Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles (French: Traité de Versailles; German: Versailler Vertrag, pronounced [vɛʁˈzaɪ̯ɐ fɛɐ̯ˈtʁaːk] (listen)) was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in the Palace of Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties.[lower-roman 1] Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.

Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany[n. 1]
Cover of the English version
Signed28 June 1919[1]
LocationHall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, Paris, France[2]
Effective10 January 1920[3]
ConditionRatification by Germany and three Principal Allied Powers.[n. 2]
Signatories
Principal Allied and Associated Powers[n. 1]
Events leading to World War II
  1. Treaty of Versailles 1919
  2. Polish–Soviet War 1919
  3. Treaty of Trianon 1920
  4. Treaty of Rapallo 1920
  5. Franco-Polish alliance 1921
  6. March on Rome 1922
  7. Corfu incident 1923
  8. Occupation of the Ruhr 1923–1925
  9. Mein Kampf 1925
  10. Pacification of Libya 1923–1932
  11. Dawes Plan 1924
  12. Locarno Treaties 1925
  13. Young Plan 1929
  14. Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931
  15. Pacification of Manchukuo 1931–1942
  16. January 28 incident 1932
  17. World Disarmament Conference 1932–1934
  18. Defense of the Great Wall 1933
  19. Battle of Rehe 1933
  20. Nazis' rise to power in Germany 1933
  21. Tanggu Truce 1933
  22. Italo-Soviet Pact 1933
  23. Inner Mongolian Campaign 1933–1936
  24. German–Polish declaration of non-aggression 1934
  25. Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  26. Soviet–Czechoslovakia Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  27. He–Umezu Agreement 1935
  28. Anglo-German Naval Agreement 1935
  29. December 9th Movement
  30. Second Italo-Ethiopian War 1935–1936
  31. Remilitarization of the Rhineland 1936
  32. Spanish Civil War 1936–1939
  33. Italo-German "Axis" protocol 1936
  34. Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
  35. Suiyuan Campaign 1936
  36. Xi'an Incident 1936
  37. Second Sino-Japanese War 1937–1945
  38. USS Panay incident 1937
  39. Anschluss Mar. 1938
  40. May crisis May 1938
  41. Battle of Lake Khasan July–Aug. 1938
  42. Bled Agreement Aug. 1938
  43. Undeclared German–Czechoslovak War Sep. 1938
  44. Munich Agreement Sep. 1938
  45. First Vienna Award Nov. 1938
  46. German occupation of Czechoslovakia Mar. 1939
  47. Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine Mar. 1939
  48. German ultimatum to Lithuania Mar. 1939
  49. Slovak–Hungarian War Mar. 1939
  50. Final offensive of the Spanish Civil War Mar.–Apr. 1939
  51. Danzig Crisis Mar.–Aug. 1939
  52. British guarantee to Poland Mar. 1939
  53. Italian invasion of Albania Apr. 1939
  54. Soviet–British–French Moscow negotiations Apr.–Aug. 1939
  55. Pact of Steel May 1939
  56. Battles of Khalkhin Gol May–Sep. 1939
  57. Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Aug. 1939
  58. Invasion of Poland Sep. 1939

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required "Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war (the other members of the Central Powers signed treaties containing similar articles). This article, Article 231, later became known as the War Guilt clause. The treaty required Germany to disarm, make ample territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion gold marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US$442 billion or UK£284 billion in 2021). At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes (a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference), predicted that the treaty was too harsh—a "Carthaginian peace"—and said the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive, views that, since then, have been the subject of ongoing debate by historians and economists. On the other hand, prominent figures on the Allied side, such as French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, criticized the treaty for treating Germany too leniently.

The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left no one satisfied, and, in particular, Germany was neither pacified nor conciliated, nor was it permanently weakened. The problems that arose from the treaty would lead to the Locarno Treaties, which improved relations between Germany and the other European powers, and the re-negotiation of the reparation system resulting in the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan, and the indefinite postponement of reparations at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. The treaty has sometimes been cited as a cause of World War II: although its actual impact was not as severe as feared, its terms led to great resentment in Germany which powered the rise of the Nazi Party.

Although it is often referred to as the "Versailles Conference", only the actual signing of the treaty took place at the historic palace. Most of the negotiations were in Paris, with the "Big Four" meetings taking place generally at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Quai d'Orsay.