Treaty of Versailles | Definition, Summary, Terms, & World War One

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  1. Which is the Treaty of Versailles?
    1. Why did the Treaty of Versailles fail?
    2. Negotiations
    3. Council of Ten
  2. The Prime Minister
    1. Conditions of the Treaty of Versailles
    2. Territorial clauses
    3. Military clauses
    4. War reparations
    5. Other clauses
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Which is the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles was a peace treaty signed at the end of World War I that officially ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied countries.

treaty of versailles

It was signed on 28 June 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, one of the main events that had triggered the war.

The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was one of the peace treaties signed at the end of the First World War and officially ended it.

It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which led to the start of the world conflagration.

Earlier, on November 11, 1918, an armistice had been signed that put an end to the fighting.

One of the most important and controversial provisions of the treaty stipulated that Germany was obliged to accept responsibility for initiating the war (together with Austria and Hungary, in accordance with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the Treaty of Trianon), to enter into a process of disarmament, make significant land concessions and pay heavy compensation.

The total cost of these repairs was estimated at about $31.4 million at the time (equivalent to $442 billion today), which many economists of the time considered excessive. The final payment of the compensation was made by Germany on 3 October 2010.

Subsequent events undermined the treaty, which was no longer in force in the 1930s. The excesses in the drafting of the treaty caused stupor and humiliation among the German population, which contributed greatly to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the subsequent outbreak of the Second World War.

Why did the Treaty of Versailles fail?

The goal after World War I was to restore European stability and maintain eternal peace. However, these goals were recognized by all leaders as not easily attainable.


At the end of World War I an armistice was declared. The Allied bloc (France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives of their allies during the war) met at the Paris Peace Conference to agree on the terms of peace with Germany, the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Bulgaria.

The Allies drafted and signed treaties for each of the defeated powers; it was the Treaty of Versailles that was imposed on Germany.

Negotiations to discuss the terms of the peace began on 18 January 1919 in the Sala de l'Horloge in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Quai d'Orsay in Paris.

Initially, 70 representatives from 27 countries participated in the negotiations, but then Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Russia were excluded, the latter having negotiated peace separately with Germany in 1918.

Council of Ten

Until March 1919, the main role in the negotiations was played by the so-called "Council of Ten", which included the heads of government and foreign ministers of the five main winners (the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, and Japan).

The process proved to be complicated and the advice difficult to manage to reach an effective decision, so that only the four main heads of government remained.

Subsequently, the Italian Prime Minister left the negotiations (although he returned to sign the treaty in June), leaving only British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and US President Woodrow Wilson.

The United Kingdom and the United States, with minor losses in the war compared to the French, were seeking minor reparations from Germany.

The United Kingdom viewed the United Kingdom as an important trading partner and was concerned about the impact of sanctions on Germans on the British economy.

The Prime Minister

On the other hand, the British Prime Minister was concerned about the proposal of the US President Woodrow Wilson and supported the secret treaties and naval blockades to achieve the payment of damages to his country.

The Americans, who, before and after the war, had shown a strong desire not to intervene in it, were anxious to get rid of European affairs as soon as possible.

The United States wanted to continue its trade with Germany so it did not want it to be treated too harshly in economic affairs.

Conditions of the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles also provided for the creation of the League of Nations (or League of Nations), on the initiative of US President Woodrow Wilson and his famous"14 Points".

The League of Nations intended to arbitrate international disputes and thus avoid future wars. French President Clemenceau was the strongest in the reprisals against Germany, as much of the war had been fought on French soil.

Other clauses included the loss of the German colonies and territories that Germany had annexed and invaded during the war.

Territorial clauses

  1. France recovers Alsace and Lorraine.
  2. Eupen and Malmedy are taken over by Belgium.
  3. The Polish corridor (Posnania and other regions) and southern Upper Silesia are annexed to newborn Poland. This meant territorial isolation from the rest of East Prussia.
  4. Danzig and Memel, German towns in the Baltic Sea, were declared free cities.
    Schleswig-Holstein: There was a clause calling for a plebiscite in Schleswig.

The northern fringe, which voted in favour of Danish control, was incorporated into Denmark. The southern region voted overwhelmingly in favour of Germany and became part of the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

  1. Overall, Germany's territorial losses amounted to 76,000 square kilometers (13% of its territory), where 6.5 million people (10% of its population) lived.
    The Saarland coal basin is now managed by the League of Nations and economically exploited by France for 15 years.
  2. Germany loses all its colonies, which are divided as League of Nations mandates between the British Empire and France. Belgium and Japan annexed very small territories.

Military clauses

Drastic limitation of the Navy (the bulk of the Navy was confiscated and confined to the British base at Scapa Flow) and the Army (100,000 troops, not tanks, planes, heavy artillery...)

Demilitarisation of the Rhineland (western part and 50 km strip east of the Rhine)
Temporary occupation of the western bank of the Rhine. The Allied troops would withdraw in stages in time to be completed by 1935.

War reparations

As responsible for a war started by its aggression, Germany was forced to pay reparations or war reparations to the victors.

Spa Conference (1920) sets the percentage each country would receive of the total: France 52%, Great Britain 22%, Italy 10%, Belgium 8%

The London Conference (1920) fixed the total amount of reparations: 140 billion gold marks, an enormous amount.

Other clauses

  1. Germany acknowledges its responsibility for the war and all the damage it caused. It was the German aggression that triggered the conflict.
  2. Prohibition of admission to the League of Nations.
  3. A ban on Anschluss (union of Germany and Austria).
  4. Establishment of the Covenant of the League of Nations, as an annex to the Treaty.

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