Aftermath of First World War
As we have read in the last post that the Battle of Jutland proved to be the decisive battle. By the middle of 1918, the allied powers (The United States of America, Russia, Britain and France) pushed the Germans back. Though Germans represented extraordinary military power in the First World War. But allied powers with the fullest cooperation and unity effort successfully pushed back the Germans. It is said for the Germans that,
They had come in with the roar of a tiger, to disappear like the tail of a snake.
On November 11, 1918, the allied and axis powers signed an armistice and First World War came to an end. US president Woodrow Wilson formulated “Fourteen Points” for the armistice. In his fourteen points, he talked about the principles of self-determination, disarmament, no secret diplomacy, League of Nations etc.
Surrender of Germany
Germany was convinced with the fourteen points of US President Woodrow Wilson, as they were keen designed to have peace, cooperation etc. Germany surrendered in 1918. The war was over. But Britain blocked the food supply to the Germany.
Britain was showing its ultimate hatred to the Germans, and by blocking the food supply to Germany, it wanted to punish Germany. Indeed the British Prime Minister Lloyd George, which was a liberal, too supported this blockade. For more than seven years after the war, Britain continued with this blockade. Bethmann Hollweg, the old Chancellor of Germany said:
Our children and our children’s children, will bear traces of the blockade that Britain enforced against us, a refinement of cruelty nothing less than diabolic.
On the other side, the France too was not in a mood to forgive Germany. It seems France wanted to take revenge of Battle of Sedan of 1871. In which Germany defeated France and took its Alsace and Lorraine territories. Victor Hugo, one of the France’s most renowned writer said during the First World War,
France will have but one thought, to… raise her young generation to form an army of the whole people… to become against a Great France and the France of 1792, the France of an ideal with a sword… then she will take back Alsace-Lorraine.
So, France wanted to subdue Germany to such a level that France could exploit the resources of the Germany for a long time.
Actually, the long years of war had brutalised the warring countries. They lost their moral sense of humanity. Though no one knows the exact number of the people who had been died in the First World War. But there are some figures that surely could give the severity of this war.
The total casualties of the war have been calculated as follows:
- 17 million deaths, including 11 million combatants and 6 million civilians.
- 20 million wounded
- 1.3 million Indians serving in British army died.
- 9 million War orphans.
- 5 million War widows.
Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles
Paris Peace Conference
Finally, the victorious allies held a Peace Conference in Paris in 1919. In this conference, the victorious allies redrew the map of Europe. People hoped that after the devastating and horrible experience of the First World War, this peace conference would come with the certain relief.
The victorious powers headed the Paris Peace Conference. The “Big Three” were France, Britain and America. President Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau represented America, Britain and France respectively.
President Woodrow Wilson came with a huge popularity and gave fourteen points. He used many beautiful and idealistic phrases in his speech in Conference. He was keen to establish a League of Nations. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Britain came in this conference as an opportunist.
Now, the third one, Clemenceau, the “Tiger” as he was called, was in full mood of to take revenge from its old rival Germany. So, he drafted a treaty, popularly known as the treaty of Versailles.
Treaty of Versailles
Under this treaty of Versailles, victorious powers summoned the German representatives to hear their commands. Germany signed the enormous treaty of Versailles containing approximately 440 articles. The victorious allies did not give the German representative a chance to argue with them. Provisions of the treaty of Versailles were,
- Germany lost his territories in Europe. Example- France took the Saar (coal producing area of Germany) for 15 years. Germany lost its control over the Alsace and Lorraine provinces. The parts of East Germany became the French corridor to the Poland.
- Germany lost its African colonies too. The allies divided these colonies among themselves.
- Allies imposed the war compensation of 66 hundred million pounds on Germany. Actually, they blamed Germany for the First World War.
- Demilitarisation of Germany, with the ban on Navy and Air Force. Germany was allowed to maintain infantry of one lakh.
The treaty of Versailles laid down that Germany was the guilty party in causing the war. Though Germany was the main party in the First World War. But it was not completely responsible for the huge devastation after the war.
Germany was facing critical economic, political and social crisis after the war. The terms of the treaty of Versailles led to the exploitation and humiliation of the German race, who have only learnt that they were superior. The treaty of Versailles was a humiliating treaty. The representatives of the Germany protested against it.
Treaty of Versailles was going to give a dictated peace, which was not good for the long term. Though Germany signed the treaty of Versailles but treaty sown the seeds of bitterness among the Germans. Though President Woodrow Wilson established the League of Nations, with the purpose,
to prevent future wars by establishing relations on the basis of justice and honour and to promote co-operation, material and intellectual, between the nations of the world.
But, Germany was not feeling good with the provisions of the treaty of Versailles. The treaty of Versailles contained the original constitution of the League of Nations. The great powers dominated the League of Nations this was the pain for the Germany.
The treaty of Versailles, which put an end to “the war which was to end a war”. So, Philip Snowden who later became Viscount Snowden, a Cabinet Minister in Britain, made the following comment on the treaty of Versailles:
The Treaty of Versailles should satisfy brigands, imperialists amd militarists. Treaty of Versailles is the death-blow to the hopes of those who expected the end of the war to bring peace. It is not a peace treaty, but a declaration of another war. It is the betrayal of democracy and of the fallen in the war. The Treaty of Versailles exposes the true aims of the allies.
In the next coming post, we will discuss Russian Revolution.
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