Treaty of Versailles: Facts, Causes and Effects

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Treaty of Versailles: Facts, Causes and Effects


One of the chief contributing causes of the Second World War was the Treaty of Versailles (June, 1919), that officially ended the First World War. Its main terms were surrender of ALL German colonies in Africa and the Far East, which would be mandated to Britain, France, Belgium, South Africa, Japan and Australia. This led to a re-distribution under a series of mandates – for example, the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France, the cession of Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium; plebiscites to be held in Northern Schleswig, the cession of Prussian Poland, parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to Poland; the cession of Danzig (now Gdansk) to be administered by the newly invented (and doomed) League of Nations; the cession of diminutive areas around Hultschin to Czechoslovakia; the cession of Memel (which was eventually annexed by Lithuania); the occupation of the Saar by the French; a demilitarization of the Rhineland, accompanied by allied occupation during fifteen years; the payment of an enormous sum in reparations ( £6,500 million in 1921: later Adolf Hitler would claim that this sum, demanded of a defeated Power by France and Belgium, was a veiled attempt to crush both the German spirit and the German economy); the limitation of the German Army to 100,000 men with no general staff, no conscription, no tanks, no heavy or light artillery, no poison gas supplies, and no aircraft or zeppelins. The German Navy was limited to ships under 10,000 tons (no battleships or cruisers then), no submarines and no Navy airforce.

The Treaty did not allow any union between Germany and Austria (the Anschluss); it also declared Germany responsible for causing the war, and made provision for an official trial of the deposed Kaiser and other war leaders.

Large areas of public opinion in Britain and France claimed that the terms of the Treaty were not harsh enough. Congress in the United States, however, went the other way, and refused to ratify the Treaty. Germans of all classes rejected the ‘war-guilt’ clause, and this continued to rankle with them until Hitler became Chancellor. In 1933 he refused to consider himself bound by the Treaty, and promised Germany total revenge. Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II was never brought to trial. Senior officers found ways after 1919 of getting round the disarmament clauses.

When the draft Treaty was ready, German representatives were told they were required to sign it without negotiation.
There were more Treaties to come: St. Germaine-en-Laye (September, 1919) was between the allied powers and the new Republic of Austria, which had to recognise the independence of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. Austria lost Eastern Silesia, the Trentino, South Tyrol, Trieste and Istria. Austria, like Germany, was required to pay reparations during a period of thirty years.

Trianon (June 1920) established the new Republic of Hungary, whereby three-quarters of her old territories (ie. all non-Magyar lands) were lost to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. The principle of reparations was again accepted.

Neuilly (November 1919) was a treaty made with Bulgaria: some territory was lost to Yugoslavia and Greece, but on the other hand some was gained from Turkey. A figure of £100 million in reparations was agreed upon (but never paid). These four Treaties were ratified in Paris in 1920.

A fifth Treaty (Sèvres, August 1020) was between the Allies and the old Ottoman Empire but was never implemented as it was followed by the final disintegration of the empire and the creation of the New Republic of Turkey by Mustapha Kemal Atatürk. All this was taken into account in the forming of a sixth treaty (Lausanne, July 1923), whereby Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq were mandated to Britain (thus causing interminable conflict), and Syria to France. Turkey regained Smyrna from Greece (leading to a continuing hatred between both countries). The Dardanelles Straits were de-militarized, and it was decided that Turkey would pay no reparations. This last lunacy caused widespread dissent, especially among the nations of the Arab League which had suffered invasion by the Turks during the War – and caused Laurence of Arabia (who had fought the Turks tooth and nail in the desert) to retire from public life in disgust, change his name (twice), and live as a semi-recluse in his Dorset cottage at Clouds Hill.

By | 2014-04-01T14:36:58+00:00 October 18th, 2010|English History, Spanish History, US History, World History|23 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. Tamaraza March 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    i am doing an essay of the treaty of versailles and this really helped, thank you 🙂

  2. maybe March 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    it was allright

    • admin April 4, 2012 at 8:52 am - Reply

      Dear Maybe, what is allright (sic) The Treaty of Versaiiles, or my post about the Treaty? Please be specific
      Cheers, Dean.

  3. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    I believe the most part of this essay is based on false ideas.
    -‘One of the chief contributing causes of the Second World War was the Treaty of Versailles’, you are basically aggreeing with hitler, you do realize that? he also said that the occupation of his country by french colonial (african and arab) soldiers were an insult to his country which the germans will avenge-on civilians and jews, dire predictions-, will you also agree with such a racist causality raised by the fuhrer?

    • Anonymous August 8, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Hitler was in essence a man. A man, whoever he may be, despite his racist ideals (which have nothing to do with this at all) cannot always be wrong purely because of who he is. In this case, he was correct. Dummkopf

      • Dean Swift August 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm - Reply

        I assume your comment is anonymous because you are feeling a little tired today and need some Dummkopf (is that how you spell it?) to raise your spirits. I do not know what your comment has to do with The Treaty of Versailles, but I suppose you do. Keep up the good work. Best regards, Dean.

  4. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    -the cessions are actually based on wilson’s account of self-determination : these territories (except saarland, which indemnifyed france until a referendum was held-which took place in 1935 and saw the small piece of land join hitler’s nazi germany) were populated by other nationalities which had suffered oppression from the german autocracy since 1871.
    -‘no poison gas supplies’, isn’t it normal since it remains illicit warfare under international conventions in 1919.

