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Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles

The Paris Peace Conference in 1919 set the terms for peace after World War I. Key leaders, including Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson, had differing views. The Treaty of Versailles, one of several treaties, held Germany responsible for the war, leading to reparations and territorial losses. The treaty's harsh terms are often linked to the rise of World War II. The conference also led to the creation of the League of Nations and a major redrawing of Europe's map. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user 福龍丸
    What is the current situation regarding Germany's army and defense expenditures?
    (17 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Andris
      Germany currently has an army of 60-70k, and she spends 1.2% of GDP on the army. This modern army, however, could not be compared with those of WW1 and WW2 armies. Back then wars were fought by consripted armies, so it was necessary to have a huge army, that's why there was this limitation dictated.
      (26 votes)
  • ohnoes default style avatar for user leotrikim
    Surely with so many highly-positioned figures prophesying that the Treaty of Versailles will cause another war due to the severity the Allies would've done something to stop a war like this happening again?
    (10 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Andris
      The League of Nations was supposed to prevent another war. If implemented correctly, this institution would have been enough to stop another war. However, the hearts of the European leaders was not in the League of Nations. They wanted revenge, and they punished the losers, but not the leaders of the central powers, who made their countries enter the war, but the common people, who suffered from famine, death in the battlefield, and now they had to suffer from the peace terms.
      (16 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Riani Kupke
    what does "USSR" stand for?
    (9 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user Madeliv
      Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (in Russian this looks like: Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик which is why you will sometimes see "CCCP" which is the Russian acronym for USSR)
      (23 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user ivenskyd
    What does'' war guilt'' mean !
    (9 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Jide Ojo
      The War Guilt Clause in the Treaty of Versailles meant that Germany accepted responsibility for starting the War. It is because of this clause; their admitting that they are to blame for the War and all the damage caused that punishment can be imposed on them. That's why they were charged £6,600 million in reparation, that's why the army and navy were limited, that's why they lost colonies, and that's why they weren't allowed to joint the League of Nations.

      However, the War Guilt clause was a little unfair on Germany because the war wasn't entirely their fault and they hadn't been the only opposing country.
      (14 votes)
  • stelly blue style avatar for user Jorge Daniel Garcia
    What obligated Germany to comply to the agreement? What would be the consequences for Germany be if they did not accept the conditions of the treaty?
    (9 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Abraham George
    What are all the other treaties that were made at the Paris Peace Conference?
    Sal said that the Treaty of Versailles was not the only one.
    (6 votes)
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    • mr pants teal style avatar for user Anthony Natoli
      The other treaties were with each of the other member nations called the Central Powers. The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-laye was with the newly created nation of Austria, the Treaty of Trianon was with the newly created nation of Hungary, the Treaty of Sevres was with the Ottoman Empire, and the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine was with Bulgaria.
      (11 votes)
  • leaf red style avatar for user Siddarth_Vader
    Did any northern european countries such as Sweden,Denmark,Finland or Norway and if they did whose side were they on ? The Germans or the Russians
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Rhett Zhao
    Did Germany even have 400Billion dollars after the war?
    (3 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user RN
      Germany had to pay 6000 million Euros as reparations after the war as set forth in the Treaty of Versailles. They had paid the first installment in 1921. In 1922 they were unable to do so given the economic troubles they were facing, the leader of Wiemar Germany: Friedrich Ebert, attempted to negotiate concessions.

      In 1923 France grew tired of this and invaded the Ruhr along with Belgian troops, and took raw materials and goods as a replacement for money.

