You are viewing a single comment's thread.

view the rest of the comments →


[–] PontarTourist 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago  (edited ago)

That entire line of thought is unsupported fantasy and indefensible against serious examination. Versailles was incredibly lenient on Germany for a number of reasons, especially considering the Entente had seen the Treaty of Brest Litvosk and knew full well what the Central Powers would have done to them had the shoe been on the other foot. Germany deservedly lost its conquered territories as part of the peace deal. What ruined Germany wasn't a "strict" Versailles, but numerous failures of its own immediate post-war economic policy from 1919 through the turbulent 20's and the loss of American capital when the depression hit.

Credit to :/u/rdjvesey on reddit.

The idea that theTtreaty of versailles was too Harsh is a common myth; although, it was a major part of German propaganda. In contrast to the armistice agreement (where, among other things, Germany was forced to turn over all of its u-boats, many of its ships, and much of its materiel), the Versailles treaty was a slap on the wrist.

World War II occurred because Britain (read: David Lloyd George) was unwilling to produce a draconian peace treaty. At the end of World War I, Germany was the strongest nation on the continent. While its people were starving and it did not have the workforce necessary to continue the war, it held all of its industry and had destroyed/removed French & Polish industry. As a result, the French desired much of Germany's western lands, and France and Poland desired a large Poland that could stand up to the Germans and to the Soviet Union. Enter Lloyd George who cuts down France's ambitions and forces plebiscites for regions like Upper Silesia (where Germany retained most of its land; although, Poland received most of the mines). Lloyd George also forced the allied powers to agree to have Danzig as a free city rather than as a Polish one because it was largely German (as an aside, Paderewski, the Prime Minister of Poland until late 1919, heavily criticized the allies because they refused to treat Lviv (called Lwow in Polish and Lemberg in German), a largely Polish city, the same way).

In his writings years later (1938), Lloyd George maintained his belief that he made these decisions in regards to keeping German territory out of Poland and France in order to reduce any possible irredentist claims on the part of Germany. He did the same with regards to Poland's Eastern border (in part because he wanted to return lands to White Russia, but even after he stopped supporting the Whites, he attempted to enforce the Curzon line). What Lloyd George was too obtuse to realize was that both the Germans and the Soviets would always have irredentist claims on Poland, even if there wasn't a single German speaking citizen of Poland. Indeed, in Melita Maschmann's Account Rendered: A Dossier on my Former Self (a book she wrote as letter to a Jewish childhood friend on why she became a Nazi), she describes German fears of Poland's birth rate that were as prominent as irredentist claims.

While these are some major aspects related to territory, the most commonly produced examples of the "draconian" nature of the treaty are the reparations and the war guilt clause.

One of the reasons the Germans were able to use war reparations as propaganda is because the reparations were designed to look much worse than they really were. The allies specifically designed reparations that Germany was able to pay. The total bill that Germany had to pay was $12.5 billion. The Germans knew this. To appease their populations at home, the allies designed the treaty to look like Germany was paying $33 billion. The Germans were able to turn this around and make it look like they were forced to pay far more than they could afford.

In regards to the war guilt clause, it really didn't exist. The "war guilt clause" appeared in article 231, which states:

  • "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." * This same article exists, with the necessary changes, in the peace treaties with Austria and Hungary. Neither of these states looked at this as a "war guilt clause". What this article does is create a legal basis for reparations. President Wilson, in his Fourteen points and throughout the peace process, refused to allow indemnities to be imposed on Germany. The Allies could not force Germany to pay the costs of war. Article 231 existed so that the Allies could receive compensation for the industry that was destroyed in the war.

TL:DR The Paris Peace Conference resulted in a Germany that was the strongest state on the continent at the expense of other states. Reparations weren't as large as you think they were. The war guilt clause wasn't really a war guilt clause.

>Important Edit: I forgot a very important aspect of the war based on an argument by Sally Marks. After the War of the Sixth Coalition, the Russians occupied Paris. At the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, the Germans marched through the Arc de Triomphe and proclaimed the German Empire in Versailles. For the citizens to have accepted the end of World War I, the allies needed to march through Berlin. Instead, the citizens were told that they were winning and suddenly they were told that they had lost. The allies did nothing to prove this to the people of Germany, so it was easy to convince them in the future that they had lost through treachery.

*Sources/Further Reading (Sally Marks' article is the basis for the discussion on the treaty itself and I highly recommend that you read her article. My discussion of Poland is based on an amalgam of the other sources.)

Campbell, F. Gregory. “The Struggle for Upper Silesia, 1919-1922.” The Journal of Modern History 42, no. 3 (1990): 361-385.

Elcock, H. J. “Britain and the Russo-Polish Frontier, 1919-1921.” The Historical Journal 12, no. 1 (1969):137-154.

Lloyd George, David. The Truth About the Peace Treaties. London: Victor Gollancz LTD, 1938.

MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2001.

Marks, Sally. "Mistakes and Myths: The Allies, Germany, and the Versailles Treaty, 1918–1921." The Journal of Modern History 85, no. 3 (2013): 632-659.

Maschmann, Melita. Account Rendered: A Dossier on My Former Self. Translated by Geoffrey Strachan. Plunkett Lake Press, 2013. Kindle.

Paderewski, Ignacy. “Speech of the Prime Minister, M. Paderewski, which was delivered in the Polish Diet on November 12, 1919.” In British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part II, Series I, Volume 9. University Publications of America, 1991.

Wandycz, Piotr. “Poland’s Place in Europe in the Concepts of Pilsudski and Dmowski.” East European Politics and Societies 4, no. 3 (1990): 451-168. *