What is the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles was a peace treaty between the six nations, France, Germany, Britain, Austria-Hungary, Japan and the United States after World War I. The treaty was made in 1919, but the German government did not participate in it. In fact, Germany had the choice between signing it or facing the occupation of Germany by Allied troops. This was known as a diktat Frieden. This angered the German people as they believed that they did not start the war.

The Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, France. It was a peace treaty signifying the end of the First World War between the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. It was enforced on January 10, 1920. For more information on the Treaty of Versailles read the fact file below or download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.

  • On January 8, 1918, US President Woodrow Wilson issued the Fourteen Points. It called for a diplomatic end to the war in which trade and agreements were discussed. The formation of the League of Nations was also cited.
  • In October 1918, the Government of Germany asked President Wilson for a general armistice. During the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the treaty was drafted. Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Georges Clemenceau of France, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, and David Lloyd George of Britain were the frontrunners in the drafting of the treat. They were known as the ‘Big Four’.
  • Part of the treaty was the required compensation from Germany for the damage caused by the war: “compensation by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea and from the air.” This was known as Article 231 which was later referred to as the War Guilt Clause.
  • The treaty also forced Germany to make territorial concessions and to disarm. Germany severely renounced the treaty. Its population and territory reduced and its economy became weak.
  • Northern Schleswig was returned to Denmark; Alsace-Lorraine was given back to France; several small areas in the north were given to Belgium; Upper Silesia, Pomerelia, Posen, Warsaw, and Danzig were ceded to Poland; and Czechoslovakia (Now the Czech Republic) became independent.
  • Germany’s colonies in Asia and Africa were taken over by Japan, Britain, France, and other nations under Allied Power. This was known as the mandate system.
  • The loss and damages were assessed and said to amount to $33 billion in 1921 (US $442 billion in 2017). Economists questioned that this amount was excessive and would upset international finances.
  • A restriction was then placed on Germany’s allowing only 1000,000 soldiers to be part of it at one time. Manufacturing of airplanes, submarines, tanks, and armoured cars was also forbidden.
  • Rhineland was demilitarized and 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the river was considered as a demilitarized zone. Furthermore, Saarland was ceded to the League of Nation.
  • The Big Four wanted to make sure that Germany would never again become a military threat.
  • The treaty also included the formation of the League of Nations. It was agreed that sanctions would be given to member/s who resorted to war. Thus, members had an assurance that peace will prevail. Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Labour Organisation was also established.
  • The Treaty of Versailles developed deep resentment from the Germans. Their economy was devastated and paved to the development of militarism in Germany in the 1930s. Amongst the criticizer of the treaty was Germany’s, Adolf Hitler.