How fair was the treaty of Versailles? Essay
The bloody war ended in 1918 when peace was called by Germany.
It was not until 1919 when peace talks had begun in Paris. The treaty was harsh on the Germans but the allies felt secure about this, that Germany was no longer a threat in Europe. At this point it would be difficult to say that what the allies said in the treaty would be different after a few years after the war. Would the treaty still be the same if they wrote it after a few years after the war? The war had a major impact on he allies and losses were very high.
At this time the allies would be looking for revenge on Germany for the high casualties and destruction that German shells pounded on French soil. The treaty could have been different if it was written at a latter date and could not have been too Harsh on Germany. Woodrow Wilson the American President aimed to secure a peace based on the Fourteen Points. A peace that would be based on justice, which would be maintained by a new international organization called the League of Nations.
Wilson did agree that Germany needed to be punished for starting the war, but he wanted the punishment to be fair.David Lloyd-George the British Prime Minister was in a difficult position. Britain had suffered huge casualties in the war and the general public was demanding revenge. He had also announced in the 1918 election campaign that he expected Germany to pay as much as she could for the damage she had caused.
Lloyd George was also prepared to see Germany’s military strength reduced. On the other hand he was also aware that the new Weimar leaders of Germany were different to those of the Kaiser’s time and that an over harsh treaty might undermine them and create a weak Germany.He was also concerned that if the peace treaty humiliated Germany it might provoke a Bolshevik revolution. Whilst he was prepared to talk in harsh terms for the people home in the UK, Lloyd-George worked to ease some of the harsher terms wanted by Clemenceau.
Clemenceau the French leader was determined on a punitive peace. This had been the second time in living memory that France had been invaded by Germany. In 1871 Germany had taken Alsace-Lorraine from France and forced her to pay huge reparations. French casualties had also been massive during the war and were the highest amongst the Allies.
Clemenceau wanted German power reduced so that she could never again pose a military threat. The French people were fully behind their leader. However it should also have remembered that the war had been extremely expensive and that by the end of it Britain and France had large debts to repay. In addition, France especially had suffered extensive and damage to large parts of the country that would cost a great deal to put right.
Following the war public opinion in both Britain and France understandably felt strongly that Germany should be made to meet these costs of the war.Before the war finished the American President, Woodrow Wilson, had issued his famous ‘Fourteen Points’. Germany had signed the armistice in November on the understanding that these ‘Fourteen Points’ would be the basis of the Peace Treaty. One of these points established the principle of self-determination.
Woodrow Wilson believed that old pre-war European empires should be broken up and that the map of Europe should be re-drawn so that each nationality should live within its own borders which meant, independent of foreign powers and with its own form of its government.However they had to think that the country had sensible, borders for purposes of defense, trade, and economic stability. It would be pointless creating a new country that has no meaning and that has no use. Much German land was given to other countries to make Germany weak.
Alsace and Lorraine was returned back to France which was lost in the Prussian. It was fair for the allies in the sense they were taking back what once belonged to them. However it was unfair for Germany because France had lost the war and Alsace and Lorraine was rich and full of goods. Germany felt that they had lost more land then they should have.
Eupen and Malmedy on the border with Belgium were given to Belgium after a plebiscite. Belgium was a tiny county bordering near France, German soldiers invaded France via Belgium. Much of it land was also destroyed during that aggression act. It was fair for Belgium as they had to cover up the cost of land destroyed during the invasion.
Germany in this case has no arguments as such not to give land away to Belgium. France wanted the Rhineland to be a separate country which would form a barrier between France and Germany, if another war broke out it would be more likely to take place on German soil rather then French.However Wilson and George disagreed in saying that it would be a big mistake as in future Germany would demand revenge for such a great loss of land. Eventually Clemenceau then gave way by pressure from Wilson and George and agreed on a compromise that it would be occupied by French Troops for 15 years and no German soldier is allowed to enter the Rhineland.
This is fair for the allies and especially France because for the next fifteen years France would have control over the border between the Germany and France. It also made France feel safer incase Germany waged war again for revenge.However it is also fair to say that for Germany it was unfair as they have one of there rich states occupied by enemy troops for 15 years. Germany has to pay huge amounts of Reparations to the allies as compensation for the damages of the war.
The coal-rich district of Saarland was also occupied by French troops. France wanted to have Saarland within its own border but neither Wilson nor George was prepared to give Saarland to France. Eventually they compromised and were given to the League of Nations but can be occupied by France. This if fair for France as it can also get extra income to help get its nation back on its feet.
However for Germany they again have lost a key income which is unfair for the Germans as how else are they going to pay the Reparations and run the country at the same time. This made it harder for Germany, and was struggling to survive. Parts of Upper Silesia, Posen and West Prussia were given to the new country of Poland. This was partly to make the new country of Poland stronger as this area contained mineral reserves and also to give Poland access to the sea.
. This was to cause great bitterness amongst the Germans as many Germans were in these territories.This also cut East Prussia off from the rest of Germany making it even weaker than it had hopped. Also the Baltic States were given back to their rightful owners which were annexed by Germany when Russia pulled out of the war suffering economically and male population decrease.
