Was the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 fair?
The treaty of Versailles was the peace treaty signed by Germany at the end of the First World War, some historians would say that the treaty was fair and that Germany got what they deserved but others would argue that it was far too harsh on Germany, and contributed to starting the Second World War.
In some ways the Treaty of Versailles was fair; it punished Germany for their actions in the First World War. It also forced Germany to recognise that they were wrong to have started the war, and they were the ones to blame, as well as preventing a further war, temporarily as we know today. The reparations Germany were made to pay, £6 billion, they helped to rebuild the things that Germany had destroyed in the war, and made Germany’s economy struggle without completely destroying it. This showed Germany that Britain, France and America were strong countries, and discouraged them from attacking again. The war guilt clause was a clause that stated that Germany should accept all blame for the war; this was fair in a way because Germany had been the main country to start the war, and other countries joined to defend themselves or to support Germany. The treaty, although not successful, did a good job of trying to prevent a second war. It limited German troops to 100,000, and banned conscription this meant that if Germany did attack, its attack would be weak and therefore less likely to cause a full blown world war. The Treaty of Versailles also said that the Rhineland should become a demilitarised zone; this was the area that Germany attacked from initially in the war, the fact that it belonged to Germany was a big problem for Belgium because it left them vulnerable to attack.
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On the other hand, the treaty was unfair towards Germany because of many things. Firstly, the reparations at the time were huge, unseen amounts of money and not only did the Treaty of Versailles demand this amount but it also removed Germany’s main source of income, the Rhineland. The Rhineland was huge for Germany for two reasons, one, it was a pathway between Germany and western Europe – used effectively in the war. Secondly, all the manufacturing facilities and crops for farming were based there. Since this was Germany’s main source of income, they had a huge economic crisis on their hand. Also, the treaty was unfair because it reduced Germany’s military presence by restricting Germany to have up to 100,000 men and 6 battleships – nothing else. They were left unprotected and unable to rebuild. Overall, Germany lost 13% of its territory and it was blamed for something arguably it didn’t start. Its main argument was that the Serbs and Austro-Hungarian’s started the war and Germany were forced to take most of the blame and suffering. The reparation amount, I thought, was huge, furthermore, the clauses, such as the moral one where Germany took full responsibility gave me idea that the committee was being childish by demanding the German to pay more and more and more. As well as this, the Treaty of Versailles was unfair to some other countries round the world – as this was an opportunity to make demands. The Japanese wanted two things, a racial equality clause and part of China. Obviously, the Chinese rejected these demands saying there was no reason for them to lose it and as a compromise, Japan claimed some former German colonies in the Pacific but there was no racial clause. This upset China as Japan provided soldiers for Germany but still collected territory. By the end of the treaty, neither country was satisfied by the outcome, Britain apparently questioned the decision due to the fact that the east of the world was considered unimportant – it felt that leaving out of these countries would be in their best interests.
In my opinion, the Treaty of Versailles was a strong idea and followed up successfully however I feel that it would have been better if there were neutral representatives moderating the demands and clauses in the treaty. It rejected equality claims and the ‘big three’ ignored relatively unimportant countries. To conclude, I think the Treaty of Versailles was unfair.