Conflict and Compromise in The Resolution of World War One and the Paris Peace Conference2,329 words From July 1914, to November 1918, World War 1 took the lives of over twenty million soldiers, and around ten million civilians.(“First World War Timeline”) At the time, as the world looked in shock at what had happened, it truly was, “the war to end all wars”.(“First World War Timeline). But how did the war end? What lead to peace? How was the conflict of World War One, stopped with the Compromise of the Treaty of Versailles, and was it truly a fair compromise for everyone?(Simkin, John). Did the Paris Peace Conference, and their effect on German, lead to World War II? Was Hitler’s rise to power, partially because of the one sided “Compromise” at Versailles.
Are the Peace Conference to blame for the loss of 80 million more lives, 30 years after it was signed?(Simkin, John) This paper looks into the treaty, and the Peace Conference in general, a flawed compromise, to end a pointless conflict. and its immediate effects, along with how it may still affect us to this very day(“Economic Effects of the Treaty of Versailles”). How the failure to reach a true compromise caused great pain and suffering.
So what was this conference, and what was this treaty, and most importantly, how is conflict and compromise displayed by them?The End of a WarThe year is 1918, the fifth and final year of World War One, known at the time, as “The War to End all Wars”(“Timeline of Events at The End of World War One”). The United States of America had previously entered the war in 1917, mostly due to the Central Powers policy of unrestricted submarine warfare(“First World War Timeline). However, the previous year was definitely not a failure for the Central Powers. Due to an internal revolution, Russia was forced to exit the war, and another British attempt to end the war with a major offensive, ended in a costly failure at Passchendaele(“Timeline of Events At The End of World War One”). Also, during the Nivelle Offensive, over 20,000 French troops deserted, leading to the replacement of Robert Nivelle as Commander in Chief of the French troops(“Timeline of Events At The End of World War One”). By 1918, Germany and the rest of the Central Powers were hopeful that the divisions that had previously been fighting in Russia, could be used to launch a decisive offense against the Allied forces(“German Spring Offensives”). The German High Command drew up a plan code named “Operation Michael”, for a 1918 offensive on the Western Front(“German Spring Offensives”). Germany hoped that if they were able to quickly move, the war could end before significant US forces could arrive to reinforce the Allies and end the war(“German Spring Offensives”).
The operation began on March 21 of 1918, with an attack on British forces near St. Quentin, the German forces were able take 255 km of land on the first day(“German Spring Offensives”). However, the attack was not able to achieve significant results, as most of the land that Germany had captured, had little strategic value(“German Spring Offensives”). On March 26, Ferdinand Foch is appointed the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces(Hickman, Kennedy). Operation Michael finally ended on April 5th, Germany had taken 3,100 Kilometers of land, and captured 90,000 prisoners(“German Spring Offensives”).
However, Germany was unable to decisively destroy the British army, or isolate it from it’s French allies(“German Spring Offensives”). On a April 9th, Germany launched “Operation Georgette” which intended to capture Hazebrouck, an important rail hub(“German Spring Offensives”). The attack failed because of the way that the commander of the German forces, Erich Ludendorff dispersed his attacks instead of concentrating them on certain areas of trenches(“German Spring Offensives”). The next German operation was called “Operation Blücher” and was launched on the 27th of May(“German Spring Offensives”). It was created as a diversion to distract French reserves stationed in Flanders, but Erich Ludendorff was stunned by its success and and expanded it into a complete offensive(“German Spring Offensives”). German troops advanced to 90 kilometers away from Paris, but like in “Operation Michael” the Germans failed to deal a decisive blow to their enemies, and created a more vulnerable German front line, due to the poor positions that they had captured from the Allies(“German Spring Offensives”). Another offensive was launched on the 9th of June, code named “Gneisenau”, but it was inconclusive and failed to gain anything of tactical value(“German Spring Offensives”). A final assault on Champange on the 15th of July, ended in completely failure for the German troops(“German Spring Offensives”).
