The Peace Treaties
The First World War ended in November 1918. Twenty million people had been killed, half of them in combat. Many millions more were injured. The war cost nearly 36 billion pounds! An area the size of Wales had been completely devastated. Towns and cities lay in ruins, good agricultural land was blasted and full of unexploded shells, railways, roads, factories and bridges were destroyed. Few people believed that there would ever be another war after such death and destruction. In fact, it was called for a time, ‘The War to End All Wars’.
Europe was very different at the end of the First World War. In 1914, Emperors ruled Russia, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1917, Russia had a Revolution in which the Communists seized power and shot the Tsar and his family. The Emperors of Germany and Austro-Hungaria were also forced to give up their thrones and leave their countries. At the start of the First World War, both Britain and France had been very wealthy countries, but as a direct result of the cost of the war, they were almost bankrupt by 1918.
Although the war was over, a peace settlement or behavioural contract had to be to be written to formally end the fighting. In Paris in 1919, the leaders of the victorious countries met to discuss this. ‘The Big Three’ who were Georges Clemenceau of France, the American President, Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister dominated the meeting. Germany who was blamed for starting the war was not invited to the peace conference.
Many Germans were shocked when they realised that they had lost the war. Their government had controlled the newspapers and only allowed them to print stories about German successes on the battlefield. In 1917, the German Army had defeated the massive Russian Army and had almost captured Paris in one last great push known as the Kaiser's Battle. At the start of 1918, many Germans still believed that they were winning the war!
On 7th November 1918, the French general Marshal Foch, received a small group of German generals at his headquarters in the Forest of Campiegne. They wanted an end to the war. Marshal Foch told them his terms: Germans to leave all occupied territory, to surrender their arms and warships, withdraw all forces from west of the River Rhine. He gave the Germans 72 hours to decide their answer. He was very surprised when had it by the following day!
On 10th November 1918, the German Emperor left Germany and was replaced by a new government, which signed the Armistice (or cease-fire) on the following day. Fighting stopped on all battlefronts at 11’O’ Clock on the 11th November 1918.
The Treaty of Versailles
In June 1919, Germany was presented with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Although the fighting had stopped the war would not end until they signed. Germany was in no position to restart the fighting. The British Navy had blockaded Germany’s ports to stop food supplies from being imported. This was a way of making sure that the German army could not restart the war. However, it was the civilians who suffered the most. With the food ships unable to reach their ports many Germans were slowly starving to death. The German government had no choice but to sign it.
The Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for the First World War. As a result of this Germany was also held accountable for the cost of the war and the Treaty dictated that compensation would have to be paid to the Allies. These payments, called reparations, would be paid monthly and would total some £6,600 million (This figure was agreed by the Allies in 1921). It is important not to take this figure in isolation though. remember that the economic might of Germany had been stretched to the limits during the war, and she would have to reconstruct her own economy at the same time as paying Reparations. In addition, Germany had lost some of her most precious sources of Raw materials as her colonies, and some of the areas ceded to other countries, were rich sources of income. These factors would make it harder for the German economy to cope. Further to this it is important to note the casualties suffered during the war. Germany lost some 1.7 million men during the war, and a further 4.2 million are listed as being wounded.
From these maps it is clear that Germany suffered large territorial losses. The provinces of Alsace and Lorraine returned to France; parts of Schleswig were ceded to Denmark; to the east, new countries were created to roughly match the ethnic balance of the area and finally, 'The Polish Corridor' was created which gave the Poles a broad strip of land that connected it to the sea - and consequently separated Eastern Prussia from the rest of Germany. It was not just in Europe that German suffered territorial losses. All of Germany's overseas colonies were annexed by the Allies, either to become colonies or areas that were managed until independence could be maintained autonomously. In total, Germany lost over one millions square miles of land (28,000 of which had previously formed part of European Germany) and 6 million subjects.
"The Germans are going to pay every penny; they are going to be squeezed, until the pips squeak." British MP 1918
Today in the Hall of Mirrors, the disgraceful Treaty is being signed. Do not forget it. The German people will with unceasing labour press forward to reconquer the place among nations to which it is entitled. Then will come vengeance for the shame of 1919." German newspaper, 1919.
"Germany must be brought to book; We demand reparation and revenge." Clemenceau, French President, 1918.
Transcript of President Wilson's speech outlining his 14 points for future peace
We entered this war because violations of right had occurred which touched us to the quick and made the life of our own people impossible unless they were corrected and the world secured once for all against their recurrence What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peaceloving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us. The programme of the world's peace, therefore, is our programme; and that programme, the only possible programme, as we see it, is this:
I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understanding of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
V. A free, openminded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of` her own political development and national policy and assure her a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.
VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.
VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of AlsaceLorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.
IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.
X. The peoples of AustriaHungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.
XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.
XII. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.
XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.
XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike....