VersaillesMirrors.jpg
Hall of Mirrors where the treaty was signed

Treaty of Versailles and Paris Peace Conference [1]


Fall of the Central Powers
The fall of the Central Powers led to the signing of the armistice (truce) that ended World War I. There were two main events that altered the course of the war: (1) the Czar Nicholas of Russia was forced to abdicate in 1917 and a provisional Russian government was formed (2) the US, angered by the sinking of neutral ships and passenger liners (Lusitania) declared war on Germany on April 2nd, 1917.
Bolsheviks (Russian revolutionaries) overthrew the Russian provisional government in 1917, and promised the public “peace and bread”. A peace treaty was signed between Russia and Germany on the Eastern Front, and this gave Germany the advantage of being free to fight only on the Western Front. The Germans were desperate for a victory and moved to strike before too many American Troops reached France. In the summer of 1918, the new front line was 75 km from Paris, however, the Germans had no reserves, food, supplies, or fresh troops and were completely drained. They knew the war was over.
In the final months of the war, or “100 days”, Canada’s offenses were among the most successful of the allies. They broke through German lines and won important battles at Arras, Cambrai [4], and Valenciennes [3]. The Central Powers crumbled and the German Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The armistice that ended the war was signed in France on a railway car, ending the war at 11 a.m. on Nov 11th, 1918.

versailles2.jpg
Palace of Versailles

Paris Peace Conference [5][6] and the Treaty of Versailles [7]
The Paris Peace Conference was an international meeting that occurred January 1919 at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. The purpose of this conference was to set conditions of peace after WW1. Prime Minister Borden fought so Canada could have our own seat at the Peace Conference instead of being represented by Britain. In total, 70 delegates from 27 countries participated:

· At first, there was the “Council of Ten”; it consisted of the heads of the government and foreign ministers of 5 major victors – Great Britain, France, US, Italy, and Japan
· Council of Ten proved to be mildly unmanageable; Japan and the foreign ministers leave the main meetings – representatives of Great Britain, France, US and Italy are now known as the “Big Four”
· Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando leaves the negotiations after his territorial claims to Fiume (present – Rijeka [2]) were denied; however he returned in June to sign the treaty
· Final conditions of the document were determined by the “Big Three” – British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, US President Woodrow Wilson


The treaty contained a total of 440 articles, and numerous annexes. The document was presented to Germany for consideration on May 7th, 1919. The German government was given 3 weeks to accept the treaty. The Germans complained, but they were simply ignored. Many people believed the treaty strayed too far from Wilson’s 14 points, and the United States believes that the penalties were too harsh for Germany, but the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28th, 1919, 5 years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Some controversy: even today it is often argued that the disciplinary terms in the Treaty was a part of the uprising of the Nazis in Germany; this in turn led to the outbreak of World War II

What the "Big Three" Thought
Europe1914.gif
Europe in 1914

Europe1918.gif
1918, you can see Germany was significantly reduced in size
Germany Pays

Though President Wilson’s plan stressed forgiveness, French and Belgian leaders wanted Germany to compensate for the damage to their countries. They insisted that:

· Germany agree to a “War Guilt Clause”: the Germans had to accept responsibility for causing the war
· Germany had to pay war reparations totalling about $30 billion
· The map of Europe was to be redrawn to reduce German territory (total loss, 13.5%, about 7 million people) and divide it into two parts so Poland could have access to the sea
· The German army was restricted to 100,000 men. Germany was also no longer allowed U-Boats or an air force (U-Boat is an Anglicization of the German word U-boot, short for Unterseeboot [Undersea Boat]. In other words, submarines)


Germany’s economy, like everybody else’s, was in complete and total devastation, so they couldn’t make the reparation payments



League of Nations
The point of the League of Nations was to serve as an international forum and international collective security arrangement. US President Woodrow Wilson was a strong believer in the League of Nations because he thought it would prevent potential wars. However, this proved to be more of an idealistic than a practical solution to world’s problems: it required all the countries to cooperate but the nations were having issues cooperating already.
The league could impose economic sanctions (penalties, ex. restriction of trade) if a nation was being aggressive. However, the league had no military force of its own to inflict its decisions upon any attacking nations


Irony: US never joined the League of Nations though their president was responsible for its establishment

Additional Info

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qJmFcNBsGw
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rijeka
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valenciennes#First_World_War
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrai_1917
[5] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_extent_did_the_Paris_Peace_settlement_attempt_to_solve_problems_in_World_War_1
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Conference,_1919
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Versailles

Sources