3 days later, the Allies counter attacked the German lines, seizing the initiative of the war(“World War One Timeline”). On August 8th, the allies began their “100 Day” offensive, beginning with the Battle of Amiens(“Battle of Amiens”). With a force of 75,000 troops, 500 tanks, and over 2,000 planes, the Allies were able to inflict over 27,000 casualties at the first day of fighting at Amiens(“Battle of Amiens”). In comparison, the troops fighting at the front lines for the Allies, mostly Canadians and Australians, only suffered 6,500 casualties(“Battle of Amiens”).
The Allied advance was eventually stopped, but the sheer number of casualties that the Germans had faced compared to the Allies, caused Erich Ludendorff to declare, “August 8th was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war.”(“Battle of Amiens”). After August 8th, offensive after offensive continued to destroy the morale of the Central Powers, and finally, on October 3-4, Germany and Austria, sent an armistice request to Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States of America(“World War One Timelines”). Bulgaria had already concluded negotiations 4 days earlier(“World War One Timelines”). On the 21st of October, Germany ceased its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare(“World War One Timelines”). On the 27th Erich Ludendorff resigned as General(“World War One Timelines”). On the 30th, Turkey concludes its negotiations with the Allies(“World War One Timelines”). And finally, from November 7-11, Germany negotiated an armistice, in the rail car of Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces(“World War One Timelines”).
On the 9th, in the middle of the negotiations, Kaiser Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany, abdicates the throne and flees to Holland(“World War One Timelines”). The war, which had consumed so many lives over it’s five years of destruction, was virtually over. This vast conflict had finally ended, and many hoped that the compromise that would truly end the war, would be able to deter wars like this from ever happening again(“Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of a War”).
Peace At Last?The armistice that ended the war was signed on the 11th of November(“Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of a War””). One of the conditions of the armistice, was that a Peace Conference that would be held in Paris, would discuss what would now happen in the world(“Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of a War”). The Conference began on January 12th, 1919(“Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of a War”). The leaders of 32 different states attended, and over 75 percent of the world’s population was represented(“Simkin, John”). However, the five major states that defeated the Central Powers had the most control of the Conference(“The Treaty of Versailles”). These countries were: The United States of America, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan(“Simkin, John”). The most influential people in the Conference were, Georges Clemenceau(who was the current Prime Minister of France), David Lloyd George(The Prime Minister of Britain), Vittorio Orlando(The Prime Minister of Italy who was there with his Foreign Minister), and Woodrow Wilson(The President of the United States)(“The Treaty of Versailles”). Woodrow Wilson believed that peace should be based upon the “Fourteen Points” that he had given in a speech to congress in 1918 and published afterwords(“World War One Timelines”).
The points included “Point II”: which called for freedom of countries to navigate the ocean freely, “outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.”, “Point IV”: Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.”, and “Point III”: “The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.”(“The Fourteen Points”). These points and others, were opposed by David Lloyd George who saw some of them, as attempts to weaken the power of the British Empire(“David Lloyd Georges”). However, Lloyd George had previously given a similar speech outlining the war aims of Britain and agreed with the general philosophy of the “Fourteen points”(“Simkin, John”). However Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France, completely opposed the “Fourteen Points.
” He remarked to Lloyd, that “After the millions who have died and the millions who have suffered, I believe – indeed I hope – that my successor in office would take me by the nape of the neck and have me shot.” As negotiations continued, the Allies didn’t lift the Naval Blockade that they had imposed on Germany, which resulted in many deaths due to starvation(“Simkin, John”). This was remarked on by Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, the German delegate to the Conference, who made a speech denouncing the Allies for leaving the naval blockade in place after the war had been won(“Simkin, John”). Meanwhile, the British and French delegation fought on the issue of how much Germany should pay in restitution for the war(“Simkin, John”). The leaders of the France and British delegations(the two prime ministers), disliked each other, and constantly insulted each other(“George Clemenceau”). Clemenceau said Lloyd lacked a formal education, and knew nothing about the world beyond Great Britain(“David Lloyd Georges”).
