Treaty of Versailles Final Paper
The Treaty of Versailles had significant implications all over Europe but especially in Germany after World War I. There were both immediate and long-lasting impacts. The Treaty altered the geography of Europe and a significant amount of land was taken away from Germany. The Allies annexed all of Germany’s overseas colonies. Germany lost over 1,000,000 square miles of land and six million subjects. The financial implications of the treaty devastated Germany's economy. The political ramifications would be felt throughout the world down the road. The humiliation Germany felt would pave the way for radical Fascism to get a stronghold in Germany and ultimately cause World War II.
The impact of total war on the continent of Europe was far-reaching. World War I was a total war-one that involved a complete mobilization of resources and people (Spielvoegl). Every citizen was involved in some way in a total war. Just because a battle was not being fought in your backyard did not mean you were not effected. The government began to take control of every aspect of daily life. The government set up price controls, took over transportation and eventually the free market system disappeared.
The United States France and Britain each had different motivations for their war efforts. Georges Clemenceau of France wanted security against Germany in the form of the new country called Rhineland to add some distance between itself and Germany. France also wanted Germany to be punished and he wanted reparations to cover the cost of war. David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, wanted to make the Germans pay for the war. Woodrow Wilson had a more idealistic desire. Woodrow Wilson believed in the democratic process and wanted both big and small nations to have a say in the region.
The Treaty of Versailles made unrealistic financial demands in the form of reparation against Germany. Germany was required to pay 132 billion marks, or 33 billion US dollars in reparations to cover the civilian damage caused during the war. These unrealistic demands devastated the economy of Germany for years to come and paved the way for a fanatical fascist leader named Adolf Hitler to take the reins and control Germany steering it into World War II.
The treaty took away a great deal of agricultural property that used to be under German control. Germany had once been a significant agricultural supplier in Europe. When Germany expanded their industries without expanding their agricultural development millions of people were in danger of starvation within months (Brockdorff-Rantzau). Although Germany's industrial output was significant, cars and tanks cannot feed your population. The potato and wheat crops that were grown in the eastern part of Germany accounted for 21 percent of their food production, and it was now under Allied control. Germany was now forced to import a great deal of its food with little to no resources because reparations took all of their disposable income. With Germany's agricultural land being diminished it directly led to the death by starvation of millions of Germans. Desperation began to set in for Germany and its citizens and opened the door to a charismatic leader who would promise German citizens food and retribution.
In the midst of the crisis of starvation and hunger in Germany they were expected to pay enormous war reparations to the allies. German currency was devalued to the point that it became worthless (deJonge). Prices were being marked up by 20 percent every day at one point in 1923. It would take a pound of German money to buy a pound of bread. The people of Germany were desperate. Unemployment was through the roof and people were starving in the streets. The Treaty of Versailles opened the door for fascism in Germany which would be a direct cause of World War II. I believe if there had been a more realistic treatment of Germany after World War I then World War II would have never happened. It is inhumane not to feed 40 million people for even a short time let alone the years of suffering the Germans went through. A fanatical leader with the charisma of Adolf Hitler probably sounded pretty good to the desperate Germans. He promised them their dignity would return. If you were starving on the street with no end in sight that promise would sound pretty good. I believe the allies should have taken over Germany for a short time until the Germans could stand on their own feet.
A noted economist John Maynard Keynes was an early forecaster of the dire consequences of the Treaty of Versailles. He wrote a book that outlined the economic collapse that Germany would indeed go through after World War I. Keynes identified that industrialization overshadowing agricultural production would eventually leave their people without food (Keynes). He also predicted that the reparations the allies had requested would never be paid by Germany because they simply were too high. He also forecasted the financial collapse of Germany and believed that there would be long reaching effects in all of Europe with Germany's downfall. He was an outspoken critic of the Treaty of Versailles and all of his forecast would eventually be proven correct. Germany could not afford to pay back war reparations, millions of people died of starvation because of industrialization and the country fell into an economic depression.
Keynes could not have imagined what the daily lives of Germans during this time would look like. German reparation requirements will keep the citizens of Germany poor and politically unstable for years to come. Unemployment stood at 40 percent at one point and when Germans did make money the German currency was devalued to the point that it became worthless. Germans had to change and adjust their lives significantly due to the economic crisis during 1919-1923 (deJonge). Money became worthless by late 1923 and many people fell into prostitution became beggars on the street (deJonge). Germany became a barter society where employees were paid in butter and shoes. The once robust German economy will eventually take it’s toll on the European economy.
