The Paris Peace Conference

On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles, a key historical document, was signed as a result of the Paris Peace Conference. (Macmillan 28). Four eminent global leaders came together to conduct difficult negotiations that could end the First global War. These included Woodrow Wilson of the United States, George Lloyd of England, Orlando of Italy, and Clemenceau of France. However, Italy's Orlando was conspicuously absent from the talks, while his rivals made up the renowned "Big Three." In six months, these allies were resolved to make important choices. US President at the time, Woodrow Wilson, struggled with his ideology of ""Peace without Victory"" to save Germany being treated harshly having humbled by the war. On the other hand, Britain's Lloyd George, and his counterpart, Georges Clemenceau of France, argued that punishing the Germans will make them utterly weak and will only escalate war costs.

Later, Wilson compromised Germany's treatment and pursued his peacekeeping agenda through his project "League of Nations." Germany's representatives were locked out of the peace conference but were later issued with the draft of the Treaty. The outcome of the treaty proved detrimental to Germany. In the coming decades, anger and resentment from the signing of the treaty festered in Germany. Ending the war marked the beginning of another war: World War II (1939-1945). The paper will delve into the history behind the signing of the treaty, discuss some of its outcomes, and relate how it formed the basis for the onset of World War II. Particular emphasis will be on the effect of the contents and implementation of the treaty on German.

The Outcome of the Treaty of Versailles

Germany found it hard to accept the landslide defeat and foreshadowed a relief in the peace treaty (Shepley 34-38; MacMillan 36). However, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles left the Germans much discontented. There are good reasons as to why the German found the treaty much a dislike. One, they could not bear the disappointment of losing the war in which the German militia believed they could win with less struggle. The signing of the document in France's Palace of Versailles posed another issue. The Alsace-Lorraine war which ended in favor of Germany had been fought at this very place resulting in the new borderline for the Germans. As such, the place had remained an important piece of history and getting pushed back to this area by the only hard-to-ignore French embarrassed them significantly.

The Treaty of Versailles impacted on territorial and financial terms which completely changed Europe's physical and economic layout (Anievas 623).The terms saw France acquire Alsace-Lorraine from German. German also lost many parts to other countries while the League of Nations benefited from the German's oversea colonies. Many of Germany's productive agricultural fields were now gone. The country lost its rich coal fields and best farmland to Poland. Further, German had been obligated to pay reparations worth $ 6.6 billion. This figure was unreasonable to a country completely ruined by the war and robbed of its farmlands. Additionally, the terms of the Treaty added more detriment to German by potentially limiting its soldiers to 100,000 serving at a time (MacMillan 36). Moreover, Germany was deprived of her air force and her navy got substantially reduced to six warships. German was ordered to demilitarize its Rhineland territory and to demolish all fortifications some considerable miles due east of the river. Furthermore, any fortification and military structure standing on Helgoland and Dune islands could be destroyed forthwith (Shepley 36-40).

The signing of the treaty left Clemenceau the happiest of the "Big Three." Clemenceau could not hide his joy by wanting Germany decimated which meant German would not have the guts to attack France in future. German being made liable to pay reparations sweetened the deal for Clemenceau as France would regain its economic viability (Shepley 40). However, Britain's Lloyd George registered dissatisfaction with the deal's outcome. He apprehended the results and publicly declared that he would make Germany pay. The treaty served as a litmus test for him to win in the forthcoming British elections and this is all the British foresaw in the treaty. In fact, German had been regarded as the biggest trading partner with Britain before the war. He became wary of spreading communism to Europe agitated by the worsening state of Germany which he believed aimed at luring the Germans into communism (Shepley 39-40). As a result, Lloyd George realized seeking the British popular opinion was mandatory. Otherwise, his political landscape would be jeopardized.

