Treaty of Versailles

Versailles, Treaty of, the peace treaty at the end of World War I, signed on June 28, 1919, by Germany and by the Allied and Associated Powers. In addition to ending the war with Germany, it also established the League of Nations. The peace conference met in Paris, but the treaty was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Separate treaties were made with Germany's allies: the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria, the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary, the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria, and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey.

The war ended on November 11, 1918, with an armistice based on President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. The peace conference met on January 8, 1919, with 32 countries represented but with Germany excluded. The major role was taken by the "Big Four": President Wilson, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Premier Georges Clemenceau of France, and Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy.

The United States Senate rejected the treaty, partly because of objections to the section that established the League of Nations. The other nations ratified the treaty, and it went into effect on January 10, 1920. The United States signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921.

The Germans denounced the Versailles Treaty as wicked and unjust, and the Nazi party's pledge to repudiate it helped Adolf Hitler come to power in 1933. Hitler ignored the treaty's restrictions on rearmament and soon built Germany into the strongest military power in the world.

Terms of the Treaty

The treaty had 15 parts. Part I was the Covenant (constitution) of the League of Nations. Provision was made for the Permanent Court of International Justice. Part XIII created the International Labor Organization. The other parts dealt with the boundaries of Germany, the establishment of new countries in Europe, war reparations, and other matters.

German Loss of Territory

Germany ceded Alsace-Lorraine to France, the Eupen and Malmèdy districts to Belgium, West Prussia and most of Posen province to Poland, and a district in Silesia to Czechoslovakia. The treaty provided for plebiscites in Schleswig and Upper Silesia. After the voting, northern Schleswig went to Denmark and southern Schleswig remained in Germany. In Upper Silesia the majority voted in favor of Germany; the Allies then divided the territory between Poland and Germany.

The treaty placed the Saar Basin under League of Nations control for 15 years and turned the coal mines over to France. ( German Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) became a free city under the League. Germany gave up the Memel district to the Allies, and it was later given to Lithuania.

Germany lost about 25,000 square miles (65,000 km 2 ) of territory, including areas with some of its richest mineral resources. In the east a strip of Polish land, the "Polish Corridor," separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany.

Germany surrendered its colonies, and they all became mandated territories under League of Nations supervision. German East Africa (now part of Tanzania) went to Great Britain, Urundi and Ruanda to Belgium, and South-West Africa (Namibia) to South Africa. Kamerun (Cameroon) and Togoland were divided between Great Britain and France. German New Guinea was awarded to Australia, German Samoa to New Zealand, Nauru Island to Great Britain and the German Pacific islands north of the Equator to Japan. German rights in Shantung province, China, were granted to Japan.

Other Penalties On Germany

The German army was restricted to 100,000 officers and men and the navy to a few small ships; air forces were forbidden. Allied troops were to occupy the west bank of the Rhine for 15 years. East of the Rhine, German fortifications were forbidden within 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) of the river. The treaty provided that Kaiser William II should be tried as a war criminal. But the former emperor had fled to the Netherlands, and the Dutch government refused to turn him over to the Allies.

Under the famous "war guilt" clause, Germany was compelled to accept responsibility for all the loss and damage caused by the war and to pay reparations for damages done to civilians. Although Germany paid some reparations, the program proved impractical and ended in 1931.