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Versailles Treaty Ending WWI

Versailles Palace and a Treaty Ending WWI Famous Historical Events World War I World History Visual Arts

This painting—The Palace of Versailles, which Pierre Patel created in 1668—depicts the place where the warring parties of WWI ended "The Great War."

It was in the Hall of Mirrors where representatives of opposing sides met, in 1919, to sign the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending WWI.  It took five months to work-out the Treaty's many terms and conditions.

The main provisions of the Versailles Treaty required Germany to:

  • Disarm
  • Pay significant war reparations
  • Lose land it had held before the war

Of the Treaty's 440 terms which punished Germany, the following were the most important:

  • 1-26:  The Covenant of the League of Nations - Germany was not allowed to join.
  • 42:     The Rhineland was demilitarized - the German army was not allowed to go there.
  • 45:     The Saar, with its rich coalfields, was given to France for 15 years.
  • 51:     The disputed area of Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France.
  • 80:     Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria.
  • 87:     Lands in eastern Germany - the rich farmlands of Posen and the Polish corridor between Germany and East Prussia - were given to Poland.
  • 100:    Danzig was made a free city under League-of-Nations control.
  • 119:    All of Germany's colonies were taken and given to France and Britain as "mandates."
  • 160:    The German army was restricted to 100,000 men.
  • 181:    The German navy was restricted to six battleships and no submarines.
  • 198:    Germany was not allowed to have an air force.
  • 213:    Germany was declared responsible for causing all the losses and damages from the war.
  • 232:    Germany would have to pay war reparations, to be decided later - these were eventually set at 132 billion gold marks.

Although the treaty brought peace at the end of WWI, Germans were very upset about the harsh terms imposed against their country.  At the end of all the discussions, however, German representatives signed the Treaty on June 28, 1919.  That same day, Deutsche Zeitung (a German national newspaper) published these words on its front page:

Vengeance! German nation! Today in the Hall of Mirrors a disgraceful treaty is signed. Never forget it ... There will be vengeance for the shame of 1919.  (Quoted by David Ferriby and Jim McCabe in Modern World History for AQA Specification B: Core, at page 25.)

Adolf Hitler was a surviving German soldier who agreed with those words.

How do historians today view the terms of the Treaty of Versailles?

Some historians believe that the peacemakers did the best job they could, given the difficult circumstances they were in. Other historians believe the Treaty was a disastrous half measure. It damaged Germany enough to cause resentment. However, it left Germany strong enough to seek revenge. (See the UK National Archives' article on the Treaty of Versailles.)

America did not ratify the Versailles Treaty. Instead, the U.S. government signed the Treaty of Berlin with Germany on the 25th of August, 1921.

The document itself tells us that the Treaty became effective on January 10, 1920:

Entered into force January 10, 1920, 4:15 p.m., as between contracting parties (the United States was not a party). (See the preamble of "Treaty of Peace with Germany [Treaty of Versailles"].)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5123stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Oct 18, 2017


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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