The main reasons why the Germans hated the Treaty of Versailles was because they thought it was unfair. Germany had not taken part in the Conference. The terms were imposed upon Germany – when Germany disagreed, the Allies threatened to go to war again. The Germans were treated like a defeated country, but they did not think they had been defeated. They had signed an Armistice – a ceasefire – in 1918, and they had thought they were accepting Wilson’s 14 Points. In the event, few of the 14 Points got into the Treaty. The Germans thought they had been tricked and betrayed, and they hated the Treaty.
The Germans were also furious about the various terms of the Treaty. They hated clause 231 – the ‘War Guilt’ clause – which stated that Germany had caused ‘all the loss and damage’ of the war. Firstly, the Germans did not think that they had caused the war (for the Germans, the war was a war of self-defence against Russia, which had mobilised 31 July 1914). During the 1920s, the Germans published all their secret documents from 1914, to prove they had tried to stop the war. Secondly, the Germans hated clause 231 because accepting it gave the Allies the moral right to punish Germany – it validated all the harsh terms of the Treaty.
Germany hated the military terms of the Treaty (army of 100,000, only 6 battleships, no submarines or aeroplanes). The Germans said it left them powerless against even the tiny new nation-states. The demilitarisation of the Rhineland was hated because the Weimar republic was weak, and there were many rebellions. But in April 1920, when the Germans sent troops into the Rhineland to stop rioting, the French invaded. The Germans said that not to be able to send troops even to places inside Germany was a national insult.
Yet, although the Allies did not allow Germany an army, they did not let her join the League of Nations. This was an insult, and it also meant the Germany had no way ever to get fair treatment by other states – neither armies nor argument.
The Germans also hated reparations, set eventually (1921) at £6.6 billion, to be paid in instalments until 1984. They did not accept that Germany had caused all the damage. They felt that the huge sum was just designed to destroy their economy and starve their children. Most of all, they hated reparations because they too had rebuilding work to do. Germany’s economy was ruined, but, instead of being able to pump investment into German industry, the country had to send abroad huge sums of money that German industry was not yet strong enough to earn.
Finally, the territorial terms of the Treaty of Versailles also made the
Germans angry. Germany lost
10% of its land. The Saar was
a valuable coalfield, and West Prussia and Upper Silesia were rich farming
areas, so their loss further weakened Germany’s economy.
The loss of the Polish corridor separated East Prussia from Germany, and
further damaged the German economy. Germany
lost 16% of its coalfields and half its iron and steel industry.
The loss of all Germany’s colonies to be mandates was seen as just so
much British empire-building. The
loss of Malmedy to Belgium, Schleswig to Denmark, Memel to Lithuania – and
most of all Alsace-Lorraine to France – was also a national humiliation.
The Treaty of Versailles also forbade Anschluss with Austria.
This seemed unfair to the Germans, because everywhere else in Europe, the
Treaties of 1919–20 gave peoples self-determination, but they divided Germany,
and put 12½% of its population into other countries.