On 29 September 1918 Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff told Kaiser Wilhelm II that the war was lost and that negotiations for an armistice based on President Wilson’s peace proposals should begin at once. Germany was rapidly falling apart in the last few weeks of the war. By October, many soldiers had had enough, and there to an armistice in what was then known simply as the Great War.
Thus, the First World War lasted for four years and three months. It began on August 4, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918. It involved sixty sovereign states, overthrew four Empires (German Empire, Hapsburg Empire, Turkish Empire, Russian Empire), gave birth to seven new nations, took ten million combatant lives (another 30 million were wounded), and cost about £ 35,000 million.
On January 18, 1919, representatives of twenty-nine victorious countries met at the Conference of Paris, under the direction of the Committee of Four: U.S. President Wilson, British Prime Minister Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Clemenceau, and Italian Chief Executive Orlando. The victorious Western Powers imposed a series of harsh treaties upon the defeated nations. These treaties stripped the Central Powers (Germany and Austria- Hungary, joined by Ottoman Turkey and Bulgaria) of substantial territories and imposed significant reparation payments.
Representatives of the defeated countries were not invited to the peace conference. The victorious countries negotiated the treaty and they demanded strict penalties against the defeated countries. Since the defeated countries did not participate in the negotiation, it was presented to them as a fail accomplishment. In other words, they had no choice but to accept and they could not make any changes. The German representatives of the fledgling democratic Weimar Republic signed the treaty on 28 June 1919, under threat of a total invasion of their country if they did not sign. In Germany, there was talk of diktat, the imposition of Versailles.
The victorious countries signed five different peace treaties with each of the various defeated nations during first world war. They were:
- Treaty of Versailles (with Germany)
- Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (with Austria)
- Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine (with Bulgaria)
- Treaty of Trianon (with Hungary)
- The Treaty of Sevres (with turkey)
Treaty of Versailles
The peace conference that led to the Treaty of Versailles began its deliberations in Paris in January 1919. The proceedings were dominated by the French Premier Georges Clemenceau and then British Prime Minister David Lloyd George – both of them pushed by vengeful electorates to make somewhat harsher demands of their adversaries than they might otherwise have made.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Allied Powers and Germany on June 28, 1919. The peace treaty concluded the six month & negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty of Versailles the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.
The Treaty of Versailles is organized in several chapters in which each have different clauses. One of the most important and controversial required Germany to accept sole responsibility for causing the war. The “War Guilt Clause” laid sole responsibility for the war on Germany and her allies, which is to be accountable for all damage to civilian populations of the Allies. The second most important feature was that Germany lost all its colonies which were taken over by the victors. Other causes related to territorial changes, military restrictions and reparations.
Territorial Changes Under the territorial clauses:
(i) France regained Alsace and Lorraine,
(ii) Eupen and Malmedy passed into the hands of Belgium
(iii) Eastern territories were annexed by Poland which caused East Prussia to become territorially isolated.
(iv) Danzig and Memel, former Baltic German cities were declared free cities
(v) Denmark annexed northern Schleswig-Holstein
(vi) Germany lost all of its colonies and the victors annexed them.
Military restrictions clauses included the following:
- German armed forces will number no more than 100,000 troops, an conscription will be abolished.
- German naval forces will be limited to 15,000 men, 6 battleships (n more than 10,000 tons displacement each), 6 cruisers (no more than 6,0 tons displacement each), 12 destroyers (no more than 800 tons displacement each) and 12 torpedo boats (no more than 200 tons displacement each). submarines are to be included.
- The import and export of weapons is prohibited.
- Poison gas, armed aircraft, tanks and armored cars are prohibited
- Blockades on ships are prohibited.
- Restrictions on the manufacture of machine guns (e.g. the Maxim machine gun) and rifles (e.g. Gewehr 98 rifles).
According to Article 231 of the Treaty, Germany was made to accept the responsibility for the losses and damages caused by the war. As a result Germany was required to compensate the Allied powers. A Reparation Commission was established for this purpose to determine the exact amount which Germany would pay and the form that such payment would take. The total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion Marks (then $31.4 billion, £6,600 million) in 1921 which is roughly equivalent to US$ 382 billion in 2010, a sum that many economists at the time deemed to be excessive because it would have taken Germany until 1988 to pay.
The London Conference of 1920 established the total amount of repairs that had to be paid by Germany: 140.000 million gold marks, an enormous amount for the time. At the Spa Conference, also in 1920, the 140.000 million gold marks were divided into a fixed percentage and given to each country: France received 52%, Britain 22%, Italy 10%, and Belgium 8%.
The Germans resented the treaty: As a defeated power, Germany had no option but to accept the terms of the treaty and to sign a document admitting guilt for starting the war. Discontent with what the Germans regarded as an unfair treaty helps to explain why so many Germans were ready to follow Hitler in later years. In short, Germany could not afford the reparations, lost industrial areas and could not rebuild, lost its pride, was without armed forces, saw other countries weren‘t disarming, did not accept guilt for starting the war, suffered economic crisis, lost colonies, many Germans now lived under foreign rule in new countries.
Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed on 19 September 1919 between the victorious Allies and the new Republic of Austria. The treaty declared that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was to be dissolved. The new Republic of Austria, consisting of most of the German-speaking Alpine part of the former Austrian Empire, but not the German-speaking Sudetenland, nor South Tyrol, recognized the independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.
Austria was reduced not only by the loss of crown lands incorporated into the newly created States of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia (the “successor states”) but by the cession of Trentino, South Tyrol, Trieste, Istria and several Dalmatian islands to Italy and the cession of Bukovina to Romania. In total, it lost land to Czechoslovakia, State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Poland, Romania, and Italy On the other hand, Burgenland, then a part of Hungary, as awarded to Austria.
The treaty included ‘war reparations’ of large sums money, directed towards the allies, to pay for the costs of the war. The treaty enjoined Austria to refrain from seeking political and territorial union t the assent of the League of Nations. The treaty was not ratified by United States, since it had not joined the League of Nations.
Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine
The Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine was a peace treaty signed by Bulgaria and the Allied Powers at the end of World War I, Bulgaria lost some land and access to the sea. The treaty made Bulgaria disarm. Besides making territorial reparations, it required Bulgaria to reduce its army and pay £100 million to the Allies.
Treaty of Trianon
The Treaty of Trianon was the peace agreement signed in June 1920 between the Allies and Hungary (a successor state to Austria-Hungary). The treaty dramatically redefined and reduced Hungary’s borders. From its borders before World War I, it lost 72% of its territory. It also lost 64% of its total population, which was reduced from 20.9 million to 7.6 million, and 31% (3.3 out of 10.7 million) of its ethnic Hungarians, who suddenly found themselves living outside the newly defined borders of Hungary. Hungary lost five of its ten most populous cities and was deprived of direct access to the sea and of some of its most valuable natural resources. The military establishment of the country was reduced to an army of 35,000. The principal beneficiaries of territorial adjustment were Romania, Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Changes in Borders:
- The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established.
- Part of Transylvania south of the Mure river and east of the Some river came under the control of Romania.
- Upper Hungary, which became part of Czechoslovakia as Slovakia
- Carpathian Ruthenia (in Slovak Podkarpatské Rus), which became part of Czechoslovakia, pursuant to the Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919;
- The City of Fiume (Rijeka) was occupied by the Italian Army. Its affiliation was a matter of international dispute between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
- Meoimurje and the 2/3 of the Slovene March (in Slovak Slovinska krajina), which became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
The Treaty of Sevres
The Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10th, 1920 between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain, Italy and France as victorious Allies. Russia and America were excluded from the process. The Treaty totally carved up the ‘Sick Man of Europe’.
Britain and France had already decided what would happen to the area generally referred to as the ‘Middle East’. Britain took effective possession and control of Palestine while France took over Syria, Lebanon and some land in southern Anatolia. Britain also took over Iraq and was given very generous oil concessions there via the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company; later renamed the Iraq Petroleum Company. The Kingdom of Hejaz was given formal international recognition as an independent kingdom. With Mecca and Medina as its most important cities, the Kingdom of Hejaz was 100,000 square miles in size with a total population of 750,000. Armenia was recognized as a separate sovereign state. The Dodecanese Islands were formally handed over to Italy who was also given influence in the coastal region of Anatolia.
The Dardanelles Straits was made an international waterway with the Ottoman Empire having no control over it. Certain ports near to Constantinople were declared “free zones” as they were deemed to be of international importance. Like the other defeated Central Powers, the Ottoman Empire had military restrictions imposed on it. The Ottoman Army was limited to 50,000 men. An air force was forbidden and the navy was limited to thirteen boats – six schooners and seven torpedo boats. The Treaty of Serves also contained clauses that allowed the Allies to supervise these military terms.
The financial consequences of the Treaty of Serves equaled those of the Treaty of Versailles in terms of severity. While the new Weimar Germany was allowed to run her own economy, the Ottoman Empire had the control of its finances and economy taken away from her and handed over to the Allies. This included the control of the Ottoman Bank, control over imports and exports, control of the national budget, control over financial regulations, requests for loans and reform of the tax system. The Allies controlled even debt repayments. One of the terms of this was that only France, Italy and Great Britain could be debt bondholders. The Ottoman Empire was also forbidden from having any economic collaboration with Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria and all the economic assets of these four states were liquidated within the Ottoman Empire.
The Grand Vizier, Ahmed Pasha, of the Empire planned to ratify the Treaty of Serves but was faced with a rebellion by the Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal, Turks, led by Gallipoli veteran Mustapha Kemal Ataturk (Ataturk = The Father of the Turks), objected to this and overthrew their leader, the Sultan. The Treaty of Sevres was annulled in the course of the Turkish War of Independence and the parties signed and ratified the superseding Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The treaty also led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the defunct Ottoman Empire. This treaty settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. This treaty regained Turkey some land they lost in 1920 as a result of Treaty of Severs.