How Far Was The Treaty Of Versailles Fair?
Haroon Anwar 10Q
The treaty of Versailles was fair for some of the countries as it provided some of the nations involved with benefits; for example France, but gave the enemies harsh decrees to deal with – of course this concerned Germany. What the League of Nations thought had been fair laws for Germany to deal with had meant extremely difficult consequences and impacts for the country to cope with; for the leaders of the country as well as the general public. Of course views from the public of different nations would have differed as to how fair they thought the treaty was, and the aim of this study is to provide a distinguished analysis between the different nations’ views and to also come to an ultimate decision as to how fair the treaty was overall. I will be focusing on the nations that were ruled by the “Big Three”, France, UK, and the US.
Firstly I am going to look at the French view of the treaty, and see how fair the treaty was for the people of France and how far the government was satisfied, and also how France’s compensation costs effected Germany. I will determine whether I think the compensation to France was fair as well.
Germany was told to give £6.6 billion worth of reparations to France, which had been reduced from an initial amount of £24 billion. But because there was a financial crisis in Germany at the time (due to the demand of the decrees in the Treaty of Versailles and turmoil within the country – also partly related to the knock-on effects of the Treaty) the German currency of “Marks” became almost worthless (in fact, in October 1923, when Stressmann was the new chancellor, the old money was scrapped and a temporary currency was introduced – the Rentenmark – before a permanent currency was brought forward, the Reichsmark).
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France lost a quarter of its male population to the war, and undoubtedly the people were infuriated with this – wives had lost husbands, daughters had lost fathers, etc. In compensation, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France (it had been lost in the Franco – Prussian war of 1870-1871). This pleased Woodrow Wilson as well as France, because he had mentioned this in his 14 points. (Woodrow Wilson compiled a list of 14 points before the Treaty of Versailles had even been considered which he wished the League of Nations to carry out, in hope of restoring peace in the world etc.)
France was also glad that Rhineland had been demilitarized, even though they did not gain Rhineland itself as they had hoped. No German forces were allowed to occupy any part of the area – this then meant that Germany could not launch any invasion upon France, and if they were to try, France would be able to prepare for the attack. Allied troops were allowed to occupy the West Bank for 15 years but despite this they were withdrawn by 1930 and reoccupied by German troops in 1936. France gained Saar, which was a coal mining area on the Franco – German border. They would own it for 15 years to provide raw materials and then a plebiscite was to be held; it was eventually returned to Germany.
Some of Germany’s colonies were also given to France as mandates; Togo and Cameroon. They were awarded in accordance with the fact that the mandate-reign would be under League of Nation’s supervision.
Ultimately, the French thought the treaty was extremely fair, because of their personal gain from it. I do not think that they actually realized the consequences of this gain; the German people suffered greatly, but I do not think that they would have cared very much, or they would have just simply said that they deserved it. Finally, when Germany’s compensation to France was delayed and hindered by financial turmoil within the country, France invaded the key industrial zone, the Ruhr, and took all the goods from the town. Germany did rely on this region for making certain goods and when the French invaded it, the country suffered another economical blow.
I think that the French were being quite harsh to Germany if you look at the situation the German people were in at that time; but on a larger scale if we look at what Germany had caused France then I think that France’s demands/the decrees of the treaty of Versailles were quite fair to an extent.
The UK did not exactly benefit as much from the Treaty as the French had. They did gain one of the colonies as a Mandate; Tanganyika, but did not actually gain any permanent land or major reparations/compensation. They were given some battleships, (as Germany was not permitted to own any battleships any longer) but when Germany had brought the ships to the UK they sunk them.
The electorate of Great Britain would have probably not placed high emphasis on how very fair the treaty was; because of the fact that they did not gain as much as the French. So far, we can make a partial conclusion that how fair a certain nation thought the treaty was majorly depended on the personal gain they obtained.
The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George would not have thought the treaty necessarily fair mainly due to the fact that France’s power seemed to be increasing with all the compensation and Germany’s power weakening – the Prime Minister feared France becoming the dominating force in Europe. George may have demonstrated a slight sense of sympathy for the Germans in attempt to implicate his deprecation of the amount of compensation going through to France; because he felt they were becoming too powerful etc.
George did not like the treaty overall; he himself thought that there would be another war in 25 years. He was glad with the reduced German navy though; he thought that Britain could continue to “rule the waves”. And of course he was glad that Britain had gained some colonies; their empire was expanding.
Overall George himself did think the treaty unfair and that it would ruin Germany; but I think he said this more out of concern that Britain would no longer be the strongest nation if Germany became weak and France became strong than out of genuine sympathy for the hardship and adversity that the German people would suffer.
Woodrow Wilson himself completely backed the Treaty of Versailles although slightly disappointed that not all his 14 points had been included. However the US Senate did not share the same views as him, and they refused to join the League of Nations; even refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
Woodrow Wilson declared that soldiers should not have died in vain:
“I want to remind you how the permanency of peace is at the heart of this treaty. This is not merely a treaty of peace with Germany... it is nothing less than world settlement, and at the centre of that stands the covenant for the future we call the Covenant of the League of Nations. Without it the treaty can not be worked and without it is a mere temporary arrangement with Germany. The covenant of the League of Nations is the instrumentality for the maintenance of peace.
If the treaty is not ratified by the Senate, the war will have been fought in vain, and the world will be thrown into chaos. I promised our soldiers, when I asked them to take up arms, that it was a war to end wars...”
Of course, Wilson thought that the Treaty was fair. But unlike France he did not think it fair due to personal gain that the US received; in fact the United States did not receive any reparations.
In effect, the US did not officially ratify the Treaty as the views of the senate did not match those of the President.
I think overall that the Treaty was fair in some ways but in some ways it wasn’t. For example I feel that the reparation amounts were a lot for Germany to deal with; and when the economic break down occurred, I think France should have given Germany time to recover from its financial crisis and wait for the reparations rather than invade the Ruhr and simply take the goods by force. I do not think that France comprehended the magnitude of the predicament in Germany at the time.
I think it was good that the German army was cut down, to prevent them from ever trying to launch an attack again, but I do think that the amount it was cut down to was a bit too low. The fact that Germany was not allowed to own tanks seems a bit harsh; as I think that military tradition seemed quite significant in Germany.