IB History of the Americas

mr. fleckenstein

IB History of the Americas

Internal Assessment 2009-2010

To what degree did the Versailles Treaty of 1919 contribute to World War II?

Jesse Kerner

A. Plan of the Investigation [133]

This investigation evaluates the degree to which the Versailles Treaty of 1919 contributed to World War II. To assess the extent to which this treaty led to the Second World War, the investigation focuses on Germany's take on the Treaty's demands, the bitter resentment the Treaty caused towards the victors of World War I, as well as the ineptness of the Treaty to fully neuter the capability of Germany to be a great power in the future. Problems with the Treaty are considered in this investigation, and the Paris Peace Conference is explored.

The two sources selected for evaluation, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan and The Treaty of Versailles: a Reassessment after 75 years by Manfred Franz Boemeke are evaluated for their origins, purposes, values, and limitations.

B. Summary of Evidence [517]

For years prior to Germany's invasion of Poland, gears had been turning and a force had been rising in the former's land. The majority of the Allied Powers (specifically the Europeans) had made it an effort to, at the very least; define the terms that President Wilson aligned to Germany so as to ensure that Germany would be liable to repair all the damage it had caused to their civilian nationals and their property (Boemeke 137). This determination of the European powers was contrasted by Wilson, who nevertheless let it be known that the Western powers had "no jealousy of German greatness and did "not wish to injure Germany "or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power (Boemeke 40). The reason for the Treaty being the most flawed if not the most infamous treaties between nations is that the Allied Powers disagreed within the minorities (MacMillan 167).

Reparations helped to "poison relations between Germany and the Allies, and among the Allies themselves, for much of the 1920s and 1930s (MacMillan 180). While the British public clamored for Germany to be made to pay 'to the uttermost farthing', Treasury officials, especially the economist John Maynard Keynes, were pointing out to Lloyd George that Britain's post-war economic recovery was crucially dependent on a general revival of trade (Henig 20). Therefore, Wilson attempted to limit Germany's accountability by basing it on her capacity to pay instead of on the total amount of allied claims.

Following the Versailles Treaty, Germany was left with something closer to a police force than an army (MacMillan 179). As MacMillan depicts, the German force was to be put in a position where it could not wage an aggressive war, being restricted to an army of 100,000 men and a navy of 15,000, and with no air force, tanks, armored cars, heavy guns, dirigibles or submarines. Germany was to be disarmed "in order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations (Henig 19).

The combination of opinions and decisions from the allied powers led to Germany being restricted legally, militarily, and territorial. Legally, former German Emperor, Wilhelm II with supreme offence against international morality, is to be tried as a war criminal. The War Guilt Clause made Germany solely responsible for all damage to civilian populations of the Allies. Militarily, the Rhineland became a demilitarized zone, patrolled by both Great Britain and France. German forces, as mentioned above, were restricted to no more than 100,000 troops, and conscription abolished. Territorial changes required Germany to lose control of their colonies and a few European territories. The Versailles Treaty distributed West Prussia to Poland, turning it into an exclave, separated from mainland Germany. Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France, Northern Schleswig was returned to Denmark, and Austria was forbidden from merging with Germany. Monetarily, Germany suffered from unimaginable war reparations. Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles plotted the cause of war to Germany, and the total sum of war reparations demanded from Germany was around 6,600 million. Later, it was reduced to 5 billion (Guinnane 2).

C. Evaluation of Sources [444]

Paris 1919 written by Margaret MacMillan and published 2002, provides a thorough, inclusive account of the happenings during the Paris Peace Treaty that lasted six months in 1919. The source's purpose is to analyze the origins, debates, views, and political entities (the Big Three, mainly) that surmised the Versailles Treaty. Margaret MacMillan, born in Ontario, Canada, is a historian and professor at the University of Oxford. MacMillan, although never meeting her grandfather, had been relayed accounts of him by her grandmother. Both had lived in Paris and witnessed the Paris Peace Conference (Interview). The book is valuable, since it analyzes various spectrums which well-known historians have been documented in viewing the Versailles Treaty, (MacMillan exposes the Keynesian theory). Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center, said "Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. This shows the little amount of bias in Paris 1919, which is certainly a value. It is hard to find a limitation of this book for the purpose of this essay; it is a library of primary sources, its bibliography being a hefty twenty pages in length, and containing little bias.

