Written By Siroun Thacker (Grade 10)
World War I began in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. Austria demanded reparations and Serbia was happy to repay them but followed a policy of allowing Austrian officials to enter the Austrian government. This set off a domino effect, with a shootout with Russia in an attempt to defend Serbia. Realizing that her ally Austria was overwhelmed, Germany intervened as an ally to protect her, simultaneously declaring war on Russia and France and launching the von Schifflen plan. Eventually, other countries also joined the war, and it developed into the so-called Great War.
Well, in 1919, the Big Three Countries and their Presidents, The United States (Woodrow Wilson), Great Britain (Lloyd George), and France (Georges Clemenceau), along with 32 other mandates, met at Versailles to conclude a post-war peace. They reached five different agreements collectively known as the Versailles Settlement. Above all, the Treaty of Versailles, which dealt with Germany, was particularly unjust. It consisted of four main components: Germany is responsible for starting the war, disarming German troops, reparations, and losing territories. Germany had to sign Article 231 and take responsibility for starting the war. They also had to pay £6.6 billion a year, which was a huge amount given the post-war economic situation. Conscription was prohibited, so she had to enlist and the Navy was limited to her 36 warships, Six battleships and her 15,000 sailors. They also lost much of their territory, from returning Alsace and Lorraine to France to banning their annexation to Memel, Lithuania and Austria.
In my opinion, the treaty was not fair at all and was correctly known as a diktat at the time. First of all, why was the finger pointed at Germany? The first war began between Austria and Serbia. Germany came into action much later when both Russia and France opened fire on Austria. Germany entered the war against the Dual League (1879) and promised to protect its allies. Countries like Russia and France doing the same as Germany have not been reprimanded in the same way. Defend their allies.
Second, why was Germany strictly forced to disarm when other countries were given leniency? Additionally, the war crimes clause and reparations were the least popular. A majority of the population believed that the war was not their fault and that responsibility should be shared. Was it? Because of the reparations, Germany quickly plunged into severe hyperinflation, unable to pay after the first instalment.
After all, when destiny was drawn, why wasn’t Germany at the conference and allowed to change those ridiculous provisions? Why were they not allowed to challenge the treaty?
So in conclusion, the treaty of Versailles was completely unfair in reprimanding Germany. It was an ignorant treaty that was written by men who were selfish and blinded by rage. Germany shouldn’t have had to go through the problems that followed the signing of the treaty. The treaty cannot be justified by any means and I stand by my opinion.
Featured Image Courtesy – BBC