The Paris Peace Conference
Began January 1919, lasted one year.
Delegates sent from 32 countries, representing 75% of the world population.
Problems to be dealt with:
- European economy in ruins; Britain went from an industrial golden age to being one of the world's biggest debtors
- Over 15 million dead; revenge + reparations wanted
- Map of Europe had to be redrawn; many nationalities want self-determination; Russian and Austrian empires collapsed.
The Big Three - France, Georges Clemenceau
- To punish Germany for starting the war!
Most fighting and devestation took place in France
2/3 men who had served in the French army had been killed or injured
- To cripple Germany, preventing future wars!
Clemenceau had seen France invaded by Germany twice; during WWI and during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870
French president, Poincaré, even wanted Germany divided into separate states
- To ensure security for France!
France and Germany share a border, German military strength threatening
French public: Called for revenge, and a severe treaty.
The Big Three - Britain, David Lloyd George
- To justly punish Germany
Britain had been involved in WWI from the start, and suffered great losses
- Take away Germany's navy and colonies
Remove competition with the British empire
- Preserve trade link with Germany
Before the war, Germany had been Britain's second biggest trading partner. If Germany collapsed under the weight of huge reparations, then British industry would suffer.
British public: Pushed for a harsh treaty; Lloyd George had promised during the earlier election to "make Germany pay" and "squeeze the German lemon until the pips squeak"
The Big Three - USA, Woodrow Wilson
- Justly punish Germany
Had lost many American soldiers in the war
- Build a more peaceful world
Believed nations should cooperate to achieve world peace
Wanted Treaty based on his Fourteen Points, including self-determination and disarmament
- Support democracy in Germany
So German people could prevent their leaders from starting another war
American public: Wanted a return to the policy of isolationism. Had lost too many American men in a European conflict, and didn't want further involvement in European affairs.
Terms of the Treaty of Versailles
Blame => War Guilt Clause!
Germany forced to accept all blame for starting the war; this was the most hated term.
Reparations => £6.6 billion demanded
Army => Military force severely limited
Limited to 100,000 men, no conscription, 6 battleships, no tanks/submarines/air force
Rhineland demilitarised, creating a buffer zone between France and Germany
Territory => Territory lost to League of Nations, Poland, France, etc
Anschluss forbidden (union with Austria)
Alsace-Lorraine to France
Polish Corridor to Poland
All German colonies, Saar coalfields and Danzig delegated to the League of Nations
Reactions to the Treaty - Victors
- Treaty NOT HARSH ENOUGH; still felt at threat of invasion
- Wanted over £20 billion reparations
- Felt League of Nations wouldn't protect them
- Treaty TOO HARSH; concerned about possibility of future war
- Pleased to gain control of German colonies
- Pleased to see German navy eliminated
- Treaty TOO HARSH; peace would not last
- Pleased by establishment of League of Nations
General opinions varied; many felt that the terms were fair because of the extent of the death and destruction caused, and were happy about the armed force restrictions in particular. Others felt it was excessively harsh, would encourage bitterness and future war.
Reactions to the Treaty - Germany
- Expected a fair peace based on Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points
- Called the Treaty a 'diktat' - a dictated peace; weren't allowed to negotiate the terms
- Resented the German politicians who agreed to the Armistice, branding them the "November Criminals"
- Insulted that they weren't allowed to join the League of Nations
- Lost key industrial areas
- Loss of army = loss of pride
- Unfair that no other nation disarmed to the same level; not even the other defeated nations
- Unfair to be forced to accept ALL blame
- Could not afford the reparations payments =>
1923, Ruhr crisis; France invades Ruhr to take what is 'owed' to them in resources =>
Was the Treaty of Versailles Justified?
- 16 million dead, with almost every family suffering a loss.
- Allies (especially France) wanted security from invasion
- Treaty of Brest-Litovsk showed how harsh Germany would have been had they won
- Needed compensation for the extensive damages (especially France)
- Some territory returned to rightful owners (Alsace-Lorraine)
- League designed to deal with unresolved problems
- Problems facing the peacemakers were complex; at least they satisfied their publics
- Terms designed to exact revenge, not justice
- Punished only German civilians, not the leaders who were responsible for the war
- British politicians only supported a harsh treaty to garner votes
- Left Germany vulnerable to attack
- Crippled the already weak German economy, resulting in Depression
- Germans not solely responsible for war; colonial and naval rivalry also involved Britain!