What role did Germany play in the peace process? In 1918 it was clear to the Germans that they couldn’t win the war. The Allies were prepared to discuss peace and so, rather than lose more lives, the Germans agreed. The Allies stated that the Kaiser and generals needed to give up some power and allow Germany more democracy before they would negotiate. This led to a revolution in Germany, the Kaiser was forced to abdicate and a German Republic was established.
In January 1919, the Allies began working out a peace treaty. The German delegation was not allowed to negotiate. The Germans were expecting a fair treaty as they had done as the Allies asked and elected a democratic government with no Kaiser. On 7 May the Allies announced the terms. The Germans were horrified; they were given total blame for the war and the terms of the treaty were crippling. The Germans felt they had been betrayed and the politicians who had signed the armistice were called the ‘November Criminals’. This was a dictated peace – should they sign?
The dictated peace The Allies would not listen to the Germans’ protests. They were told to sign within five days or be invaded. The German government would not sign the treaty. The German army began to draw up defence plans, and the navy, who were being held by the British in Scapa Flow port, sunk their fleet in defiance. Was the war about to restart?
Field Marshall Hindenburg gave advice to the German president Ebert: “In the event of a resumption of hostilities we can … defend our frontiers in the east. In the west, however, we can scarcely count on being able to withstand a serious offensive … The success of the operation as a whole is very doubtful…” So Ebert formed a new government who were prepared to sign the treaty. They got a message to the Allies saying they were prepared to sign only 90 minutes before the deadline. Do you think Ebert’s political career will last long? Explain your answer.
How did Germans perceive the treaty? On 28 June 1919, two German ministers signed the Treaty of Versailles. “Vengeance! German nation! Today in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles a disgraceful treaty is being signed. Never forget it! On that spot where, in … 1871, the German Empire in all its glory began, today German honour is dragged to the grave … There will be vengeance for the shame of 1919.” From the Deutsche Zeitung, 28 June 1919 (a German newspaper). The Germans called the treaty a ‘Diktat’ – a dictated peace. The Allies had drawn up the terms and forced the Germans to agree to them without discussion. Germans were especially upset about being blamed for the war, as there were other countries who were just as much to blame. But was it really that devastating for Germany?
What did the Treaty of Versailles do to Germany? As well as territorial losses, which are on the next slide, Germany had to accept a many restrictions, including: • the army was to be limited to 100,000 men • Germany was not allowed any tanks • Germany was not allowed any powered aircraft • the navy was to be limited to only six battleships. No submarines were allowed • Germany had to pay £6,600 million in compensation to the Allies. • Germany was no longer allowed to unite with Austria • Germany was to lose all overseas colonies • a quarter of the German fishing fleet was to be handed over. For a country the size of Germany, what problems could these terms bring?
The Treaty of Versailles Danzig made a free city & run by the League of Nations Northern Schleswig given to Denmark Eupen & Malmedy given to Belgium Posen & Silesia lost to Poland Germany Rhine made a demilitarized zone Poland Saar coalfields placed under French rule for 15 years Sudentenland now part of Czechoslovakia Austria Hungary France Alsace & Lorraine returned to France, who’d lost them in 1871 Austria & Hungary now two separate countries & forbidden to unite with Germany
The effect on Germany League of Nations had no army East Prussia Polish Corridor 3,000,000 Germans lived in Sudentenland Saar coalfields Look again at the map. List as many potential problems as possible with the change to Germany.
Land and reparations The treaty took one-tenth of Germany’s land. This meant losing people, factories, farms and mines. This would have repercussions when it came to paying the steep reparations which the Allies were demanding. Perhaps the most crippling blow was losing the Saar coalfields. This was Germany’s main source of energy. Without them, how could the country rebuild its industry and afford to pay back the Allies? Do you think the Germans were fairly treated by the treaty? What do you think will be the likely outcomes of this treaty? Who was to blame for the Treaty?
Who was to blame? An enquiry was called into who was to blame for the disastrous peace. Read Field Marshall Hindenburg’s evidence: Whom is he blaming? How does it differ from his previous advice to President Ebert? “The German army was stabbed in the back. No blame is to be attached to the sound core of the army … It is perfectly clear on whom the blame rests.” He was referring to the Socialist politicians who signed the armistice in November. Hindenburg felt that the breather it provided allowed the Allies to build up even more strength, whilst the Socialist revolution caused the German armed forces to fall into disarray.