Versailles Peace Treaty

The Allies meet in France and decide upon Germany’s fate.

[Germany and France, 1919] While the National Assembly in Weimar debated, the victorious powers negotiated in Paris. The German delegation was not admitted.

The Treaty

The conditions for peace were very hard: Germany lost large territories, had to pay large-scale reparations, drastically reduce troops and hand over most of her war material. What embittered Germans most was the War Guilt Clause in Article 231: Germany had to accept the sole responsibility of the war. The article was seen as an injustice and there was a view that Germany would sign “away her honor”.

The delegation in Versailles, the Government and the people, all were outraged and desperate. As a protest, the Scheidemann administration resigned. A new coalition government was formed under the Social Democrat Gustav Bauer. President Friedrich shared his countrymen’s disgust with the treaty, yet he was aware that the government would not be in a position to reject it. Not signing would have meant that the allies would resume war and invade Germany from the west, and the German army was not capable of any meaningful resistance. Eventually, foreign minister Hermann Müller and colonial minister Johannes Bell travelled to Versailles and signed the treaty on behalf of Germany on 28 June 1919. It was ratified by the National Assembly on July 9, 1919.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders condemned the treaty. Republican politicians who spoke in favor of signing the treaty were viewed with suspicion as persons of questionable loyalty. The young Weimar Republic, however, was seriously weakened from the very beginning.

However, problems of the greatest moment for the future peace not only of Europe but of the world, remained to be solved and in the solution of these problems General Allen took an effective and distinguished part. His situation was rendered the more difficult by the failure of the United States to ratify the Versailles Treaty. Untl he conclusion of peace, the occupation of German territory was necessarily a military occupation under the rules of international law and the terms of the armistice. After the conclusion of peace, the occupation was to be regulated by The Rhineland Agreement, signed at Versailles the same days as the Peace Treaty, the fundamental principles back of which, as suggested by, where that there should be as few troops as possible, concentrated in barracks or reserve areas, with no billeting except for officers, and German authority and administration left unimpaired, with the exception of a civil commission authorized to make regulation whenever German law or actions should threaten the carrying out of treaty terms or the comfort or security of troops, and in case of emergencies to authorizes material law. This idea of a civil commission representing the governments instead of a military commission representing the armies was embodied in the Rhineland Agreement .

Allied occupation of the Rhineland

The left and right banks of the Rhine River would be permanently demilitarized, and allied troops would occupy the left bank of the Rhine and bridge heads in Cologne (British sector), Coblenz (American sector)and Mayence (French sector) for a period of 5-15 years. A 50 km wide strip along the Rhine would be demilitarized. Moreover, the Allies had to right to occupy the right bank, too, if they found that Germany violated the treaty.

After the War, in Versailles 1919, President Woodrow Wilson said: “I have always detested Germany. I have never gone there. But I have read many German books on law. They are so far from our views that they have inspired in me a feeling of aversion.”

Lorenz Bergmann would have thought, “I am glad that Carl Schurz did not live to witness that. It would have broken his heart to hear the highly respected President of his new country, who believes in the same values, talk that way about his old homeland.”

* Quoted from the German Wikipedia

The picture is from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.

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