  5. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    ‘Writing in 1995, Gehrard Weinberg further added against the idea that territorial losses Germany suffered in 1919 brought about the Third Reich in 1933, commenting if that was the case, then the even greater territorial losses Germany suffered after 1945 should have brought about a Fourth Reich. Weinberg sarcastically commented that those who claimed that territorial losses Germany suffered in 1919 caused National Socialism have never explained why — the even greater territorial losses Germany suffered in 1945 did not bring about a return of the Nazis, as logic would dictate if it were true.’ wikipedia

  6. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    -‘Large areas of public opinion in Britain and France claimed that the terms of the Treaty were not harsh enough’, these countries were democracies, why had their representatives voted in both countries’ houses of parliament for the application of the treaty, if it didn’t go far enough?
    -when the congress didn’t ratify the treaty, not only was wilson sickened by it, but former republican president roosevelt probably would have been as well-he died at the start of the year, before the treaty- as he regognized the german responsibility at the start of WWI. this decision not to ratify the treaty by the US is a cause indeed to WWII, for germany never would have started the war if it knew the americans were determined by honor to restrict the possibility of another conflict.

  7. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    -‘leading to a continuing hatred between both countries (Greece and turkey)’, really? the greeks and the turks hate one another since the fall of Athens in 1458, way prior to the decision of punishing greek king constantin I who betrayed the allied powers and helping the new turkish democracy from the ruins of the theocratic ottoman empire in 1923.
    -‘widespread dissent, especially among the nations of the Arab League which had suffered invasion by the Turks during the War’, too bad the arab league only is formed in 1945 no? and they didn’t suffer invasion, just as poland they didn’t exist, they were occupied by an autocratic regime and were made independant by this ‘unfair’ treaty of versailles.

  8. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    -‘T.E Lawrence who had fought the Turks…’ thats were its confused; see, he fought the Ottomans for the independance of syria, and once the ottomans become turks and democrats, and as the treaty states syria’s independence, it is only logic that he is satisfied; you must be confused with the sykes-picot agreement which he opposed, but thats different from Versailles…

  9. nakedtruth April 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    — Finally, the real cause of the war is the non-respect of the treaty : had germany followed the army restrictions and the military demilitarizations, the war never couldve started; 150 years after invading france’s sovereign alsace, germany invaded the sovereign poland => 1814, 1815, 1871, 1914, 1939…and the treaty was wrong to restrict germany’ hunger for territorial gains and geographic hegemony?? the reparations couldve been payed but never where; the small amount which was payed didn’t IN ANY WAY affect the german economy or cause inflation; as for the resentment and anger, lets assume germany was as responsible as the other powers in the escalation to WWI-which is considered a myth by any serious historian-, does the humiliation of a military defeat gives right to start a total continental conflict? twenty years after the end of WWI !? i am grateful that our german friends agree today that from 1871 to 1945 their country played a nasty role in fueling conflicts in europe (for the west; until 1989 east).

  10. Dean Swift August 9, 2013 at 7:08 am - Reply

    Dear me what a lot of comment. I shall spend the next few months trying to understand what you saying, not easy with your erratic syntax, lack of punctuation, spelling, lack of capitel letters etc. I am sure YOU know what you are saying, but your mind works faster than your fingers. The art of communication with other humans lies in being able to let your mind fuel the energy needed by your fingers to write clearly and comprehensively. Meantime, why not go back and read the post on Versailles SLOWLY and CAREFULLY, whereupon you might discover that what you have tried to say is inappropriate. to say the least.
    Best wishes,

    • Anonymous March 24, 2015 at 6:02 am - Reply

      this does not tell me the cause of the treaty of the Versailles

      • Dean Swift July 17, 2015 at 8:50 am - Reply

        I suggest you read the post again, carefully . . . best wishes, Dean.

  11. Anonymous March 24, 2015 at 6:01 am - Reply

    this doesn’t tell me the causes of the treaty of the versillies. it tells me the cause of ww2

  12. Rupa Singh October 4, 2015 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    The post definitely hasn’t mentioned the reasons of The treaty of versailles

    • jonh January 20, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

      shutup you fat retard

  13. Ishika September 20, 2016 at 2:30 am - Reply

    It is not up to the mark… Germany lost its company overseas colonies. Reservations were made. The harsh terms gave rise on nahi Germany dictatotship of adore hitler.. Etc

  14. LOLOLOLOL January 10, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    what is the main cause of the treaty of Versailles?
    did anyone answer that at all or not I’m confused?!

  15. tonyeinekong January 20, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    i guess its NAZI not NAHI lmfao

  16. Meekness P Bande October 9, 2018 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    The essay is fair as it is but it lacks other things as well. For example, it is not clear on what led to the signing of the treaty as you guys have mentioned as well as different scholarly views. But still the author have managed to be more clear on the terms of the treaty even though there is a sense of struggle on the results of the treaty of Versailles. So to say, it is our duty now to dig deep on the parts which are silent from the essay and rather help in making the write up spicy and full rather than criticizing. We should look at scholars such as A.J.P.Taylor, John Sheerer, John Terrain, D, Thompson and D newton and see how they portray the treaty of Versailles. We should be able to trace the history of the treaty even starting from the Sarajevo incident to understand the reasons for its signing such as France’s need for revenge on Germany, the need to cripple Germany such that she would not revenge again, to create peace in Europe etc.

  17. haha May 28, 2019 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    this doesn’t show the causes of the treaty

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