ESSAY: WHETHER THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES WAS TOO HARSH ON GERMANY. The terms of the treaty of Versailles were somewhat harsh, but not out of ordinary for that time period. In 1871, Germany had forced France to accept similar terms (losing Alsace ??? Lorraine and paying heavy reparations), and one year earlier, Germany had made Russia sign a treaty that went far, far beyond what Versailles would ask Germany. At any rate, the terms were much milder than what France had originally wanted.
France wanted to break up Germany for revenge for its suffering and humiliation that Germany inflicted on France after defeating her in 1871 in the Franco-Prussian war and also so that Germany could never be military threat to the rest of Europe. Germany lost 13% of her territory under the treaty. That sounds like a lot, but all of these lands were border regions that were disputed to begin with (and which Germany had only recently conquered), such as Alsace- Lorraine (Franco-Prussian War, 1871).
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Germany’s allies, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, suffered a far worse fate, being completely dismembered. Germany suffered a terrible economic disaster in 1923-24 that was in part fueled up by the reparations. However, after the German economy rebounded and was in solid shape until the “Depression”. The German navy sank its own ships in protest to sign the Treaty. Ebert didn’t have much choice. Ebert had to consult the army commander Hindenburg.
Hindenburg told Ebert that Germany could not win the war. Ebert was at an impossible position. He decided to sign the treaty because he could no longer risk his people. After this the German people hated the Government and blamed it all on them. The treaty was the best Germany could have expected under the circumstances even through the harsh rules. If it weren’t for the treaty, the war would have had to continue.
But even though, Germany wouldn’t take that risk of not signing the treaty because it had already lost a lot of its people and army and it would lose anyway with the loath they got from France and Britain. The treaty had the aim to make the war end by saying that Germany had to either follow what the treaty said (German troops to keep out of Rhineland, take away land from Germany, divide Germany into two, put the Saar under the control of the League of Nations for 15 years (then its eople would vote on whether to join France or Germany), and forbade Germany to unite with Austria, take away overseas colonies, reduce military forces to 100,000 men only) or continue fighting in the war (which Germany would lose anyway because she was running out of soldiers and war facilities). Germany didn’t have a choice since she didn’t want to lose anymore of her people. “At first the new government refused to sign the Treaty and the German navy sank its own ships in protest. At one point it looked like war would break out again.
But what could the German leader Ebert do? He consulted the army commander Hindenburg who made it clear that Germany could not possibly win, but indicated that as a soldier, he would prefer to die fighting. Ebert was at an impossible position. How could he inflict war and certain defeat on his people? Eventually, he agreed to accept the terms of the Treaty and it was signed on 28 June 1919. ” From Modern World History by Ben Walsh, German Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles, page 88. First published in 1996 by Hodder Murray, a Hachette Livre UK Company.