Widely regarded as a harmful consequence of defeat in WWI
German reaction to the Treaty of Versailles was generally an adverse one. The Germans were in many respects shocked by their defeat in the First World War.
The Shock of Defeat
The Treaty of Versailles was deeply unpopular in Germany for various reasons. For many Germans the armistice of 11th November 1918 had come as a most unpleasant shock due to believing that the German army had been invincible. The Treaty of Versailles left Germany militarily weak as well as accused of being responsible for starting the war.
The Treaty of Versailles had to be signed by the civilian German government otherwise the Allies would have invaded Germany. Nationalist and right wing parties in Germany reacted to the Treaty of Versailles by berating the left-wing government that had no alternative to signing the treaty. The German military had allowed civilians to take control of the government shortly before the armistice, so that they would take the blame for surrendering.
The German Generals Generating Opposition To the Treaty of Versailles
The truth was that military defeat would have been inevitable during 1919 so the German general staff had created the myth of the stab in the back. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles plenty of scope for using the November criminals as the scapegoats for Germany’s trouble at the end of the First World War. After all Germany lost substantial amounts of territory, was stripped of military power, and had to pay reparations to the Allied powers.
Germany had lost all of its overseas colonies during the course of the First World War and might have hoped that they would be returned to German control. Even had Germany retained its colonies it was not allowed enough military and naval strength to effectively control them. The Treaty of Versailles confirmed the loss of the German empire, with the former colonies being divided between the victorious Allied powers. The loss of Germany's overseas empire was not as unpopular as the other clauses of the Treaty of Versailles such as the loss of German territory, the forced disarmament, and the setting of reparation payments.
How Opposition To Versailles Weakened Democracy
The loss of German territory brought about by the Treaty of Versailles was deeply unpopular within Germany itself. The border provinces of Alsace and Lorraine gained in the Franco-Prussian War were returned to France. The newly re-created state of Poland was given West Prussia so that it had a coastline. The creation of the Polish corridor meant that Germany was actually split into two parts. Nationalists were angered at the reduction of the size of Germany, and wanted to regain the borders of the Second Reich.
The Germans reacted badly to being disarmed by the Treaty of Versailles. The German army was reduced in size to 100,000. The German navy was only allowed ships below 10,000 tonnes displacement. Germany was not allowed aircraft, submarines, and tanks. The German High Seas Fleet was moved to Scarpa Flow to have its ships redistributed amongst the Allied powers yet its crews scuttled it.
Finally the Germans really resented the reparations payments imposed on them by the Treaty of Versailles. They claimed that the payments were far too high and prevented the economic reconstruction of Germany. German reaction to the Versailles Settlement also weakened the Weimar Republic.
Hobsbawm, E (1994) Age of Extremes, the Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991, Michael Joseph, London
Roberts J.M, (1996) A History of Europe, Penguin, London & New York
Woodruff W, (2005) A concise history of the Modern World, Abacus, London
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