Opinions on the Treaty of Versailles

Mass demonstration in front of the Reichstag against the Treaty of Versailles 1919

The Treaty of Versailles is often referred to as the hated treaty - this is due to the fact that the leaders of America, Britain, France and Germany were all deeply unhappy with many different areas of the final agreement.

Germany

The Germans hated everything about the treaty:

  • They were angry that they had not been allowed to negotiate. They called Versailles a diktat or dictated peace
  • Deutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, vowed: We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.
  • Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, leader of the German delegation at Versailles said Article 231 - the war-guilt clause - was a lie. Germany officially denied the war-guilt clause in 1927.
  • There was a revolution (the Kapp Putsch) against the treaty in Berlin in 1920.
  • Germany hated reparations, and was forced to begin paying them in 1921. They defaulted in 1923 and eventually Hitler refused to pay altogether.

The Weimar Government was associated with failure in World War One since it had signed the Treaty of Versailles that had ended the war. Many nationalists believed the government had sold Germany out to its enemies by ending the war too early.

The November Criminals and the legend of the Stab in the Back were phrases used in many of Hitler’s speeches.

Britain

Britain gained some German colonies and the German navy was destroyed but...

  • Lloyd George thought the treaty was too harsh, saying: We shall have to fight another war again in 25 years time.
  • The British diplomat Harold Nicolson called it neither just nor wise and the people who made it stupid.
  • The economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied that reparations would ruin the economy of Europe.

France

France got Alsace-Lorraine, German colonies, harsh reparations and a tiny German army but...

  • Many French people wanted an independent, not a demilitarised, Rhineland.
  • Most French people did not think the League of Nations would protect them against Germany.

USA

Woodrow Wilson got the League of Nations, and new nation-states were set up in Eastern Europe but...

  • Wilson thought the treaty was far too harsh.
  • Self-determination proved impossible to implement - neither Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia survive as united countries.
  • Many Americans did not want to get involved in Europe, and in 1920 the American Senate refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, or join the League of Nations.