Treaty of Versailles: From WWI to WWII Essay
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As history suggests, World War I has caused so much damage and casualties particularly on the main participants of the war: (the Allies) France, Great Britain, and the United States (also Italy and Japan); and Germany, Austria, and Hungary (Brezina). When the war ended, the victors wish to establish a peace treaty that would settle and repair the losses inflicted by the occurrence of the war.
The Treaty of Versailles, for the reason that the treaty is held at the Palace of Versailles in France, seek to form a negotiation which would serve as settlements between the victors and Germany (It is to be noted that Germany is the one which is blamed for the start of the World War I thus the responsibility for paying the costs of the war is put unto her) (Boemeke & Feldman).
The content of the treaty suggests the various and conflicting demands or aims of France, Great Britain, and U.S. from the lost Germany.
According to historians, it is the failure of the Treaty of Versailles (or even the establishment of it) that gives the impetus to the rise of another world war for the reasons that: Germany is not really disarmed with military armaments as how the treaty demanded her to be, France and Britain’s fight for supremacy in Europe, and the France-Britain imperial preservation against the United States “self-determination policy (Lederer).” With the arise of conflicts and issues regarding the constitution of the Treaty of Versailles, the Germany has able to restore its standing and has succeeded plotting the World War Two.
The Conflicts in the Treaty of Versailles
Even prior to the convention in Versailles, the leaders of the victor nations namely, France, Britain, and the United States, had declared their conflicting intents and goals for the peace treaty (Lederer). France had strongly demanded Germany to be severely castigated, Britain sought a comparatively strong, economically feasible Germany as a counterbalance to French and Russian supremacy in Continental Europe, and the United States wished for the establishment of an enduring peace as promptly as possible, with economic reparation for its military expenses during the war. The consequence of these contending and occasionally irreconcilable objectives among the victors was a concession that left no one fulfilled (Boemeke & Feldman). In fact, Germany was neither defeated nor appeased, which, in retrospect, did not augur enough for the future of not only Europe or Germany but of the whole world and its entirety.
France is the most damaged nation among the three victors for the fact that most of the battles against German attacks are held in the French territories (Brezina). For this reason French people really want Germany to be punished harshly in such a way that it would not result again in attacking France. With the then Prime Minister of France Clemenceau’s, France aims the following settlements to be included in the treaty. First, Germany must return Alsace Lorraine which is originally part of France territory. Second, Rhineland should be demilitarized and patrolled by the Allied troops. Also, some of Germany’s industries factories should be controlled by France. Lastly, Germany should pay for the damages the war caused to the whole France and its people by paying large amount of money (Boemeke & Feldman).
Britain, though not really damaged during the war, give demands Germany several accounts for the reason that the war wastes the lives of a large number of British soldiers. Although Britain also want to inflict vengeance to Germany, her demands are not that harsh than France. The fact that British leader Lloyd George knows the demands of French; he instantly attempts to block such aims to avoid France to be the dominant power over the European regions (Lamb & Tarling). Instead, British ask for demands that would preserve the economic relationship of it to Germany.
In effect the only aims of British could be summarized as: to weaken the naval forces of Germany so as to maintain naval supremacy, to ask for war reparations and to prevent future military activities of Germany, to prevent Germany from being resentful so that it would not drive its people for another revolution (Lederer), and to seek for its economic benefits by boosting the economy of Germany and later on establish trading relationship with her (Boemeke & Feldman). In short, the demands of Britain is mainly dependent on its desire to maintain equal powers with France and to obtain economic advantages from Germany while preventing the latter from establishing military power.
Ultimately, the United States has a different way of looking at things with regards to the establishment of a peace treaty. For the United States, a peace treaty should not contain any provision that would entail new conflict. In this way, the United States asks the other victors to sign the treaty upholding the concept and principles of self-determination which seeks to liberate other nations or colonized territories under the treaty (Brezina).
While the United States demands Germany to pay for its military expenditures, she also wants to actualize peace standings for all the participants of the treaty. But such demands do not go with France and Britain’s consideration (Lederer). The two want to maintain and preserve their imperial power, thus decolonizing their conquered and governed territories would not be good for them. Thus they do not want to include such demand by the United States to the treaty.
Towards the final draft of the treaty, many issues are raised as well as many initial demands by the “Big Three” nations are not reconciled though by the treaty itself (Brezina). Italy, which is formerly one of the negotiators of the treaty, left the constitution of the treaty when her attempt to claim a territory is rejected by the three (Lederer). So the decision-making is left to the three alone. The result of the constitution of the Treaty of Versailles is crucial in such a way that towards the end of the WWII, historians concluded that it was the treaty which motivated the development and eruption of the Second World War.
Germany Decline the Treaty of Versailles
Though in the end, Germany had left with no choice but to sign the treaty, initially she was really reluctant about the demands that are asked by the treaty. German people saw those demands as something inhumane, biased, and degrading for their dignity (Boemeke & Feldman). With this reaction, German first refused to accept the treaty.
But when a new government ascended in power, the treaty was signed exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Some also say that it was the American way of characterizing the treaty as truly a peace treaty that persuaded the French people and the government to sign the treaty. But later on, Germany cried for revolution against the treaty for it did not really geared towards peaceful arrangements which also made the United States refuse to ratify the treaty, refuse to join the League of Nations and implement the isolationism policy.
Aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles
When the treaty was finally signed by Germany and required to be put in effect, everything started to work badly for the Allies. Though Germany had surrendered its military band in Rhineland as well as accepted numerous prohibitions for her concerning military-related activities and even returned its colonial territories to France, the treaty was not really fulfilled by Germany (Lamb & Tarling). Instead, there were lots of remarkable violations against the treaty that paved the way to World War Two. Among these violations are the following events. In 1935, Hitler introduced “compulsory military conscription” in Germany and reestablishing its military forces (which was trained in Soviet) (Lamb & Tarling).
In fact in 1922, testing and exercising of tanks and aircrafts were done at Soviet’s land. Not long enough when Great Britain left the treaty to sign the Anglo-German Naval Agreement which added new confidence to Germany in igniting their military endeavors. In 1938, Hitler reoccupied Rhineland and started to organize armed forces there. Germany also started to reoccupy other territories which were taken from them by the Treaty of Versailles (Lederer). Ultimately, Germany had made an attack which tended to invade Poland which started the whole World War Two (Lamb & Tarling).
In the end, the reluctance of the Allied Powers towards the impending power and force of Germany became the main reason why World War Two erupted having the Treaty of Versailles as the take off point: France and Britain fought for supremacy, France-Britain vetoed U.S. self-determination policy, and U.S. closed its door against outside or foreign matters – which left and allowed Germany to accumulate more power and great force.
Boemeke, Manfred F. & Feldman, Gerald D. The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Brezina, Corona. The Treaty of Versailles, 1919: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty That Ended World War I. Rosen Central, 2005.
Lamb, Margaret & Tarling Nicholas. From Versailles to Pearl Harbor: The Origins of the Second World War in Europe and Asia. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
Lederer, Ivo J. The Versailles Settlement–Was It Foredoomed to Failure. D C Heath & Co, 1960.