The Treaty of Versailles: An Unsuspected Catalyst for the World War Two

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Labelled as Germany’s period of vengeance or revenge, World War Two was a terrible time in history that will always be remembered. This started all the way back in 1919 at the Paris Peace Conference when Germany was forced to sign a treaty written by the victors of World War One. In this treaty, Germany was forced to accept sole blame for the First World War and pay heavy reparations in the form of money, territory, and military. The Treaty of Versailles intended to end one war in peace but eventually sparked one to follow. With Germany’s fate supposedly predetermined through the Treaty of Versailles, who knew that Germany would cross all boundaries without challenge? Having harshly impacted the well-being of Germany’s economy, the main cause of World War Two was the Treaty of Versailles. It left the people of Germany in an extremely weak and unstable state which drove Hitler’s actions to reverse the treaty and eventually initiated the Second World War.

Germany’s economy and the country as a whole were severely impacted by the terms of the treaty. The terms included: reducing the once powerful army from millions of soldiers to 100, 000 and the armed forces were also no longer allowed to enforce conscription. On top of that they were not allowed to possess tanks, heavy artillery, aircraft, poison gas supplies or even airships. This clause deeply impacted Germany’s economy as it made Germany appear as a vulnerable country. It made them more susceptible to danger and harm which affected foreign trade and relations. Later In 1921, as Germany could not pay reparations; French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhr to take goods and raw materials themselves.

The invasion of the Ruhr served as a retribution for Germany. Also taken away from them was The Ruhr, being one of the few sources of income left to the Germans. Germany was suffering from such an extreme financial crisis that it lost the capability to pay war reparations. Recovering from WWI was already a challenge itself and these war compensations simply added to their misery. Another move which further weakened Germany and sparked conflict were the territorial clauses of the war. Land was taken from Germany and given to Czechoslovakia and Poland. While Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, Eupen-Malmedy was given to Belgium, and North Schleswig was given to Denmark. This territorial clause took a huge part of Germany’s land along with all the resources and businesses that were located there. As a result, Germany faced a reduction in revenue entering the economy therefore impacting the supply of money.

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With its people left helpless after the enforcement of this treaty, the economic state of Germany continued to plummet. 1.25 million people were unemployed in Germany before the crash. By the end of 1930 the number had reached nearly 4 million, 15.3% of the population. This statistic refers to the effect on the German working class after the famous stock market crash of 1929. Germany was already overwhelmed with the clauses of the peace treaty and continuing with its demands wasn’t able to help its people and economy to stabilize. The territorial clauses took the jobs of many Germans and with the Great Depression, the unemployment rate only increased. In order to pay the reparations, the German government had no other option but to increase the prices of general goods which in turn led to hyperinflation. Citizens were already unemployed and this event made it even more difficult for German men and women to manage their families as the cost of living had increased. The treaty disposed Germany of around 13.5% of its 1914 territory as well as seven million people and all of its overseas possessions. Seven million people became homeless in result of the land that Germany was ordered to return. These people lost everything.

The decisions Hitler made were all intended to inverse the Treaty of Versailles which eventually resulted in World War Two. In 1933, Hitler ordered his army generals to prepare to triple the size of the army from 100, 000 to 300, 000 men. Hitler’s decision violated the military clause of the peace treaty. He built his army to once again strengthen Germany and prove its capability as a European power. Hitler waited to see how the world would react to this action but the world didn’t respond at all and instead Britain signed an agreement to allow Germany a small navy. On March 7th 1936 the invasion of the Rhineland began. Three battalions of the German Army crossed the bridges over the Rhine and entered into the industrial heartland of Germany. This invasion should have been countered by the League of Nations due to its breaking of the treaty, because no German troops were allowed to enter this demilitarized region. Hitler invaded this region due to its rich resources. This could be seen as a move of revenge indented for the harm caused by the treaty initially. On March 12th 1938 Hitler announced an “Anschluss” (union) between Germany and Austria. The treaty denied a union with Austria and Hitler breached this regulation as well. This breach in the treaty was necessary to compensate for the economic depression and social state of Germany. It was important in the process of uplifting the millions of German lives harmed by the treaty.

In conclusion, the Treaty of Versailles was a crucial catalyst resulting in World War Two. Weakening Germany’s economy financially, politically, and socially were all a result of the treaty. Furthermore, the clauses of the treaty created very difficult circumstances for the people of Germany in which even survival became a challenge. Finally, in an effort to reverse the treaty of Versailles Hitler’s motives, which paved way to war, were to seek revenge for Germany. Attempting to maintain peace and prevent future wars, the treaty’s clauses impacted Germany in an immensely negative way resulting in an unforeseen conflict that would kill millions.

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