Inflation in Germany between 1919 and 1923 was an economic crisis. The German mark became worthless. In 1914 4.2 marks equaled one dollar and by November 1, 1923 it took 130 billion marks to equal one dollar (Spielvogel). The German government paid many of their debts by simply printing more paper money. This led to a significant rise in prices and hyperinflation. By November 30, 1923 German marks were devalued to an incredible 4.2 trillion to one United States dollar (Spielvogel). Germans had to significantly change their daily lives because of this economic crisis. People were forced into illegal activities because they felt they had no choices and many families were forced to beg to survive. Many Germans resented the European travelers who came to Germany specifically because the prices were so cheap.
The United States attempted to help the German economy with the Dawes plan from 1924 to 1929. The Dawes plan was a series of loans from foreign investors meant to help Germany both pay for reparations and help stabilize German currency. The Dawes Plan ultimately would not prove effective because the United States fell into its own economic depression and could no longer afford to help Germany. Germany's economy had become dependent on the economies of both Europe and the United States. As foreign investors from the United States stopped investing in Germany it became clear that the German economy was solely dependent on foreign money and could not survive on its own. When the United States stock market collapsed Germany's financial woes became even worse. Germany's industrial output fell by 40 percent and unemployment was a staggering 40 percent.
The people of Germany had to deal with the long-term effects of the Treaty of Versailles. The people of Germany were exhausted after the war and had felt like they had been humiliated and destroyed. In many ways Germany was worse off after the war than during the war. Inflation was out of control and people were literally starving to death in Germany. Germany lost land they needed to grow food, boats they needed to bring in raw supplies from abroad and the government could not afford to pay back reparations promised to the Allied nations. Many citizens could not find work and the German currency was devalued to the point that it became worthless.
Germans found extremist parties more and more attractive. Adolf Hitler's Nazi party promised to build a new Germany. He used propaganda that appealed to the German sense of national honor. The German people were searching for a leader to escape their economic woes. Hitler also established organizations for young people called the Hitler youth. Hitler was a racist, and an extreme nationalist. He served four years during World War I and remained in Germany and entered politics. He took control of the German workers party. Hitler try to take over the government in 1923 but was crushed and he was sentenced to prison. He realizes not seize would have to attain power with legal means not with another violent overthrow when he got agility expanded not seen party and it had become the largest party in the German Parliament. Germany's economic difficulties were a factor in the night not to rise to power unemployment grew and the Great Depression made extremist parties more attractive. Hitler became chancellor in 1933 and created a new government he took complete control over Germany and pass the enabling act which gave the government the power to nor the Constitution for four years.
Adolf Hitler had a nationalistic and militaristic response to the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles. After World War I the trio for size has limited Germany's military power. As Chancellor Hitler stressed that Germany wished to revise the unfair provisions by peaceful means. In 1935 he began a military draft that would expand the German army and created a new Air Force. Because it was the Great Depression France Great Britain and Italy condemned Germany but didn't do anything about it because it was the Great Depression and have their own internal problems. Hitler sent German troops into the Rhineland in 1936 was a demilitarized area after the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler gained new allies like Mussolini of Italy.
Racism and Anti-Semitism took all the Jews out of civil service and set up prison camps called concentration camps for people who opposed them. Hitler's goal was the development of an Aryan racial state that would dominate Europe and possibly the world. Nazis thought the Germans were the only true descendents of Aryans and they would create another empire like the one ruled by ancient Romans. All of their goals were to further the Aryan master race. The Nuremberg laws defined who was a Jew. They excluded Jews from German citizenship and they were required to wear yellow stars of David and carry identification.
Lebensraum upholds the right of superior individuals to gain authoritarian leadership over the masses through the theory of lebensraum or living space through expansion. The theory emphasizes the right of the strong shall rule over the weak. Mein Kampf was the book Hitler wrote while he was in jail and it outlined his basic ideas. The book was anti-semetic and anti-communism and it talked about how superior nations and individuals needed to gain authority over the masses.
