Did the Treaty of Versailles Accomplish Peace?
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The main goal of the Treaty of Versailles was to keep peace. Georges Clemenceau from France was part of the Big 3 and he utterly despised Germany. He believed that if Germany was weakened and broken down into little pieces they could never start another war or threaten France again. He mainly wanted Germany to be severely punished and they were. A large section of the Treaty dealt with the punishment of Germany because many others believed in the thinking of Clemenceau. Another part of the Treaty dealt with the League of Nations. The League was set to enforce the Treaty along with improving the world. The League had achieved many of its goals, but by the 1930’s it wasn’t doing its original job. It is questionable that the Treaty of Versailles kept and provided real peace with the harsh punishments of Germany and the problems of the League of Nations.
One of the main clauses of the Treaty was clause 231, this clause states, “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”1 This clause blamed Germany for all the actions and consequences, they had to be responsible. If Germany really had caused the war and was responsible for all damages, the Treaty would then be fair, but it wasn’t them that had caused all these disturbances. One of the main causes of the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian terrorist. This dispute was between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, Germany only offered to help when needed. Besides this, Germany was not the first country to mobilize or attack. They were blamed for the actions of other countries and for any country these verdicts are disgraceful and unfair.
They would fight for what is right. This source is the exact words of the Treaty, these words show that the Big 3 and many other countries were very biased towards Germany, they didn’t care if it was the culprit or not, they just hated the Germans so they “saw” them as the main culprit and would want them to suffer forever. For all those that have studied the First World War they would know the main cause. Thus when reading this primary source the thought unfair would come into existence. When the Germans heard about the Treaty of Versailles they were furious, they too had the same thought–unfair. They hated it and would do anything to destroy it. Deutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper said,” The disgraceful treaty is being signed today. Don’t forget it! We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.”2 These words represent the thoughts of all the Germans on June 28, 1919, the day the Treaty was signed. This source is biased towards the decisions of the Big 3, but the second half is pure feeling.
These citizens were determined to go against the Treaty and will commit any action so that they are not responsible for the faults of others. They see this treaty as unfair, they have anger inside them and they will not stop. These reactions are very common, anyone or any country will not keep peace if they are blamed for a crime they did not commit. But for the Germans they began World War II only just 20 years later. This was predicted by David Lloyd George, another member of the Big 3. He said, ” We shall have to fight another war in 25 years time.”3 He believed that the harshness of the Treaty would cause another war in two decades and it most certainly did. Hitler, the new ruler of Germany started this war and one of the ways he gained support was by ripping up and abstaining the orders from the Treaty of Versailles.
The Treaty was very hard on the Germans, who to many was the main culprit. Not only did it force them to accept all blame, it forced them to pay large amounts of reparations, to decrease to a very low number of soldiers, weapons, it also gave away all of Germany’s colonies. For any country to face such matters brings anger among the suffering citizens. As said before it is natural for those citizens to want revenge and to despise the Treaty and all those who came up with it. These words would support the wanted accomplishment of the Treaty of Versailles if later Germany never started war again, but the opposite happened, so this primary source does prove that the Treaty did not accomplish in providing peace, rather it caused more wars.
David Lloyd George predicted this not because he was psychic, but because he understood that the Treaty was too harsh and the psychology of the German citizens. He was not biased when he spoke this, he was logically thinking the situation through. For the person to comment that his own decisions were incorrect and to announce that it will cause problems shows that he had thoroughly thought ever detail through. Lloyd George is being neutral as he speaks this, he is not covering up for anyone or any decision. Both of these primary sources show that the Treaty of Versailles severely punished Germany but did not meet its goal, it did not bring peace.
Others may believe that there was a certain time period that the Treaty of Versailles brought peace. The League of Nations was set up by the Treaty in order to enforce it. The League did prevent many wars and it saved many lives, so this does count in preventing wars and keeping peace. From Encyclopedia Britannica in 1994 it says, ” During the 1920s the League assimilated new members, helped settle minor disputes, and experienced no serious challenges to its authority.”4 Yes, during the 1920’s the League of Nations was fairly successful and Europe was kept at peace.
The League of Nations was set to enforce the Treaty of Versailles and it if is successful it also means that the Treaty of Versailles met its goal during that time period. This source is from a well known encyclopedia, and it is not a primary source. Encyclopedias are responsible for stating facts about world wide events, it does not involve any biased opinions of certain countries. However, because it was not a primary source people can believe that it may have left out little bits and pieces of information, but knowing that the First World War did not occur so long ago it can be seen as a complete and truthful piece of information. Since this source can be trusted, then one should believe that the League of Nations kept peace and since the Treaty of Versailles set this League the credit should be theirs.
Even though the League achieved many successful actions, by the 1930’s it was going downhill. It did not stop the problems in Manchuria when the Japanese invaded nor did it do anything in Abyssinia. It was unable to keep both countries at peace and the invasions that caused them. A history book of 1938 stated, “If nations want peace, the League gives them the way by which peace can be kept. League or no League, a country which is determined to have a war can always have it.”5 This source states that with or without the League war can avert, this is also equivalent to saying that the Treaty of Versailles had no impact on stopping war from happening. While making this statement the historian has strong evidential proof that the League wasn’t able to stop wars and problems in places such as Manchuria and Abyssinia in the 1930’s. It is also seen when Hitler takes power and retrieves Rhineland, the League just watched and did nothing.
The author of the history book did not write this statement without proof. This seems to be very believable because it is considered as a secondary source and it is quite close to the time period of the war and League of Nations. The source should be seen as not biased because any historian that has carefully analyzed the situations would agree by the 1930s the League wasn’t enforcing anything. This meant that the organization that the Treaty set up wasn’t playing the role that it was supposed to be. Thus resulting in the statement that Treaty of Versailles wasn’t able to prevent war.
From the few sources one can see both the achievement of the Treaty of Versailles along with the problems that it caused in the future. The Treaty of Versailles was merely a Treaty to punish Germany, its main purpose for the setting up the League of Nations was the make to Germany abides by the Treaty and along with doing that it help and improved people’s lives. Clemenceau’s ideas did not decrease the possibility of war at all, his ideas caused the Germans to be angry and wanted revenge, which by Hitler they achieved. The harsh and unfair punishments pushed them to the edge which led to their release of anger in World War Two. The League of Nations had helped a lot and if it proceeded along with their actions of the 1920s then WWII may not have avert. With the analysis of a few sources one is able to conclude that the Treaty of Versailles was not able to achieve its goal, it did not provide long lasting peace.
Clare, John D “Germany and the Treaty” Greenfield History Site. 2002
Online. Available: http://www.johndclare.net/peace_treaties5.htm Dec. 24 2005
Clare, John D “Verdicts on the Treaty” Greenfield History Site. 2002
Online. Available: http://www.johndclare.net/peace_treaties6.htm
Dec. 24 2005
Clare, John D “Was the League Successful in the 1920s?” Greenfield History Site. 2002 Online. Available: http://www.johndclare.net/league_of_nations4.htm Dec. 24 2005
Clare, John D ” Why the League Failed” Greenfield History Site. 2002 Online. Available: http://www.johndclare.net/league_of_nations8.htm Dec. 24 2005
Duffy, Michael “Primary Documents: Treaty of Versailles: Articles 231-247 and Annexes” First World War.com The War to End All Wars. Oct. 28 2001
Online. Available: http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles231-247.htm Dec. 24 2005