It’s Official: World War I is Finally Over

The delegations signing the Treaty of Versaill...

The delegations signing the Treaty of Versailles - 1919

Dyer Sez: No, the title above is most certainly not a misprint. After almost one-hundred years, the “War to End All Wars” is finally over.

Although a ceasing of all hostilities was enacted in 1918, the treaty of Versailles (signed off on in 1919) outlined massive monetary reparations, in the hundreds of billions of dollars, to be paid from the tax coffers of Germany (the reasoning being that Germany started the war…and also lost it) to a variety of pension funds, corporate holdings and government bonds of the victorious Allied governments.

Also in the document were rules governing how Germany would move forward from a war footing to a peace-time stance which included limits on the size of their military, a total ban on conscription, and a variety of prohibitions on the manufacture, import or export of weapons.

The apparent aim of the French (who were the main framers of the treaty) was not to simply draw down Germany from its military capabilities, but to actually ruin the country for a few generations. The war itself had mostly been fought in French territory; France thought the best way to protect itself from any German incursion during the years it would take to rebuild from the war was to basically destroy the economy of Germany which would, in effect, disallow the funding needed for any future wars.

Even though there was a great deal of resentment towards Germany at the time (the general consensus was that they indeed were responsible for the escalation of hostilities which led to the war-time deaths of millions), many believed that the sanctions outlined in the treaty were too harsh – including US President Woodrow Wilson. In the end, the US refused to support the treaty.

If one looks at the aftermath of WW I, Wilson, as well as the numerous other detractors, were spot on in their belief that the treaty would lead to disaster. When Hitler and the Nazi’s swooped into power a couple of decades later, the people of Germany had been living in a massive economic depression brought about by the devaluation of its dollar and inflation caused by attempts to pay off the reparations outlined in the treaty.

When one looks at Nazi rhetoric at of the time, the events which propelled us into World War 2 were based squarely at the anger and desperation brought on the German people by the treaty itself. One of the promises which endeared Hitler to Germans was that he would stop reparation payments and rebuild the economy which had been in a steady free fall for decades. Other inflammatory statements which became part of the populist movement at the time concerned hatred towards the German Jews, who were blamed for ‘selling out’ their countrymen during and after the war.

It’s very clear in hindsight that it is unlikely that World War 2 would have happened without the atmosphere of human degradation in Germany caused by the treaty of Versailles. How different the world might have been if dissenting voices might have convinced France to back off some of the more contentious stipulations of the treaty.

The best we can say now is that finally, after almost 100 years, the war to End all wars is finally over.

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