Why was the Treaty of Versailles so unpopular in Germany? The Treaty of Versailles was the peace treaty that was drawn up by the Allies and Germany after the First World War. It was made to prevent Germany from starting a war again and to pay back the Allies for the money they had spent. The Germans had hoped that the Allies would treat them fairly in the negotiations for the treaty, but the Allies, in particular France, believed that Germany should be brought to its knees.
France was not as satisfied as it would have liked, because Woodrow Wilson, who stood for America in the peace conferences, wanted those in power in Germany to be punished, rather than the German people. In the end, the treaty stated that Germany had to pay ? 6000,600,000,000 in reparations, they lost a lot of land (including the Ruhr Valley), they were stripped of their aircraft and air force, they only had six battleships and nothing else, they had no modern weapons, and they were only allowed 100,000 soldiers.
The western part of Germany called the Rhineland was de-militarized (taken over by British and French troops and controlled by the Allies). Finally, Germany was made to accept that they were the ones who started the war. The Germans hated the treaty. They believed that they had been shamed globally, and they were humiliated. Germany had always been well known for having a strong army, and now they had only 100,000 soldiers, no modern weapons, only 6 battleships, and no navy or air force.
The thousands of soldiers that were simply sent home from the Western Front were now unemployed, living in a country that was becoming poorer by the day, and wanted revenge. They believed that Germany could have won the war, but the new democratic government had taken their chance. They also stated that the country would be powerless against the smallest of nations. The Germans were also furious about the various terms of the Treaty. They hated Clause 231 – the ‘War Guilt’ clause – which stated that Germany had caused ‘all the loss and damage’ of the war.
Firstly, the Germans did not think that they had caused the war (for the Germans, the war was a war of self-defence against Russia, which had mobilised 31 July 1914). During the 1920s, the Germans published all their secret documents from 1914, to prove they had tried to stop the war. Secondly, the Germans hated clause 231 because accepting it gave the Allies the moral right to punish Germany – it validated all the harsh terms of the Treaty. The Germans also disliked the reparations, which were to be paid in instalments until 1984.
They did not accept that Germany had caused all the damage. They felt that the huge sum was just designed to destroy their economy and starve their children. Most of all, they hated reparations because they too had rebuilding work to do. Germany’s economy was ruined, but, instead of being able to pump investment into German industry, the country had to send abroad huge sums of money that German industry was not yet strong enough to earn. Finally, the territorial terms of the Treaty of Versailles also made the Germans angry. Germany lost 10% of its land.
The Saar was a valuable coalfield, and West Prussia and Upper Silesia were rich farming areas, so their loss further weakened Germany’s economy. The loss of the Polish Corridor separated East Prussia from Germany, and further damaged the German economy. Germany lost 16% of its coalfields and half its iron and steel industry. The loss of all Germany’s colonies was seen as the Allies building empires. The loss of Malmedy to Belgium, Schleswig to Denmark, Memel to Lithuania, Alsace-Lorraine to France was also a national humiliation. The Treaty of Versailles also stopped Germany joining with Austria.
This seemed unfair to the Germans, because everywhere else in Europe, the Treaties of 1919–20 gave peoples self-determination, but they divided Germany, and put 12. 5% of its population into other countries. The army believed that the government had betrayed them by signing the Treaty, and the political opposition backed this. A huge number of the German population were now against the new democratic government and the Treaty of Versailles, and it became known as the Versailles Diktat (the Treaty had been forced on the Germans). Becky Hutton