and no submarines. They were also not allowed to place any troops in Rhineland.
Rhineland had to be de-militarized in order to protect France from future invasion. A “buffer” zone was created between France and Germany, which weakened Germany because they were unable to put down internal riots when they sent the army in to deal with the rebellion in April of 1920. The idea was to reduce their armed forces to a size where they could never endanger the surrounding countries. In addition to a reduced armed force, Germany also lost their territory and land. The terms of the treaty instructed that Alsace-Lorraine was given back to France. Malmedy was given to Belgium. North Schleswig was given to Denmark, Memel was given to Lithuania, and Polish Corridor and Upper Silesia were handed over to Poland. This was intended to weaken Germany. In all, Germany lost approximately thirteen percent of their land, which contained 6 million of its people. The lost these territories caused for the loss of the richest in mineral areas.
Germany’s industrial production decreased tremendously including the coal and steel production. Sixteen percent of its coalfield was lost and half of its iron and steel industry. All of Germany’s power and wealth was given to its enemies in order to make them stronger. With their land loss and import/export restrictions, Germany was unable to join with other nations such as Austria. Germany was helpless and had less land, fewer people, and less power and taxes. Germany’s territorial decision affected Germany’s economy. The loss of the Saar reduced Germany’s industrial strength. The loss of West Prussia took away Germany’s richest farming land, but reparations did the greatest economic damage to Germany. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were horrendous, and it brought Germany to its knees. Germany could not afford to pay France and Belgium after being brought to their limits during the war and still having to build their own economy.
Germany had to pay for all the damage of the war – a sum set at 6.6 million dollars, which were made in instalments until 1984. This ruined Germany’s economy, damaged by the war, and led to the hyperinflation of 1923. Inflation was out of control and people soon had to bring wheel barrels of German currency to the store just to buy bread. The price of goods kept rising and money became worthless, so it was hard for the people to afford these goods. The German government had begun printing off more money in order to pay off their debt, which turned out to be a bad idea and caused inflation to be very high. The money the paper was printed on soon became worth more than the money itself. Workers who were paid by the hour began to find that their wages were worthless, prices went up soon as their shifts began. Inflation turned into hyperinflation and was affecting many Germany in many ways; the value of savings was reduced, worker loss their jobs, and it was hard for businessmen to keep up with rising prices.
For rich people the inflation worked out well because they brought up land assets and expanded their businesses, but almost the entire population became poor overnight. Germany’s situation was completely hopeless, but it all eventually paved the way for Hitler. John Maynard Keynes wrote a book on the attack of the Treaty where his view was that Europe would be poorer and more likely to enter another war as a result of the economic and territorial burdens that were placed on Germany. He felt as though the drafters of this treaty ignored the fact that they were destroying European prosperity by creating it. The people began to recognize the terms of the Treaty as unfair and that they needed to be adjusted.
The Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany, but it also brought the people together. They were bitter when the treaty was presented and held a grudge against Allies who enforced discrimination and non-negotiable terms. Germany felt that it was a Great Power and deserved to be treated with more consideration and not as a common criminal. Their plans were to work hard to rebuttal the conditions of the Treaty; these hope of revision created a bond of nationalism. They began to go in the way of Hitler, him convincing them of the way Germany should operate. He used the downfall of the economy to promote his idea of Germany, which gave them hope. He advertised as if he would give them what they wanted and agree with them that Germany was not fully responsible for World War I.
Some argue that Hitler brought Germany together and not the Treaty of Versailles. Germany felt that that they did not lose the war, but were cheated. Many German people looked for someone to blame. Some of the people blamed Kaiser and others looked to the new government. Another result of the treaty was the effect on social classes. Due to inflation people began to lose their jobs. The loss of jobs drove the people into poverty, because there was no steady income available to them. This knocked things down for the middle class and the lower class; their life savings were eliminated. The Germans shared a common dislike and social class issue which help bring them together against the Treaty. Due to extreme poverty and massive social tensions, many ordinary Germans felt desperate enough to return to extreme politics.
The political impact of the treaty was just one out of three of the effects that tried to destroy Germany. Germany was resistant in signing other treaties and were triggered by a number of political reactions. First, their government resigned and refused to sign the treaty. Once the new government, Weimar Republic, they had no choice but to sign the treaty. They were accused of “stabbing Germany in the back”. This stabbing in the back legend discredited German socialist and liberal circles who felt most committed to maintain democratic Germany. The Weimar Republic had no public support, the number of people who distrusted in them continued to grow. The Treaty of Versailles called for a trial for Kaiser, but it was never done because Deutschland did not want to give him up, which stopped any chance of Germany restoring monarchy. For Western Europe the Treaty signaled the beginning of political isolation for Germany.
Western European tried to treat Germany as insignificant through the Treaty of Versailles, which weakened and isolated German democratic leaders. Germany was an outcast for international politics and were feared and distrusted by the Allies. Although the western exaggerated Germany’s isolation, the Treaty of Rapallo shows proof of some relation in the east. Newly formed nations needed economic partners, Germany being the dominant partner. Overall it was stated that Germany was betrayed by weak Politian’s who did not stand up for Germany’s honor and instead signed the treaty which inflicted pain and suffering on people’s lives. It is undeniable to say that the Treaty of Versailles did indeed have a devastating impact on Germany, in many different ways.
The Treaty’s overall purpose was to keep Germany weak, and did exactly this by severely damaging her economically, socially, and politically by putting great restraints on her power and influence of the world. Drastic measures were used to ensure that the country would not easily be able to recover. However, unpredictable circumstances also came away from the treaty, such as the rise of Hitler using his opposition to the Treaty of Versailles as an aid to come to power. The treaty forced millions of guiltless people into constant suffering as a result of certain terms which led to the loss of millions of jobs, forcing many families to live on the edge, or at some times in, poverty. These innocent people were being punished for a war they not only didn’t start, but also had to fight.
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