At eleven O’ clock on the morning of November 11, 1918, the fighting ceased on the western front in France, Belgium. For almost four years the world watched the bloodiest and most expensive wars in history. Now at last, the return of peace that was so desperately desired became a reality. Two months later the representatives of the victorious powers in Paris to write the treaties of peace. The most important of these agreements was first to be completed. In less than four months the representatives of the German government were summoned to a suburb of Paris.
There, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Great Palace of the French Kings, they signed the documents that formally brought World War I to an end. The Versailles Palace thus gave the name to one of the most important treaties of Paris and in History. Out of the Versailles Treaty came the league of Nations, one of mankinds attempts to find a means of abolishing war. Many people that signed the Treaty of Versailles struggled with each other. Some people believed there were there to find a just and lasting peace, while others were there with vengeance on the mind towards Germany.
The treaty also brought about conditions that aided Adolf Hitlers rise to power in Germany. It also played a significant role in causing World War II, only twenty years later. With the signing of the armistice, discussion in Europe had turned to where the Peace Conference would be held. The question of where this meeting would take place caused discord. The United States and Great Britain favored small cities such as Geneva or Lausanne in neutral Switzerland, but the French insisted on Paris. Vaughan 10) The reason behind this was because forty-eight years earlier, France suffered a crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, The citizens of Paris watched a Prussian army match down the Champs Elysees and under the Arc de Triomphe(Hankey 23). On January 18, 1871, Bismarck and the German princes had proclaimed the birth of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors of the Versailles Palace(Knapton173). Now that the tables were turned, France wanted to pay back Germany for the humiliation they suffered. The setting for this conference was much different from the 1815 Congress of Vienna.
There, a defeated France stood at the mercy of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and British Conquerors. So it was decided on that the conference would take place in Paris. The German treaty was going to be dealt with at the Palace of Versailles. Other Central Powers were assigned to other Palaces. Austria was assigned to St. Germaine en Laye, Hungary to Trianon, Bulgaria to the Palace of Neuilly, the Ottoman Empire to the Palace of Severes(Vaghan 86). There was also many other reasons why the Conference was chosen to be held in a city like Paris.
One major reason Paris was chosen to be the site of these negotiations was it’s size. Only a city as large Paris could accommodate all of the people that for one reason or another were to be at the signing. Twenty-seven of the fifty-three allied and associated powers sent representatives, not only were they sent but their staff, advisors, secretaries and servants were sent along as well(Weiner 113-15). Each nation present demanded at least one Hotel to serve as it’s headquarters(Vaghan 22). A major power like Great Britain for example required five(Vaughan 22).
In addition, vast numbers of journalists and writers arrived to witness the event. Paris seemed to be the perfect choice for what was probably one of the most historic events in our history. The “Big Four” consisted of four men who other nations leaders deemed to be the most wise, intelligent, and powerful men at the conference. This group, deemed the”Big Four” consisted of The United States and its President Woodrow Wilson, Great Britain’s David Llyod George, France and it’s leader George S. Clemenceau. Finally, Italy and its leader, Vittorio Emanuele(Vaghan 55).
Emanuele was considered the lest impressive member of the Big Four. Not only was he considered the weakest member of the Big Four, but the country he was from, Italy, was also considered to be the weakest country as well. One major reason for him being considered the weakest member was his in-ability to speak good english. As a result of this, his comments at the table were often taken half-hearted and ignored. Due to these facts, Italy lost most of the arguments at the table. If Italy had possessed the wealth or power of the other three powers, the term “Big Four” would have come closer to the reality of the situation.
As it was, Italy was in no way shape or form in position to overrule any decisions made at the table by France, the US or Britain. Unlike his Italian counterpart, George S. Clemenceau was considered the most dynamic member of the “Big Four. ” He was born in 1841, he spent some time as a correspondent for the US during the Civil War(Hankey 77). Upon returning to France, he made the switch from journalism to politics and later joined the “Chamber of Deputies. ” His country called upon him in the dark days of 1917 to take the reins of government.
To Clemenceau, his purpose was to make sure that his country France was to be secure from Germany forever, he no longer wanted to witness the invasions that he saw from 1870-1914. In order to do this, he believed that he must cripple Germany. Many times during the signing of Treaty, he fought with Lloyd George and Wilson over the reasoning for the conference. He was quoted as saying “Lloyd George thinks he is Napoleon, but Wilson believes himself to be Jesus Christ. “(Vaughan 13) He also said “Even god was satisfied with 10 commandments, but Wilson insists on Fourteen! (Vaughan 14) If there was a middle ground held by a Big Four member, it would have to be held by David Lloyd George of Britain. He was 22 years younger then Clemenceau, and he was 7 years older then Wilson(Weiner 15). He was the head of his nations Liberal party and he played a big role in the Big Four(Vaghan 16). He often held the deciding vote and he also had a big say in what provisions went into the treaty. He was a very intelligent man and his quick mind helped him a great deal. For the bright man that he was, he also had quite a few flaws in him.
