Treaty Of Versailles: Antecedents, Postulates, Consequences

The Treaty of Versailles was one of the agreements that the victors of the First World War made the defeated sign to officially end the conflict. It was signed in the French city that gives it its name on June 28, 1919 by more than fifty countries.

The First World War had faced the central empires (Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey) and the Triple Axis, a coalition formed by Great Britain, France and Russia to which other countries would later join, such as Italy or the United States. The conflict lasted more than four years and ended with the defeat of the empires.

Map of Europe after the Treaty of Versailles – Source: Dove Translated from Image: Map Europe 1923-fr.svg under the Creative Commons Generic Attribution / Share-Alike 3.0 license

After signing the armistice, negotiations began to establish different peace treaties. The allies prepared a different agreement for each enemy country, with Versailles having Germany. The document was prepared at the Paris Conference in early 1919, without the defeated present.

Among the conditions was that Germany admit to being guilty of the war, as well as unaffordable financial compensation for that country. The harsh conditions ended up causing the Nazis to come to power. The Treaty of Versailles is considered, for this reason, as one of the main causes of the Second World War.

Article index

  • one


    • 1.1

      Thomas woodrow wilson

    • 1.2

      Paris Peace Conference

    • 1.3

      German reaction

  • two


    • 2.1

      Territorial clauses

    • 2.2

      Military clauses

    • 23

      Economic clauses

    • 2.4

      Creation of the League of Nations

  • 3


    • 3.1

      Germany’s economic collapse

    • 3.2

      Arrival to the power of the Nazis

    • 3.3


  • 4



After decades of tension in Europe, although without reaching arms, the war broke out when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo. Almost immediately, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, which was supported by its traditional ally Russia.

The alliance system created during the late 19th century did the rest, and the war quickly spread. Britain and France, in accordance with their previous defense treaties, came to Russia’s aid.

Germany and Turkey did the same in favor of Austria-Hungary. Later, many more countries joined the conflict, turning it into a world war.

After more than four years of war (1914 – 1918), the central empires were defeated. The victors began to prepare peace treaties for each of their enemies, without their being able to participate in the negotiations.

The Treaties that were finally signed were: Versailles with Germany, Saint Germain with Austria, Trianon with Hungary, Neuilly with Bulgaria and Sèvres with Turkey. Except for the latter, in which Atatürk had overthrown the sultans, none of the other countries were able to soften the content of the treaties.

Thomas woodrow wilson

The signing of the armistice on November 11 was only the first step in officially ending the war. Immediately the winners began to negotiate the conditions to impose on the defeated.

The president of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, produced a document of fourteen points with which he tried to solve all the problems that had led to the conflict. Likewise, these measures should prevent a war like that from repeating itself.

Paris Peace Conference

On January 18, 1919, the Paris Conference began in the French capital. Representatives of the victors spent several weeks negotiating the peace treaty that would be imposed on Germany.

To do this, they created the Committee of Four, which included the presidents of the United States, Wilson, the British, Lloyd George, the French Clemenceau, and that of Italy, Orlando. Furthermore, in the negotiations there were representatives of 32 countries, without including Germany or any of its allies.

The difficulty of the negotiations caused that the Italian representative of the Committee of the Four retired, although it returned for the signature. Thus, the burden was borne by the other three rulers. Among these there were some differences of opinion: the United States and Great Britain were satisfied with minor repairs, but France was in favor of harshness.

Finally, the Treaty was presented to Germany in May. The allies did not give any possibility of negotiating: either the Germans would accept it or the war would resume.

German reaction

The German reaction when they received the Treaty was one of rejection. They initially refused to sign it, but the allies threatened to take up arms again.

Thus, without being able to participate in the negotiations, Germany had to accept all the conditions imposed by the winners of the conflict. The Treaty of Versailles entered into force on January 10, 1920.


Among the articles of the Treaty, one of those that caused the most rejection in Germany was the one that forced the country, and the rest of its allies, to recognize that it had caused the war. Said provision indicated that the country should recognize the moral and material responsibility of having started the conflict.

