What were the conditions?
"The triumph of writings and chickery" - this is how the Versailles Treaty dubbed the British journalist Howard Tide, who worked at the Paris Conference, covering it for the London public. The text of the agreement includes 244 articles, not counting a very lengthy appendix. The first part is devoted to the establishment of the League of Nations. "Painful" for Germany, the details are collected in the middle. In short, geographically, the country was torn to shreds. The return of Alsace and Lorraine to France was, in general, explicable. The transfer of part of the lands of the former empire to Poland is also. In principle, the leaders of the Weimar Republic, who overthrew Kaiser Wilhelm II in order to make peace, prepared for this. In reality, everything turned out a lot tougher. They lame Germany from three sides, connecting to the division of the country, which, initially, did not even expect that they would get something from the former German Empire. For example, Denmark, which kept neutrality during the war.
Map of Germany after 1919
So west. Here, Germany had to share not only with France, but also with Belgium, which, according to the terms of the agreement, opened about 1,000 square kilometers of the territory of the former Empire. She was deprived of Eupen-Malmedy districts and the Prussian part of Morenset. But that's not all. Later Belgium will also be given the right to control. So it is the Belgian troops, along with the French, who will “restore order” if Germany breaks the conditions. This is all true, still half of the western troubles. Germany took control of the Saar, without giving it any definite status. The region with a population of 800 thousand people and an area of two thousand square kilometers was occupied by France and the UK for a period of 15 years. After this, the fate of the region was to be decided by a plebiscite. That is, in theory, Saar could become an independent state (at a referendum of 1935, it was decided to return to Germany). And together with him, the local coal mines were torn away from Germany. The industrial heart - as Reich President Paul von Hindenburg spoke about Saare.
In East Germany, it was necessary to share not only with Poland, but also with Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. As a result, East Prussia was separated from the rest of the country. However, let's go in order. The 6th clause of the 27th article of the treaty defines the border of Germany with Czechoslovakia as follows: “The border by August 3, 1914 between Germany and Austria from the point of meeting it with the former administrative border separating Bohemia from Upper Austria to the northern tip of the protrusion of the former province Austrian Silesia. In other words, Czechoslovakia received a tiny piece of the former Silesia, which is now called the Hlučín province. Moreover, East Prussia, cut off from the rest of Germany, was also not left alone. Memel region transferred under the control of the victorious powers. A little later, however, she moved to Lithuania.
But most of all went to Poland. The land with a total area of 45 square kilometers with a population of approximately 3 million people was ceded to it. Poznan with Pomerania, plus extensive possessions in Western Prussia. Simply put, Poland received not only what once belonged to her, but also areas inhabited by Germans. Finally, the most mysterious clause. Danzig, aka Gdansk, was not transferred to Poland. He became a free city. In fact, a mysterious hybrid of an unclearly clear destination has formed on the map of Europe.
Stay north. Schleswig, originally planned to be handed over to Denmark, was torn off from Germany. The two countries had been disputing over Schleswig for many years (since the 18th century), in 1864 the area was ceded to Prussia, and later became part of the German Empire. The Versailles Treaty, after all, obliged the population of the former duchy to hold a referendum. Voting took place in 1920 and, as a result, the northern part of Schleswig became part of Denmark, and the southern part of Germany.
To summarize: minus 70 square kilometers of territory and five and a half million people, including Germans. Let's not forget that under the contract, most of Germany was occupied, the country was obliged to pay a huge contribution, and its weapons were limited in a rather severe manner. On the total weaning of the colonies modestly shut up. The humiliating conditions of peace have discredited both the Weimar Republic and the young democracy. In the leaders of the November revolution, the population began to see traitors who overthrew the Kaiser and destroyed the Empire. Radicals skillfully played on these sentiments, who themselves fueled their hatred of the republic. “As a German man, I have the right to know,” said one of the episodic characters of the Three Comrades Remarque. Representatives of the republic, by the way, had no weight in the negotiations. They could not affect the process. The decision was taken by US President Woodrow Wilson, as well as the premiers of France and Great Britain Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George. Weimar had to resignedly accept all the conditions imposed on them. What can we say about the fact that this kind of humiliation caused the growth of nationalist sentiment.