He often looked over minor details, that in the future would sometime cause him to reverse himself. One advantage that he had over his colleagues was that he had a very vast day to day knowledge of all aspects of the conference. This was due to his excellent system of reporting that he set up in the delegation. He made every representative write a report on what was happening every day at the conference(Knapey 36). Finally, some say he was the most important member of the Big Four, President Woodrow Wilson. He was often looked at as a man of power and one of the most important people at the conference.
Wilson was not in great health during the time, he often did most of his work while exhausted in his bed. Wilson made many bad decisions at the congress. He believed that the soon to be League of Nations would correct all of his mistakes, he was quoted as saying”I would have never had done what I did had I not been sure that the League of Nations would reverse that decision. “(Vaughan 24) When the Allied Powers actually sat down to discuss the actual drafting of the provisions, nothing was more intensely concentrated on then the revision of the borders of Germany.
No one doubted that changes would be made, but many wondered whether they were being made on the national interests of countries, or because of Wilson’s Fourteen Points. France demanded that they get the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. Those two territories were surrendered at the end of the Franco-Prussian war and for forty-eight years they have been wanting to get them back(Vaghan 65). The French did not stop there though, they also wanted the Rhineland, that land was German by culture, language, and choice.
It contained some of Germay’s greatest cities as well as considerably industry and large resources for coal. Clemanceau and Wilson said no, they would not partition that demand on the fact that it would make France to strong and Germany to weak. Not only did they want to make revisions the borders of Germany, but they wanted to keep them in a state of permanent inferiority. Wilsons fourth point called for “The reduction of armaments to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety”(Hankey 223) The fourth point was applied only to Germany.
They limited Germany to 100,000 men and no more then 4,000 officers to its army. Drafting at any time was also forbidden(Vaghan 67). The treaty listed the exact number of guns, cannon’s, rifle’s, ammunition, tanks, armored cars and other equipment permitted. Where all of their weapons were going to be stored had to be notified. No war material was to be imported or exported. The German navy was restricted to 6 old style battleships, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, and twelve torpedo boats. No submarines were allowed and every ship could not exceed 10,000 tons(Hankey 54).
The Naval personnel was limited to 15,000 men and 1,500 officers. The Germans were not allowed to have any air forces as well(Vaghan 69). The Allied Powers were trying to cripple the Germans. With the Treaty Provisions written Germany was in Disarray. Along came a man by the name of Adolf Hitler. In World War I he served in the Bavarian army, he was gassed and wounded and received the Iron Cross(First Class of Bravery). he blamed Germany’s defeat in the first war on the Jews. In 1920 he joined other nationalists to form the Nazi Party(Hankey 115).
In 1923 at the famous beer hall Hitler tried to overthrow Bavarisa republican government. The army put down the revolt and Hitler was imprisoned(Vaghan 120). During his time in prison, Hitler wrote a book”Mein Kempf”(My struggle)(Hankey 117). The book was filled with ant-Semitism, power worship, disdain for mortality, and his plans for world domination. Hitler ran for president in 1933 but lost, although he lost he was named the chancellor. The Reichstag gave him dictorial powers. It wasn’t before long that Hitler was the Dictator in Germany. e used his pure hatred for the rest of the world and his intensity to rally the citizens of Germany behind him. He set off on a mission, he wanted to get rid of all of the Jews that he felt caused Germany to lose WWI. he also wanted to take back and get revenge on the rest of the world for what was done to Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. As he prepared Germany for war, he bullied smaller countries to make territorial concessions(Hankey 119). He joined forces with Mussolini of Italy and helped Franco come to power in Spain.
Hitler also signed a pact with Russia that would allow him to invade PolandHankey 123) . With that, World War II began. In conclusion, The Treaty of Versailles was one of the most important treaties in our history. World War I was the bloodiest and most expensive war to date. the Treaty was a way out. Everyone wanted peace and they were finally going to get it done. France wanted revenge on Germany and Wilson wanted World Peace. The provisions of the treaty crushed Germany. It limited the Germans army, weapons, man power and well being. It took away some of Germany’s borders and limited Germany to a weak country.
The parties wanted to make sure that they would crush Germany so bad that they would never be a factor again. Germany was in a tail-spin which in turn made them turn to another leader. Adolf Hitler was a passionate German, he wanted revenge for all of the wrong doing’s that was done to Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. During his time, Hitler slowly built up Germany again to a point where it was so strong and so powerful that it caused another World War. The Treaty of Versailles ended a World War in a way, but at the same time, without even knowing it, was starting one at the same time.