Was The Treaty Of Versailles Just?
The treaty of Versailles was a peace treaty between the allies and Germany, signed 28 June 1919. It established the league of nations. Germany surrendered Alsace-Lorraine to France, and large areas in the East to Poland, and made smaller cessions Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Belgium and Denmark. The Rhineland was demilitarised, German rearmament was restricted, and Germany agreed to pay reparations for war damage. The treaty was never ratified by the USA, which made a separate peace with Germany and Austria in 1921.
The leaders of Britain (Lloyd George), France (Clemenceau) and the USA (Wilson) all arrived in Paris in June 1919 to write up a treaty, they were under pressure to deal with Germany severely. France and Britain both believed strongly that Germany was responsible for the war and should be punished. There was also a strong belief that Germany should pay for the damage and destruction caused by the war. Eric Geddes, a government minister used this to his advantage in an election. In his speech he said ‘I have personally no doubt we will get everything that you can squeeze out of a lemon, and a bit more’, meaning he would make Germany pay for everything, every weapon used, every bullet shot, ever bit of food and drink used to feed the soldiers and their families, they would pay for all the buildings destroyed and basically pay for everything that cost money during the war. Although no fighting took place on British soil Geddes was still mad because at least one member of every British Family was killed or wounded, damage had been done to Britain’s allies France and Belgium and their industries were in a bad way.
Lloyd George, Wilson and Clemenceau all wanted one thing, peace, but they all had different opinions on what it was. Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an Idealist and thought he was a ‘Man With A Mission’. He thought he could make the world a better place. He wanted Europe set up into nation states (the principle of self-determination) which meant to be a nation you had to have a historic identity and your own language, every nation must have its own government and state for self identity. Also Wilson thought that a League of Nations should be set up, which was an international organisation to settle international disputes. He also thought that Germany should be treated lightly and be given no reason to feel bitter and want revenge, so he thought that Germany should be treated lightly and visualised America dominating the world .Clemenceau was pessimistic by nature, and was concerned about France’s weakness. He wanted to continue the war time alliance with Britain and America so they were allies after the war had finished, then France would not have to worry about Germany, as Germany had the potential to recover. He believed that Germany should pay reparations, and a buffer state in the Rhineland controlled by France which would be demilitarised. So he was generally worried about the well being of France and their protection from Germany therefore wanting Germany to be harshly treated so it had no chance of recovering. Lloyd George really only wanted to please Britain so he announced that he would treat Germany harshly, giving the appearance he wanted a hard treaty when really he agreed with Wilson that it was important not to give Germany cause to be bitter and want revenge. Also he realised that if Germany had to pay maximum reparations then they would have to export so much that British exports would be undermined. He also wanted to take over Germany’s colonies so France and Britain controlled them. So he generally did not want to treat Germany harshly but wanted to be liked by the British public and to be in control of part of Germany.