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  • 06 Jul 2019 GS Paper 1 History

    The “Treaty of Versailles” signed as a treaty of peace,ironically, set the stage for another great war. Examine. (250 words)

    Approach

    Approach

    • Give background conditions which led to the treaty and its intent to bring peace.
    • Briefly explain its consequences and how it was harsh on Germany.
    • Rise of Hitler and Nazi party.
    • Conclude by justifying whether the treaty can be held responsible for the second World war.

    Introduction

    • The Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919 in a hostile environment after the first World War intended to bring peace in Europe. It was based on the principles of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points speech (1918) which calls for self government, international peace and security through overall disarmament. However, when assessed on these principles, the treaty cannot be justified.

    Body

    The treaty can be seen as ‘dictated peace’ due to the following reasons:

    • Germans were not allowed to be part of the negotiations.
    • Demilitarization: Germany was forced to drastically reduce its armed forces to weaken its defence.
    • Reduction in territory: The Treaty empowered the Allied States to control Germany’s overseas colonies in China, Pacific and Africa and declared them as League of Nation of Mandates.
    • It forced Germany to cede its territory to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and return Alsace and Lorraine to France.
    • War Guilt clause: Germany was solely held responsible for the war and its allies were held responsible for triggering war.
    • War Reparations: Huge reparations were imposed on Germany aimed at keeping it weak economically.

    Hence, it can be asserted that the treaty was harsh on Germany and served as a humiliation for the Germans. It brought many hardships for the German population and further deteriorated the entire geopolitical landscape of Europe.

    Further Consequences of the Treaty

    • Disintegration of German population into newly created nations was used by Hitler to justify German aggression and expansion before the second World War.
    • Impact on European economy: It further posed severe risks to the entire European economy which led to the Great Depression of 1929 as argued by British economist John Maynard Keynes.
    • The treaty could not satisfy the demand of all nations:
      • Britain wanted a lenient treaty with Germany because a prosperous Germany would serve as a market for British exports.
      • France demanded a harsher treaty so that French frontiers could not be threatened in future.
    • Hence, the treaty was meant to weaken Germany and to bring peace enough to stop the spread of communism. The humiliating conditions of the treaty rankled Germans for years and in many ways led to the rise of Nazism in Germany. Hitler further used the nationalistic propaganda to imbibe hatred in Germans which culminated into the Jews holocaust during the second World War.
    • The treaty could not contain the rise of extreme nationalism in fascist regimes of Italy, Germany and Japan which in turn led to the increased scramble for new colonies.
    • Also, the treaty led to the formation of the League of Nations which failed to prevent actions of fascist regimes like invasion of Manchuria by Japan.
    • The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were violated by Hitler which led to the formation of alliances like the Anti-Comminterm Pact (1937) between Germany, Japan and Italy and the Non-Aggression Pact (1939) between Germany and USSR.

    Hence, the Treaty of Versailles failed to contain the competitive geopolitics and set the stage for WWII.

    Conclusion

    It can be concluded that the treaty was created more through fear and anger than forgiveness, compassion and a desire for rebuilding relationships and ensuring long lasting peace. Also, the treaty was never properly enforced so that Germany was able to rebuild its military and challenge the security of Europe all over again.

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