Treaty of Versailles’ effect on Germany

Photo by Blake Israel

The Treaty of Versaille was an agreement between Germany and the Allies. The common view of the Allies were presented as the terms, directed towards Germany.

Germany reluctantly signed that treaty, agreeing to abide by the terms as the prospect of going to another war against the allies would surely be unsuccessful.

The German government that signed it was the Weimar republic headed by Friedrich Ebert consisting of a democratic coalition of governments. They were commonly referred to as the “November Criminals” by opposition leaders such as Adolf Hitler because they accepted to sign a humiliating treaty which deeply dented the German pride.

Post Treaty of Versailles, German pride was left in tatters and the economy was in ruins. The Germans thought that the treaty was a “diktat” or a dictated peace. They felt it was unfair as they weren’t invited to negotiate at the Paris Peace Conference.

They felt horror and outrage at the fact that they were coerced to accept sole responsibility for the outbreak of the First World War. The aim of the Treaty of Versailles which concluded the First World War was to establish a “just peace;” sadly it failed greatly to do so.

Not only did it fail to do so, it is greatly disputed that it paved the way for a second, more devastating world war: World War II. The Allies created a vindictive treaty which was bound to come back and haunt them. The writing on the wall was that the treaty would create a sense of resentment in the Germans, and they too would seek revenge. The reparation sum of £6600 million was too high for Germany to pay, owing to the fact that they had lost 10% of its industries and 15% of its agricultural land. The problem was further compounded as the Kaiser government didn’t collect any taxes during wartime. To pay for the war, the government borrowed huge sums of money by selling war bonds to the public.

These were worthless by the end of the war due to hyperinflation.
By the time the Weimar republic came to power, unemployment was rising due to military restrictions, reparations had to be paid and key territories like Saar coalfields and other colonies such as Togoland were seized or put under League of Nations mandate. The government could not cope with these challenges and soon became unpopular with the general public.

Germany had paid its first installments of reparations in 1921 but in 1922, it was unable to make the payment. The French thought this was a way out for the Germans not to pay the reparations, so in 1923, they occupied Germany’s most valuable industrial area; Ruhr. The goal of France was to collect the missed payments from Germany by taking the goods from the mines and factories and shipping them back to France.

They wanted raw materials as compensation for the missed payments. In response to the invasion, the German workers practised passive resistance in which they destroyed the goods, the mines and the factories and refused to work. This event provoked a violent conflict which led to 130 people being killed and more than 100,000 German citizens being evicted from Ruhr Valley by the French troops.

Due to this crisis, the German government had to re-habilitate and feed the displaced Ruhr population.

Yet its income had declined due to the ending of the collection from the Ruhr tax. To make up for the loss of revenue, the German government printed more notes.

As the notes were in excess, it became worthless and prices shot up leading to hyperinflation. Savings became worthless and lost their value.

Wages had to be paid daily or weekly as money had to be carried away in wheelbarrows. The prices of general goods skyrocketed. This led to Germany having no goods to trade with and no money to buy those goods.

In conclusion, the treaty greatly impacted the German economy and created enough resentment in the Germans to give rise to a second world war, it was considered unjust from a German point of view.