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Essay: How significant was the Treaty of Versailles for Germany?

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  • How significant was the Treaty of Versailles for Germany?
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“Germany accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage”

November 11th, 1918, World War I concluded as canons ceased to fire. Whether as a measure against the war’s return or as an attempt to weaken the defeated central powers, a treaty was signed at Versailles Palace in Paris, France on 28 June. The Treaty of Versailles had a great influence on Germany, because the Treaty of Versailles weakened Germany’s economy and military.

It was explicitly stipulated in the Versailles Treaty that Germany would lose 13% of its territory and compensate the Allies for 6.6 billion pounds of war losses. In addition to the huge compensation, Germany was to increase the interest by $500 million annually; Germany had to impose an additional 26% tax on exports and lose all overseas colonies; the army can only retain 100,000 people; the number of major naval vessels must not exceed 6; and Germany was forbidden to possess offensive weapons, such as some aircrafts and tanks.

Since the Treaty of Versailles weakened the German economy after the war, it could only pay a small amount of indemnity under the Treaty, but even this small part of the indemnity was a huge burden on the economy, resulting in nearly a third of inflation. The Treaty stipulated that Germany could not purchase mineral resources and industrial equipment in cash, which further aroused the German people’s discontent. The treaty also deprived Germany of 10% of its industrial and 15% of its agricultural zones. Germans had less industrial and agricultural products, which meant they couldn’t earn enough money they needed to repay. This destroyed the war-torn German economy and led to hyperinflation in 1923. The hyperinflation of 1923 was due to the German government’s desire to replace large amounts of compensation with its own currency, but the Allies rejected. Unable to use its own currency for output, the German government had to hoard a huge number of domestic currencies, resulting in a decline in the domestic purchasing power. Commodities before inflation needed more money to buy after inflation. To recover from the 1923 hyperinflation, the US lent Germany 800 million marks through the Dawes program. With this loan, Germany was able to expand and rebuild its industry. It took only five years (until 1929) for the Weimar Republic to surpass the pre-World War I industrial capacity. By the end of 1929, Germany had become one of the world’s major exporters of manufactured goods. Nevertheless, effects of indemnities led to unemployment in Germany. In 1929, there was a 14% unemployment rate. At the same time, unemployment also reduces the living standard of Germans, as they cannot afford their basic needs. Hence, despite the brief resurrection, German economy was nevertheless harmed by the Treaty of Versailles, and it remained fragile because of its dependency on American.

The Treaty of Versailles not only had a significant impact on the German economy but also on the survival of the Weimar Republic. The Treaty of Versailles caused the turmoil of the new, turbulent Weimar Republic. Although Weimar survived until the 1930s, it can be said that important factors related to the Treaty contributed to Hitler’s rise. Most Germans opposed the Versailles Treaty signed in 1919 and the Weimar Republic’s administration and system of Germany. Germans believe that Jews are the root of many German problems. Nazi propaganda used the myth of “behind-the-scenes assassination”. That is to say, the signing of the Versailles Treaty meant that Jews and Communists were the main reasons for their failure. After the Great Depression and the failure to tackle unemployment and other social issues, such as left-wing and industrial riots, many Germans turned to the right, and Hitler’s Nazi Party was one of the extreme right. On the other hand, the factors leading to the gradual collapse of the Weimar Republic were the long-term economic difficulties, especially the economic crisis that broke out in 1929, which put the Weimar Republic under tremendous pressure. The collapse of the economy led to a large number of unemployment, making life difficult for people. At that time, Hitler promised to reduce unemployment caused by the Treaty of Versailles and reform the economy, culture and military. For a newly risen extreme political party, it is important to stimulate people’s radical attitudes. Hitler strives to attract people’s attention and gradually gain popular support. This is because the Treaty of Versailles brought too many difficulties to Germany’s economy and military, but Hitler undoubtedly reversed this difficulty and brought back Nazism from Germany’s political desert to the centre of power. This shows that the Treaty of Versailles limited the development and consolidation of power in the Weimar Republic, but made the Nazis more popular.

