Signing of Treaty of Versailles

If you have not read “Dark Treaty” yet, you might wonder if the title relates to the Treaty of Versailles. Well, you will have to read the book to find out. However, as the story is set in 1919/1920, it will come as no surprize that this infamous treaty creates the geopolitical climate in which our hero, Tom Munro, struggles to form his airline. Some background here will help the reader to appreciate the conditions in Europe at the time.

Although the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles was not concluded and signed until 28 June 1919. Germany had endured an allied blockade throughout the war and the population was starving. In March 1919, the commander of the British Army of occupation informed the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George that “his men were begging to be sent home as they could no longer stand the sight of hordes of skinny, bloated children pawing over the offal from the British camps”. At the end of March 1919, the first food shipments began to arrive in Hamburg.

The terms of the treaty were compiled by the “Big Three”: British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister, Frances Clemenceau and the US President Woodrow Wilson. Germany and Austria- Hungry were excluded from the process. The intent of the treaty was to remove the German threat but not to humiliate the nation which could breed a generation intent on revenge. The treaty conditions can be summarised briefly as follows:

Territory:  Alsace-Lorraine to be returned to France. Poland, Finland, Latvia, and Czechoslovakia to become independent countries. Austria-Hungry to be split and Yugoslavia created as a new country.

Military: The German Army was to be reduced to 100,000 troops and all wartime weapons to be scrapped. The Navy was reduced to 36 ships with no submarines and the air force was disbanded.

Reparations and “Guilt”: Germany was required to accept blame for the war and pay £6,600 million in compensation.

Many historians believe that the treaty was more lenient than might have been expected and not unfair. Clearly, it did not stop another war but this is thought to be because the European powers disagreed on the implementation of the treaty and failed to enforce it. Whether the Treaty of Versailles is regarded as fair or not, it certainly provided Adolf Hitler with the perfect material with which to rally support for his odious cause.

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