America's Woodrow Wilson did the contrary to prove why Lloyd George could conform to the popular opinion. He too realized that the treaty was far from meeting his envisioned better world (Shepley 46-49). His 14 points were not adequately fulfilled. The liberation of France to recover Alsace-Lorraine took effect. However, some points, for instance, ending secret diplomacy and free navigation were ignored in the treaty. Rather, the agreement brought additional condemnation to German at the expense of creating a peaceful world. According to Woodrow Wilson, establishing the League of Nations mattered significantly to achieve equity and peace among nations. In spite of getting the approval and subsequent implementation, the deal fell short of Wilson's expectations. Worse still, when Wilson presented the particulars of the Treaty to the Senate, he encountered unwavering opposition, and the Treaty could not be approved (Anievas 629). Consequently, the Americans failed to ratify the deal and compromised their eligibility for the League of Nations membership.

How the Treaty of Versailles Marked the Onset of the World War II

The War guilty Clause in the treaty provided the primary pathway towards the Second World War. The Germans found the clause infuriating having been forced to pay heavily for the damages (Shepley 26-36). Many Germans encountered bitter memories which reflected the humiliation the Allied powers inflicted on them. Therefore, it was less of an uphill task for Hitler to convince his fellow German nationals to engage in a retaliatory war (Anievas 635). As the World War I came to an end; the Germans were busy staging anti-war rallies back in their country.

The 33 billion dollars the Germans had to pay to make good of the damages thrilled them unsparingly. Despite sounding ridiculous, the figure was too overwhelming for the then staggering Germany. Paying such a huge sum could only drive the economy of the Germans to the ground. At some point, the Germany mark exchanged at 1 trillion versus the US dollar. The fault was attributable to the treaty (Macmillan 26). The escalating costs of inflation fueled by the treated threw the Germans into a state of anarchy. German could not afford to withstand the fact that their territories had gone. The realization that their economy had crashed by losing their territories to the Allies ignited lots of resentment. The territorial losses much like the War Guilty Clause made the majority in German resent the Allies.

The military restrictions were not received well with many Germans. Much fear seemed to engulf the Germans when they were stripped of their military power. The Bolshevists had overthrown the Russian authorities at the time of signing the Treaty. With most of their army and navy signed away, German had enough reasons to be wary of Bolshevism. Adolf Hitler could not wait for this to happen and decided to reenergize his forces to repel any looming uprising. The devastated economy, the decimated government authorities, the weak military and angry Germans. All these factors in combination proved catastrophic to Germany. The devastated economy made the government weak; the humiliated military created fear in Germany. The election of Adolf Hitler proved timely whose mindset ushered in World War II (MacMillan 27).


The Treaty of Versailles served as a blueprint for many nations after the war. The terms of the treaty were controversial as contextualized in the War Guilty Clause which spelt doom for the Germans. The clause demanded Germany to disarm completely, make territorial concessions and pay the Allied powers billions of dollars in reparations. The treaty initially meant to create peace between German and Allied powers, was compromised by the radically different agenda of the three leaders. Each wanted a fair share from the treaty (MacMillan 29-45; Shepley 45-49). Unfortunately, the outcome favored only one of them, Clemenceau of France, whose primary aim was to see Germany's authorities decimated and its' economy staggering. In spite of Woodrow Wilson's effort to design 14 points to create the League of Nations to solicit for a peaceful postwar world, he too never merited to his expectations. The events twisted when the US Congress objected the treaty, and its subsequent ratification suffered a blow. The extreme humiliation suffered by Germans at their hands of the Allied powers necessitated them to elect Adolf Hitler, who ultimately destabilized the world order leading to World War II (MacMillan 37).

Works Cited

Anievas, Alexander. "International Relations between War and Revolution: Wilsonian Diplomacy and the Making of the Treaty of Versailles." International Politics 51.5 (2014): 619-647.

MacMillan, Margaret. "Making War, Making Peace: Versailles, 1919." Queen's Quarterly 121.1 (2014): 24-38.

Shepley, Nick. The Paris Peace Conference 1919: A Student's Guide. Luton: Andrews UK Limited, 2015. Print.

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