Following the events of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles was made as a result of the catastrophic loss during the war.
In order for the treaty to be signed, it was believed by many that Germany were to take full blame for causing the war, as well as accepting restrictions to its army and loss of its surrounding land. The treaty was devoted to establishing the League of Nations which was to be a global peacekeeping organisation.
The peace treaty was signed by most of the allied powers, as well as Germany. However, a power struggle between Britain, France and America led to significant issues during the developmental stages. This was due to the three representative individuals from each country. The problem lay in their difference in opinion, with each member having different agendas and views of how the treaty should be formed and how Germany should be treated.
As a result of their conflicting opinions, each of the three representatives had differing levels of satisfaction from the outcomes of the treaty. These outcomes were split into three key categories: financial, territorial and military and general.
Many saw the end result to be extremely damaging to Germany and the German people. Looking back, many historians now regard the treatment as excessive and unfair. This was also the case during the ongoing development of the peace agreement.
In short, Germany lost several parts of the country, as well as its overseas colonies to the League of Nations. Unfortunately, this acted as a double blow. Not only did they lose the land, but it meant a lot of their best farming and agricultural plots were lost. Ironically, this would make their bill of £6.6 billion even harder to pay back, regardless of whether it was to be paid over a number of decades or not. Aside from a huge blow to their overall presence and financial position, their military presence was also restricted.
At the time, it was thought they were being made to take the entire responsibility for the First World War…
So did the treaty cause the Second World War?
By no means can the treaty be the only cause of such a significant and formative event in history. With that being said, it may have started a chain of events that eventually led to the start of the war in 1939. It is largely believed that the treaty was connected to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Literature on the topic states that the connection between the treaty and Nazi power is minimal. However, it is thought that the handling of Germany led to Gustav Stresemann (a highly regarded politician from the Weimar era) to try and counter the terms of treaty in order to restore German power. In addition, without the economic damage that came as a result of the treaty, Hitler’s promise to restore power to the German people may never have occurred.
Ultimately, Hitler’s widely-recognised patriotism and promise to fix what had been done captivated the German audience. It is documented that he felt Germany had been humiliated and therefore led the country into the gradual takeback of the surrounding Rhineland – with him at the centre of his dictatorship. He also partnered with Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini who was thought to share similar views and common enemies.
Hitler’s supposed hatred for the Treaty of Versailles soon led to him violating areas of the agreement. He began to develop his army in addition to taking back the de-militarised Rhineland. The following events that occurred eventually led to the Second World War, which wouldn’t finish until 1945.
Although the peace treaty caused upset throughout Germany and played a part in the run up to the Second World War, tension between Germany and the rest of the world would have remained, regardless of what happened during the development of the treaty.
Additionally, Hitler was known to be a radical nationalistic individual. His views on how the world should look and his treatment of ethnic minorities (such as the Jews) bared no relevance on the Treaty of Versailles.
His well-known obsession with power and world dominance was likely to occur after the First World War, treaty or no treaty…
What was initially made as a peace pact between the allies and Germany somewhat ended up transitioning into something much different. Despite the blame for the First World War lying with multiple countries, Germany seemingly took all the blame in their treatment within the peace document. With that being said, the treaty cannot be held responsible for the extreme events that took place during Hitler’s reign.