The Treaty of Versailles

The German Government agreed to sign the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, to make peace.

This action was very unpopular in Germany.

Leaders of the German military did not admit that they would be beaten on the battlefield, or did not want to take responsibility for this. They placed the blame for defeat on the politicians who agreed the treaty. They claimed these officials had 'stabbed Germany in the back' by ending the war.

Several of the politicians who signed the treaty were leaders of the Weimar government. Their opponents began to call them the 'November Criminals' and accused them of betraying the German army and people.

The video below describes the contents of the Treaty of Versailles.

The terms of the Treaty were very damaging to Germany for a number of reasons:

  • Territory was taken from Germany, depriving it of valuable industrial income.
  • Germany had to accept responsibility for starting the war, leading to feelings of humiliation and anger. This was the War Guilt Clause, which left many Germans feeling humiliated.
  • Germany had to pay reparations of £6.6 billion, which would ensure that the economy would not recover.
  • Germany’s armed forces were severely reduced. For example, there was no air force, a maximum 100,000 soldiers and a reduced navy.

The link to the armistice and Treaty of Versailles had serious repercussions for the Weimar Government.

The accusations surrounding the ‘November Criminals’ and the ‘Stab in the Back’ claims, were used in many of Hitler's speeches in order to discredit the government.