Opposition of the Versailles Treaty in Germany

Opposition of the Versailles Treaty in Germany

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Opposition of the Versailles Treaty in Germany

Many people believe that the Versailles Treaty was to blame for the
long term undermining of the Weimar Republic. There would have been no
way that the German people would have accepted the treaty unless the
Allies hadn't threatened to continue the war and dismember Germany.
This was because German propaganda had shielded the people from what
was really happening on the fronts.

One of the main reasons the German people rejected the treaty so much
was because they would have had no idea what was happening at the
front apart from what they would read in biased German newspapers. So
when defeat came the people were completely unprepared for it. For
several months before the war ended the German people had been
suffering from hunger and starvation due to the blockade of German
ports and a food shortage in 1918, so when the war ended they expected
this to end but it didn't. Many Germans also expected favourable terms
in the peace treaty like they had received when the treaty of Brest
Litovsk was signed with Russia in march 1918, which ended fighting on
the Eastern front. In this treaty Germany had received huge land gains
in Russia, but these were taken away by the allies in the treaty of
Versailles. This increased the shock effect of the treaty, which the
new German government had no choice but to sign.

Another thing, which added to the shock effect of the treaty, was that
only a few of Wilson's fourteen points had been incorporated into it.
The self-determination clause was to be used for the smaller nations
in Europe these included Poland and Czechoslovakia. This clause meant
that people would vote on which country they wished to belong to, but
for Germany much of its territory and many of its citizens were handed
over to Poland without voting. The German people were outraged by
this, as a much larger majority of the population in these areas were

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German, which went against the idea of self-determination. The League
of Nations was also set up, this was meant to be based upon people of
the same culture and language living together. Germany was excluded
from this. This made Germany appear to be an insignificant power in
Europe which many proud German nationalists could not except these
were also the same people who founded the "stab in the back myth" and
would later lead to right wing unrest in the Weimar Republic.

France pushed for an anti-German agenda mainly because much of its
territory was used as a battleground and had received huge casualties
and financial debts. This was also the case for Britain who had built
up huge debts to the Americans to pay for the war. Some of the
financial terms placed on Germany effectively crippled it. The treaty
stated that Germany had to pay financial reparations to the British
and French. This meant that the countries gold supply could be taken
as well as industrial assets, which included railway stock as well as
major industrial areas. From the 13% of its territory that Germany
lost and 6 million people, it lost a total of 15% Arable land, 75%
iron ore production, 68% zinc ore production and 26% of its coal
production. The impact on the German economy because of this was
massive; this again caused resentment towards the Versailles treaty.
The reduction of the German army was also a shock especially to right
wing generals in the German high command. Two of these were Hindenburg
and Ludendorf who were effectively controlling Germany like a military
dictatorship during most of the last few months of the war. The army
was reduced to 100,000 men and no tanks or aircraft were allowed. The
navy was reduced to 6 battleships, 6 cruisers, 12 destroyers, 12
torpedo boats and 0 submarines. Arms and munitions were also banned
from being imported to Germany. All sports using firearms or that
encouraged the uses of firearms were banned. The reduction of the army
also put thousands of soldiers out of work when the war ended, this
later lead to the creation of the Freikorps units during the years of
the Weimar republic.

War guilt was another important part in the understanding of why the
German people wouldn't accept the treaty. The idea of War Guilt was
that Germany and its allies, mainly Austria and Hungary, were to blame
for the war and so were forced to pay reparations to the allies.
Article 231 read:

"The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the
responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all loss and
damage to which the Allied and associated governments and their
nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed on
them by the aggression of Germany and her allies"

By signing this the new government under Erbert was effectively
committing treason in he eyes of right wing extremists who believed
Germany could go on fighting. This is where the myth of the "November
criminals" came from and would later lead to unrest especially by
right wing extremists during the years of the Weimar republic. An
example of this is a right wing slogan from the time, "death rather
than slavery" and "peace through victory". The war guilt clause meant
Germany had the responsibility of paying compensation to the allies
just as it made Russia do at the treaty of Brest Litovsk. The final
amount to be paid was decided by the reparations committee. The German
people also found it difficult to come to terms with the war guilt
clause as the majority of the population believed that Germany was
fighting a defensive war from the beginning.

Another thing that caused outrage and surprise among the German people
was that the team of German diplomats assembled by the German
government was completely ignored by the allied delegation. The Allies
thought that if the Germans had any part in the negotiations they
would try to split up the allies up over certain issues in order to
get more favourable terms. This promoted the view that the treaty of
Versailles wasn't so much a treaty but a dictation of allied demands.
This was not why the Germans had agreed to stop fighting and so they
thought they had been betrayed.

The first reason there was German opposition to the treaty was the
trauma of defeat. This was the biggest shock because most Germans felt
that the war was going well. It was generally felt through out the
front line troops that Germany could have kept on fighting for another
few months and that the army had been betrayed. The terms of the
treaty itself were also a huge shock to the Germans who expected to be
treated much more leniently after installing their own parliamentary
democracy and ending the rule of the monarchy and the Kaiser. They
also expected Wilson's fourteen points to be a major part of the
treaty, but they were only used selectively. All these reasons were to
blame for widespread German resentment throughout the Weimar period,
mainly by right wing extremists who believed that Erbert's new
government had sold out to the Allies, but also left wing extremists
who believed Germany should follow the example of the Russian
Bolsheviks. Both sides blamed the new government for the repercussions
of the treaty although they had no choice but to sign it.
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