Standards 10.6.1, 10.6.2 The Paris Peace Conference – Beginning on January 18, 1919, a meeting between leaders of 32 nations began to agree on terms of peace at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. The talks would last 6 months until terms were decided, with each country debating bitterly their aims after the war. Russia was not involved (civil war/communist revolution) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, et al) were not allowed to attend the conference.
The Big Four – 1) David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain; 2) Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France; 3) Vittorio Orlando, Prime Minister of Italy, 4) Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States. While there were 32 leaders at the conference, these 4 men dominated the talks molding the peace agreement and became known as “the Big Four” at the Paris Peace Conference.
Wilson’s 14 Points Plan –Woodrow Wilson’s plan to achieve a just and lasting peace after WWI. Among Wilson’s main goals: 1) An end to secret treaties (alliances), 2) Free Trade and Freedom of the seas, 3) Reduction of military power, 4) Self-Determination, 5) Creation of a League of Nations, 6) Redrawing Boundary Lines in Europe.
1. No more secret treaties.
2. Freedom of the seas.
3. An end to customs duties.
4. All countries to reduce armaments.
5. Freedom for colonies.
6. The German Army must leave Russia.
7. Belgium must be independent.
8. France should be fully liberated and should get back Alsace-Lorraine
9. Self-determination for Italians.
10. Self-determination for all peoples in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
11. Self-determination and independence for the Balkan nations.
14. A League of Nations. The League of Nations –An international peacekeeping organization where member countries could discuss problems and come to solutions without military action. The League required member nations to lend the League troops in case of emergency and countries did not comply with League of Nations decisions.
The Treaty of Versailles Military Restrictions – This process was called demilitarization and included the following provisions: 1) Limited the size of the German military to 100,000 total infantry and a reduction of ships in their navy and had them demilitarize the Rhineland (west of the Rhine River that borders France), 2) Germany was prohibited from importing or manufacturing weapons or war materials, 3) Germany was forbidden to build or buy submarines or have an Air Force.
Territory – 1) Germany returns Alsace-Lorraine province back to France and the French border extends to the Rhine River, 2) Germany surrenders all overseas colonies in Africa and the Pacific – the League of Nations would control these nations until they were deemed ready for independence, 3) Germany would lose territory to create new nations in Eastern Europe – Czechoslovakia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Danzig, East Prussia.
League of Nations – The Treaty of Versailles resulted in the creation of the League of Nations. Germany and the other Central Powers were excluded, the Soviet Union declined to join and was excluded later as a communist nation, and the United States declined to join citing their loss of power to declare war.
War Guilt Clause – 1) Germany had to take sole responsibility for starting the war, 2) Germany had to pay 269 billion gold marks equivalent to $64 billion U.S. dollars ($778 billion today, deemed as excessive punishment and was one of the causes of WWII.)
Problems with the Treaty Competing Interests – The European nations (France especially) were more interested in punishing Germany than creating peace. Wilson was interested in creating this lasting peace and Italy was interested in territorial gain.
The War Guilt Clause – Reparations put German into a state of hyper-inflation of the economy and severe depression, resulting in the political turmoil that led to the rise of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler becoming the dictator in the 1930’s.
The League of Nations – Because agreement to the Treaty meant joining the League of Nations, the U.S. Congress declined the treaty and reached separate peace agreements with Germany and the Central Powers. Germany, Russia, and other Central Powers nations were prohibited from joining. Without numerous world powers, the League of Nations was doomed to failure and would not create a lasting peace.
Austria-Hungary – Austria-Hungary was forced apart from a dual empire after WWI and could not reunite again becoming separate countries. Also, the creation of Slavic nations now occurred out of Austro-Hungarian territory, as well as Czechoslovakia.
Ottoman Empire – Their defeat in WWI resulted in an end to one of the most powerful empires in world history as the Allied Powers broke up Ottoman territory into mandates that would become independent later on.
Russia – Russia would also lose land as a result of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty which gave land to Germany but was taken away after Germany’s defeat. Soon, the Bolsheviks would transform the nation into the Soviet Union.
Great Depression – Because of the billions of dollars spent to finance the war, the widespread destruction and cost to rebuild, stretching of all resources to fight the war, and heavy loans, Europe is going to see a post-war depression for their economies. Germany is hit the hardest because of their reparation payments and hit an era of hyper-inflation.
“Lost Generation” – This term was used to describe the feelings of western literature and art after WWI. The emptiness and disillusionment of fighting WWI had this negative effect on the young adults of this generation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj5ClZAQwHs
Art, literature, and architecture became very bland, realistic, efficient, and to the point.
Lasting Peace? –In the end, the harsh restrictions of the treaty would create atmospheres in countries that would lead to depression and totalitarian dictatorships taking control of countries. Italy and Japan would be upset at not gaining enough territory from the Treaty. Colonies would not receive the self-determination that was promised in the treaty and these factors would create tension that led to WWII.
Discussion Questions – Talk and write about questions 1. Respond to this scenario: You get in an argument with a friend. You argue about the problem and in the end you are on the losing side of the argument. To fix the problem, you agree on certain things. Should the “peace agreement” be solely dictated by your friend or should they have to take your concerns under consideration so that you can come to some sort of compromise? Explain. How does this relate to the Paris Peace Conference?
2. How does the above scenario relate to the Paris Peace Conference? Explain.
3. Why does the Treaty of Versailles help create WWII? Explain.