Lloyd called Clemenceau, “disagreeable and bad-tempered old savage” who, despite his large head, “had no dome of benevolence, reverence or kindliness”(Simkin, John”). Lloyd wanted Germany to pay 25 billion pounds in restitution, 1.2 billion per year(“Simkin, John”).
Clemenceau wanted 44 billion, and Wilson believed that Germany would only be able to afford 6 billion in total(“Simkin, John”). However, Lloyd also wanted Germany to pay for widow’s pensions and disability pensions, despite the opposition from his Treasury representative(“Simkin, John”). A politician named Philip Henry Kerr also believed that Lloyd was demanding too much from Germany and expressed his fear to him, that Germany might become a communist nation because of how much they would have to pay, and that Germany would someday find a way to avenge their unjust treatment at the Conference, however far into the future(“Simkin, John). After all of this, Lloyd began to support Wilson’s idea of 6 billion pounds, however, when newspapers learned this, they published letters signed by the vast majority of Parliament that supported the idea of Germany paying the full cost of the war, not just 6 billion pounds(“Simkin, John”).
Because of this, Lloyd was politically forced to make a suggesting he wouldn’t support Wilson’s ideas and it was wrong to believe he would accept a lower amount that what he had earlier suggested(“Simkin, John”). As the Conference continued, the Australian Prime Minister, William Hughes entered the discussion, also suggesting that Germany should pay the full amount, which he estimated at 25 billion pounds(Simkin, John). John Foster Dulles, of the American delegation, commented that Germany should only have to pay 5 billion(“Simkin, John”). Because of this, and facing the idea of a United States Veto, the French abandoned their claim to the largest share of the restitution(“Simkin, John”).
Lloyd eventually realized that Germany would be unable to pay an extremely large amount of money and talked to Dulles, saying he “would have to tell our people the facts”(“Simkin, John”). As the debate about how much Germany should be forced to pay continued, Georges Clemenceau made his final statement to the other delegations, in an attempt to impose the harsh terms that he had been fight for since the beginning(“Simkin, John”). He said, “For many years the rulers of Germany, true to the Prussian tradition, strove for a position of dominance in Europe.
They were not satisfied with that growing prosperity and influence to which Germany was entitled, and which all other nations were willing to accord her, in the society of free and equal peoples. They required that they should be able to dictate and tyrannise to a subservient Europe, as they dictated and tyrannised over a subservient Germany… The conduct of Germany is almost unexampled in human history.
The terrible responsibility which lies at her doors can be seen in the fact that not less than seven million dead lie buried in Europe, while more than twenty million others carry upon them the evidence of wounds and sufferings, because Germany saw fit to gratify her lust for tyranny by resort to war.”(“Simkin, John”). He then continued his arguments for extremely harsh sanctions on Germany with, “Justice, therefore, is the only possible basis for the settlement of the accounts of this terrible war. His speech continued and he spent a long time justifying why Germany should pay for all of the costs of the war(“Simkin, John”).
John Maynard Keynes then spoke, arguing that it was good for the sake capitalism, that the food crisis in Germany be resolved as fast as it possibly could, and that if that couldn’t be done, Germany was at risk of becoming communist(“Simkin, John”). He believed that the restitution should be postponed until Germany’s capacity to pay restitution could be determined(“Simkin, John”). Eventually, a “Compromise” was reached among the delegates, Germany would pay 6.6 billion pounds. Five different treaties were signed, one for each of the Central Powers(“Simkin, John”). The treaty that dealt with Germany was called the “Treaty of Versailles”(“Simkin, John”). The most important parts of the treaty were the following, Germany would surrender all of her colonies, She would lose territory to France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania, The Rhineland would be demilitarized and occupied for 15 years, payment of 6.
6 billion pounds, a ban on a Union of Austria and Germany, and massive restrictions on Germany’s military(“Treaty of Versailles”). The treaty was signed on the 28th of June. ConclusionThe horrible conflict of World War One was over, the compromise in Paris, and the Treaty of Versailles truly ended the war(“Treaty of Versailles). However, the one sided terms of the “compromise” and the lack of representation by the losing side, along with the treaty’s failure to prevent a war, a mere 21 years later(“Treaty of Versailles”). There was so much conflict, and a long period of compromise, but in the end, was it for nothing? Perhaps the words of Ferdinand Foch, are able sum up the failure of the compromise to truly resolve the conflict, “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years”(Hickman, Kennedy). Such is the tragedy of the conflict and compromise that took place at the end of World War One.BibliographyPrimary Sources:Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points.
