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11-08-2015, 17:16


The peace settlement left a sad weight on Europe. The war ended formally with a series of peace treaties among the victorious Allies and Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Of these agreements, the most significant and the most controversial was the Treaty of Versailles, which German representatives signed on June 28, 1919. The terms of the treaty came as a harsh shock to many Germans who had hoped the influence of President Woodrow Wilson would help bring about a lenient settlement. Among a host of onerous provisions, Germany had to limit its army to 100,000 men, give up its colonial possessions, permit the Rhineland to be occupied for fifteen years, and accept the obligation to pay reparations to countries on the winning side. The exact sum due for reparations debt was to be settled only in the future, but it was certain to be a heavy burden on the prospects for Germany's economic recovery. Moreover, Article 231 of the treaty compelled Germany and its allies to accept full responsibility for the outbreak of the war. The German government, led by Prime Minister Pliilipp Scheidemann, indicated at first that it would not sign the treaty, but signing was unavoidable if Germany was to survive as a unified country. By the close of 1919, the English economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied in The Economic Consequences of the Peace that placing of heavy reparations on Germany would block the entire continent from enjoying a prosperous future. And Adolf Hitler, the most talented demagogue of the nationalist right in Germany, would soon rail against the treaty as a horror perpetrated by vicious foreigners against the German people and accepted by German leaders who were nothing more than traitors and criminals. The peace settlement produced a permanent international organization, the League of Nations. Woodrow Wilson enthusiastically promoted the idea of such a body at the peace conference, and the Covenant of the League was inserted into the Treaty of Versailles. The organization's membership consisted of the victorious nations who signed the treaty and neutral countries whom the victors invited to join. But the League of Nations lacked world wide scope due to the refusal of the U.S. Congress to accept the treaty and the accompanying obligation for its signatories to participate in the international body. Initially, Germany and the Soviet Union were also absent from the League, since powerful members like Great Britain and France blocked their admission.