USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945Main MenuIntroduction: A Mural as WindowOn Diego Rivera's Detroit IndustryThe World Around 1914, Part I: the Journey of Young GandhiThe World Around 1914, Part II: The Era of Nationalism and Imperialism (1848-1914)The First World WarThe Long Russian Revolution (1917 – 1929)The Decline of the West? Europe from 1919 – 1929A New Middle East: The Rise of the Middle East State SystemChina Between Qing Collapse and WWIILatin America Between Boom and Bust (1911-1929)Africa Under Colonial Rule: Politics and Race from 1914‐1939The United States from The First World War to the Great DepressionThe Great DepressionThree Varieties of Radicalism in the 1930s: Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Imperial JapanThree Responses to Modernity: Ho Chi Minh, Ibn Saud, and Getulio VargasThe Second World WarSeth Rogoff5f001fc099cd635507b143be056702764af6929c
German Protests against Paris Peace
12017-08-15T08:29:47-07:00Seth Rogoff5f001fc099cd635507b143be056702764af6929c192371"The conditions of the Treaty of Versailles met with harsh protest in Germany, from both the government and the population alike. All parties summarily rejected the territorial transfers in the west and east, as well as the reparations payments, which were regarded as excessively high. The strongest criticism, however, was reserved for the “War Guilt Clause,” which laid the blame for the war solely on Germany. Demonstrations leading up to the conclusion of the treaty sought to prevent Germany's leadership from accepting the harsh peace. In the face catastrophic food shortages and the helpless state of the military, however, the coalition government of the Social Democratic and Center parties saw no alternative to signing it. The radical right subsequently used the Treaty of Versailles as an excuse for nationalist agitation." GHDIplain2017-08-15T08:29:47-07:00Seth Rogoff5f001fc099cd635507b143be056702764af6929c
Perhaps the most famous or infamous signature applied to the First World War was the “war to end all wars.” This was a deeply held belief and was reflected in Wilson’s Fourteen Points and his call for the establishment of global governance in the form of the League of Nations, a body charged with mediating disputes in the conference rooms instead of the battlefields. The League was also meant to drag foreign policy out of the secrecy of backrooms and into the open for all to see. Secrecy led to paranoia, which had led to massive bloodshed. Openness, thought Wilson, would maintain the peace.
That the vision of peace broke down within a generation of 1919 has cast a dark shadow on the work of the diplomats in Paris and especially on the leadership: Clemenceau for France, Lloyd George for Britain, and first and foremost Wilson for the United States, whose brainchild, the League, failed to win ratification in the U.S. Senate and excluded both Germany and Soviet Russia, severely crippling the international body. How much of the violence of 1937-1945 can be blamed on Paris 1919? Did Paris 1919 lead Japan to seek equal status as a great power, principally by challenging the West in China and Southeast Asia? Did the exclusion of Bolshevik Russia from the process heighten tensions between Europe and the newly forged Soviet Union? Did Paris 1919 contribute to U.S. isolationism in the 1930s, which was an important precondition to the rise of a heavily militarized Germany in the 1930s?
Did the reparation payments contribute to German instability and economic collapse? Did the new world configuration lead or contribute to the great global economic catastrophe that began in 1929? Did the division of central and southern Europe create the preconditions for a more explosive war—especially between Germany and its neighbors? Did 1919 result in an insatiable German desire for revenge—not only against the allies but also against the internal “traitors,” those “November criminals,” as they were called, who signed the treaty and ushered in the Weimar Republic?
That the treaties to end WWI helped create not peace but an even more destructive war only twenty years later is one of the darkest ironies of modern history. The “war to end all wars” became the staging ground for the biggest human-caused catastrophe in history: World War Two.