The Results of the Treaty of Versailles


Europe in 1914 and 1924 respectively.


Woodrow Wilson said of the Treaty of Versailles:
                                                    It is a readjustment of those great injustices which underlie the
                                                    whole structure of European and Asiatic society...The men who

sat around that table in Paris knew that the time had come when
 the people were no longer going to consent to live under masters,
  but were going to live the lives that they chose themselves, to live
under such governments as they chose themselves to erect. (17)


"Germany lost some 27,000 square miles of territory and between 6.5 and 7 million people, about 13 and 10 per cent respectively of her pre-war resources. Her loss of economic potential was of the same scale--about 13.5 per cent" (Sharp, 127).

        "The following portions of German territory were immediately surrendered by her: Alsace-Lorraine (to France); West Prussia and Posen (to Poland); a very small portion of Upper Silesia (to Czechoslovakia); Memel (to be decided--it eventually became part of Lithuania); and Danzig (a Free City). The ultimate allocation of six further areas was to be decided by plebiscite, namely, the Allenstein and Marienwerder portions of East Prussia, Eupen and Malmedy, the Saar Basin, Schleswig and Upper Silesia" (Heater, 65).

                Although Wilson had always agreed that Alsace-Lorraine should be returned to France, it is interesting to note that since "1871 some half a million French had left the provinces and a third of a million Germans have migrated there....there was some doubt 'whether "self-determination" in the shape of a plebiscite would give a clear majority for a re-union with France'" (Heater, 79).                 Wilson had made clear in the Fourteen Points that while restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France would be acceptable, claims to "territory on the basis of 'the boundaries of 1814' (i.e. the Saar) is queried because 'No claim on grounds of nationality can be established'" (Heater, 46).                  "Wilson was furious at ... the rape of Fiume. He worked himself to such a pitch of indignation that for some time he concentrated his thoughts and energies upon this comparatively trivial incident to the exclusion of vastly more important subjects which were still awaiting decision." (18) In 1920, Wilson agreed "to accept any frontier established be direct negotiation between the Yugoslavs and Italians" (Sharp, 141).                  Wilson was again forced to compromise his principle of national self-determination to resolve territorial issues.


Wilson believed that he was responsible for guarantying freedom for all. "...he had a great mission to accomplish, he felt 'the dumb eyes of the people' upon him, demanding miracles: an end to war, justice for all, national self-determination, and a world safe for democracy" (Sharp, 187). Wilson had promised these conclusions, but the outcomes could not abandon traditional war goals and it was impossible to believe that these conclusions would reflect the shared desires of each country. When it became clear that Wilson would not be able to achieve his goals without compromise many supporters of his ideals turned on him. Harold Nicolson, a British diplomat, wrote that when Wilson compromised his ideals with Clemenceau and Lloyd George: "We ceased from that moment to believe that President Wilson was the Prophet whom we had followed. From that moment we saw in him no more than a presbyterian dominie." (19)

Alan Sharp, in his book The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris, 1919, argues: "Perhaps the saddest aspect of Wilson's performance was that he refused to accept that he had compromised, and convinced himself that the treaty conformed entirely to his ideals" (Sharp, 187). Perhaps this belief was the reason why Wilson labored for such a long time to convince the American public to accept the Treaty of Versailles. An example of Wilson's commitment treaty can be seen in his following speech delivered in San Diego in 1919:

            "The heart and center of this treaty is the principle adopted, not only in this treaty, but put into effect in the treaty also with Austria, in the treaty with Hungary, in the treaty with Bulgaria, in the treaty with Turkey--that every great territory in the world belongs to the people who are living on it, and that it is not the privilege of any authority anywhere--certainly not the privilege of the peace conference at Paris--to impose upon these people any government which they accept unwillingly and not of their own choice." (20)

While it is clear that Wilson dedicated to the theory of national self-determination, the implementation of the theory was beyond his reach. First of all, the information he was presented with to aid in his understanding of the ethnographics of a territory, could be and were, altered to make cases for the right of countries to territory:

            "Each one of the Central European nationalities had its own bagful of statistical and cartographical tricks. When statistics failed, use was made of maps in color. It would take a huge monograph to contain an analysis of all types of map forgeries that the war and peace conference called forth ... A perverted map was a life-belt to many a foundering argument. It was in the Balkans that the use of this process reached its most brilliant climax." (21)

It is not beyond the theory that Adolph Hitler gained an advantage from Wilson's inability to deliver on the promises he had made to Germany. Wilson's commitment to self-determination opened a door to further hostilities when the realities of the situation could not meet his idealistic visions. Hitler delivered a speech in 1939 that helps illustrate this point:

            "Among the fourteen points which President Wilson promised Germany in the name of all the Allies as the basis on which a new world peace was to be established when Germany laid down her arms was the fundamental principle of the self-determination of peoples....Many millions of Germans citizens were torn from the Reich against their will, or prevented from uniting with it. Indeed in the sharpest contrast to the solemn promise of the right of self-determination, the Peace Treaty of Versailles even forbade the union of the Germans of the Ostmark with the Reich at a moment when efforts were being made in Austria to give effect to the right of self-determination through plebiscites." (22)

Ironically, Wilson's overwhelming desire for peace backfired and created violence in World War II.

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