Treaty of Versailles – Information, Highlights, Consequences

We explain what the Treaty of Versailles was, the conditions it imposed on Germany, its causes and consequences.

Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was an agreement that ended the First World War.

What was the Treaty of Versailles of 1919?

The Treaty of Versailles It was one of the peace agreements that put a definitive end to the First World War on June 28, 1919. Its name comes from the place of its signature, in the Gallery of Mirrors of the Palace of the city of Versailles, France.

This event, in which more than 50 countries participated, specifically put an end to the state of war between the German Empire (or Second German Reich) and the Allied countries.

Eleven months before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, an armistice (1918) had already been signed between the warring sides. However, it took several months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to reach a definitive agreement.

This treaty entered into force on January 10, 1920, subjecting the German Empire to a strict disarmament regime. It forced him to assume full moral and material responsibility for what had hitherto been the largest and most catastrophic armed conflict in modern human history.

The impositions included, for example, gigantic indemnities to the victorious countries. The terms of the treaty generated enormous resentment in the German population and the feeling that the debt would be impossible to pay. Consequently, was partially responsible for the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler’s accession to power.

After the fall of the Empire, the Weimar Republic was established in Germany. However, his political weakness added to the very poor living conditions of the German working class. Because the authority of the treaty was undermined from 1922 and its restrictions systematically violated by the Nazi regime in the 1930s.

Treaty highlights

treaty of versailles summary impositions
The Treaty of Versailles imposed taxes in excess of Germany’s capabilities.

The Treaty of Versailles was made up of fifteen parts, each one made up of a variable number of articles, which detailed the resolutions imposed on the defeated in various thematic axes. They included everything from sanctions, economic and financial clauses, to the redefinition of Germany’s borders and the guarantees that would prevent future conflicts.

Broadly speaking, these provisions imposed the following on Germany:

  • The reduction of German territory in Europe of 540,766 km2 (1910, before the war) at 468,787 km2 (1925), and the obligation to cede to the allies their entire colonial Empire, divided mainly between the United Kingdom and France.
  • Any type of political union between Germany and the newly created Republic of Austria (after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) was prohibited.
  • Delivery of all German war material to the allies, along with their war fleet, and the reduction of their army to just 100,000 men and 4,000 officers, without heavy artillery, submarines, or aviation. They were also prohibited from manufacturing war material and the Army General Staff was dissolved. Likewise, compulsory military service was abolished.
  • Demilitarization of the Rhineland and occupation of the left bank of the Rhine, in addition to the internationalization of the Kiel Canal.
  • The League of Nations was created to prevent a similar conflict from being repeated, and Germany was forbidden to enter it, under the excuse that this nation and its allies had been the cause of the War and its only responsible.
  • The entire German merchant fleet was delivered to the Allies and the annual session of 200,000 tons of new ships was agreed to replace the one destroyed in the Allied countries. The delivery of huge amounts of material resources, such as coal, cattle and all kinds of German private property in colonial territory. In addition, Germany would deliver to the allies half of its pharmaceutical and chemical production and all of its submarine cable production, over a period of five years.
  • Germany had to pay the exorbitant amount of 132 billion German gold marks (equivalent to US $ 442 million in 2012), a figure that exceeded international reserves.

Causes of the Treaty of Versailles

treaty of versailles causes first world war
The First World War was the cause of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles has a unique and great cause: the defeat of the Central Powers during the First World War. Given the devastating nature of the conflict, the victors reacted viciously to their defeated enemies, subjecting them to various treaties drawn up at their own convenience. The Treaty of Versailles was just one of them.

On the other hand, after the signing of the armistice, the Peace Conferences of 1919 were held, attended by representatives of the victorious powers and the defeated ones were not allowed access. Thus, everything agreed upon was imposed on them without having a voice or vote. This allows us to understand the feeling of arbitrariness that prompted the Treaty of Versailles.

Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles

treaty of versailles weimar republic inflation
The impact on the economy caused the Deutsche Mark to lose all its value.

The terms of the treaty were received as an insult and a humiliation. Its economic consequences in Germany were catastrophic, unleashing hyperinflation, social suffering and political instability, factors that then they allowed the emergence of fascism.

These terms were so abusive that the US Senate refused to sign the treaty and therefore was not part of the League of Nations either, greatly diminishing its power to the nascent UN.