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By Geoff Layton

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In such a situation, cautious diplomacy might have led to the establishment of German power and influence at the heart of Europe. However, on another level, the Treaty might be considered more to blame because, in the minds of many Germans, it was regarded as the real cause of the country’s problems and they really believed that it was totally unfair. In the war German public opinion had been strongly shaped by nationalist propaganda and then deeply shocked by the defeat. Both the Armistice and Versailles were closely linked to the ‘stab in the back’ myth that the German Army had not really lost the First World War in 1918 (see page 5).

Key question To what extent was the Treaty of Versailles motivated by anti-German feeling? Versailles: a more balanced view In the years 1919–45, most Germans regarded the Treaty of Versailles as a Diktat. In Britain, too, there developed a growing sympathy for Germany’s position. However, this was not the case in France, where the Treaty was generally condemned as being too lenient. It was only after the Second World War that a more balanced view of the Treaty of Versailles emerged in Europe. As a result, recent historians have tended to look upon the peacemakers of 1919 in a more sympathetic light.

In desperation, the first Weimar government led by Scheidemann resigned. The Allies were not prepared to negotiate, which obliged an embittered Reichstag finally to accept the Treaty of Versailles by 237 votes to 138 in June. This was because Germany simply did not have the military capacity to resist. And so, on 28 June 1919, the German representatives, led by Hermann Müller, signed the treaty in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles near Paris. The Treaty of Versailles was a compromise, but only in the sense that it was a compromise between the Allied powers.

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Access to History. Democracy and Dictatorship in Germany 1919-63 by Geoff Layton


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