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Igniting The Holocaust - Facing History and Ourselves: Punishing Germany or Establishing Peace? The Treaty of Versailles

This LibGuide takes 5th grade students through the human behavior and historical events that precipitated WWII. It is based on the first 3 steps of the Facing History & Ourselves process and is designed to be used as a supplement to classroom discussion.

Punishing Germany: The Treaty of Versailles

"Many Europeans were more interested in punishing the Germans than in preventing another world war. After all, the United States had been at war for just one year. Its European allies had been fighting for over four years. David Lloyd George of Britain demanded that Germany pay for the trouble it had caused; Vittorio Orlando of Italy insisted on a share of Germany’s colonial empire. And France’s Georges Clemenceau required not only the return of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine but also assurances that his nation would be safe from future German aggression. Therefore the treaty contained the following articles:

80. Germany will respect the independence of Austria.
81. Germany recognizes the complete independence of Czechoslovakia.
87. Germany recognizes the complete independence of Poland.
119. Germany surrenders all her rights and titles over her overseas countries.
159. The German military forces shall be demobilized and reduced not to exceed 100,000 men.
181. The German navy must not exceed 6 battleships, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 12 torpedo boats. No submarines are to be included.
198. The Armed Forces of Germany must not include any military or naval air forces.
231. Germany and her Allies accept the responsibility for causing all the loss and damage to the Allied Powers.
233. Germany will pay for all damages done to the civilian population and property of the Allied Governments. [The figure was later set at $33 billion].
428. To guarantee the execution of the Treaty, the German territory situated to the west of the Rhine River will be occupied by Allied troops for fifteen years.
431. The occupation forces will be withdrawn as soon as Germany complies with the Treaty.

Not surprisingly, Germans felt betrayed by the treaty."                                                                                                           -- from Facing History 

The German reaction to the Treaty of Versailles can be summed up by this acronym:  BRAT.  

  • The Germans didn't want to take the Blame for the war.
  • They resented having to pay Reparations.  
  • They were frightened because the treaty limited their Army.  
  • And they hated that the treaty took away a 10th of their Territory.   -- CLARE, JOHN D. (2002/2010), "Germany and the Treaty",  at Greenfield History Site ( 

Historian John D. Clare has used his research to help imagine what the average German might have said about the Treaty of Versailles.  Click here to have a look at his thoughts.  (Note:  Hover over each colored box to see the quote!)

Reflect -- In your journal, respond to this information by answering the following questions:

  • If you had a really ugly fight with a sibling or a friend, and your parents:  made you admit that you'd caused the fight, made you give the other person half your allowance for years, forbid you from defending yourself if someone hit you, and took away 1 out of every 10 things in your bedroom, how would you feel?  
  • Would your feelings be different if you knew you really had started the fight?  Why or why not?
  • What does the word vindictive mean? 
  • The Treaty of Versailles has sometimes been called vindictive.  Do you agree?  Support your answer.