Aftermath of World War I
More detail on the Treaty of Versailles and Germany
Unit 7: Learning Objective F,
Let's go into a little more detail on the Treaty of Versailles. We've already talked about it helping to establish the League of Nations, but particularly with regards to Germany, the biggest aspect of it was its application of war guilt, essentially putting the full blame of the war on Germany. Maybe you could justify it by saying Germany was the most aggressive actor at the beginning of the war declaring war on Russia and France without much provocation, but then the counter-argument would be Austria-Hungary had already declared war on Serbia. Russia had already mobilized, but then the counter-counter-argument, well Germany gave a blank check to Austria, said it would back up Austria no matter what Austria had done. Needless to say, this applied a lot of, the Germans were not happy about being assigned the full blame of war guilt. On top of that, we've already talked about the notion that it really diminished the Treaty of Versailles, really forced the German military to be diminished dramatically down to 100,000 troops, which is really now more of a glorified police force. It was also forbidden from forming a union with Austria. You might say why Austria in particular? Well, Austria is a German-speaking state. You could imagine there's a lot of ethnic affinity or linguistic affinity between Germany and Austria, so this is not allowed according to the Treaty of Versailles. On top of that, Germany loses its colonies. These colonies we've already talked about. These are colonies in Africa, colonies in Asia and colonies in the Pacific. On top of that, we have the reparations. We have the reparations estimated at the equivalent in 2013 terms of about $450 billion US dollars. That doesn't get fully paid, but it still has a huge toll on the German economy, especially because the reparations were not just paid in currency, they were paid in resources. To make sure that they were paid in resources, the allies actually occupied the Saar region, the Saar region right over here which was coal rich, and for the next 15 years, it would ship coal to France. The allies weren't just getting paid in currency, they were getting paid in dollars. This would also have the effect as Weimar Germany, the Weimar Republic, this is the government of Germany after World War I, called the Weimar Republic because its constitution was drafted in the city of Weimar. In order to try to pay the currency portions of the reparations, left the printing presses go free, tries to convert into other currencies, and then you essentially have hyperinflation in Germany through the early '20s, through 1923. On top of that, once this hyperinflation happened and they no longer can pay the reparations, then in order to continue to extract resources from Weimar Germany, France goes ahead and occupies the Ruhr region, which is right about here. It's also very rich in steel and coal, and they began shipping the resources out which was another huge humiliation for the Germans and on top of that, it's crippling the German economy. They're taking all of the main resources out of the German economy. This happened in 1923 as well. The combined effect of one, just the humiliation of World War I, the shipping away of resources, now this occupation of the Ruhr region which was never even part of the already bad Treaty of Versailles, from the German's point of view, this helped bring support for fairly more and more extreme parties in Germany. As you go into the end of 1923, it gave some energy for Hitler's, at the time fairly small national socialist or their Nazis, to attempt a coup d'etat of the government, attempt their Beer Hall Putsch. It ends up failing, but does give a lot of energy to what was before a very marginalized, or very small party, because of this occupation, it allows that party to grow by a significant amount. On top of that, let's talk about the actual territorial losses, all of the territorial losses. You have this little region up here, the north part of east Prussia, at first becomes a French protector according to the Treaty of Versailles, but it's later taken over by Lithuania. We've already talked about this whole region of Germany, of the former German empire that's carved away in order to give it to the new state of Poland. Most of Poland is carved out of the former Russian empire, part is carved out of the former German empire and also part is carved out of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Then you have this region right here inside [Lejon], part of it goes to Poland, part of it goes to Czechoslovakia. You have the famous Alsace Lorraine region right over here, had been a cause of contention between Germany and France for many, many, many years. Now this goes back to France. You have a little piece right over here that goes to Belgium, and then you have the north [slushig] region, goes to Denmark. On top of that, as you can imagine, the diminished troops, the taking resources away, France really wanted to cripple Germany's ability to be able to invade at any future point in time, but on top of that, they also set up a demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. The Rhineland is included both ... The demilitarized zone included the west bank of the Rhine River, all of Germany that was west of the Rhine River, so this entire region right over here, and then it was also occupied by the allies. Germany was also forbidden from militarizing or mobilizing troops anywhere 50 km east of the Rhine River. East of the Rhine River as well. So, you see going out of Treaty of Versailles, every attempt was made to attempt to cripple Germany's war-making abilities. They were forbidden from trading in arms and they couldn't have a lot of many types of offensive weapons. It really was to try to prevent Germany from being able to do what they did in World War I. As we see, in a large degree, it really was maybe a catalyst for giving energy to more extreme elements in Germany and would be one of the things pointing to for Germany's involvement in World War II.