The city called Danzig which was a famous and a rich port for Germany was also lost as Posen was given to Poland. France had wanted this city to be given to Poland but Lloyd George disagreed with this and was turned into a free city. Germany has already lost masses of land and also major industries cut off from Germany.This makes Germany vulnerable as it is so weak and can not afford to pay such huge reparations.
It is fair for the allies and especially Britain because Britain has control over sea incase of an attack and still has the Largest Navy in the world. Britain had to be reassured that Germany is no longer a threat at sea. Germany was made even weaker as the allies decided that Germany can no longer make an alliance with any country in fear it may grow strong again. There was to be no treaty or an alliance between Germany and Austria.
The treaty forbids this to happen in case Germany rises into a new powerful nation.This is fair for the allies because Germany can no longer receive any help if it started war again. However it is unfair for Germany in the sense that it need help to pay the reparation that the allies demand. Germany had hoped it could receive help from its old ally to help pay of the reparations.
To make things worse the allies wanted to confiscate Germany’s colonies that it had set up. They feared Germany can and will grow strong from its colonies. It is fair for the allies as this makes it harder for Germany to pay back the reparations and it will stay that way for a long time.However for Germany it is unfair because it needs aid to help the nation survive and to pay off the reparations.
In my opinion it would have been better for Germany if it had some colonies to help some more income, to help pay off the war debt. As a result of the territorial changes Germany lost 13. 5% of her land and 12. 5% of her population.
These losses were to hit the German economy hard in the following years. The losses also created considerable disruption in Germany, especially the losses in the East and the perceived failure of the peace-makers to allow self determination.Not only land made Germany weak it was also its military and how much restrictions it had on the German army. Clemenceau argued strongly that the rich area called Rhine to be a new country.
However Clemenceau had to make a compromise as it had not got what it had want and said that the French will occupy the Rhine region for fifteen years and no German soldier is allowed to enter the Rhine. Also on the East Bank German troops were to be excluded of land of about 50 kilometers wide. This had a huge hit on Germany as it felt it was venerable and can easily be attack.German people felt angry about this and especially the Rhine region as Germany people did not like the French troops there.
However for France it can have control over the border that separates France and Germany. France now felt confident that is Germany would risk war it would take place on German soil rather than on French. However for Russia who also suffered great casualties and also land had control on the eastern border. This was good for Russia as it also lost population and land during the war.
Russia no longer had a threat from Germany.The German army was cut down from what was over 6 million before the war to only 100,000 men after the treaty. This was such a small amount for Germany. For the allies this was fair as they thought Germany was been too aggressive with such a large army.
They felt that with a big army Germany will go to war in future with France for revenge of the treaty. However with such a small number of men they thought how Germany could defend them in an attack. Germany had wide borders to cover and felt with such a small amount they could not cover all the borders.In this treaty Germany felt humiliated that this powerful nation which once had over 6 million men now has 100,000 to defend its borders in an event of an attack.
The allies now feel more secure that Germany is no longer an aggressive nation and can easily be defeated if another war broke out. The Germany navy was reduced to such a large extent. It was reduced to only having six battle ships and no submarines. Britain at this time had the largest navy in the world and was needed as it was an island.
Britain felt more confident and secure that Germany is not a threat by sea.It is fair for the allies as Germany has limited access around international waters and can easily be defeated if the allies are attacked by sea. Germany was to have no submarines as they were sinking ships that were going in and out of Britain. This was costly for Britain as submarines sunk many ships that were American sending aid to Britain.
The allies now felt more secure that if war broke out, the allies would not be forced to starve to defeat. For Germany this had a major impact as they can no longer bring in goods from other countries which would be a key to a quick income.This slowed the trade of Germany dramatically making it even harder for them to receive extra income. Germany also felt un-secure that they can easily be attacked by Britain if war broke out.
Germany has no hope of defending themselves by sea as Britain has the largest navy in the world. At this point Germany would be struggling to survive as it could and did face hyper inflation. As they printed more notes than the actual worth. The Germany navy was reduced mainly because Britain was vulnerable of an attack by sea.
Britain at this stage needs guarantee of safety. The German navy was handed to Britain and had been anchored in Scapa Flow in Orkney Islands since the end of the war was scuttled on the day of the Treaty was signed. This was an act of defiance and disgust at the Treaty. At this stage Germany is weak on all fronts and can not secure its borders from attack.
To make things worse the German air force was abandoned because of the devastation it can cause. The main reason was that none of the allies would want German planes to have access around the world.The allies thought this to be a threat and did not want German planes bombing cities. This is fair for the allies because they knew now that Germany can not attack Britain and USA by the navy or air force.
It is unfair that the air force was abandoned because the air force would allow mobility with small troops. Germany cans no longer transfer troops quickly from one border from another. Germany also feels vulnerable from air attack from Britain and France. Germany could argue that they were allowed to have an air force but to restrict its mobility and only allowed above German territory.
The allies at this stage have no choice as technology was weak and they did not have a powerful radar that could detect if a plane coming toward Britain was from Germany or was it their own. The allies had no choice but to abandon it in total. A control commission was set up to police these arrangements. The treaty had state that Germany was been disarmed for security reasons for the allies.
I think that it was right for Germany to be slightly disarmed but not to such a extent that it will weaken Germany and make it feel insecure.