The “Diktat”

  • The German delegation was allowed no further say in the drawing up of the treaty after the terms were confirmed. However, they had no choice but to sign it, which they eventually did on June 28 1919.
  • The Germans attacked the treaty, calling it unfair on grounds of being a “diktat” or “dictated peace”.
  • It was believed that the location and manner in which the signing ceremony was staged were designed to humiliate Germany, since the proclamation of the German Empire had occurred in the very same place in January 1871.

The Terms

Territory Lost

  • Alsace-Lorraine to France
  • West Prussia and Posen to Poland
  • North Schleswig to Denmark
  • Eupen and Malmedy to Belgium
  • Danzig had its port facilities given to Poland
  • The Saar was placed under the control of the League of Nations, with France controlling the mines.
  • Upper Silesia was partitioned with Poland receiving half the area and two thirds of the mines. Germans were particularly incensed by this.
  • Germany lost all of her colonies in Africa, China and the Pacific.
  • As a result of the treaty, around 8.5 million people who lived in Germany’s seized territory lost their citizenship, despite being German speakers.
  • This contravened with the principle of national self-determination, which President Wilson strongly believed in.

War Guilt and Reparations

  • Germany was forced to admit her guilt for starting the war, perceived in Germany to be inaccurate and unfair because it was believed that many countries shared responsibility for the outbreak of war, particularly Russia which had mobilised its forces before Germany had done.
  • ‘War Guilt’ involved accepting responsibility for the damage Germany had done to the countries she had attacked.
  • The French were especially keen to make Germany pay, not least because France, like Britain, had borrowed considerable sums from the USA, who were insisting on repayment.
  • Germany was made to pay the sum of £6.6 billion in 1921 in regular instalments. For the French, reparations were also a way to weaken Germany.
  • Reparations proved very unsatisfactory in that they bred lasting German resentment and helped to destabilise Germany’s economy and hold back European recovery in the early 1920s.
  • Furthermore, the issue was the source of ongoing disagreement between France and Britain, particularly over France’s occupation of the Ruhr in 1923.

Military Restrictions

  • The German army was limited to 10,000 volunteers enlisted for a 12-year period of service, conscription was forbidden in order to prevent the creation of a reserve.
  • Germany’s General Staff was abolished.
  • Germany was not allowed on air force, any tanks or heavy artillery and only 6 battleships.
  • Germany was ordered to surrender its entire battle fleet of warships. The Germans sank their own fleet off Scapa Flow in June, rather than hand it over to the British and French.
  • The Rhineland was occupied by allied forces for 15 years.
  • The disarmament terms were intended to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations.
  • However, general disarmament by other states did not take place in the mid 1920s and this was another aspect of the settlement that German critics were quick to seize on and label inconsistent.

  • Indeed, the famous economist, John Maynard Keynes labelled the terms of the treaty, a “Carthegian peace” meaning that it would result in all-out pandemonium.

The Ruhr Crisis


  • Twice, in 1920 and 1921, the Germans defaulted on payments and France sent in troops to occupy several towns in the Ruhr.
  • On both occasions, French intervention had received reluctant approval from Britain.
  • The Reparations Commission arrived at a figure of £6.6 billion in April 1921.
  • The schedule for payments was communicated to Germany in May 1921, including a requirement for Germany to pay £50 million immediately.
  • Initially, Germany delivered what was demanded of it but in December the German government asked for postponement of payments due in January and February 1922.
  • The British looked favourably upon this appeal; the French did not.
  • The Reparations Commission did agree to grant a limited moratorium on Germany’s payments.
  • However, in December 1922 it ruled that Germany had failed to keep to the agreed schedule of timber of deliveries.
  • As a result, the French Prime Minister, Raymond Poincaré decided to send 60,000 French and Belgian troops into the Ruhr in January 1923.
  • The Ruhr produced 80% of Germany’s steel and 70% of its coal.


  • The hyper-inflation crisis caused chaos in Germany and widespread social misery, before Gustav Stresemann restored currency stability with a new controlled currency.
  • The failure of France to force Germany to comply with the terms of the Versailles treaty made France feel even more insecure.
  • This in part explains the increasingly defensive policy taken by France; having failed to keep Germany weak by military intervention, France did not try to use force again, instead building the Maginot Line to protect France against German attacks.
  • The Ruhr Crisis led to Adolf Hitler launching an unsuccessful bid for power, the Munich Putsch of November 1923.
  • The Ruhr Crisis undermined the Weimar Republic in the long-term because many of the German middle-classes lost their savings during the hyper-inflation crisis and therefore lost confidence in the democratic political system.
  • The Dawes Plan, which emanated from the Ruhr Crisis, led to a period of sustained economic growth in Germany between 1924 and 1929.
  • The Dawes Plan made Germany dangerously reliant on the continuation of America loans, so that Germany was particularly hard hit when Wall Street crashed in 1929.
  • The serious nature of the crisis for international relations and Europe’s economic stability led to a new approach by British, French and German politicians – namely a search for improved relations between the former wartime enemies.
  • This led to the Locarno Treaties of 1925.
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  • Following the Ruhr Crisis of 1923 and the Dawes Plan of 1924 Gustav Stresemann, the German Foreign Minister, in January-February 1925, put out feelers to both Britain and France with proposals for a security pact.
  • Stresemann was intent on gaining substantial revisions of the Versailles Treaty, including changes to Germany’s border with Poland but, unlike many German nationalists, he believed that the best way to achieve them was by means of improving Germany’s relations with Britain and France.
  • Although Stresemann was careful to maintain Germany’s treaty with the USSR, agreed at Rapallo in 1922, he saw ...

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