Germany's actions leading up to September 1, 1939 included a lot of unchecked aggression. Hitler expanded the Nazi party in Germany, by 1932 it had 800,000 members and became the largest party in the German Parliament. Hitler had taken over Germany through the Nazi party. His illegal seizure of power came in 1933 when Germany passed the enabling act. They set up concentration camps for people who opposed them. By 1933 Hitler had set up a totalitarian state. Hitler became sole ruler of Germany. He set up the SS, which was based on terror and ideology to keep people in line. He started Hitler youth that had 5.4 million members by December 1936 and by 1939 all children in 10 to 18 had to join Hitler youth. In 1935 Hitler created a new Air Force and a military draft in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. He sent German troops into Rhineland in 1936. In 1936 Germany and Italy sent troops to Spain. In 1936 Mussolini and Hitler made the agreement to work together. Germany and Japan signed a pact in 1936 against communism. In 1938 Germany joined with Austria, his native land. He threatened Austria with invasion and Austria gave in and let Germany annex the entire country. In 1939 Germany signed a treaty with the Soviet Union that promised not to attack each other. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany.
When Germany started their aggression Great Britain began to practice a policy of appeasement. This policy was meant to stabilize Europe by satisfying the reasonable demands of countries. In reality they just ignored Germany and their aggressions and hoped they would go away.
Japan's path to war started when they took over Manchuria in 1931. Japan needed Chinese natural resources. In 1937 Japan seized the Chinese capital. Japan wanted access to raw materials in Southeast China but sanctions from the United States meant that Japan would risk losing raw materials from the United States as well. December 7, 1949 Japan launched a surprise attack against the United States.
Japanese aircraft attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands on December 7, 1941; they forced the United States into a war. The two sides of World War II were now set. The Allied powers were Britain, United States and Russia. Germany attacked Russia in 1941 they became an Allied power as well. The Axis powers were Germany, Italy and Japan.
The League of Nations attempted to keep peace but they were ineffective. Japan Italy and Germany used its military to occupy foreign territories in the 1930s and they were left unchecked. They aggressively took over these countries and very little happened to them. The League of Nations dealt to harshly with Germany after World War I and made Germany look for radical leadership to solve their problems causing World War II.
The Allies made other enemies during this time as well. British, French and American governments made secret deals both before and after World War I in the Middle East. There was an agreement between Britain and the Arabs in World War I to exchange military support for future recognition of the independence of Arab states (Spielvoegl). The Allies needed both airspace and air support against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. In return they made many promises about the future independence of many Arab states. The Arabs did not get what they expected after the war ended. After World War I France controlled Lebanon and Syria and Britain controlled Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The decision of the Allies not to recognize the independence of Arab nations would haunt them for decades to come.
Point five of President Wilson's 14 Points said that “questions of sovereignty interest of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined”(Wilson). Point five would require nations that have shown to have an imperialistic nature to reject their claim on these colonies and work together with the interests of the populations living in these colonies.
After helping the Allies in World War I the Arabs expected independence but British and French diplomats forged the secret Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 (Spielvoegl). The agreement affected the entire Ottoman Empire after World War I ended. Effectively giving control of Syria, Lebanon and part of Turkey to the French. The agreement gave Palestine, Jordan and areas around the Persian Gulf and Baghdad to Britain. The agreement also allowed huge areas of land around Syria and Mesopotamia to be under French influence and land in the Jordan Valley and Arabia to be under British influence.
Tensions between the Allies and the Middle East continued in an incident known as the Balfour Declaration. Britain's foreign secretary James Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild a leader of the Jewish community in Britain (Spielvoegl). This letter was eventually published in the Times of London. The British government wanted Jewish support for the allies and the letter expressed support for a national home for the Jews in Palestine. The declaration made more Jews move to Palestine. When the Nazi regime in Germany led to the Holocaust 6 million Jews were killed and even more Jews fled to Palestine. The violence between the Jews and the Muslims increased in Palestine. Britain declared in 1939 that only a certain number of Jews would be allowed to move into the area and that caused even more bloodshed.
After World War I France took control of Lebanon and Syria and Britain received Iraq and Palestine, these acquisitions were officially called mandates (Spielvoegl). The mandate system was simply colonialism. Iraq had been politically stable when different ethnic and religious groups lived together but when one country is built out of three provinces Britain found that the people would have preferred to rule themselves. The British ignored the problems because Iraq is an oil rich nation that they now controlled. Britain's decision would be felt throughout the world to this day. Just this week civil unrest started in Iraq again.
