Germany was one of the most prominent participants of World War I and the force that made the pre-war situation detonate. Germany and its allies lost in the conflict and were forced to submit to the conditions laid down by the winners, which included points, incompatible with self-determination and national independence. Having studied Germany’s after-war commitments, one should conclude that they could have been one of the principal causes of World War II.
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Economic Damage to Germany
In the first place, it is necessary to discuss how the peace treaty damaged the German economy. Firstly, the country had to pay an indemnity of $33 billion, which was a considerable sum for the first quarter of the twentieth century. Secondly, German rivers fell under the strict control of the League of Nations. Moreover, merely the winning countries were permitted to build railroads and canals on German territories. Thirdly, several districts, like Danzig, were alienated from Germany without consulting their populations. Fourthly, foreigners received a right to exploit the German labor force. Finally, Germans abroad were deprived of their commercial properties (Comments, 2013). All these facts show that the economy of the country ceased being independent, and, in fact, Germany became a colony, ruled and exploited by the League of Nations.
President Wilson’s Principles
According to President Wilson, the whole European community, with its corrupted system of relations, was responsible for the war (Comments, 2013). Further on, his idea was that in overcoming its consequences, all the participants should be equal. According to the German delegation’s logic, as the government, which started the war, had ceased to exist, the country should have been treated not as a loser but as a sufferer. However, the League of Nations severely punished the nation for the ill-intentioned acts of its former authorities. According to Maier (2017), after the end of the war, Europe “confronted an unresolved international rivalry” (p. XXIII). It is natural that deprived of their national independence and the right to rule their own country and economy, Germans nursed the grievance against the League.
To strengthen its position, the delegation frequently addresses the principle of self-determination (Comments, 2013). According to the document, several territories, where the German population prevailed, were alienated in favor of Poland and other neighboring countries. Thus, it may seem that the acts of the League’s leaders were aimed not at abolishing the causes of the war but at turning the weakness of Germany to their advantage. According to Herwig (2017), the purpose of the League was to “settle accounts” (p. 432) and not to establish long-lasting peace in Europe.
Being aware that the government in Germany had changed, it was unfair to treat the country that way. Herwig (2017) calls the peace treaty a “draconian settlement” (p. 432). All the measures, taken by the League of Nations against Germany, resulted in turning the country into several territories, ruled and exploited by foreigners. The defenders of the treaty might have behaved more maturely and far-sighted. They could have accepted, at least, some of the delegation’s points, but they did not.
Thus, one may conclude that the League of Nation’s approach to settling the results of World War I was one of the chief causes of the next global conflict. Germans were deeply offended by the harsh peace conditions, imposed on them, and nursed a nationwide idea of revenge, which soon was used by Hitler to take power. In fact, in 1919, instead of creating prerequisites for peaceful development, the League aggravated international contradictions inside Europe.
Comments by the German delegation on the conditions of peace: International Conciliation, No. 143, 1919. (2013). Whitefish, MT: Literary Licensing, LLC.
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Herwig, H. H. (2014). The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914–1918 (2nd ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury.
Maier, C. S. (2015). Recasting bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the decade after World War I. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.