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Was the Treaty of Versailles a Harsh Peace?

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    Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles the blame for World War One was accepted by Germany and as a consequence they were stripped of land, colonies and armaments and ordered to pay massive reparations to the victorious Allies. Whilst many have criticized and stated that the final settlement was too harsh on Germany and was deemed unfair, in reality it was a far too lenient settlement which allowed Germany to recover both economically and politically. This recovery would allow Germany into a strong position that within a generation, it could once again compete and threaten the European powers once again.

    The so called peace settlement was widely spoken out against in Germany and the Germans subsequently evaded their financial obligations under the terms of the Treaty. The French were the ones who found it most difficult to enforce the punishment and weren’t helped by either Britain or the United States. An important issue that was debated much throughout the creation of the Treaty of Versailles were the reparations that the Germans would have to pay as a result of the war.

    The pre-armistice agreement required Germany to compensate for all damage done by the Germans by land, sea and air to the population of the Allies and their property and this didn’t include the war costs of the Allies, but this had to change after the December 1918 election. The USA didn’t support the matter and opposed the idea the Germany should pay war costs and didn’t pursue the claim. As the final terms of the Treaty were negotiated, on April 21st it was finally decided that Germany had to pay to agree to pay a large sum of 6 600 000 000 Euros.

    It was believed that this should be the amount for all the damages that the Germans had caused throughout the war. This wasn’t harsh as Germany had caused these damages. Despite the Depression, The Germans weren’t struggling economically and they could still produce products from resources and this adequate economy should have allowed them enough time to pay off the reparations whereas Belgium and France were struggling through lack or important resources and a declining and already weak economy. Germany also weren’t suffering on the home front as they weren’t effect as much as the French and Belgians.

    This term seemed more than fair enough as they were given enough time to pay the sum owed, they would pay a certain fixed sum per month and if they didn’t they could negotiate with the Allies. This was already lenient and the fact they could negotiate and neither of the Allies had a firm stance or grip on the terms of the reparations and also, the Germans had also avoided many of the dates which were set for the sum and this fact alone shows that the treaty wasn’t enforced and it was indeed too lenient towards the Germans.

    Another factor that contributes towards the idea of the treaty being a Carthaginian peace is the factor of enforcement. Even though the terms of the Treaty had the potential to be harsh, the fact that the Allies never fully enforced the terms of the treaty meant that the Germans would always have an escape clause if they needed one. After the immediate terms of the treaty were set and negotiated, the big guns of the war; The British and the Americans had left France and left them isolated and no strong powers around them to help. The French were the ones that had the most to gain as well as lose from the terms of the treaty.

    Germany had to pay but with the massive powers unwilling to help the French had to handle the reparations from Germany themselves and with the French’s ten richest provinces had been destroyed by the war and deliberately sabotaged as the French were retreating. Howard Elcock believed that ‘’along with the depression, The withdrawal of the US destroyed any chance that the Versailles settlement might work’’ The French were only a small country and unable to compete with the Germans for the reparations and this could never be achieved.

    Historians refer to the invasion of the Ruhr as evidence of France’s growing weakness and isolation as well as a desperate act to seize reparations. This lack of enforcement caused this desperate act from the French and proves that the Treaty of Versailles wasn’t a harsh peace. Another factor that supports the idea that this treaty wasn’t a Carthaginian peace was the factor of War Guilt clause. Lloyd George had insisted that the treaty should contain some indication of Germany’s incapacity to pay all they owed.

    Clemenceau and Lloyd George believed that if the Germans had the acceptance of the war guilt associated next to their name this would justify their renunciation of war costs. However, Germany failed to believe that they had lost the war and a historian by the name of Rohan Butler argued that the main problems that were arising lied in Germany’s failure to accept defeat rather than from the Treaty of Versailles itself. The Germans believed that they were undefeated in the war and once they recovered from the effects of the war, they would once again constitute a major threat to the continental European Powers.

    The fact that the Germans were still able to be seen as undefeated and unrepentant in the war effort supports the idea that the Treaty of Versailles was indeed too lenient. There were also other reasons that supported the idea that the Treaty was indeed too lenient and these included the clause that the Germans could only allow volunteers in their army and a maximum of 100 000 in their army however the Germans had found a way around that clause and had started selecting strong military leaders and strong soldiers only to participate in their so called ‘’ Voluntary Army’’ and so this made them strong within.

    The Germans had also begun to incorporate a special branch in Russia, were they only recruited the best soldiers. The Allies had not enforced the treaty and supports the idea that this indeed was too lenient. The Germans also had very little land taken away from them which wasn’t theirs. Alsace – Lorraine were rightfully returned to France. The Germans also had the Rhineland demilitarised and was in control of the Allies for 15 years.

    This was indeed seen as too lenient due to the fact that because the Allies failed to make it an independent state and when it was returned in the future it could be used for Germany as a source of wealth and could provide Germany with the chance to be powerful again. This was also important because the taking of the Rhineland ensured that the Germans wouldn’t have the security barrier but when it was returned they would once again have this barrier to support them from any further invasions.

    The fact that they didn’t make the Rhineland an independent state shows that the treaty was indeed too lenient and not a harsh piece. The Allies had many other alternatives to enforce the Treaty of Versailles to make it a much more enforced and tougher peace. The Allies should have made Germany pay for both the war costs and war damages for the countries they affected because they caused these damages and they had to pay the ultimate price for causing the war. The Rhineland should have been made an independent state.

    The Allies also could have the Tsar annexed to France and the Germans wouldn’t have anyone in power. The US and British could have also forced the treaty along with the French to ensure the crippling of Germany as well as the reparations fully paid. The fact that these alternatives weren’t used is a clear indication that the treaty was indeed to lenient and the fact it wasn’t enforced ensures that Germany wouldn’t suffer in the aftermath of the war. Overall, The Treaty of Versailles was indeed not a Carthaginian peace and was in fact too lenient.

    The Allies had fail to properly enforce the terms of the treaty which meant the Germans had ways around them, the fact the US and British failed to enforced also helped this. The lack of enforcement and the fact that the German’s could negotiate the reparations ensured that the Germans could find ways to get out of the clause. The German’s were never severely punished and land was never taken away from them which means that the Allies were too lenient and the German’s could always find a way out of the Treaty of Versailles. This was indeed not a Carthaginian peace. It was too lenient.

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    Was the Treaty of Versailles a Harsh Peace?. (2017, Feb 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/was-the-treaty-of-versailles-a-harsh-peace/

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