The Versailles Conference
The Versailles Conference:
- 10 million people died in WW1. The part of France where there had been fighting – the ‘Western Front’ – was totally destroyed.
- In November 1918, Germany had signed a cease-fire. It was called ‘the Armistice’. The Germans could not fight any longer. But they did not think they had surrendered!
- In January 1919, delegates from 32 countries met at Versailles, near Paris, to make treaties to end the war. The meeting was known as the Versailles Conference.
The 'Big Three':
- Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France.
- Woodrow Wilson, the President of America.
- David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain.
All three men wanted to stop a war ever happening again, but they did not agree about how to do this. They wanted different things from the peace, and they did not get on well.
The Aims of ‘the Big Three’
He wanted revenge, and to punish the Germans for what they had done and make Germany pay for the damage done during the war. He also wanted to weaken Germany, so France would never be invaded again.
David Lloyd George:
He said he would ‘make Germany pay’ – because he knew that was what the British people wanted to hear. He wanted ‘justice’, but he did not want revenge. He said that the peace must not be harsh – that would just cause another war in a few years time. He tried to get a ‘halfway point’ – a compromise between Wilson and Clemenceau.
He wanted to make the world safe and wanted to end war by making a fair peace.
In 1918, Wilson published ‘Fourteen Points’ saying what he wanted. He said that he wanted disarmament, and a League of Nations. He also promised self-determination for the peoples of Eastern Europe.
The main points of the Treaty
The main points of the Treaty:
After the war, the victors met at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, to tell Germany the terms of peace. Defeated Germany was not allowed to send any delegates, and had no choice but to accept whatever was decided. Most of the delegates wanted revenge and only President Woodrow Wilson of the United States wanted a better world.
- Germany had to accept the blame for starting the war.
- Germany was forbidden to have submarines or an air force. She could have a navy of only six battleships, and an army of just 100,000 men. In addition, Germany was not allowed to place any troops in the Rhineland, the strip of land, 50 miles wide, next to France.
- Germany had to pay £6,600 million, called reparations, for the damage done during the war.
- Germany’s colonies were given to Britain and France.
- Germany could not join the League of Nations.
- Germany could never unite with Austria.
The Germans and the Treaty
The Germans and the Treaty:
When the Germans heard about the Treaty of Versailles, they felt ‘pain and anger’. They felt it was unfair. At first they refused to sign the Treaty. Some Germans wanted to start the war again.
The Germans were angry at Clause 231; they said they were not to blame for the war. The soldier sent to sign the Treaty refused to sign it – ‘To say such a thing would be a lie,’ he said.
Angry about reparations; they said France and Britain were trying to starve their children to death. At first they refused to pay, and only started paying after France and Britain invaded Germany (January 1921). Angry about their tiny army. They said they were helpless against other countries. At first they refused to reduce the army.
The Germans also thought the loss of territory was unfair. Germany lost a tenth of its land. Other nations were given self-determination – but the Treaty forced Germans to live in other countries. Germans were also angry that they could not unite with the Austrian Germans.
Verdicts on the Treaty
He liked the harsh things that were in the Treaty but he wanted the Treaty to be harsher. For example, Reparations (would repair the damage to France), tiny German army, and the demilitarised zone in the Rhineland (would protect France) and France got Alsace-Lorraine and German colonies.
Wilson got self-determination for the peoples of Eastern Europe, and a League of Nations, but he hated the Treaty becuase few of his ‘Fourteen Points’ got into the Treaty. When Wilson went back to America, the Senate refused to join the League of Nations, and even refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles!
Many British people wanted to ‘make Germany pay’, but Lloyd George hated the Treaty. He liked: the fact that Britain got some German colonies, the small German navy (helped British sea-power) but he thought that the Treaty was far too harsh.
The Other Treaties of 1919–1920
The Other Treaties of 1919–1920:
The Treaty of Versailles was not the only treaty of 1919–20. But it was the most important. It was the treaty with Germany, and was decided by the Big Three. It was the Treaty which set up the League of Nations. Also, the Treaty of Versailles set down the principles of how the defeated countries would be dealt with: the defeated countries had to pay reparations, they had to disarm, they lost land and self-determination.
FOUR other treaties were made with the four countries who had helped Germany in the war. They were written by officials. They just followed the principles of the Treaty of Versailles.They had to pay reparations, they all had to disarm, and they all lost land creating new nation-states in Eastern Europe out of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.
- Saint Germain (with Austria),
- Neuilly (with Bulgaria),
- Trianon (with Hungary) and
- Sèvres (with Turkey).
The Other Treaties of 1919–1920
- New nation states:
- Czechs and Slovaks in Czechoslovakia
- Hungarians in Hungary
- Austrians in Austria.
- Poles in Poland,
- Slavs in Yugoslavia,
Problems with self-determination:
- Self-determination caused small Wars
- Self-determination was not allowed for Germany.
- A large number of small, Weak countries were created, which Hitler easily conquered later.
- All the new nation-states had racial Minorities living in them.