The Treaty of Versailles (French: le Traité de Versailles) was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
By 1918 Germany was being defeated in most areas of the war. German people were hungry, war weary and demanded peace. The German government eventually asked for an armistice, and at the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, cease-fire began.
Thirty-two state legislatures passed resolutions in support of the treaty. But there was intense opposition to it within the Senate, which had to ratify the treaty before it could become binding on the United States. The Treaty of Versailles fell seven votes short of ratification, and the United States signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921. The U.S. never joined the League of Nations.
The loss of territory meant an effacement of the German empire that Otto von Bismarck had established under the Prussian Monarchy. The reality of defeat and the fragmentation of the German empire were humiliating to the Germans. Germany lost 13.5 % of its territory under the terms of the treaty. Close to seven million German citizens were placed under the jurisdiction of a foreign nation.
An assessment of the relationship among truth, justice, and reconciliation in the framework of moral regeneration indicates that the most grievous moral fault of the Treaty of Versailles lay in its process, which facilitated neither a truthful accounting of the war's causes and consequences, nor the affirmation of moral truths by victors or vanquished. The lack of an authoritative and public moral accounting of the Great War undermined both justice and reconciliation in international society.
The influences which brought the Treaty into disrepute were various. For one thing, the deterioration of Anglo-French relations tended to foster an increasingly sympathetic attitude towards Germany. Then, too, the problems of the British economy led to an awareness that the stability of Britain's former trading partner in Central Europe was essential to her own prosperity and to a corresponding desire to soften those features of the peace settlement which might be impeding German recovery.
One German newspaper, Deutsche Zeitung, denounced it with these words. “In the place where, in the glorious year of 1871, the German Empire in all its glory had its origin, today German honor is being carried to its grave. Do not forget it! The German people will, with unceasing labor, press forward to reconquer the place among the nations to which it is entitled. Then will come vengeance for the shame of 1919.”1 That view was widely shared.
Had the Versailles Treaty been applied as envisioned Germany would not have been rearming in 1932. The fact that Germany did rearm was not a problem brought about by the Treaty. In the end, Versailles became a dog's dinner. It neither crushed Germany enough to stop her rise again, yet it was still able to humiliate her.
After the ‘war to end war’ extravagant hopes were raised by the Paris Peace Conference, the first and greatest ‘summit conference’ of modern times. Even before the conference opened President Woodrow Wilson, en route from the United States, feared that it might end in ‘a tragedy of disappointment’. At its height, more than a thousand statesmen, diplomats and their staff, representing some 30 nations, were engaged in the business of peacemaking.
"The Treaty of Versailles created a political climate in Germany in which the right put all the blame on everything that went sour, onto the Treaty and the lost war. And that created this climate in which many people then began to think one had to fight the war once again."
Most of the decisions made at the Paris Peace Conference were made by the Big Four, consisting of President Wilson, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy. The European leaders were not interested in a just peace. They were interested in retribution.