Another little detail. The Versailles Treaty ugly bypassed the interests of many allied states. It was beneficial to France and Britain to a greater extent than, for example, Italy, which took an active part in the First World War on the side of the Entente. She received nothing from the agreement, except for the right to delegate her representatives to all commissions, as well as shares from German coal. Russia was completely excluded from the treaty. Formally because of the Brest peace. However, the fact that Russia for four years waged war on the side of the Entente was not in any way taken into account at Versailles. True, Germany had to cancel the Brest Treaty.
Could it be otherwise?
French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was so tough in his negotiations that his British counterpart David Lloyd George had to restrain the head of the French government. If Clemenceau’s will, and the conditions would be even more severe and humiliating. You can probably understand him. In 1870, France, through the efforts of Prussia, also survived the most terrible humiliation. And in the next 45 years, revanchism was extremely popular in French society. Up to the point that the president almost became General Boulanger, who promised, if he won the elections, to immediately start a war with Germany, return Lorraine and enter Berlin. Clemenceau wanted to tear Hamburg away from Germany, making it a free city, as it happened with Danzig (Gdansk). Clemenceau wanted to take the Saar to France, and transfer the Rhineland-Palatinate to the temporary management of the Entente. He had views of Westphalia. In other words, Germany could lose Mainz and Cologne. The entire left bank of the Rhine would have been lost. Answering the question in the subtitle, we can safely say - “no, the conditions could not be softer”. If Clemenceau had not faced the resistance of Lloyd George and US President Woodrow Wislon, then there could be nothing left of Germany. Undoubtedly, reparation would be significantly higher. Recall that for the First World War, Germany finally paid off only in 2010.
Big Four: David Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson after signing peace
What could be different?
Marshal Foch, the architect of the French victory in the First World War, having looked at the text of the Treaty of Versailles, uttered the famous prophecy: "This is not a world, but a truce of 20 years." And he was absolutely right. Many historians, however, are convinced that after such a brutal conflict, there simply could not be a good world. If Germany had broken the resistance of the Entente, then France would have had a hard time. We can look at the text of the Brest Treaty and make sure that there was no talk of any pity for the fallen enemy. London and Paris could have spared Germany, but they had the right not to do so. They did not. Kaiser Wilhelm, his government, the Empire was proclaimed responsible for initiating war, and therefore, the punishment was supposed to be as painful as possible.
Flag of the self-proclaimed Rhineland
However, something could be mitigated. A not-so-substantial reduction of territories and a reduction in the size of reparations, coupled with more severe disarmament, could change the negative environment. A German republic would avoid a political split and an economic nightmare. The rightists would not declare the government “the November traitors, who thrust a knife into the back of the invincible Empire,” the Great Depression of 1929 would not have caused a financial collapse. In the following years after the signing of the world, the Weimar Republic experienced many upheavals. The refusal to pay reparations led first to the occupation of Duisburg and Düsseldorf, and then to the occupation of the troops of the Entente Ruhr, where the soldiers stood until 1926. The country was constantly shaken by workers uprisings, strikes and demonstrations. And the occupation of the Franco-Belgian forces of the Ruhr led to an increase in separatism. In October 1923, the independent Rhine Republic was proclaimed, which for a year simply did not submit to Berlin. However, not everything was so bad. The republic’s economy could be saved by abundant foreign investment. The flow of capital from the United States led to some growth. As a result, the 20s in Germany are called the “Golden Twenties”. That's just all this well-being ordered to live long in 1929. The German economy was too dependent on the United States. As a result, she collapsed along with Wall Street. And after that, the fate of the Weimar Republic was sealed. Given the growth of radical sentiment, after the 29th year, Germany was simply doomed to fascism.
Had the conditions of the world been a little softer, and Germany would have had a chance to escape Hitler, and the planet would have the chance of World War II. However, it should not be forgotten that the Versailles Peace is not the only cause of all subsequent events. And even with all its rigidity, before the Great Depression, there was still hope that the republic would stand on its feet. But it was the global crisis that knocked Germany out. The Versailles system also went there with her.