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History Model Answer on World War 1 and The Treaty of Versailles

‘The Treaty of Versailles was a failure.’ How far do you agree with this judgement? Explain your answer. [12]

I agree to a large extend that the Treaty of Versailles was a failure. A treaty that was meant to end major future major conflicts was too punitive and ended up having disastrous effects on Europe in the end.

One of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was to make Germany pay huge reparations to the victorious allies. The allies justified this because they claim that Germany invaded, occupied and caused huge damages to Belgium, Holland and France. Their navy and U-Boats caused substantial losses to the allied naval convoys. In addition, huge number of troops and civilians were also killed and injured by the Germans. Therefore, the Allies wanted Germans to pay for all these losses and damages inflicted on the Allies. In total Germany was to pay 132 billion marks in reparations. This proved too difficult for the nation and plunge the nation into severe economic downturns that resulted in them defaulting on their repayment, unemployment, hyperinflation and ultimate poverty and suffering for the Germans. As a result, the Germans resented the treaty and actively sought to cancel this payment. Another term of the treaty was the War Guilt Clause, which put all the blame on Germany for starting World War 1. Many Germans felt that this was unfair. The Allies also played their part in leading Europe to war, but why Germany was the only one to blame. This War Guilt Clause really humiliated the Germans. The third term of the treaty was that the Germany Armed Forces must demilitarized because the Allies felt that a strong and aggressive German military was the cause for the start of World War 1. The German army was reduced to 100000 men; they could have any tanks and chemical weapons. The Germans were also not permitted to have an air force and any U-boats. Their navy was also restricted to six capital ships. All these made many Germans feel insecure, weak and vulnerable to possible invasion from other European countries. Finally, under the treaty, Germany also lost a lot of territory and was stripped of all her colonies. East Prussia was divided from mainland Germany as a new Polish state was created from former German land. In the west, Alsace Lorraine was returned to France and the Rhineland became a demilitarized zone. Life became so hard that the Germans eventually chose a certain Hitler as their new leader, who promised to abolish the Treaty of Versailles. Hence, the Treaty was a failure because it led many Germans to support Hitler eventually, which dragged Europe into another worse war.

However, some people also saw the Treaty of Versailles as a success because it accomplished four main goals. Firstly, it disarm Germany and brought peace to Europe. Since the unification of Germany in the 1870s, Germany has posed the biggest threats to peace, constantly going to war with its neighbors or threatening to do so. By making Germany weak militarily through the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies removed this threat to peace. Secondly, the high reparations demanded from Germany provided the Western Allies financial resources to rebuild their shattered state and economy. Thirdly, the Treaty of Versailles also dismembered the two biggest imperial empires in Central Europe – the Germany and Austrian-Hungarian empires – to carve out independent nation states that has been trying to gain their independence. New states like Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary were established and these brought great joy to the ethnic people of these countries. Finally, the Treaty of Versailles was also considered a success because it prevented the use of war as an instrument through the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Hence, forth, nation states are not allowed to threaten other countries with war because of their aggressive intent.

On hindsight, the Treaty of Versailles was deemed a great failure. Although the terms brought peace and stability to Europe and the world by disarm and punishing Germany severely for nearly two decades, it started a process of fomenting the rise of fascist regimes like those in Germany, Italy and Spain. The humiliation and suffering caused to the German people force them to turn to extreme forms of government and eventually led to Hitler’s rise whose sole objective was a racial ideology to expand and dominate the world. The result of the Treaty was not an end of war but it actually created a far more deadly conflict in the form of World War 2 in 1939.

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