Presentation on theme: "The Aftermath 1919. The End of the War World War I took the life of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties caused."— Presentation transcript:
The End of the War World War I took the life of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties caused indirectly by the war numbered close to 10 million. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle. The war also marked the fall of four imperial dynasties--Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey.
In January 1918, some ten months before the end of World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson had written a list of proposed war aims which he called the "Fourteen Points." Eight of these points dealt specifically with territorial and political settlements associated with the victory of the Entente Powers, including the idea of national self-determination for ethnic populations in Europe. The remainder of the principles focused on preventing war in the future, the last proposing a League of Nations to arbitrate further international disputes. Wilson hoped his proposal would bring about a just and lasting peace, a "peace without victory" to end the "war to end all wars."
When German leaders signed the armistice, many of them believed that the Fourteen Points would form the basis of the future peace treaty, but when the heads of the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy met in Paris to discuss treaty terms, the European contingent of the "Big Four" had another plan altogether. Viewing Germany as the chief instigator of the conflict, the European Allied Powers ultimately imposed particularly stringent treaty obligations upon the defeated Germany.
After the devastation of World War I, the victorious Western Powers imposed a series of harsh treaties upon the defeated nations. These treaties stripped the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary, joined by Ottoman Turkey and Bulgaria) of substantial territories and imposed significant reparation payments.
The Treaty of Versailles, presented for German leaders to sign on May 7, 1919, forced Germany to concede territories to Belgium (Eupen-Malmédy), Czechoslovakia (Hultschin district), and Poland (Poznan, West Prussia, and Upper Silesia). Alsace and Lorraine, annexed in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, returned to France. All German overseas colonies became League of Nation Mandates, and the city of Danzig, with its large ethnically German population, became a Free City. The treaty demanded demilitarization and occupation of the Rhineland
Perhaps the most humiliating portion of the treaty for the defeated Germany was Article 231, commonly known as the "War Guilt Clause," which forced Germany to accept complete responsibility for initiating World War I. As such Germany was liable for all material damages, and France's premier Georges Clemenceau particularly insisted on imposing enormous reparation payments. Aware that Germany would probably not be able to pay such a towering debt, Clemenceau and the French nevertheless greatly feared rapid German recovery and a new war against France. Hence, the French sought in the postwar treaty system to limit Germany's efforts to regain its economic superiority and to rearm.
The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men, and conscription proscribed. The treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force.
As a direct result of war, the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires ceased to exist. The Treaty of Saint-Germain- en-Laye of September 10, 1919, established the Republic of Austria, consisting of most of the truncated German-speaking regions of the Habsburg state. The Austrian Empire ceded crown lands to newly established successor states like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. It also relinquished the South Tyrol, Trieste, Trentino, and Istria to Italy, and Bukovina to Romania. An important tenet of the treaty barred Austria from compromising its newly formed independence. This restriction effectively barred it from unification with Germany, a goal long desired by "Pan-Germanists" and an active aim of Austrian-born Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi) Party.
Such economic chaos did much to increase social unrest, destabilizing the fragile Weimar Republic. Efforts of the Western European powers to marginalize Germany undermined and isolated its democratic leaders and underscored the need to restore German prestige through remilitarization and expansion.
Many Germans forgot that they had applauded the fall of the Kaiser, had initially welcomed parliamentary democratic reform, and had rejoiced at the armistice. They recalled only that the German Left—Socialists, Communists, and Jews, in common imagination—had surrendered German honor to a disgraceful peace when no foreign armies had even set foot on German soil. This Dolchstosslegende (stab-in-the-back legend) was initiated and fanned by retired German wartime military leaders, who, well aware in 1918 that Germany could no longer wage war, had advised the Kaiser to sue for peace. It helped to further discredit German socialist and liberal circles who felt most committed to maintain Germany's fragile democratic experiment.
The difficulties imposed by social and economic unrest in the wake of World War I and its onerous peace terms and the raw fear of the potential for a Communist takeover in the German middle classes worked to undermine pluralistic democratic solutions in Weimar Germany. They also increased public longing for more authoritarian direction, a kind of leadership which German voters ultimately and unfortunately found in Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party. Similar conditions benefited rightwing authoritarian and totalitarian systems in Eastern Europe as well, beginning with the losers of World War I, and eventually raised levels of tolerance for and acquiescence in violent antisemitism and discrimination against national minorities throughout the region.
Efforts to revise and defy the more burdensome provisions of the peace became a key element in their respective foreign policies and proved a destabilizing element in international politics. For example, the war guilt clause, its incumbent reparation payments, and the limitations on the German military were particularly onerous in the minds of most Germans. Revision of the Versailles Treaty represented one of the platforms that gave radical right wing parties in Germany, including Hitler's Nazi Party, such credibility to mainstream voters in the early 1920s and early 1930s.
Promises to rearm, to reclaim German territory, particularly in the East, to remilitarize the Rhineland, and regain prominence again among the European and world powers after such a humiliating defeat and peace, stoked ultranationalist sentiment and helped average voters to often overlook the more radical tenets of Nazi ideology.