Treaty of Versailles

most important of the peace treaties of the First World War which ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers

Treaty of Versailles, also called Pact of Versailles, signed by 44 states on June 28, C.E.1919.

The signing of the Treaty in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (C.E.1919)

Quotes edit

  • May 7, 1919 has not erased the date of January 18, 1871.
    • Jacques Bainville, 'German Unity Consecrated at Versailles', Action Française (9 May 1919), quoted in William R. Keylor, Jacques Bainville and the Renaissance of Royalist History in Twentieth-Century France (1979), pp. 137-138
  • At Versailles the mistake was made of believing that a disarmed Power was also [sic], and that the number of Divisions was the only measure capable of distinguishing, in the future, Nations according to a pre-established rank.< br>No error was more disastrous than this, to an extent that cannot be assessed even today, precisely at the moment in which we find ourselves immersed in a situation that is the direct result of those errors. And none was seen, paradoxically, more clearly than this: there were many who realized how many and what seeds of war had been sown in the halls where, almost fifty years earlier, the German Empire had been proclaimed. But no one seemed to be able to do anything. There is something in the mistakes made by humanity that leads us to believe that they are necessary for some mysterious plan.
  • New discord has arisen in Europe of late years from the fact that Germany is not satisfied with the result of the late War. I have indicated several times that Germany got off lightly after the Great War. I know that that is not always a fashionable opinion, but the facts repudiate the idea that a Carthaginian peace was in fact imposed upon Germany. No division was made of the great masses of the German people. No portion of Germany inhabited by Germans was detached, except where there was the difficulty of disentangling the population of the Silesian border. No attempt was made to divide Germany as between the northern and southern portions which might well have tempted the conquerors at that time. No State was carved out of Germany. She underwent no serious territorial loss, except the loss of Alsace and Lorraine, which she herself had seized only 50 years before. The great mass of the Germans remained united after all that Europe had passed through, and they are more vehemently united to-day than ever before. You may talk of the War indemnity; what has happened there? I suppose that the Germans paid, in round terms, £1,000,000,000. But they had borrowed £2,000,000,000 at the same time, and there are no signs of their paying back.
  • On Armistice Day, the German armies had marched homeward in good order. “They fought well,” said Marshal Foch, Generalissimo of the Allies, with the laurels bright upon his brow, speaking in soldierly mood: “let them keep their weapons.” But he demanded that the French frontier should henceforth be the Rhine. Germany might be disarmed; her military system shivered in fragments; her fortresses dismantled: Germany might be impoverished; she might be loaded with measureless indemnities; she might become a prey to internal feuds: but all this would pass in ten years or in twenty. The indestructible might “of all the German tribes” would rise once more and the unquenched fires of warrior Prussia glow and burn again. But the Rhine, the broad, deep, swift-flowing Rhine, once held and fortified by the French Army, would be a barrier and a shield behind which France could dwell and breathe for generations. Very different were the sentiments and views of the English-speaking world, without whose aid France must have succumbed. The territorial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles left Germany practically intact. She still remained the largest homogeneous racial block in Europe. When Marshal Foch heard of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles he observed with singular accuracy: “This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years.”
    • Winston Churchill, The Second World War Volume I: The Gathering Storm (1948), 0-7953-0602-4,
  • The economic clauses of the Treaty were malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously futile. Germany was condemned to pay reparations on a fabulous scale. These dictates gave expression to the anger of the victors, and to the belief of their peoples that any defeated nation or community can ever pay tribute on a scale which would meet the cost of modern war. The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them. The newspapers, after their fashion, reflected and emphasised the prevailing opinions. Few voices were raised to explain that payment of reparations can only be made by services or by the physical transportation of goods in wagons across land frontiers or in ships across salt water; or that when these goods arrive in the demanding countries, they dislocate the local industry except in very primitive or rigorously controlled societies. In practice, as even the Russians have now learned, the only way of pillaging a defeated nation is to cart away any movables which are wanted, and to drive off a portion of its manhood as permanent or temporary slaves. But the profit gained from such processes bears no relation to the cost of the war. No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy, or detachment from public folly to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorates; nor would anyone have been believed if he had. The triumphant Allies continued to assert that they would squeeze Germany “till the pips squeaked.” All this had a potent bearing on the prosperity of the world and the mood of the German race.
    • Winston Churchill, The Second World War Volume I: The Gathering Storm (1948), 0-7953-0602-4,
  • To ensure the execution of the Treaty all we lacked later on was a statesman of some strength of purpose.
  • [T]he keynote of the Treaty of Versailles is the liberation of the peoples, the independence of nationalities, whereas the keynote of the policy of Marshal Foch and M. Poincaré was the occupation of a territory by force of arms against the will of its inhabitants.
  • The real task—and an absolutely new one—was the attempt to make definitely a Europe founded on right. In spite of some people's lack of understanding, to have attempted this will be the glory of the Treaty of Versailles. It is for future Governments to work at this task by some method other than that of eternally giving in. The realization of a Europe founded upon right was the greatest victory of all, the victory that neither Napoleon nor Foch wished to gain, and which required something more than successful strokes of strategy.
  • Now that one of its principal clauses had lapsed along with the [Anglo-American] Guarantee Pact, what was to happen to the Treaty as a whole, so closely correlated in all its parts? The country that had made the greatest sacrifices for the least return found herself, without even the ghost of an explanation, grievously wronged by the withdrawal of the clause that had been our military guarantee of security. Could we let this pass without protest, when it was a matter of life and death for France? ... The Treaty had fallen to the ground, since its mainstay, which had been provided by America in conjunction with England, had been taken away. We had given up the Rhineland because an offer had been made us to replace the German sentry on the Rhine by an English and an American soldier, side by side with the French soldier.
