Contributed by Glen Davies
We’re approaching the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, June 28.
Despite the guns falling silent on November 11, 1918, the allied military blockade of Germany remained in place through. It is estimated over 800,000 German civilians died from this blockade.
In 1919, thirty-two nations met in Paris to divide the spoils of war, though the United States, France, England, Japan and Italy were the dominant nations.
Throughout 1919 into 1920 a series of treaties were established, as the victors sought to punish the defeated Central Powers, including Germany, with large reparations. The meetings to devise the treaty with Germany were conducted in the Paris satellite Versailles
Despite acrimonious differences between French leader Georges Clemenceau and England’s Lloyd George, whose dislike of each other almost surpassed their disdain for Germany, it was determined that the Germans be severely punished for starting the war.
The United States President Woodrow Wilson was almost a voice of reason, as Clemenceau and George demanded crippling terms be paid by the Germans. Lloyd George wanted Germany to pay 25 billion pounds of reparations, but he was outdone by Clemenceau wanting 44 billion. Wilson sought a figure of 6 billion.
These stringent terms embittered the Germans, helping provide a basis for the rise of Fascism. Sadly, the so-called war to end all wars was little more than a segue to another world war. Twenty years later another even more brutal, World War broke out, and over 70 million people died.
This perhaps is the enduring legacy of the Treaty of Versailles.
During the Versailles meetings It was proposed, that the payment should meet the cost of widows and disability pensions, also family separations. In both England and France, maximum pressure was put on the leaders to obtain the highest possible payment.
The Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes claimed the Germans should pay 25 billion in reparations.
There were voices arguing the figures were too high, that if Germany paid this amount it would both impact on the viability of capitalism and would produce a backlash from Germany. All this against the backdrop of the Bolsheviks seizure of power in Russia, and other revolutionary uprisings. After a long period of wrangling the final figure of 6.6 billion pounds was put in place;
This is the list of the penalties imposed on Germany
(1) All German colonies were surrendered as League of Nations mandates.
(2) France regained control of Alsace-Lorraine.
(3) Cession of Memel to Lithuania, Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium, the Hultschin district to Czechoslovakia.
(4) Poznania, parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to Poland.
(5) The city of Danzig became a free city.
(6) The holding of Plebiscites in northern Schleswig to settle the Danish-German frontier.
(7) French control occupation and special status for the Saar.
(8) Demilitarization and a fifteen-year occupation of the Rhineland.
(9) German reparations of £6,600 billion.
(10) A ban on any union of Austria and Germany.
(11) German acceptance of guilt in causing the war.
(12) Provision for the trial of the former Kaiser and other war leaders.
(13) Germany’s army be limited to only 100,000 men with no conscription, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no poison-gas supplies, no aircraft and no airships.
(14) The German navy was allowed six pre-dreadnought battleships and was limited to a maximum of six light cruisers (not exceeding 6,100 tons), twelve destroyers (not exceeding 810 tons and twelve torpedo boats (not exceeding 200 tons) and was forbidden submarines.