On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, France. The treaty was one of several that officially ended five years of conflict known as the Great War—World War I. The Treaty of Versailles outlined the conditions of peace between Germany and the victorious Allies, led by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. Other Central Powers (significantly, Austria-Hungary) signed different treaties with the Allies.

 

The Treaty of Versailles is one of the most controversial armistice treaties in history. The treaty’s so-called “war guilt” clause forced Germany and other Central Powers to take all the blame for World War I. This meant a loss of territories, reduction in military forces, and reparation payments to Allied powers.

 

Some historians think the Treaty of Versailles was, in the words of British economist John Maynard Keynes, “one of the most serious acts of political unwisdom for which our statesmen have ever been responsible.” They say it contributed to German economic and political instability that allowed for the formation of the National Socialists (Nazis) just a year later.

 

Other historians note that the Treaty of Versailles was actually very restrained—Germany and other Central Powers were not occupied by Allied forces after the war, and a reduction in military spending meant they could afford the reparation payments. The treaty was also much more lenient than the armistice treaty (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk) Germany forced on Russia when that nation negotiated an exit from the war a year earlier.

Central Powers
Noun

alliance of countries that participated in World War I: the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Also called the Triple Alliance.

clause
Noun

one part of a contract, treaty, or other agreement.

controversial
Noun

questionable or leading to argument.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

lenient
Adjective

allowing or permissive.

military
Noun

armed forces.

political
Adjective

having to do with public policy, government, administration, or elected office.

treaty
Noun

official agreement between groups of people.

World War I
Noun

(1914-1918) armed conflict between the Allies (led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) and the Central Powers (led by Germany and Austria-Hungary). Also called the Great War.

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