Analysis Essay: The Successes and Failures of the Treaty of Versailles
Following the end of World War One, leaders from victorious powers, mainly France, Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States, gathered in Paris to draft the Treaty of Versailles in the Paris Peace Conference, which was intended to punish Germany and her allies. The success and failures of the treaty will be examined in this essay.
For success, first, the treaty was able to maintain peace for 20 years. After the defeat in WW1, Germany had to surrender colonies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and they attempted to rebuild their country by removing the Prussian starting ground from their territory. As a result, German imperialism was halted for 20 years, putting an end to the imperialistic empire's ideals and allowing the allies to recover, strengthen, and rebuild. This indicates that the treaty was successful in gaining additional time for a future battle that was highly foreseeable. As a result, the peace treaty was effective in temporarily weakening German imperialism and buying time for both sides to deal with the war's consequences and restrengthen.
Second, Germany's economy was on a steady road to recovery following World War One. Germany's economy was quite affluent in the 1920s, slowly rebuilding its economy, as the country was viewed as a victim. However, during the Great Depression, Germany's economy collapsed along with that of the neighbouring countries, and its recovery was drastically damaged. Regardless, this illustrates that the peace treaty was successful in weakening Germany, not to the point where its people would seek vengeance, but rather to the point where it would gradually recover and therefore keep the peace.
As for the failure, first, the Treaty of Versailles was insufficiently harsh in forcing the German people to accept defeat. The majority of the battles of WW1 took place in France. As a result, the German people, who lived so far away from the battlefield, refused to accept defeat, igniting angry sentiments and strengthening German nationalism. These German nationalist ideas would eventually contribute to the emergence of Hitler and his drive to restore Germany's glory and honour. This demonstrates that the treaty failed to persuade the German people to accept defeat, resulting in only a short peace. As a result, the Treaty of Versailles struggled to maintain peace because German nationalism became stronger as a result.
Germany was also significantly demilitarized. Germany was prohibited from possessing airplanes or submarines, and its army was limited to 100,000 soldiers. Since Germany was a country that placed great pride in its military, demilitarization humiliated the Germans and resulted in the unemployment of many men who had originally served in the army. These disheartened men, believing in Hitler's ambitions, would eventually come to believe in taking revenge against the victorious countries. As a result of the treaty, countless Hitler supporters emerged. As a result, the treaty failed to keep the peace since the German people felt humiliated to the extent of wanting vengeance.
Thirdly, the Treaty of Versailles had humiliated Germany in the War Guilt Clause. The Treaty of Versailles attributed sole responsibility for the outbreak of the war to Germany. It was impossible to pin the blame for starting the war on a single country, especially since Germany was not the first to mobilize soldiers, i.e., Russia, or declare war, i.e., Austria-Hungary. The victorious nations were exempted from blame as a result of the clause, which greatly humiliated the Germans. The humiliation only evolved into a desire for revenge against the allies, paving the way for WW2. As a result, the peace treaty failed to maintain long-term peace.
Despite the treaty's accomplishments, the Second World War nevertheless occurred, indicating that its purpose of maintaining peace had failed, as hindsight has shown. In conclusion, there were more failures than achievements in the Treaty of Versailles.