Back   Describe how the Treaty of Versailles weakened Germany:

a. Through the loss of territory, 

b. Militarily, 

c. Economically.




On 28 June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed with Germany.   The Germans had not been allowed to send any delegates, and had to accept whatever was decided.   The Treaty had five main points:


By Clause 231, Germany had to accept the blame for starting the war.


Germany’s military power was reduced.   Germany was not allowed to have submarines or an air force.   It could have an army of only 100,000 men and a navy of only 6 ships, and it was not allowed to place any troops in the Rhineland.


Germany had to pay £6,600 million ‘reparations’ for damage done.


Germany lost land.   The Saar coalfield was given to France for 15 years, and Alsace-Lorraine given back to France.   Danzig became a free city, and Poland was given a ‘corridor’ to the Baltic Sea.   Germany was not allowed to unite with Austria.   Finally, Germany’s colonies were given to France or Britain.


Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations.


[Students: note how this essay should not just describe the terms of the Treaty, but ought to explain how it weakened Germany.]


Largely influenced by Clemenceau, Clause 231 gave the peace makers the right to punish Germany, and they tried to prevent war by weakening the Germans so they would never be able to go to war again.


a. Germany lost territory

Germany lost land. Alsace-Lorraine was given back to France.   Malmedy was given to Belgium.   North Schleswig was given to Denmark (after a plebiscite).   Memel was given to Lithuania.   West Prussia (including the ‘Polish corridor’) and Upper Silesia were given to Poland. Danzig was made a ‘free city’.   This was designed to weaken Germany.   A smaller country, reasoned Clemenceau, would be less of a problem.   In all, Germany lost 10% of its land, 12% of its population, 16% of its coalfields and half its iron and steel industry.   Germany had less land, fewer people, less taxes and less power.

            In fact, all that power and wealth was given to Germany’s enemies, who got stronger.   The Saar coalfields were given to France for 15 years.   This was also the case for the German empire, which was dismembered.   Germany’s colonies were made ‘mandates’ of the League of Nations, but were looked after by France (Cameroons), Britain (Tanganyika), Japan (islands in the Pacific), Australia (New Guinea) and New Zealand (Samoa).   In addition, Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria (Anschluss), which was designed to keep Germany weak.


b. Armed forces

The Rhineland had to be de-militarised.   This was to protect France from future invasion by creating a ‘buffer’ zone between France and Germany.   This weakened the Germans so much that they could not even put down internal riots – when they sent in the army to deal with a rebellion in April 1920, the French invaded to make the German army leave.

            The Treaty restricted the Germans’ armed forces to only 100,000 men in the army, no submarines or aeroplanes, and only six battleships.   In addition, conscription was banned (soldiers had to be volunteers).   The idea was to reduce Germany’s armed forces to a size where they could never endanger the countries round about.   German cartoons of the time show the German army too tiny to defend them even against small ‘dungervolk’ like Czechoslovakia.   And Germany was at the mercy of France, which invaded again in 1923 to take in kind the reparation payments that Germany's aid it could not pay.   Yet the Treaty excluded Germany from the League of Nations – Germany could not defend itself by force, or through the League!


c. Economy

The Treaty’s territorial decisions affected Germany’s economy.   The loss of the Saar reduced Germany’s industrial strength.   The loss of West Prussia took away Germany’s richest farming land.   But reparations did the greatest economic damage to Germany. Germany had to pay for all the damage of the war – a sum eventually set at £6,600 million – in instalments, until 1984.   This ruined Germany’s economy, damaged by the war, and led to the hyperinflation of 1923.