Where was the Treaty of Versailles signed

questions and answers

Status: January 11, 2020 7:44 a.m.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, and came into force on January 10, 1920. Germany became smaller, had to pay reparations and acknowledge the "war guilt".

by Wolfgang Müller

Who signed the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles was signed by Hermann Müller, who had just become Foreign Minister, and a cabinet colleague in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. In other words, exactly where something completely different had taken place a few decades earlier: namely the German imperial proclamation after the victory against France, i.e. the founding of the empire in 1871.

After the First World War, the Germans were the losers and felt that too. Inside the hall, British Prime Minister Lloyd George, US President Woodrow Wilson and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau were already seated in front of a large audience. He then called: "Bring the Germans in." They had to pass five war invalids, people with shattered, disfigured faces. As if to say: You did that! And then, when they got to the big table, they signed the contract.

Practically all of the treaty was rejected in Germany. Why did you sign anyway?

Because there was no other way. Otherwise Germany would have been occupied by the Allied troops. It wasn't after the First World War (unlike after the Second World War). The opposing armies had not yet invaded Germany at the end of the war in 1918. But they would be - and the German military leaders Hindenburg and Ludendorff knew that very well.

The disgraceful thing was that they later presented it differently and brought the so-called stab in the back legend into the world, as if Germany had been "undefeated in the field", as it was then called. But it was defeated and so the Germans had to accept this contract, even though it was extremely tough.

It wasn't just the political right who saw it that way. A social democrat like Philipp Scheidemann also said when he found out the conditions a few weeks beforehand: If you sign this, your hand must wither. And then, after all, a Social Democrat had to sign the above-mentioned Hermann Müller.

What was the specific content of the Versailles Treaty?

First of all, Germany has lost about a seventh of its territory as a result of this treaty. Although some of it was okay: Among other things, because it allowed Poland to emerge again (the neighbors had divided that up among themselves for over a hundred years). And in the west Alsace-Lorraine went back to France.

But then there was the big issue of the payment of reparations by Germany (for war damage), and for example almost the entire German merchant fleet had to be delivered.

What's up with that infamous "War Guilt" article on?

With this, Germany was practically blamed for the world war. Entire walls of bookcases have been filled with books. But in short: unlike the Second World War (which clearly came from Germany), the matter in 1914 was much more complex. And the fact that the Germans were now made the only guilty party was seen as a great injustice - and vice versa by some on the other side as a triumph.

In general, one has to realize that such a peace agreement in the 20th century was something completely different than it was 100 years earlier. At the Congress of Vienna, for example, after the victory over Napoleon in 1815, the loser, at that time France, was of course also at the table. It was different now. The Germans were presented with practically a finished contract.

And, more importantly, it was no longer a purely diplomatic matter as it used to be; now the different peoples stood around the negotiating table, so to speak, with their expectations and heated moods. This public pressure did not make a reasonably rational solution any easier.

What did the Versailles Treaty mean for the Weimar Republic?

It was a republic that emerged not only from defeat, but from felt humiliation. The political right has of course played endlessly on this keyboard and has defamed the politicians who wanted to keep the treaty halfway as "fulfillment politicians", some were also murdered.

And then, of course, the economic burden of the reparations remained very tangible. Incidentally, a young economist, John Maynard Keynes (who later became very famous) had foreseen this exactly and left the British delegation in protest. His argument: Germany can never stabilize itself in this way and will drag the others into the vortex with it.

Despite Versailles, the Weimar Republic would have had a chance. But only with strong, democratic forces that seize and hold onto this opportunity. Only this layer was just too small.

The causes of the Second World War

High reparations payments, economic restrictions and a feeling of humiliation: The roots of the Second World War lie in the end of the First and the terms of the Versailles Treaty. 3 min

The First World War

From 1914 to 1918, around 17 million people, including millions of civilians, died in World War I. A revolution that begins in northern Germany ends the tragedy. more

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NDR Info | Info program | 06/28/2019 | 06:50 am