In November 1918, Germany and its allies were exhausted and surrendered, marking the end of the First World War (WWI). Among the many treaties made immediately after to govern world peace, was the treaty of Versailles signed in June 1919. The treaty of Versailles was significant in realizing the end of WWI. From the treaty, the League of Nations was formed to maintain world peace, make structures for world security, and encourage free trade. However, the treaty was controversial and created conflicting debates from the beginning. The most controversial part of the Treaty of Versailles was the “war guilt” clause that wanted Germany, together with the Central Powers, to admit to being the cause of WWI. With this admission of guilt, Germany lost 13% of its territory and international colonies, had its military force reduced, and was left paying reparations to the winning nation (Kim 2018, 13). Therefore, while the treaty of Versailles helped end WWI, it created problems that resulted in WWII, which was more severe in terms of the number of casualties and the effect on the world economy.
Different historians and authors have expressed their varying opinions about the Treaty of Versailles. Ewan Kim’s thesis in his article stated that the attempt of the few elite leaders to create peace through the treaty became the primary cause of WWII (Kim 2018). To prove his thesis, Ewan discusses a series of events leading to WWII that occurred due to the Treaty of Versailles. First, he argues that in a room comprised of the WWI victors only, a treaty was created to decide what peace would look like for the entire world. The countries that had lost the war, including Germany, were excluded from the conference. This was the first cause of resentment from Germany and other nations against the treaty as it created a face of revenge against Germany. To some, the treaty was not a representation of peace but instead an “armistice for twenty years” (Gerwarth 2021, 896). Secondly, Kim (2018) illustrates the greed for power, which affords different countries privileges that the less powerful lack. For instance, Germany was superior in weapons, military, and economic aspects, thus earning them 22 colonies. Having more colonies was an advantage because it availed more resources to the colonizers. Therefore, when Germany’s colonies and territory were taken away through the treaty, they were at risk of being scrapped from the list of the most powerful countries. The Treaty of Versailles embarrassed Germany and removed privileges the country had enjoyed for years. For this reason, the treaty was loathed across Germany, and most of its people protested against the “unfair treatment.” The need to be freed from the treaty led to the Nazi party’s growth. From 1928-1933, the Nazi party gained from 74.6% to 83.4% in the parliamentary elections (Kim 2018, 17). To regain their power and privileges, Germany invaded Poland in 1939, formally marking the beginning of WWII. This attack triggered France and the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany. Other countries joined later, with the entry of the United States making it a full-blown war.
Further, Kim states that in 1919, Japan pushed to include racial equality in the Treaty of Versailles, but the suggestions were declined. The country felt that the treaties following the end of WWI helped the westerners to gather more wealth and resources (Kim 2018, 10). Japan had long wanted to gather imperial power, so it invaded the Manchuria region of China to add to its colonies. The Japanese forces committed sexual crimes and massacred people for years without international retaliation (Kim 2018, 30). The US eventually cut off Japan from oil supplies in response. Japan retaliated by attacking Pearl Harbor, causing the US to declare war on them. This evidence supports Kim’s thesis because it clearly outlines the important events, values, and politics of the time. He outlines all the events he believes are connected to the treaty and extensively explains how they are connected. Therefore, the article showed a clear understanding of important elements of the countries’ history, values, and practices at the time of the issue.
Another researched source was Sarah Pruitt’s article “How the Treaty of Versailles and Germany’s Guilt led to World War II.” The central thesis of this work was “From the moment the leaders of the Allied countries arrived in France in 1919, the post-war reality began to diverge sharply from Wilson’s idealistic vision.” (Pruitt 2019, paragraph 1). Thus, in his article, the researcher talks about what consequences the Versailles agreement had for subsequent events that affected the whole world. Moreover, it is noted that, in conclusion, not all nations were allowed to speak out, which also had negative consequences. “evidence-based.” The article is divided into sections for a better understanding of the content. For example, it touches on issues such as the agreement causing not only World War II but also the Great Depression or that the treaty did not satisfy some nations that were involved. Therefore, it can be concluded that reading demonstrates a deep understanding of history, politics, and beliefs.
Both authors are well-versed in the works of history and use appropriate sources to reference their work. However, Ewan’s work is more convincing and the author made clearer statements as he references different events connected to the Treaty of Versaille’s beliefs and cultures of the people during that time. On the contrary, Pruitt’s conclusion emphasized the influence of Germany and what it had done to the lesser powerful nations before WWII.
The readings have influenced me to think that even though the treaty did not serve its purpose of stopping another war, it could have been stopped had the allied nations enforced it. The nations fell out and played off one another instead. This is a controversial view, but what remains certain is that Adolf Hitler manipulated the treaty to his advantage. Germany may have played a role in how the other nations perceived them, with how they had imposed harsh measures on others. However, whether one wrong justifies another is down to the perspective of different individuals. One’s past and experience can influence an individual’s point of view on the issue under study. In my case, I have heard various opinions about this problem and have learned to adequately evaluate the information provided to me. In the past few years, the United States and the world at large have noted an increase in the popularity of fascism. The ideology is more present in places that have little to no diversity. The process of Nazism’s growth in its original context, following the introduction of the Treaty of Versailles, relates to and differs from unfolding current happenings. Fascism in the US is mostly characterized by rampant racism that interferes with the basic human rights of people of color. Nazism and fascism both began by isolating a group of people and labeling them inferior then condemning them. The difference is that in Nazism, people were outrightly murdered, while in modern fascism their livelihoods are taken away, and left to live miserable lives.
Gerwarth, Robert. 2021. “The Sky beyond Versailles: The Paris Peace Treaties in Recent Historiography.” The Journal of Modern History 93, 4: 896-930.
Kim, Euwan. 2018. “The Treaty Of Versailles: How An Attempt At Peace Inadvertently Led To The Rise Of The Nazi Party.” SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.
Pruitt, Sarah. 2019. “How the Treaty of Versailles and German Guilt Led to World War II.” History, 2019.