The Treaty of Versailles was an incredibly important peace agreement that essentially brought WWI to an end. It was signed at the Palace of Versailles in France (fancy or what?) on 28 June 1919 between Germany and the Allied Powers.
So, what did the Treaty actually do, you ask? Glad you want to know! Germans generally hated the Treaty, and wanted revenge on the countries that had made it sign the “dictated peace” because it forced the nation to take responsibility for starting WWI. By admitting this, they also had to agree to pay for the cost of the damage, which set Germany back by around £6 billion in 1921.
In order to prevent a similar war, Germany’s army was reduced to 100,000 men and conscription was banned. Germany had to give up its navy, and it was also forbidden from making war planes or tanks for the foreseeable future. In addition to this, the country was banned from stationing troops in the Rhineland – the area of Germany closest to France – and the French were given Alsace and Lorraine on a silver platter. Meanwhile, Poland was handed West Prussia and Posen, and Danzig was given to the League of Nations. Belgium also cashed in, taking Eupen and Malmedy. On top of this, Germany was forbidden from uniting with Austria, which was something it desperately wanted.
Despite all these rules, France was still unhappy with the severity of the Versailles Treaty. This is because the nation was terrified by Germany’s strength, and feared a future invasion. Pretty wise, to be honest. In addition to this, France felt it deserved further reparations, which it needed to pay war debts owed to the US. This prompted France and Belgium to occupy the Rhur in protest at unpaid reparations in 1922.
Meanwhile, President Ebert’s government struggled to maintain political control in Germany as time went on, facing rebellions from both the right and the left in March 1920, less than a year after signing the Treaty. The same year, Dr Wolfgang Kapp led 5000 Freikorps into Berlin and when the Army refused to fire on them it looked as if the government would fail until it was saved by a general strike. Not good. By 1923, the German public had had enough; the severity of the Versailles Treaty prompted a general strike in Berlin after it was revealed as the cause of hyperinflation.
The Treaty of Versailles went on to become an incredibly important factor in the Nazis’ rise to power as many people believed it had been unfair to Germany. By the time Hitler had been named Chancellor in 1933, the German people had still not forgiven the Weimar government for accepting the terms of the Treaty so readily in 1919… even though it had ended WWI. I know, I know.