1. The Treaty of Versailles:

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in The Halls of Mirrors on June 28 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference. It outlined the terms on which Germany was to surrender to the Allied Powers after the First World War. There were three prominent men whose voices were heard the loudest in the conference.

The Big Three:
1. David Lloyd George (Britain):
Gained support of the British people by calling for harsh punishments on Germany that will smash Germany and eliminate its threat forever. However, privately he feared the spread of communism and so wanted to maintain Germany’s strength as a wall to deter the spread of communism from Russia into Western Europe.

2. Georges Clemenceau (France):
Revanchism – Sought “revenge” on Germany, to make sure that Germany would never be able to get up from its knees again, therefore ensuring the security of France.

3. Woodrow Wilson (United States):
Ideologist – Came up with the Fourteen Points. Key points of his ideologies include self-determination, the League of Nations, open international interactions and reduction of armaments to achieve peace. Due to Wilson’s idea of self-determination, many small buffer states were created around Germany and the people of these countries were given freedom to choose their leader.

Vittorio Orlando (Italy): Less important than the Big Three, Vittorio Orlando’s sole desire was to claim the land that the Allies promised Italy – Dalmatia.

Terms of the Treaty:

        1. Germany was to take sole responsibility for causing the war
        2. Territorial Concessions:
            -          Alsace-Lorraine given back to France
            -          Eupen and Malmedy given to Belgium
            -          Northern Schleswig given to Denmark
            -          Hultschin given to Czechoslovakia
            -          West Prussia, Posen and Upper Silesia given to Poland to open the Polish Corridor
        3. Reparation of 132 billion gold marks was to be paid to France

        4. Disarmament:
            -          The German army was limited to a maximum of 100,000 men
            -          Bans on heavy artillery, gas, tanks, aircraft and submarines
            -          German ships were seized as compensation for ships destroyed by the Germans in Unrestricted Submarine                     Warfare
            -          Demilitarization of the Rhineland
        5. No Anschluss
        6. Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations
There are diverse opinions of the terms of the treaty. Some say that the treaty was too harsh on Germany and it did not follow the Fourteen Points proposed by Woodrow Wilson, which had been what provoked the Germans to surrender in the first place. On the other side, people argue that the treaty was too lenient and it allowed for the rise of Hitler in the Second World War.


Cooperation & Internationalism: 
Woodrow Wilson called for the cooperation of nations in a united effort to establish and maintain peace in Europe.

Each of the Big Three had their own perspective and opinions on the treatment of Germany after the war. In particular, the resentment towards Germany and patriotic attitudes of the British and French people who had to endure the bulk of the fighting led to some of the harsher terms of the treaty.

National Security:
The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was keen on having Germany crippled to ensure the security of his country. For this reason, the Germans were forced to demilitarize the Rhineland and restrictions were placed on the German military. Later on, the French would build the Maginot Line to further their defenses against the Germans.

One of the main ideas put forward by Woodrow Wilson. It gave the people living within a country the choice to choose its government and leaders. This gave rise to a circle of buffer states around Germany including Czechoslovakia, and also the creation of Lithuania from western Russian territories.

Global Collective Security:
The purpose of the Treaty of Versailles was to end WWI and to bring peace and rest to an exhausted, battle scarred Europe. Woodrow Wilson was the most notable advocate for global security and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring world peace. He came up with the idea of the League of Nations, which was to ensure the sovereignty of the small powers of Europe and to settle disputes in a diplomatic manner.

Woodrow Wilson called for openness in the interactions of nations. With all of the secrecy and alliances made in the shadows, there were tension in Europe caused by the need for countries to seek friendship with other countries, and when a small conflict broke out, countries after countries would be drawn in by the secret pacts and alliances that they’ve made with the participants in the dispute, eventually leading to a world war. Woodrow Wilson wanted to stop this, and his ideas such as the League of Nations helped to make open negotiations and diplomatic solutions to international arguments possible.

Economic Security:
The enormous reparation fee that the French demanded the Germans to pay put the German economy under a heavy debt and it was the cause of the economic struggle that Germany had to get through later on, giving Hitler the opportunity to come in power.


The Treaty of Versailles was overall a failure. It was meant to prevent the emergence of another World War, which it did not. However, to its defense, the appeasement method of Britain and France later on in the interwar period was much to blame for the ineffectiveness of the treaty.

Firstly, the Treaty of Versailles had left Germany devastated and bitter. The Germans had agreed to surrender expecting terms that would reflect Wilson’s Fourteen Points. To Germany’s surprise, Wilson was unable to defend his ideals against the overwhelming resentment that Britain and France held for Germany and he was forced to compromise with David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau which resulted in the treaty being much less desirable to the Germans. For one, the Germans were forced to pay reparation fees of 132 billion gold marks, leaving Germany’s economy crippled and the people poor. Combined with bitterness towards the Allies, the desperation of the Germans led them to turn to Hitler who promised them a better life and to restore Germany’s power.

Secondly, the principle of self-determination gave birth to numerous small buffer states being created around Germany. The Treaty promised the sovereignty and independence of these states, but the states had no military strength of their own to protect them when Hitler began invading these territories. As well, the Allies were reluctant to confront Hitler.

Overall, the Treaty of Versailles was not able to prevent a Second World War. The terms of the treaty had made the Germans bitter and desperate which led them turn to Hitler, who then seized all of the weak buffer states that surrounded Germany created as a result of the treaty.

Copyright ©2009 by Ben Pi, Tony Fu, Amere Huang, Jeff Fong, Edwin Li, Irena Liu SS 20IB