A Brief Note On The Treaty Of Versailles

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Paris spring 1919, Europe has just lived through the desolation of the First World War, and the French people embraced the men who had helped them win victory. At the peace conference, that lead to the formation of the treaty of Versailles, the most puissant of the triumphant nations, were represented by the big three: Woodrow Wilson President of the United States of America, Clemenceau the President of France and Lloyd George the Prime Minister of Britain. Europe was “racked by hatred, fear, nationalism and hunger,” (Nicolson 1945, pgx) and it was their mission to recover her stability. Their task was to “reorganize a shattered world” (Ross, 2003), reallocate colonies, and inhibit a war like that from ever happening again. Although arriving with conflicting ideas, the allied nations agreed on recouping war costs from the losers and therefore, “the key questions at Paris [regarding the treaty of Versailles] were the extent of German liability, the extent also of its capacity to pay, how Germany should pay, and over how long a period.“ (Boemeke, Feldman & Glaser 2006, pg9). For this reason, a reparation clause, with article 231 as a basis, was mandated to ensure that Germany was held responsible to pay for “causing all the damage” it had inflicted upon the entente powers – the allied United Kingdom, USA, and France, and their affiliated allies – the associated governments. At Versailles 1919, each of peacemakers had a wish list for the penance they desired to perceive Germany recompense. The French President Clemenceau alleged that “France had not won this war but had been rescued,” and consequently he targeted at obstructing any forthcoming aggression. He demanded Alsace Lorraine back and the reduction of the German army. Further... ... middle of paper ... ... civilian victims, prisoners of war, property and finally any damages in the form of levies, fines and other similar exactions imposed by Germany and her allies upon the civilian population. (London times 1920, pg383) The normal procedures would have been for the allies to make an estimate of the amount of damage and to present Germany with a demand for the total. This total would have been reparation pure and simple, leaving Germany to decide how she would pay. This was not done, a reparation commission was set up to determine what should be paid and how, which caused grievances to arise, as they have taken Germany’s right of deciding how much should be paid. Furthermore, a subsequent congress with Germany was abandoned and they had no say in the final terms. Germany was “humiliated, in a manner that did little honor to the conquerors themselves.”(Abel 1938, pg.33)
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