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A Twenty Year Armistice Essay

2333 words - 10 pages

Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Allies’ Commander-in-Chief of World War I, once said upon the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years” (Churchill 7). Looking back on history, one realizes the validity of Foch’s statement. Approximately twenty years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, another monstrous war overtook Europe. That war, World War II, appeared to have its origins in unresolved disputes from the first war. This raises the question of whether or not the treaty and the war have a strong connection, as Foch predicted they would. While historians do not all agree on the matter, a slight majority argues that the Treaty of Versailles had a pronounced impact on bringing about the war. The treaty enacted unnecessarily rigorous punishments on Germany that greatly angered its citizens to desire retribution. Those injustices provided the perfect arena for the National Socialists, or Nazis, to rise to power in Germany, and inevitably started World War II.
The process of drafting the Treaty of Versailles had questionable methods which aid in explaining some of the problems it caused. On November 11, 1918, Matthias Erzberger, the Secretary of State for Germany, agreed to an armistice with the Allied Powers to bring an end to World War I (Buchanan 70). Germany signed the cease-fire under the belief that the terms of the peace they agreed to would look similar to then-US President Wilson’s proposed fourteen points (Buchanan 107). Wilson’s plan for the treaty encouraged Europe to abandon the grievances the war brought and did not harshly punish Germany as the defeated nation (Stevenson 194). This agreeable answer on how to handle Europe did not last long; in fact, the Allies violated the very first point of the fourteen (Stackelberg 70). Uninvited to the peace conference at Versailles, the German people felt betrayed by Wilson whose first point had called for “open covenants openly arrived at” (Buchanan 73; Stackelberg 69). The lack of German presence at the discussion for the terms of peace startled many Germans, since they had allowed a French delegation at the Congress of Vienna after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 (Buchanan 84). Also, this guaranteed that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles would have a harsher nature, especially considering the opinions of those drafting it (Buchanan 71-72). The Big Three, a title given to those who had a major role in negotiating the peace, consisted of Lloyd George of Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States (Churchill 12). Originally both Wilson and George had no desire to force a harsh penalty on Germany (Buchanan 71). Political pressure in Britain from the general public due to their anger from the war’s death toll caused George to switch from a mild stance to a severe one, claiming that he would guarantee that Germany would pay the “full cost of the war” (Buchanan 71). Wilson entered the war declaring that he...

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