  • In truth, the bulk of the German nation, the Reich Government (so well personified in the circumstances by the late Herr Stresemann) is not at all eager to begin a new struggle with France. It is perfectly well aware—and the perpetual mutilations of the Treaty of Versailles have shown that it is right—that with patience, a great deal of boldness, and some cleverness, it will easily manage to obtain, from the weak and irresponsible Governments that have been succeeding one another in France since 1920, the almost complete annulment of the Treaty. During this time—that is to say, while Germany is preparing, that is, arming—what is the French Army doing? It is quite simple: it is disarming.
  • In my opinion the treaty was a bad one, very bad for us. It assured to us neither of the two things to which we were entitled: reparations and security. I said so to anyone who was willing to listen and to many who were not.
    • Ferdinand Foch, Marshal Foch: His Own Words on Many Subjects (1929), p. 44-45
  • I was convinced then—and my conviction has not since faltered—that the Treaty then in the making, which I was not allowed to modify, was bad for the safety of France. Very bad. It was full of flaws, it was fundamentally wrong, and cannot fail one day to have the worst results. On the day when it is apparent in all its evil, when France perceives that her interests were improperly defended, she will rise in deep anger against those who so imperfectly handled that defence.
    • Ferdinand Foch, Marshal Foch: His Own Words on Many Subjects (1929), p. 198
  • [T]he treaty...provided for a fifteen-year occupation of the Rhineland, with retreats every five years. Such a guarantee, I said without mincing my words, was "from the military point of view, null; it will merely be an increase of work for the Allied occupation." I went on to say that whereas the treaty was non-existent as promoter of our security, it was distinctly bad for reparations... I asked who would be judge of the situation if we sought to reoccupy the Rhineland because of an infringement of terms by Germany. The Commission for Reparations would not suffice, I said. It cannot be denied that I was right on this point.
    • Ferdinand Foch, Marshal Foch: His Own Words on Many Subjects (1929), p. 212-213
  • I bluntly remarked to M. Klotz, the Finance Minister: "With the treaty you have just signed, sir, you can expect with certainty to be paid in monkey tricks."
    • Ferdinand Foch, Marshal Foch: His Own Words on Many Subjects (1929), p. 220
  • As long as part of Europe is in flames we will have to defend the work of the treaties that established the current borders if we want to maintain an honorable peace.
  • As evidenced by facts, the Treaty of Versailles proved to be an important element in the greatest of Judaism's tragedies, for it was an agreement without a sword. He redesigned the map of Europe and imposed new solutions to ancient disputes without providing the material means to enforce them, thus introducing twenty years of growing instability, dominated by the ferocious hatreds that his own provisions had generated. In this atmosphere of discontent, intermittent violence and uncertainty, the situation of the Jews, far from improving, became increasingly uncertain.
  • It was the young Keynes who most famously chronicled the hope-smothering defects of the treaty that was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. Wilson had envisioned a liberal peace, a peace without victory, a peace that would magnanimously restore Germany to its rightful place in an open world of free trade and democracy. In that world commerce would be unshackled from political constraint, politics would be based on the principle of self-determination, and order would be maintained by a new international body, the League of Nations. But what emerged from the ordeal of the Paris peace negotiations was a document that mocked those ideals.
  • The Versailles Treaty, Keynes wrote in his embittered and astute tract of 1919, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, contained three lethal flaws. It transferred important coal, iron, and steel properties from Germany to France and prohibited their utilization by German industry. ‘‘Thus the Treaty strikes at organization,’’ Keynes declared, ‘‘and by the destruction of organization impairs yet further the reduced wealth of the whole community.’’ The treaty further stripped Germany of her overseas colonies, foreign investments, and merchant marine and restricted her control of her own waterways and tariffs. Most economically punishing of all, the victorious powers then imposed on this drastically weakened Germany a colossal bill for some $33 billion in reparations payments. Adding insult to injury, the treaty’s Article 231—the notorious ‘‘guilt clause’’—forced the Germans to acknowledge sole responsibility for the outbreak of the war. The treaty, Keynes concluded, insanely perpetuated in peacetime the economic disruptions of the war itself. To the military catastrophe of the fighting was now added the economic burden of a vengeful peace. Germany, struggling to become a republic, bore most of the fearful tonnage. But all nations, victors and vanquished alike, were bowed beneath its crushing ballast in the interwar decades.
  • There have been few negotiations in history so contorted, so miserable, so utterly unsatisfactory to all parties. I doubt if anyone who took much part in that debate can look back on it without shame.
    • John Maynard Keynes about the reparations chapter of the Treaty: quoted from The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919)[1]
  • I see in every article of this peace a small egg, a nucleus of further wars... You know what I always say about the need to impose all possible conditions. But the Allies are imposing impossible conditions. Not content, they set out to destroy the German merchant navy, its trade, everything! How will Germany ever earn the money necessary to fulfill its fair commitments? Madness! Pure madness!
  • The Treaty of Versailles produced oppressed Germans who produced wandering Jews who produced wandering Palestinians who produced pregnant widows of tomorrow's avengers.
  • The Treaty of Versailles was not that monument of iniquity that the extremists of neutralism and pacifism spoke of, reinforcing German revanchism. What gave it the appearance of "Carthaginian peace" in the eyes of the Germans - but not only them - was, even more than the specific clauses, the ostentatious external character of imposition.

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References edit

  1. Banerji, Arun (1996-05-04). "A Long Struggle to Escape from Old Ideas". Economic and Political Weekly 31 (18).

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