In the early 1917, the entire world suffered under the unprecedented savagery of the First World War. From one side the central Forces (Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Ottoman Empire and their allies) and on the other side the Allied Powers (France, Great Britain, Russia and their allies, as Japan and the United States) had achieved to bring forward an unmatched horror that humanity had never seen before in the previous centuries of conflicts and wars.
The Treaty of Versailles (1919) is the treaty of peace that officially terminated the First World War between the Allied Powers (Entente) and the German Empire. After six months of negotiations, that took place in the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty was signed. Although the Treaty involved many provisions, one of the most important defined that Germany accepted the complete responsibility for the beginning of war and, according to the articles 231-248, accepted to pay martial compensations to several countries.
The “Big Three” that negotiated the Treaty was the British Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd George, the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and the American President Woodrow Wilson. Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando played a secondary role in the negotiations, while Germany did not participate at all. The decision of a common policy it was difficult to be made because of the conflicting objectives of the various countries. The result was an “awkward compromise”.
The Treaty of Versailles defined the foundation of the Society of Nations, which was a very important achievement according to President Wilson. The Society of Nations was to arbitrate the international differences and thus to avoid future wars. However, only three out of fourteen points of Wilson were realized, since the American President was forced to reconcile with Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Orlando in order to get their approval and achieve the foundation of the fourteenth point, which referred to the Society of Nations. Clemenceau was the one, who claimed bitterly revenge at the expense of Germany, because a major part of the First World War had evolved in North-eastern France with devastating consequences for the country. The Treaty was considered immoderately strict as it considered strictly Germany as responsible for the war. However, many contemporary historians consider this opinion oversimplified.
The terms were particularly hard. For Germany, the hardest part was to accept the responsibility for the War. Moreover, the territory and the population of Germany were decreased by 10%. France took the Alsace and the Lorraine, while other regions were given to Belgium and Denmark. The independent state of Poland took the biggest part of Western Prussia, while Gdansk was declared a free city. Saar was placed under the monitoring of the Society of Nations until 1935. All the colonies of Germany were shared between the Allies.
The “responsibility for the war” compelled Germany to deposit compensations. Later, in 1921, the responsible committee decided the inconceivable sum of 33 billion dollars, which of course was impossible to be deposited. The German army was limited to 100,000 soldiers. The manufacture of armoured vehicles, submarines, planes or chemical weapons arms was prohibited. Germans were furious with those measures. The next years, many terms of the Treaty changed and became softer, while others were never applied. Hitler used the Treaty and with a magnificent bluff in 1936, he invaded the region West of Rhine, without causing the military reaction of the Allied Powers, thus leading Germany and the world to the Second World War.