The shortsighted acquisitions and decisions of the Allies would lead to trust issues between Europeans, Americans and the Arab Middle East for decades to come. The lasting impact on Arab and Israeli and Jewish populations cannot be overstated. Arabs are not a nation but they are united by language and culture. The Arab Israeli War of 1948 was caused because both sides believed they had rights to a single piece of land. Each had deals with Western Allies to own this land. Secret deals made before-and-after World War I had lasting effects in the Middle East.
The Treaty of Versailles also negatively impacted Vietnam. Point five of President Wilson's 14 Points promised that countries would take in consideration the interest of the population. In Vietnam these populations did not want to be colonies at all but an independent country. The failure of self-determination diminished the allure of democratic-capitalism and eventually led many countries to embrace communism (Spielvoegl). Self-determination was discussed at the Paris Peace Conference but it turned out to be all talk. In real life the people involved did not want to be colonies of any country, in fact they wanted to become independent nations. One of the nations involved was Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh was a young Vietnamese patriot that went to the Paris Peace Conference on behalf of people living within the French Empire in Indochina (Spielvoegl). He believed in the principle of national sovereignty and self-determination that President Woodrow Wilson had promised. His desire was to free Vietnam from colonial rule. While in Paris he found that Woodrow Wilson's plan was all talk and the reality was that France would want to again control Vietnam after the war. He pursued a more radical solution to Imperial rule in Vietnam. While he was in France he joined the Communist Party and he took his teachings home to Vietnam and decided to lead them in a revolution. In 1941 he was ready to take on France but World War II had started and the Japanese took over Vietnam. After Japan lost the war Ho Chi Minh found Vietnam cut into North and South and France had taken over again. By the end of 1946 the Franco-Vietnamese War had begun with Ho Chi Minh's nationalist forces fighting the French.
Ho Chi Minh learned about communism through Lenin’s revolutionary strategy for spreading communism outside of the Western world (Spielvoegl). Lenin spread the work of Karl Marx through an organization called Comintern. Lenin spread the word by holding meetings and inviting groups one by one to join the Communists party. He was an impassioned speech giver and turned many heads and indoctrinated many people to his point of view. His goal was to begin a world revolution that embraced communism one country at a time. Karl Marx believed that the proletariat would be a class of workers with no national affiliation when it rose up against its bourgeoisie oppressors. Lenin believed that a single communist state could not survive against all the capitalist nations so he needed more and more socialist and communist countries to band together.
When Russia successfully changed their government after a revolution in 1917 Lenin wanted to tell the world that the Marxist party could overturn their governments as well. Lenin trained agents in communism and have them return to their own countries to form Marxist parties there. Nearly every colonial society in Asia had a Communist Party by the end of the 1920s (Spielvoegl). Lenin's communism promised a violent revolution against major world empires that would lead to redistribution of land to peasants, economic equality, plenty of food for everyone, social services for everyone and true self-determination. Lenin and Ho Chi Minh believed that Democratic capitalistic nations could be taken over by Soviet communism. Self-determination would bring conflicts between Democratic capitalism and communism for many years to come.
There were long-term issues between democratic capitalism and communism during the Cold War. President Truman wanted to contain the Soviet Union's influence. The president feared the spread of communism in Europe so they decided to send aid to countries that the United States felt might fall to communism out of financial desperation. The United States, Canada and 10 Western European nations formed the NATO in 1949 as a defensive military alliance. The Soviets developed the Warsaw Pact in 1955 as an answer to NATO. There are many political differences between communism and Democratic capitalism and relations between the USSR and the United States, although improved, are still not perfect.
There are many lessons that can be drawn from the history of the Treaty of Versailles. Many historians believe that World War II was directly caused by the harsh conditions put on Germany by the Treaty. The reparations required by Germany under the treaty would crush its economy but the Treaty went even further and crushed the very soul out of the German people. In desperation the German people looked to Adolf Hitler to regain their pride. I believe that if the sanctions against Germany have been more humane the people would have never embraced radical Fascism and Adolf Hitler and World War II would have never happened.
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The German Reply
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