The Great War ravaged Europe completely. Belgian and French villages disappeared without a trace. Large areas in the north-western Europe became barren. Millions of people died and millions were wounded. The male population was decimated making women to take over male jobs. At the end of the war Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. Germany was not the immediate cause for the WWI but from 1870 through various wars and disputes Germany had been troubling other countries in Europe. Austria-Hungary and Germany agreed to support each other. When the WWI broke out because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Germany supported Austria. The Treaty was almost an act of revenge on Germany.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was a document which was a response by the international community to the war. When the nations met after the war it was unanimously declared that Germany was the main perpetrator of massive destruction and most of the reparation were given to Germany. This was done without any official representing Germany to be a part of the treaty. The Weimar Republic was forced to sign the treaty. But the people of Germany were disappointed with the government and resented this forced act. On June 28th, 1919, the German newspaper Deutsche Zeitung’s stated, “The disgraceful Treaty is being signed today. Don’t forget it! We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.” It was only natural that when the fascist party came to power they got the full support of the people.
- Germany had to pay 6.6 million Marks.
- 13% of land was taken away from Germany.
- Germany lost 10% of its people.
- Germany lost all its colonies
- The regions which were rich in iron, coal and potash was taken away.
- Army and Navy were drastically cut down.
- Use of air force and submarines were forbidden.
- Germany was not given a membership in the League of Nations.
- The treaty was a blow to the nation’s pride.
The Treaty of Versailles was indeed ‘a revenge on Germany’. People distrusted the Weimar Republic. The value of Mark dropped and the economy of Germany was badly affected. Hitler promised for a better Germany and the people believed him and voted him to power. Hitler broke many of the agreements of the treaty. He realized that disarmament was only for the defeated and that Britain and France continued to make their army powerful. The people of Britain and France felt that Germany was treated badly so they followed the policy of appeasement.
Many of the foreign policies adopted by Germany were not stopped by the Allies or the League of Nations. Hitler considered this as sign of weakness and attacked the neighbouring countries. Only when the incursion happened unchecked did Britain interfere but by then Hitler had become powerful and had allies in Mussolini and other European countries. Hitler also was cunning and could not be trusted for keeping up the pacts and agreements signed with other countries. While discussing Treaty of Versailles as the root cause of WWII we cannot but talk about Hitler because it was the treatment meted to Germany that formed most part of the document. So it was Germany’s reaction to the treaty that led to WWII.