WWI Germany Surrenders and the Treaty of Versailles for Kids
By November 1918, Germany had been defeated. Its army was in shambles and while still fighting was being destroyed especially with the influx of the millions of Americans now joining the fighting. Austria-Hungary had collapsed and surrendered. The Ottoman Empire was too far away to help. The Communist revolution in Russia had succeeded and the communists were moving into Germany. There was no food left in Germany and the population was starving. Germany's economy was so weak that their money was worthless. Germany had to surrender. On November 11, 1918, at 11am Paris time, Germany signed the armistice which ended the fighting in World War II. It's an easy date to remember - 11 11 11 - Nov 11 at 11am. (This is why in the United States Veterans Day always falls on November 11th each year, a day put aside to honor the veterans of all wars, including World War I, and to thank veterans for their service.)
All the countries involved in the Great War agreed to stop fighting while peace negotiations were underway. Germany's goal at the peace conference was just to survive as a country.
Twenty-seven (27) nations sent delegates in 1919 to attend the Paris Peace Conference at the Palace of Versailles in France.
At the Paris Peace Conference, US President Woodrow Wilson tried to keep negotiations and demands reasonable. Wilson had no doubt that Germany should be punished, but he wanted the Germans in power punished, not the German people. He wanted an International Organization, the League of Nations, whose purpose would be to prevent future wars. About a year prior to the conference, Wilson had presented his "Fourteen Points" as a basis for peace. He pushed very hard at the conference to have those points be the blueprint for the peace treaty. He was unsuccessful. He was ill at the time, but he would have been unsuccessful anyway. The countries involved were too angry, especially France and Britain. Germany was not even allowed to attend the conference.
France wanted to destroy Germany as a country. They wanted to divide Germany into little teeny countries that could never threaten France again. They wanted Germany to pay the entire cost of the war. They wanted all the Germany colonies around the world given to France.
Britain wanted all the German colonies in Africa and all the Ottoman Empire territories in Africa and the Middle East to be given to Britain. They also insisted that the German Navy be destroyed. If Germany paid for the war, that would be great, but that was not very high on the list of things they wanted to be part of the treaty.
But again, the United States, France and Britain were not the only attendees at the conference. There were 27 nations represented. Each had a list of what they wanted to see happen. Negotiations took some time. But ultimately, the Treaty of Versailles was written and signed by Germany.
Summary of the actual Treaty of Versailles that Germany was forced to sign to end World War I:
Germany as the losing power had to:
- Give to France the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine
- Pay each of the Allies (England, France, Italy, and the USA) millions of dollars per year until the entire cost of the war was paid for
- Let France occupy the industrial province of the Ruhr until the war was paid for.(This would be like the US having to give up California.)
- Give up about 1/3 of its prewar territory to the new country of Poland
- Reduce its army to less then 10,000 men (smaller then the armies of Denmark, Belgium or Switzerland)
- Destroy its Navy and Air Force
- Promise to never go to war again
- Give up the Right to form alliances unless the Allies approved
- Give up the patents to several inventions (including the snorkel for submarines and various types of batteries)
- Give all its colonies in Africa to France and England
- Give all of its colonies in Asia to Japan
- The Kaiser is put in jail
Austria-Hungary was broken into several smaller countries plus it was required to abide by provisions 2, 5, 6, and 7 above.
The Ottoman Empire was broken up, with England being given most of the Middle East and Egypt. The Ottoman Empire was broke so they were not required to pay cash. Instead they had to give up territory. Germany was broke too, but France didn't care. They wanted Germany to pay for the war anyway.
The most significant effect of World War I was World War II. Because of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, forced upon an exhausted Germany and her allies, the defeated countries could not recover from World War I. The collapse of their economies and the demand for reparations caused intense hardship, with no end in sight. World War II was a direct outcome of the harsh treatment imposed by the peace treaty that ended World War I.