      The Dawes plan did work to reduce reparations payments, but it was interim and unworkable.
      It was replaced by the Young plan in 1929, which officially reduced German reparations payments.
      (7 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Rakhi Anwar
    Why is Russia (USSR not until 1922) such a controversial issue during the Treaty of Versailles?
    (4 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Jet Simon
      Because the Allies feared that giving lands to the Russians would empower the communists who were engaged in a civil war at that time. Therefore, Russia was not present at the Treaty of Versailles and the Paris Peace Conference that took a year later.
      (5 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Vishwam Chand
    Is it just a coincidence that Germany was the leading figure in both wars?
    (4 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Aharon Levi
      no, it is not a coincidence - good point!
      World War II began in large part as an outgrowth of World War I. The German nation was crushed in many ways (financial, morale, military) as a result of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Hitler was able to bring the nation to war again in large part as a sort of vengeance for the way Germany was treaty after the first war. So your question is exactly on target - the two wars are absolutely connected.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

As we've already seen, the end of fighting in World War I, or I guess we have the end of fighting in World War I at the end of 1918. In 1919 it's time to talk about the terms for peace. This happens at the Paris Peace Conference. At this conference, you have all the parties of all the major warring parties, but the terms of peace are dictated by the winners. The major powers among the winners are led by these gentlemen right over here. This is Prime Minister Lloyd George of the UK, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau of France, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States. They come to the Paris Peace Conference with very different outlooks of what the peace should look like. We already learned about President Wilson's "Fourteen Points". It was very idealistic. It talked about making the world safe for democracy, how people should determine their own fate, how we should have the self-determination, the end of empires, free trade, creating a League of Nations so that you can avoid things like World War I again. The European side was not quite as idealistic, especially the French. As you can imagine, the U.S. lost a lot of soldiers in World War I, but the French lost a significant fraction of their adult males in World War I. The ugly western front was fought in their country, so they were much more eager to make Germany pay for what it's done. The terms of the treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Versailles, and the Treaty of Versailles, it's important to note, is only one of several treaties that came out of the Paris Peace Conference. It tends to get the most attention because it was a treaty with Germany, Treaty of Versailles, and many people blame it for being part of the cause for World War II. It so humiliated Germany that it was so unacceptable, that it allowed a character like Hitler to come along and lead Germany back into war. The Treaty of Versailles was the treaty with Germany . You have other treaties; with the Austrians and now since the Austro-Hungarian empire is being broken up, the Hungarians, the Ottomans, so on and so forth. The Treaty of Versailles did several things. First, this was kind of in line especially with the French-thinking, is it assigned the guilt to Germany ... So war guilt. War guilt for Germany. And depending on where you view, you could view this as a fairly strong thing. The argument for saying Germany is responsible for the war is in late July, early August of 1914, it didn't take much for Germany to declare war on Russia, then on France, and then invade Belgium. This was literally a matter of days. It was pretty clear that Germany was already mobilized to do this, it was eager to do this, and it did do this without much provocation. At that point, it was really just based on Russian mobilization. Those who would argue this was a little strong, would say Germany definitely played a role in the war, in maybe escalating the war, but it didn't start the war. You have the assassination of the Archduke of Franz Ferdinand, of Austro-Hungary. It was supported by elements in Serbia. Then you have the Austro-Hungarians who put out these very hard terms to the Serbians, bring these people to justice immediately, otherwise we're declaring war. It seemed like they wanted to declare war. They do declare war in July of 1914. The Russians, they don't let that be a little regional conflict, the Russians decide to start mobilizing, giving the Germans the pretext to justify their invasions, to kind of trigger this blank check that they've given the Austro-Hungarians. There's a lot of blame that could go around, but the Treaty of Versailles places it with Germany. This justifies the rationale to make Germany pay for the war. This leads to reparations ... Reparations for Germany, which is essentially is like, "Look, Germany, you don't have to pay the ally powers for all of their lost, especially their losses to their economy due to the fact that you are guilty of starting of this war guilt." The reparations were not just in paper currency, the reparations were in gold, in resources. It was a very tangible