World War I Peace Treaties

World War I Peace Conference

After the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918, a number of peace treaties were signed in 1919-20. Meanwhile, President Woodrow Wilson, of USA, gave his famous 14 Points for ‘peace without victory’ in January 1918.

Wilson’s 14 Points

Wilson's 14 Points

Woodrow Wilson was an idealist, and wanted peace to be restored, without any retribution or revenge. Thus, he came up with the following 14 points:

  1. Open Covenants of Peace, openly arrived at, and the abolition of secret diplomacy;

  2. Absolute freedom of navigation in the seas, outside the territorial waters;

  3. Removal of Economic barriers, and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions;

  4. Reduction of the national armaments, to the minimal level, consistent with the domestic safety;

  5. Free, open-minded and impartial adjustment of all colonial claims in accordance with the interest of the population concerned;

  6. Evacuation of all Russian territory, and an unhampered opportunity for the independence, determined by her own political development and national policy;

  7. Evacuation and Restoration of Belgium;

  8. Evacuation and Restoration of France, and restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France;

  9. Readjustment of the frontiers of Italy;

  10. Free opportunity of autonomous development for the people of Austria-Hungary;

  11. Evacuation and Restoration of Serbia, Romania and Montenegro;

  12. Autonomous development for the non-Turkish possessions of the Sultan;

  13. Resurrection of an Independent Poland with access to sea; and,

  14. Formation of a general associations of nations, for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to all alike.

These points were accepted by all as the basis of peace and negotiation. The victorious nations met at Paris to formulate the peace treaties.

Paris Peace Conference

Paris Peace

Representatives of the Allied powers assembled at Paris, in January 1919, to draw a new political map of Europe and the world. Paris was deliberately chosen as the venue for the peace treaties, as France had earlier suffered a lot from Germany. Thus, the French were full of hatred and vengeance, and insisted on having Paris as the venue of peace negotiations. France wanted to impose a harsh treaty on Germany.

The Paris conference was attended only by the victor nations. The Conference was dominated by four prominent leaders– President Woodrow Wilson of USA; PM Lloyd George of Great Britain; PM George Clemenceau of France; and PM Vittoria Orlando of Italy.

President Wilson was an idealist, and is seen as the saviour of the Allies. He was very popular in Europe, but lost popularity in US, and lost the elections of 1918.Wilson went to the Paris Conference without any Republican delegate. He failed to get the draft of the peace treaties passed in the Senate. Thus, USA could not become a party to the Peace treaties.

Clemenceau of France, was the Chairman of the Conference. His goal was to exalt and secure France, and to weaken Germany. Similarly, Britain and Italy also wanted to punish Germany, and secure their own interests.

The Paris Conference held 6 Plenary sessions. The stated aim of the conference was to create a peaceful new social order, to secure democracy in the world, and to establish an international organization for peaceful settlement of international disputes. Throughout the Conference, there remained a conflict between the idealism of Wilson, and Realism of Clemenceau. Thus, the resultant treaty was a product of feelings of revenge and materialism.

Treaty of Versailles

Treay of Versailles

It was signed between the Allies and Germany. It was actually imposed upon the Germans, against the threat of invasion. It was a detailed treaty to rip Germany apart. Various clauses of the treaty were:

Territorial Provisions

Alsace Larraine

The province of Alsace-Lorraine were taken back from Germany, to returned to France. Small territories of Eugene, Malmady and Morsnet were given to Belgium, by way of Compensation. Northern sector of Schleswig were given to Denmark by Plebiscite. Parts of West Prussia were given to Poland, while the state of Poland was resurrected. German city of Danzig was made independent.

The Coal rich areas of Saar valley were put under the League of Nations for 15 years. Kingdom of Austria-Hungary was broken up into a number of nation-states. The new Austrian state was a small German-speaking landlocked country. Austria and Germany were not allowed to unite in future, without unanimous permission of the council of the League.

Small strip of territory of Germany was ceded to Czechoslovakia. Germany was deprived of all her overseas colonies. German colonies were placed under a Mandate system of the League of Nations.

Thus, Germany was deprived of about One-tenth of her population and 15% of territory.

Economic Provisions

Economic Reparation on Germany

France, Britain and Italy wanted to impose severe war indemnities on Germany, even though Wilson opposed it. The treaty held Germany and its allies responsible for the War. However, it recognized the incapacity of Germany to make complete payments for reparation. Therefore, certain categories of losses were enlisted for which Germany was expected to pay reparations.

A Reparation Commission was to be appointed by the Allies to determine the extend of civilian losses of Allies, while keeping in view the capacity of Germany to pay. Germany was required to make on ‘on account’ payment of ₤ 1,000,000,000. Germany was also to surrender all Submarine telegraph cables to Allies. All her merchant ship, of more than 1600 tonnes, were taken. Also, a large number of horses and cattle were to be given to France and Belgium. Reparation Commission, in its report, set the total reparation at 6,600,000,000.

Germany was also to supply 70 lakh tonnes coal per year to France; 80 lakhs tonnes coal per year to Belgium; and 60 lakhs tonnes coal per year to Italy, for the next 10 years. It was also decided that the Allies could punish Germany as they like, in case of voluntary default in payment of installments.

Germany was to give special facilities to Allies for 5 years, in respect to trade in certain commodities. Landlocked states, like Czechoslovakia and Switzerland, were given facilities to access the sea through Germany.

Also, Germany was to return all the trophies, flags and works of art taken during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The original Koran of the caliph of Ottoman was returned to the King of Hedjoz.

Disarmament Provisions

German Disarmament

Germany was militarily crippled. German army was limited to only 1,00,000 troops. There was a ban on conscription. Germany Navy was limited to only 6 battle ships of 10000 tonnes, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 12 torpedo boats. No submarines were allowed. Naval strength was restricted to only 15000 men.

Germany was debarred from having an Air Force. German General staff was abolished. Restrictions were placed on the quality and quantity of war material. Banks of River Rhine were demilitarized.

Provisions of War Guilt and War Crimes

Germany was made solely responsible for the War. German leadership was accused as guilty. Former German monarch- Kaiser William II- was found guilty of violation of international law and treaties. The new German government, handed over such persons for trials. But William II could not be tried, as he fled to Holland.

League of Nations Provision

League of Nations

The First part of the treaty provided for the establishment of a world organization called the League of Nations. It was to consist of an Assembly, a Council, and a Secretariat.

A Permanent Court of International Justice was also set up. It was to settle the international disputes, establish peace and improve the socio-economic life of people.

Guarantee Provision

As a guarantee, the entire are of Rhineland was to be temporarily occupied by Allied forces for 15 years. A section of Rhineland was to be vacated after 5 years; another one after 10 years; and the third portion after 15 years. However, if Germany ever misbehaved, the occupation would be extended indefinitely.


Part 2 coming soon…

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