Under this recognition, Germany had to disarm, make territorial concessions to the victors, and pay large financial compensation.

Territorial clauses

Through the Treaty of Versailles, Germany lost 13% of its territory and 10% of its population.

The country had to hand over to France the territories of Alsace and Lorraine and the Saar region. Belgium, for its part, stayed with Eupen, Malmedy and Moresnet.

As for the east of the country, Germany was forced to cede Silesia and East Prussia to Poland, while Danzig and Memel were configured as autonomous city-states under the control of the League of Nations and the Polish government.

Furthermore, the Treaty prohibited any attempt at union with Austria and the Nemen River basin came under Lithuanian sovereignty.

With regard to its colonies, Germany lost Togoland and Cameroon, which were divided between France and the United Kingdom. The latter country also received German East Africa, except for Rwanda and Burundi, which passed into the hands of Australia.

Military clauses

The powerful German Army, which numbered over 100,000 men before the Great War, suffered the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles. To begin with, he was forced to hand over all the war material and his fleet. In addition, he had to reduce the number of troops considerably.

Likewise, it received a ban on making more weapons, tanks and submarines. As for aviation, the use of its air force, the dreaded Luftwaffe, was banned.

Economic clauses

Despite the harshness of the previous postulates, the most damaging for Germany was the one that stipulated financial compensation. To begin with, the country had to deliver 44 million tons of coal annually for five years, half of its chemical and pharmaceutical production and more than 350,000 head of cattle.

In the same way, all the properties of the German citizens located in their colonies and lost territories were expropriated.

To all the above had to be added the payment of 132 million German gold marks. Even some Allied negotiators considered this figure excessive, since it represented a greater amount than what Germany had in their reserves.

Germany, which failed to meet these obligations during the Nazi period, needed until 1983 to pay these compensation. However, he still owed the interest generated, an amount that reached 125 million euros.

The last payment was made on October 3, 2010, finally complying with everything stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles.

Creation of the League of Nations

In addition to including the reparations that Germany had to face as defeated in World War I, the Treaty of Versailles included other articles not related to that country.

Thus, the agreement stipulated the creation of the League of Nations, the antecedent of the United Nations. The programmatic base of that organization was the 14 points of the American president Woodrow Wilson.

The objective of the League of Nations was to prevent future wars, functioning as the arbiter of all disputes between different nations.


The new German government was overwhelmed by the stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles. The political climate in the country was very unstable and the agreement made the situation even worse. The Weimar Republic, the name given to that stage in Germany, had to face great economic and political difficulties.

On the one hand, the more conservative right wing and the military began to launch a message in which they accused the government of treason for accepting the Treaty. On the other hand, the labor organizations of the left proclaimed the need for a revolution.

Germany’s economic collapse

Even before the signing of the Treaty, the economic situation in Germany was very delicate. The naval blockade carried out by the United Kingdom made the population go through many needs, with situations of hunger in many cases.

Paying for the repairs caused the economy to crash. The rise in inflation and the devaluation of the currency reached levels never seen before. In 1923, each dollar was exchanged for 4.2 trillion marks. The government had to issue banknotes with values ​​of more than a million and, even so, the population could not afford the most basic expenses.

Proof of the harshness of those stipulated in the Treaty was the resignation of the famous British economist Keynes, who was part of his country’s delegation in the negotiations. The compensation, he claimed, was too large in relation to German production capacity.

Arrival to the power of the Nazis

The feeling of humiliation and betrayal felt by many Germans, the desperate economic situation, political instability and the ability to find a scapegoat, the Jews, were some of the reasons why Hitler came to power.

Thus, with a speech in which he promised to recover the greatness of the country, the Nazis managed to rise to power in 1933, creating the Third Reich.


Hitler decided to suspend the payment of the debt military when arriving at the government. In addition, it proceeded to relaunch industrial production, especially in the arms field.

In 1936, following his program of recovering the lost territories, he occupied the Rhineland, a region that according to the Treaty should remain demilitarized.

Three years later, after the German invasion of the Sudetenland and Poland, World War II began.


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