reparations. It's an interesting question because these reparations are often referred to when people talked to, these were disabling reparations. They brought the German economy down. It is an open question. They were large. In modern dollars, the estimates I've seen, they were approximately $400 billion in 2013 money. That is a very, very large number, but it's not a huge number for a reasonably-sized economy like Germany. Although the economy was in bad shape at the end of World War I. It's not clear whether it by itself would have debilitated their economy. More likely, or if you were to think it's a cause, it's more the humiliation of it, that generations of Germans, many of them; 10, 20, 30 years in the future, had nothing to do with World War I, would be continuing to pay reparations to the allies. So there's a question of its impact on the economy and there's just the question of how humiliating it was. As we go, the reparations only last for about 10 years and Germany pays the equivalent of about $60 billion in modern terms, $60 billion in 2013 dollars. That's equivalent to about $5 billion in 1920 money. On top of the reparations, the allies were not interested in fighting another war with Germany, although ironically, by having very harsh terms of the treaty, they might have triggered the next war in World War II, The Rise of Hitler. Since they didn't want to have another war with Germany, they essentially limited the German army to 100,000 men, which is a very small army, as we've seen in many of the battles. You had battles with 400,000 or 500,000 men, so this is pretty much just like a police force, it's not really an army. They weren't allowed any longer to have submarines, U-boats, any kind of heavy military equipment, artillary, heavy artillary, military airplanes, battleships of any kind. It was really just a scaffold of an army so that there wouldn't be another, or they hoped there would not be, another German invasion. On top of that, Germany was stripped of territory. ... Territory ... Some of that was directly in Germany. Poland was carved out of part of the German empire. This is the new Poland that's carved out out of the Paris Peace Conference. You see right over here, it cuts Germany into two pieces. East Prussia is still part of Germany, but it's all by itself right out here. Poland is cut out, Germany loses Alsace-Lorraine, which it captured in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war. Mineral-rich region, the French had been eager to get it back. The Germans, actually that was one of their arguable justification why they wanted to premptively attack France, because they knew that France was eager to capture it back at some point in the future. On top of that, Germany lost its colonies. Germany was nowhere near as big of an empire as the British or even the French, it was actually a fairly new country formed in 1871, but it did have an empire. It had colonies in southwest Africa, I'll do this in darker colors, actually throughout Africa and had colonies in the Pacific. It even had a colony in China. All of that was then given over to the allies. The big idea, from the Treaty of Versailles, is that, most historians would say it was really kind of sticking it to the Germans. The Germans felt it was humilating and one could argue that it led to some of the extremism that we'll see in the next few decades of Germany. The one win that Woodrow Wilson was able to get out the Treaty of Versailles, is it did set up the League of Nations. The League of Nations. The irony here is that the US does not ratify the Treaty of Versailles because it's suspicious of these kind of extra national organizations. It actually wasn't happy with some of the territorial distribution, that it was just giving it from empire to another as opposed to having self-determination. The US was not actually a signatory, it did not actually sign the treaty. It did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Regardless of that, the Treaty of Versailles had a huge impact in sticking it to the Germans. On top of that, the Paris Peace Conference, as we've already said, had various treaties with the other central powers and some of the, and I'm not going to go into detail on what happened, especially the Ottoman Empire, that's worth another video, but the big effect on the Austro-Hungarian Empire is that it essentially is not an empire anymore. It was split up into various countries. Austria was set up as a separate country. Actually the Treaty of Versailles, in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany is forbidden from in any way merging with Austria, a German-speaking country. You have Hungary becoming a separate state. You have a new state of Czechoslovakia. You have a new state of Yugoslavia. All of a sudden, the trigger of World War I, the desire of having this unified southern Slavik state is now becoming a reality. You have Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia ... and Slovenia are taken out of the Austro-Hungarian empire. You have a major redrawing of the map of Europe. Some of these new nations here in eastern Europe are out of the old Russian empire. They were able to declare their independence, some of it short-lived before becoming satellite states or becoming part of the USSR, but they had their short-lived independence after the fall of the Russian empire. The map of Europe is dramatically changed due to the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles, the fall of the Russian empire, the other treaties that were outcomes of World War I.