Germany and the Treaty   [UBRAT


May the hand wither that signs this treaty.

Frederick Scheidemann, the German Chancellor (June 1919)

then he resigned rather than agree to the Treaty


The Berlin Times (pdf) - an excellent pupil assignment

BBCi site - simple statement

Germany humiliated



- Giles Hill on reactions to Versailles


Original Sources

Germany's Reaction - Sources

Brockdorff-Rantzau on the economic articles of the Treaty - difficult but worthwhile


   Why was there opposition in Germany to the Treaty of Versailles?


 Source A

 German cartoon of 1919 attacking the TreatyPowerpoint presentation explaining the cartoon

This cartoon appeared in the German satirical magazine Simplissimus, 3 June 1919.

 Click here for the interpretation



German outrage

When the Germans heard about the Treaty of Versailles, they felt ‘pain and anger’.   They felt it was unfair.   It was a 'Diktat' – an IMPOSED settlement.  They had not been allowed to take part in the talks – they had just been told to sign.


The German reaction

On 7 May, the victors presented their Treaty to the small German delegation.  Count Brockdorff-Rantzau angered the Big Three by giving a long speech criticising the Treaty; then the delegation left and set about countering it.  A little later, they sent their counter-proposal based on the Fourteen Points) to the Big Three -- their reply was so good that one of the British delegation said it was much better than the Allies' suggestions, and even Lloyd George wondered for a time if they ought to rethink the treaty .  Then the delegation went home.  Many Germans wanted to refuse to sign the treaty; some even suggested that they start the war again.   So it was with great difficulty that the President got the Reichstag to agree to sign the treaty, and the imperious way the two German representatives were treated when they were forced to sign made things worse.



The Germans HATED the Treaty of Versailles 

The Germans hated Clause 231; they said they were not to blame for the war.  The soldier sent to sign the Treaty refused to sign it – ‘To say such a thing would be a lie,’ he said.  Clause 231 did not physically harm Germany, but it hurt Germany's pride - and it was this, as much as anything else, that made them want to overturn the treaty.


The Germans hated reparations; they said France and Britain were trying to starve their children to death.  At first they refused to pay, and only started paying after France and Britain invaded Germany (January 1921).


The Germans hated their tiny army.  They said they were helpless against other countries.  At first they refused to reduce the army, and the sailors sank the fleet, rather than hand it over.


The Germans also hated the loss of territory.  Germany lost a tenth of its land - they claimed that the treaty was simply an attempt to destroy their economy.  Other nations were given self-determination – but the Treaty forced Germans to live in other countries.  Germans were also angry that they could not unite with the Austrian Germans.



New Words

Clause 231: the paragraph blaming Germany for the war.

reparations: the money Germany had to pay for damage done during the war.  





Did You Know?

Fritz Haber (the German-Jewish scientist who had invented the use of chlorine gas as a weapon during the First World War) spent many years after the war trying to find a way to extract the gold dissolved in seawater. He hoped it would prove to be a cheap way for Germany to pay off reparations.









Source B

The disgraceful Treaty is being signed today.  


Don’t forget it!


We will never stop until we win back what we deserve.

From Deutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, 28 June 1919.


Source C

Those who sign this treaty, will sign the death sentence of many millions of German men, women and children.

Count Brockdorff-Rantzau, leader of the German delegation to Versailles (15 May 1919).



Did You Know?

The Germans - and many British people - railed against the reparations sum of £6.6_billion as if it were a death-blow to the German nation.

But the First World War had cost Britain £6.2 billion, and by the end of the war Britain's national debt stood at £7 billion, of which £1 billion was owed to the USA and had to be repaid.

Yet nobody suggested that Britain's people were going to starve to death.

Verlorenes Land.JPG (28515 bytes)

Source D

A German postcard, produced about the time of the Treaty of Versailles, showing the land where Germans lived.   The areas in red are the lands given to other countries by the Treaty of Versailles,( including the land lost by Austria).   


Its title is 'Lost but not forgotten land'.

The poem under the map reads:

 You must carve in your heart

 These words, as in stone -

  What we have lost

  Will be regained!



Source E

Another German postcard produced about the time of the Treaty of Versailles.   

Its title is 'Hands off German Homeland'.  

On the stone (bottom left) is written 'd.ö.' standing for Deutsch-österreich (German Austria).


Many similar propaganda postcards were produced     


Is Source C different to D?


(Click on the postcards to enlarge)

Did You Know?

Germany did not pay off the reparations bill until 2010.  Repayment was interrupted by Hitler during his time in power, which delayed the final pay off to 1996.

However, a clause in the agreement said that Germany would have to pay interest on the bill if Germany were ever to reunite, which of course it did in 1990. So the final historic payment of £59m was made on Sunday, 3rd October 2010, ninety-two years after the war ended.




Study the materials, and the webpage on German reactions, then list and explain ALL the reasons why Germans were angry at the Treaty of Versailles.