What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?

Background Information

With so many vested interests, and so many challenges in putting it together, the Treaty was never going to please everyone. There were mixed reactions in all countries, often with different opinions from politicians and everyday people.

Georges Clemenceau (France)

__Liked the harsh things that were in the Treaty: __

  1. Massive Reparations (would repair the damage to France)
  2. The tiny German army (would prevent Germany from attacking France)
  3. The de-militarised zone in the Rhineland (would protect France by creating a buffer zone)
  4. Pleased the Allies forced Germany to take the blame.
  5. The Treaty restricted the German military - making it almost impossible to attack France again.
  6. France got Alsace-Lorraine back (which they had lost in 1971 to Germany), and some German colonies.

But he was disappointed with the Treaty:

  1. He wanted the Treaty to be harsher
  2. He wanted Germany to be split up into smaller countries.
  3. Clemenceau wanted the reparations even higher and thought the treaty should be harsher

Clemenceau lost the next national election in France, which showed how the French people felt disappointed.

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 1

On the left, in light blue, you can see the area Alsace-Lorraine which Germany lost to France in 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war. This wasn’t even a problem from the First World War; however, France was exuberant to get it back in 1919.

The Ruhr Crisis

The reactions to the Treaty arguably provoked a crisis in 1923, as German resentment came head-to-head with French frustration at a perceived lack of severity.

  1. In 1922, Germany then fell behind with reparation payments.
  2. As a result French and Belgian soldiers entered the industrial Ruhr region to take what Germany owed to them in the form of goods and raw materials.
  3. The German government ordered the workers to go on strike to prevent France and Belgium from being able to take anything. The French, however, killed 100 workers and expelled 100,000 protesters from the region.
  4. The strike had also meant that Germany no longer had enough goods to trade in order to make money.
  5. The government attempted to solve this problem by printing more money. This in turn caused hyper-inflation (the money became virtually worthless). Workers had to be paid daily instead of weekly as they had to carry all the money in wheelbarrows, and the price of food soared.
  6. This was only ended when America struck a deal with Germany and France, and Germany began repaying reparations through American loans.

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 1

During the hyperinflation crisis, the German currency got so out of control that they were printing notes to the value of 50 million marks… and people would still need enough to fill a wheelbarrow with to pay for a loaf of bread.

Define the following terms:

Diktat
Your answer should include: treaty / forced / Germany
November Criminals
Your answer should include: Ebert / government / signing / armistice
Kaiser
Your answer should include: ruler / Germany / before / First World War / WWI

David Lloyd George (Britain)

__Many British people wanted to ‘make Germany pay’, and Lloyd George liked: __

  1. That Britain got some German colonies (expanded the British Empire).
  2. The small German navy and no submarines (helped Britain to continue to ‘rule the waves’).

__But Lloyd George was personally disappointed with the Treaty: __

  1. He thought that the Treaty was far too harsh and would ruin Germany,
  2. Lloyd George also felt that the TOV was too harsh on Germany and was worried that it would make them seek revenge in the future. He was also concerned that Germany had been left too weak.
  3. He thought it would cause another war in 25 years time

Lloyd-George received public support for his role in the Treaty; however, personally he was worried.

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 1

This map shows Germany’s colonies in 1914, just before the First World War. Germany lost all of her colonies at Versailles, and the majority were effectively given to Britain (and France). Britain gained the majority of the African colonies, which they were extremely happy about.

Woodrow Wilson (USA)

__Wilson got: __

  1. A League of Nations – the most important of his 14 points.
  2. Self-determination for the some of the peoples of Eastern Europe.

But he was disappointed with the Treaty:

  1. He thought the Reparations bill was too high
  2. When Wilson went back to America, the Senate (US Parliament) refused to join the League of Nations, and even refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
  3. Wilson felt that the treaty was too harsh and risk another war and was disappointed that many of his fourteen points were not enacted
  4. Indeed, only one was properly seen through, and then the U.S. didn’t even join!
  5. He faced opposition from many at home including the US Senate who were worried that the League of Nations would drag America into another costly European War

Wilson never recovered from his failed attempts with the Treat and the League, and died fairly soon after. He was a Democrat, and his entanglement in Europe lost the Democrats public support in America, and the Republicans won the next election.

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 1

A reminder, America’s absence from the League threatened to be a fundamentally undermining factor in eventually causing it to collapse. This cartoon from 1919 shows that this was a fear right from the start of the League.

Why Germany hated the Treaty

The terms of the Treaty were announced on the 7th May__ __to a horrified German nation.

Germany was to lose:

  1. 10% of its land
  2. All of its overseas colonies
  3. 5% of its population
  4. 16% of its coalfields and almost half of its iron and steel industry.

Germany Overview

  1. They had hoped for a fair settlement based on Wilson’s Fourteen points, and the reality of the ToV shocked them.
  2. Mass protests throughout Germany
  3. Referred to as a ‘diktat- a settlement forced onto them by another country, Germany got no say in the negotiation.
  4. Many did not believe that the German army had been defeated and felt humiliated
  5. Angry at being blamed for causing the war
  6. Those politicians who the armistice were known as the ‘November Criminals__’ __(see below).

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 1

This cartoon shows how many Germans felt about the Treaty, and that they blamed Clemenceau in particular. You can see that Clemenceau is inviting the (German) guests to sit down at spiked chairs, to eat dangerous-looking food, and drinks labelled with the names of alcohols. This shows how Germany felt that Clemenceau was using the Treaty to try and destroy Germany.

A detailed look at Germany

Unfair – Germany thought it was unfair that they were not represented at the Treaty so they had to accept a harsh Treaty without any choice or even a comment.__ __They called this the Diktat.__ __ It was also an insult that they were not allowed to join the League of Nations.

Blame__ __– Germany thought that the war guilt should be shared.

Reparations__ __– Germany was crippled by the reparations, the country was already practically economically destroyed after the war and people could not even afford to buy food.

Armed forces - With such small armed forces Germany would be unable to defend themselves if they were attacked. This also hurt the longstanding German military pride, especially in their army.

Territory – Loss of so much German territory was a blow to their pride. The loss of industrial areas such as the Saar (coalfields) also damaged the economy.

League of Nations - Germany insulted that they could not join.

‘November Criminals’ and the ‘Stab in the Back’ Myth

Those in Germany who particularly disliked the treaty (especially the army) were outraged at the actions of the government which replaced the Kaiser and officially accepted German surrender and the terms of the Treaty. This gave birth to the nickname ‘the November Criminals’, for Ebert’s government which accepted the Armistice of November 1918, and the myth that this government had ‘stabbed Germany in the back’. This is shown in the below cartoon.

What were different countries’ reactions to the Treaty of Versailles?, figure 2

This German cartoon from the time epitomises the idea of the ‘stab in the back’ myth - some Germans, angry at the loss of the war, truly believed that Ebert’s ‘November Criminals’ betrayed the German soldiers, and that the Germany army could still have won the First World War at the point when the government surrendered. The Nazi Party later used this myth to great effect.

German Double Standards?

Many argue that Germany outrage at the Treaty was hypocritical and showed double standards. This is because in 1918, Germany made Russia sign an extortionately harsh treaty of surrender, called the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This was so heavily punitive that the Treaty of Versailles looked positively generous in comparison. Many Allies argued that Germany had set a precedent with this treaty, and so had no ground to stand on when Versailles was much more reasonable.