The Treaty of Versailles: a Reassessment after 75 years, written by Manfred Franz Boemeke, and published in 1998, provides an unsullied evaluation of one of the most divisive themes of present European history by a group of international experts. The book has three editors, Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser, and all three are accomplished historians. For example, Feldman concentrated on the intersection of economics and politics to explore subjects like the hyperinflation of the 1920s and relationships between financial companies and the Nazis. This source's purpose is to make a reassessment o the Versailles Treaty from an international perspective after seventy-five years, including experts from France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States. The editors include and discuss the latest archival evidence and extant literature, although a limitation of this source is that more recent evidence and literature has been published since 1998, when it was released. Feldman graduated from Columbia, and later earned his doctorates at Harvard, and his books have been consistently valuable since his first book, "Army, Industry and Labor in Germany, 1914-1918. Other values of this source include its primary source articles, which were delivered at a 1994 conference at the University of California at Berkley, written by 24 of the foremost international scholars on the Paris Peach Conference and its aftermath. Here, the bias of three historian's balance and little is left for the reader to interpret.

D. Analysis [557]

The Versailles Treaty, the near-incomprehensively flawed treaty (if not the most infamous) between nations, was in 1919, and is now still the model for peace discontinuity and precedent for future wars. The treaty enabled the procurement of the Third Reich (1933-1945). The reparations assigned to Germany, which were based on the Gold-Bearer Bonds of 33 billion, amounted to something Germany couldn't handle (although, few other nations could). Germany's defeated economy provided an open platter for the Allied Powers to feast off of, and Germany became too weak to defend against a defeated foe. Both Poland and Czechoslovakia attempted to defeat Germany during 1919-1933, the latter having only their 100,000 man maximum capacity for defense. Of course, when the German public was introduced to a man who promised to "rip up the Treaty of Versailles (Boemeke 144) the man became Chancellor of Germany. The disobedient actions of Adolf Hitler were in retaliation to the retentions of the Versailles Treaty. From 1934, when he was building his army, to 1939, when he invaded Poland, Hitler had struck a mainstream time period where neither Britain nor France were prepared to start another war, and Italy was eager to ally with Germany.

The Third Reich arose in the wake of the national shame, embarrassment, anger and resentment which resulted from the Treaty of Versailles (Treaty). The treaty, as noted above, had punished Germany, giving them sole responsibility for war, the permanent forfeiture of their territories, heavy reparation payments, and unilateral German disarmament and severe military restrictions. Of course, when Hitler took to power, he had no public fear: "At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years!... Don't forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power! Margaret MacMillan does not hesitate to declare that the Versailles Treaty, in the case of Germany particularly, "drove [the Germans] to extremes; it drove them into the arms of Hitler and it led to World War II (Interview). Moreover, Hitler had stated that whatever acts of aggression he made were for revenge from the Versailles Treaty. Of course, Britain and France gave in, this making Hitler stronger and making Germany more ready for the upcoming war. While the war was certainly predicable (Keynes predicted it with his "Economic Consequences of the Peace), was it inevitable after the Versailles Treaty? One could argue that the lack of enforcement in German areas during the 1930s insured that the war would happen. Additionally, the failure of the United States to enter the League of Nations and the failure of Wilson to include his 14 points into the Treaty left the continents on unstable ground. Furthermore, the creation of the Polish Corridor, which was initially meant to weaken Germany, ended up being a rallying point.

Appeasement and imperialism, along with the aftermath of World War I, prevent the other side to the Versailles Treaty causing World War II. For example, the war may have been prevented provided the Allied Powers of the First World War stood up to Hitler and prevented him from annexing Czechoslovakia and Austria. Had Britain and France declined and threatened Germany's expansion, the war would have ended.

E. Conclusion [133]

It is impossible to say that the Versailles Treaty was the one factor that caused World War II. However, it has been said by both MacMillan and Boemeke, that the Versailles Treaty made World War II inevitable, and the former reminds us that "things might have been different if Germany had been more thoroughly defeated [in World War 1] (494). Though, Nazi Germany launched the war, and Nazi Germany was launched itself by a will to revenge the Versailles Treaty and the bullies who eradicated it. The totalitarian dictatorship which arose in quick succession arose too quickly for Britain and France to form an opinion, and, still under the impression that some form of stature was left in Germany's mind by the harshness of the Treaty, they lowered the urgency of the matter.

F. Bibliography

Boemeke, Manfred F. Treaty of Versailles 75 years after. New York: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

Guinnane, Timothy W. "FINANCIAL VERGANGENHEITSBEWLTIGUNG: THE 1953 LONDON DEBT AGREEMENT." Center Discussion, Yale University 800 (2004). Print.

Henig, Ruth B. Versailles and after, 1919-1933. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.

MacMillan, Margaret. "Margaret MacMillan." Interview by Ben Wattenberg. PBS 5 June 2004. Print.

Macmillan, Margaret. Paris 1919 Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003. Print.

Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919) (1919). Print.

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