The Treaty of Versailles also revealed the relations between countries before World War I and how countries avoided wars and the causes of World War I. As the victors who held advantage over the defeated, Britain, the United States and France held a conference on penalizing German war crimes. Woodrow Wilson of the United States wanted “peace without victory”, but France rejected Wilson’s view because France lost too much in World War I. France therefore hopes that the Treaty of Versailles will seriously harm and disarm Germany. At the same time, France believes that the Treaty of Versailles is a good opportunity to weaken Germany. Because France’s main objective is to obtain as much security and advantage as possible from the treaty and to try to achieve that goal by weakening Germany as much as possible and depleting its financial power and resources. France also believed that dividing Germany into different territories would prevent Germany from concentrating its forces and thus prevent another war against itself. Thus, in the Treaty of Versailles, German territory was almost shattered. Rhineland became a demilitarized zone in the Treaty of Versailles, but France still wants Rhineland to be a completely different country, so that Rhineland can leave Germany completely without obeying German instructions or helping Germany, which is also in France’s favor. If Germany violates the terms of the treaty, France can invade Germany at will, but the treaty did not stipulate French invasion as a violation of the treaty. France wants to completely destroy Germany, and its own security and advantage. However, the Treaty of Versailles did not provide France with the advantage it believed it needed. France, for example, demanded that Rhineland be separated from Germany as a whole, a demand that met with opposition from the United States. When the United States and France disagree, the coalition government must give the United States and France an average score because they know they need to use Germany in the near future. Most people think about Germany as much as they do about Germany. People want them to be eliminated. But Britain realizes that weakening Germany will not solve any problems, because Germany and Britain have long-term trade relations. The Treaty of Versailles benefited Britain to some extent, and Britain did not want to really dismantle Germany. The negotiations revealed the differences between France and Britain over Germany. France wants to split Germany so that it cannot stand a chance in its war with France, but Britain and the United States do not want to create excuses for a new war.

Before World War I, European countries fought for power. Germany allied itself with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Italy in 1881. In order to fight against the German Union, France and Russia formed an alliance in 1892 to fight against Germany. In 1907, France, Britain and Russia reached a triple agreement. The German Union regards its powerful neighbours as a real threat to its survival and survival in Europe. This is not only because of the competition between alliances but also because of the struggle of imperialist hegemony.

Imperialism extends a country’s influence and power to a great empire. For example, both Russia and Germany want to build their own vast empires. This has led to competition and conflict among many countries in the world. Of course, most importantly, on 28 June 1914, the Austrian Government believed that the Serbian Government had organized the assassination of the Hungarian-Austrian throne in Sarajevo by Franz Ferdinand. Therefore, the Austro-Hungarian Empire put forward a series of harsh demands on Serbia. If Serbia does not obey, it threatens to invade Serbia. On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, which refused to respond to the assassination of the heir to the throne. The Austro-Hungarian Empire believed that Russia would not break the treaty and start a war between the two countries for such a small matter, but it did not expect that when Russia heard the news, it would immediately start mobilizing its troops to launch a war to protect Serbia. As a close ally of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1. Since then, France was declared war by Germany, which invaded Billy directly. However, Britain declared war on Germany again. This series of wars led to the beginning of the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles implied the end of the First World War, but the Treaty of Versailles brought a heavy blow to Germany.

The Treaty of Versailles also affected different people. First of all, politicians and different political parties. In the 1920s and 1930s, two major political movements swept the western world. One is fascism. Fascism first appeared in Italy, and Mussolini became a dictator in 1925. But the main manifestation of fascism is the rise of Nazi Germany. The inappropriate management of the Weimar Republic and the signing of the Versailles Treaty prompted the rise of the Nazis. Then came the impact of the Treaty of Versailles on the German people and workers. After the signing of Versailles Treaty, which ended World War I, Germany initially refused to pay honour, but once France took over Ruhr, Germany was forced to pay compensation to its allies, which many Germans considered cruel and unfair. These compensations, combined with post-war inflation in Europe, led to hyperinflation in the Deutsche Mark in 1923, when the dollar was trading at $1 trillion, which meant less power, so families had to pay more for the same amount of goods and services, some of which might not even be available. To meet basic needs. People refused to abide by the treaty, believed in “stabbing the knife behind the back”, and some believed that Jews should be responsible for the war. The vicious circle of hyperinflation in Germany exhausted people’s savings and caused extreme unemployment, which created conditions for Hitler to take power. In November 1923, Hitler began the Munich coup. Although he failed nine months later, Hitler was released from prison and became a hero. Finally, Hitler and the obdurate National Socialist Party took control of Germany and promised to restore the honour of the German people when they occupied the new territory and began to cruelly persecute Jews and other minorities. So the Treaty of Versailles also had a great impact on the different groups of German people.

As a result of the Treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919, the Treaty suppressed Germany’s economy and military affairs; the Treaty of Versailles also revealed the relations between some pre-war countries (especially the mutual aggression between Germany and France) and how the First World War began and developed; and also revealed the dissidents of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles, or The influence of ordinary German people and workers. Generally speaking, although the Treaty of Versailles was too much compensation and repression for Germany’s involvement in World War I, the seeds of hatred were planted in German hearts, and the subsequent chain reaction of the Treaty of Versailles led directly to World War II.


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