January 10, 1920: The Treaty of Versailles goes into effect.

Exactly five years after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Allied Powers (France, the British Empire, Japan, Italy, and the United States) signed this treaty with Germany, officially declaring peace between the nations after the 1918 armistice ended hostilities. The terms of the treaty were shaped by a monumental six month period in Paris, during which dozens of world leaders met at the Paris Peace Conference to discuss the state of affairs in a post-World War I world, dealing with issues ranging from racial equality to self-determination to the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. And the course of this conference (with regard to the Treaty of Versailles, at least) was shaped by David Lloyd George, George Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom had their own aims at the conference. President Wilson’s main goal was to have the new peace treaty incorporate the principles laid out in his Fourteen Points; this undertaking ended mostly in failure, although the Allied leaders attempted to appease Wilson by creating a League of Nations (according to his fourteenth point). The British wanted to see Germany subdued, though perhaps not punished. The French, whose country had been invaded by Germany/German states in both 1870 and again in 1914, wanted Germany weakened, and they achieved this through the Treaty of Versailles.

The treaty determined that Kaiser Wilhelm and other German leaders would be tried as war criminals; it provided that the Rhineland would be occupied for fifteen years by Allied forces; Germany’s armed forces was limited to no more than 100,000 men; its navy was limited to a certain amount of ships and no submarines at all; its military could not use poison gas, tanks, or armed aircraft; much of Germany’s territories were transferred and ceded to surrounding nations. Most famously, the treaty’s “war guilt clause" blamed the "aggression of Germany and her allies” for the “loss and damage” incurred by World War I, and in 1921, Germany was made to pay billions of marks in reparations to the Allied nations. In reality, Austria, Hungary, and Turkey should have also helped pay off reparations, but Germany was the only country of them rich enough to afford to. Germans were, as a whole, both outraged at the massive amounts of money they would have to pay, and entirely in denial of having done anything wrong in the first place. 

In the end, the United States rejected the treaty, and none of the main parties were fully satisfied, least of Germany, which, for years before 1939, violated provisions of the treaty one after another. The factors contributing to the rise of National Socialism in Germany are numerous and complex, but the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles is nearly always regarded as one of them. Nazi propaganda played heavily on the German public’s lingering bitterness toward the treaty. 

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    Cinco años después del asesinato del archiduque Francisco Fernando de Austria, las potencias aliadas (Francia, el...
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