Treaty of Versailles is often cited as one of the reasons behind the rise of nationalism in the post-World War One Germany. The treaty crippled their economy, removed a large portion of their lands, and prevented the country from rebuilding. Many of these points were objected to by the German Delegation in a document titled “Comments of the German Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference on the Conditions of Peace.” This paper will address some of the points of these comments.
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Effect of the Treaty on the Economy
The German delegation quickly understood that the treaty would have a devastating effect on the economy of the nation. The country would not be able to use its rivers and create railroads without the say of their recent enemies. They would lose multiple valuable mining sites, and those that remained could be exploited by other nations in the case when the country cannot pay its debts. But the biggest issue came from Germany having to pay for all the damages caused by the war by their allies. Moreover, at the moment of writing, the delegation was not informed of the price that the country would have to pay. With the sole responsibility for the war put on Germany against the wishes of President Wilson, the county was left in a dire economic situation (Keylor, 2013).
Different Treatment by President Wilson’s Principles
Throughout the document, the German delegation refers to President Wilson’s Fourteen Points that he proposed as a basis for peace negotiations to end World War One. The point that would affect Germany the most would be the third point that would guarantee the removal of all economic barriers for the country. It would prevent most of the issues outlined in the previous section. Another important factor in the Fourteen Points concerned the right to self-determination of the nations that were involved in the conflict. This right is referred to multiple times in the document as it would improve the condition of post-war Germany. Lastly, Germany would not be excluded from the League of Nations as every nation that worked to establish peace would be a part of it. This would mean more independence for the country (Tillman, 2016).
The last two points are especially emphasized in the text and are treated as “fundamental rights” of the states, specifically the rights to self-determination and self-preservation. Under the treaty, Germany would have next to no ability to rebuild after the war. Moreover, the country would be barely able to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens due to the lack of federal budget and natural resources. The treaty also affected the right to self-determination of the territories that were annexed or separated from Germany. All of the decisions about the future of the country would have to be determined by the outside forces (Keylor, 2013).
Personal Opinion and Response
Seeing how the treaty affected Germany, I would have to partially agree that its effects were not only harmful to the country but also facilitated the rise of terrible attitudes and beliefs. With different nations opposing the harshness of the treaty, I believe it should have been given more time for consideration, and some aspects of it should have been dedicated to preserving the self-determination of the nation. The defenders of the treaty might cite the fact that Germany was willing to go to war even despite the protest of the people within its government. The nationalistic ideas of the war could also be taken as the reason behind the attempt to cripple the national spirit of Germany. Finally, the severity of the damages from the war would be a major reason to try to punish its original instigator.
The German delegation was right to worry about the treaty, as it would have a terrible effect on the country. Perhaps if President Wilson’s principles were considered, the history would be completely different. Unfortunately, they were not, and the world would see another war soon after.
Keylor, W. (2013). Realism, idealism, and the Treaty of Versailles. Diplomatic History, 38(1), 215-218.
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Tillman, S. (2016). Anglo-American relations at the Paris peace conference of 1919. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.