” Avalon Project – President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Yale Law University , 2008, avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson14.asp.
(A very famous statement by Woodrow Wilson, 10 days before the Paris Peace Conference started. He has some very interesting points to make. A document obviously.)Secondary Sources:”Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005425.
(The actual Treaty of Versailles. It’s important to read it, rather than just read about it to understand what exactly it was. A website)”The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles.” U.S.
Department of State, U.S. Department of State, history.state.
gov/milestones/1914-1920/paris-peace.(Lots of good credible information about the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles. Thissource is from the US Government. A website)The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Paris Peace Conference.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 12 Dec. 2016, www.
britannica.com/event/Paris-Peace-Conference.(Not very in depth, but gives a lot of links so you can further explore this topic. A website)Wilde, Robert. “The Treaty of Versailles Explained.” ThoughtCo, www.
thoughtco.com/the-treaty-of-versailles-an-overview-1221958.(A nice brief overview of the treaty, not very in depth.
Probably trustworthy. A website)Boundless. “Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of the War.” Diplomacy and Negotiations at the End of the War | Boundless US History, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/diplomacy-and-negotiations-at-the-end-of-the-war/.
(The most in depth source I have. This basically chronicles everything that happened at the Paris Peace Conference. Very trustworthy, a website.)”Economic effects of the Treaty of Versailles.
” The Holocaust Explained, www.theholocaustexplained.org/ks4/the-nazi-rise-to-power/the-german-economy-c-1919-29/economic-effects-of-the-treaty-of-versailles/#.WfH6-ZH3ahA(All about the after effects of the treaty. Very good source. Lots of information, and links for a whole lot more. A website.
Very trustworthy)([email protected]), John Simkin. Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, spartacus-educational.com/FWWversailles.
htm.(This article had a lot of details about the treaty, but it doesn’t have very many links besides this, and the website layout is very outdated. Probably trustworthy, a website)History.
com Staff. “Woodrow Wilson.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/woodrow-wilson. Extremely in depth article on Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, and one of the leaders of the American delegation there. This is a very trustworthy source.
A website)”History – David Lloyd George.” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.
uk/history/historic_figures/george_david_lloyd.shtml.(Very good article about David Lloyd George, who was a member of the Big Four that dominated the Peace Conference. BBC is definitely a trustworthy source. A website )”Firstworldwar.com.” First World War.Com – Who’s Who – Georges Clemenceau, www.
(Another bio about another member of the Big Four, again, by what seems like a very trustworthy source. A website)The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Vittorio Orlando.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 4 Oct.
2016, www.britannica.com/biography/Vittorio-Orlando.(A bio of the last member of the Big Four.
By Britannica, so it’s definitely a very trustworthy source. Very in depth article. A website)”Timeline of events in 1918 and the end of World War One.” Historic UK, www.
historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/World-War-1-Timeline-1918/.(Very helpful at the beginning of the paper for going over what happened at the very end of World War One.
)History.com Staff. “Battle of Amiens.
” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/amiens-battle-of.(Very good source for one specific battle I was taking a closer look at)”Firstworldwar.com.
” First World War.Com – Timeline – 1918, www.firstworldwar.com/timeline/1918.htm.
(Good timeline for events that happened at the end of WW1, which was the part I did research on.)Hickman, Kennedy. “Supreme Commander: Marshal Ferdinand Foch.
” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/world-war-i-marshal-ferdinand-foch-2360157.(Biography of man who was able to predict World War II.
Was also the Supreme commander of Allied forces)”German Spring Offensives 1918.” New Articles RSS, encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/german_spring_offensives_1918.(Good Source for the German Offenses at the end of World War One