The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28 1919 at the end of the First World War marked a turning point internationally, with the goal of the Treaty to punish Germany and overall meet the goals of the Allied Powers. The Treaty devastated Germany politically, economically, internationally and was significant as it was a blow to the pride German citizens causing resentment amongst many groups of people. In the longer term, the Treaty became a precursor of the rise of Hitler and World War II as well as impacting economics and politics and deeply impacting people’s lives for decades later.
Economically, the Treaty of Versailles was fairly significant in the short term; however, the events which unfold years later in the long run are more significant. One of the main features of the Treaty was the reparations bill which stated Germany pay a total of Ј6.6 billion to the Allies for the cost of the war damage, and as the Treaty was a diktat Germany could not object the terms.
This affected a large quantity of people who were burdened with the prospect of payment and this profoundly caused resentment amongst many.
However, this was not immediately radical as the reparations payments did not have an immediate drastic impact on society as the first instalment of the payment was not due until 1921. Overall, the Treaty was not economically significant in the short term because despite Germans becoming angry with the reparations amount, it did not drastically change the already devastating circumstances facing Germany.
The true impact from the Treaty in economics was in the long term as when Germany failed to pay the first reparations bill, the French decided to take what they could; this led to the invasion of the Ruhr. French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr, the main source of German’s coal, iron and steel production. This was greatly significant as it affected large groups of people, German factory workers refused to cooperate with the French and Belgian armies, and with the Governments support, they went on strike. This led to violence on both sides, making the significance more profound, as this was deeply affecting people’s lives as they spent days on strike focusing on this issue.
A consequence of the reparations bill was hyperinflation as the Government began to print more money in order to pay it off, as well as to pay the striking Ruhr workers. Hyperinflation affected everybody, and hardworking people with savings and Government creditors suffered the most. The quantity of people affected was huge. Hyperinflation was radical and had severe consequences; trading relationships were now tense between countries, as Germany had nothing to offer. This also led to the Great Depression increasing the significance of these events. The Young Plan was a financial agreement which allowed Germany pay only Ј2 billion instead of 6, this meant Germany was more able to change and overturn its financial terms. However, despite this, there was still a great impact as the durability of this was long because people had to suffer of lack of trading all the way up until 1924 when the Dawes Plan was introduced. In the short term, the Treaty of Versailles was politically significant because the majority of Germans blamed Ebert’s Government for the Treaty, leading to outrage from the people.
Many right-wing groups believed that the Government who signed the Treaty had betrayed them, especially the army who thought they held no responsibility for the war defeat of 1918 and were resentful of the war guilt clause in particular. This led many people to join groups who wanted to overthrow the government. Many German people felt resentment towards the Treaty making the width of the impact large; the most affected group was the soldiers and army members who made up a majority of protestors at the time. In March 1920, right wing opponent Dr Wolfgang Kapp led 5,000 Freikorps into Berlin in a rebellion known as the Kapp Putsch. Ebert’s Government was saved by the industrial workers of Berlin who declared a general strike. This was fairly significant as the strike affected lots of people, leaving Berlin paralysed with no water, gas, electricity or public transport. However, this was not entirely significant as the durability was low as people’s lives were not affected for a long time.
The supporters were united to overthrow the Government with no plan and without any worthwhile or sustainable policies, so the rebellion only lasted 5 days.Politically in the long term, the Treaty of Versailles was very significant because extremist groups began to gain power, such as Hitler and the Munich Putsch. In November 1923, Hitler led an attempted rebellion, the Munich Putsch. This consisted of Hitler hijacking a local government meeting and announcing he would be taking over the government in Bavaria. Large quantities of people were affected by this, in fact a total of two thousand Nazis were involved in the Munich Putsch. It was also very radical as announcing he was taking over the government of Bavaria was unheard of and new at the time. This was just one of many attempted revolutions to come from Hitler. Although political stability was important in the 1920s, extremist parties were not a huge threat so limiting the significance. However, the Treaty of Versailles was still greatly significant as it provoked many uprisings which had long durability, and over the next 10 year Hitler began exploiting German resentment of the Treaty of Versailles to gain support for himself and his Nazi party.The Treaty of Versailles was partially significant for Germany as it was internationally embarrassed. One of the terms of the Treaty did not permit Germany to join the League of Nations, this made Germans angry as their Government would not be represented at peace talks and that they had no say in whether or not to accept the Treaty. This is significant because it profoundly affected German outward appearances to the world. This is also radical because as German pride was weakened, Germany was now seen as a weak country. Germans disagreed strongly about having to take the blame.
However, Germany was invited to join the League in 1926 limiting the significance as the durability was short in this situation. Immediate actions that took place include the Rhineland being demilitarised, the Saar region being put under control of its neighbours and Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. Germany lost vast amounts of territory to its neighbours, roughly 10%. Hitler went onto defy these terms by marching his troops into the Rhineland, this was significant as it marked Hitler’s first of many acts of rebellion and was the beginning of his acts of Appeasement. This affected lots of people who lived and worked there and had their lives interrupted. The Nazi rule over the Rhineland lasted a long period of time, from 1936 up until the end of war, increasing its significance. The Treaty was partially significant in the short term because despite the people’s outrage and the losing of land, Germany was eventually included in the League of Nations which was the people’s main concern.
The Treaty of Versailles was internationally significant in the long term due to the Locarno and Dawes plans. International relations were questioned when nationalists attacked Stressemann for joining the League and for signing the Locarno Pact, as it meant that Germany accepted the Treaty. This was significant in the long term because the Locarno Treaty had profound affects as it allowed Germany to begin negotiations to allow Germany into the League of Nations. The Dawes Plan was important in the long term because American loans helped Germany to recover after their economic crisis because of the war. However, in the long term this was not significant because in terms of durability, Germany was able to recover which shows this to be a radical change. Therefore, overall, the Treaty of Versailles was not internationally significant because Germany was able to recover which made it seem stronger and more powerful worldwide. In conclusion overall, the Treaty of Versailles was significant because the politicians who were forced to agree to the Treaty received backlash and were attacked, which in turn weakened the Weimar Republic and led to the majority of Germans blaming Ebert and his government for the Treaty. This sequentially led to a violent opposition from the Right.
As a result, in the long term the Treaty was also significant because extremist groups attempted to gain power. Despite the Treaty posing seemingly harsh terms at the time, the majority of these were defying or changed so therefore not being as significant as people thought it to be at the time. The Great Depression lead to the cancellation of reparations payments in 1932. The Allies evacuated the Rhineland in 1930 and Hitler denounced the Treaty altogether in 1935. However, if it weren’t for the Treaty Hitler would have struggled to gain power and support for himself and the Nazi party. Economically, the Treaty had a large impact in the long term as Hyperinflation affected everybody and therefore was regarded as greatly significant as well as ruining many people’s hard earned savings which they never recovered. The Great Depression followed shortly, once again impacting a large amount of people and deeply impacting their lives, increasing to the significance of the Treaty. The Treaty of Versailles was significant politically, both in the short and long term as there were many uprisings and protests. Lastly, the Treaty was significant internationally as it affected people in different countries and changed the way Germany was viewed as a county around the world, this shows the extent of an impact that the Treaty had.