Did the Treaty of Versailles make World War II inevitable? The Treaty of Versailles continues to be regarded to this day by scholars and laymen alike as a highly vindictive and humiliating peace agreement, imposed on a protesting, helpless and a weakened German nation. Assigning complete responsibility for the war on German actions alone is found to be incorrect by historians. Its punitive economic terms coupled with extensive territorial losses, especially in the East, only served to arouse in the German people an enduring bitterness against the Treaty and a fierce sense of nationalism that paved the way for National Socialism (Nazi) and for the outbreak of a second major war within 20 years. Essay: In 1919, at the end of the First World War, leaders from the coalition of England, France, Italy and the United States decided that they need a treaty to set right the damages caused by Germany and its allies. The treaty would be based on Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Point plan that was proposed in order to bring lasting peace to Europe. The culmination of these discussions and negotiations was the treaty signed by all participant countries in the French city of Versailles. While closing a curtain over the most brutal war till then, the Treaty of Versailles sowed the seeds for a bloodier war two decades later (Barnhart, 2002). While most leaders agreed that imposition of reparations on Germany was justified, there was controversy over some other terms of the Treaty. The first of these is pertaining to who should bear responsibility for the just concluded war. It is not surprising that the leaders of the allied powers chose to place the blame on Germany alone. But in truth, the causes of the war were much more complicated than that. Hence it was unjust to single out Germany to assume guilt and pay reparations. Secondly, the reparations that Germany was expected to pay was unreasonable. For example, in the year following the war the amount paid by Germany crossed 6,000 million pounds. It was close to impossible for any country to meet such a steep demand. Even if the reparations were paid, it would completely deplete the resources and destroy existing economic structures of the country subject to it. Hence, it could be asserted, that Germany was “set-up” to fail as a result of unreasonable demands imposed on it (Henig 2002). On top of the above conditions, Germany was prevented from building a sizeable army and navy. The limited army that it was allowed is useless in a situation that calls for national self-defence. And most importantly, the previously annexed lands of Germany were restored to its neighbouring countries. Such harsh conditions not only depleted Germany materially, but also psychologically. There was widespread sentiment among its general populace that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair, unjust and unreasonable. This public grievance provided the substrate upon which Hitler built support for World War Two. In this sense, it could be reasoned that the Treaty of Versailles, by virtue of its unpopularity with the German citizenry, had made events leading up to the Second World War almost inevitable (Barnhart, 2002). The most unfair of the violations was the label of guilt assigned to Germany. The argument that Germany was the prime instigator of the First World War, which began to gain currency after the Treaty of Versailles, would prove to be one of the significant causes of the Second World War. Article-231 of the treaty states that the aggressive military actions by Germany and its allies were basically responsible for the subsequent European conflict. This viewpoint became less credible in the subsequent years as the diplomatic records of the countries involved in the First World War were made accessible for publication, framing the notion that it was a collective responsibility (Morgan, 2002). The large-scale destruction of the war was rightly attributed to mistakes made by the all the great powers, to their preference for forceful confrontation as against tactful diplomacy as well as the strategic partnerships between the participating countries.
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