Historical newspaper reports reveal how the German press reacted to the signing of this controversial treaty.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919 bringing the Great War to an official close exactly five years to the day after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand started it.
One of the most important and controversial provisions of the treaty was the known as the War Guilt Clause. This article, also known as Article 231 demanded that Germany "accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war". The treaty also required Germany to completely disarm, make large territorial concessions, and pay vast reparations of roughly 132 billion marks (£284 billion today) to the Entente powers.
the terms of the treaty were printed in a variety of British newspapers including the Derby Daily Telegraph
Many at the time felt that the terms enforced by the treaty were far too harsh and would lead to trouble in the future. They were unfortunately correct as it is now widely agreed that the treaty was one of the key motivating factors behind Adolf Hitler's rise to power and the Second World War.
Outrage in Germany
The singing of the treaty was met with outrage in Germany, especially amongst conservatives, nationalists and war veterans who now viewed socialists, communists, and ,in some cases, Jews as persons of questionable loyalty who had "stabbed Germany in the back".
Our collection of historical British and Irish newspapers is packed with reports of reactions in the German press that were sent back to Britain by Press Association correspondents. Many of these reports illustrate the sense of betrayal felt by many in the country and contain prophetic warnings for the future.
A photo of the negotiations printed in the Graphic, May 1919
Below are a selection of excerpts from German newspapers that were translated and circulated in publications across Britain in June/July 1919. Many of the predictions made by these papers are eerily accurate and may well have influenced a young Hitler who entered into politics just a few weeks later.
The German Press and Their Predictions
To-day a peace of shame is being signed in the Hall Mirror at Versailles. Forget it not! Where, in the year I87l, the German Empire arose in its old splendour, German honour today is being carried to the grave. Forget it not! In unresting labour, the German nation will again rise me to regain for itself its place amongst the nations which it is due. Then revenge for the indignity 1919! Then, woe to the vultures, revenge for the indignity to the Kaiser's throne, revenge for 1919.
Whatever may happen, our frontier people know the time for talk is past. They want action, and they will act. We believe light is coming for the entire beloved German Fatherland, and that the days of treachery and traitors are numbered. We will win back what we have lost."
According to the British press, the paper was suspended the following day for its "incitement to revenge"
"It is no final peace that was signed yesterday."
The Berliner Tageblatt:
"Although we were prepared for a good deal, and even for everything, we can only say the Treaty surpasses the worst expectations. It does not evidence a trace of statesmanship or of President Wilson's principles, but is brutal and thoughtless and intoxicated brutality.
This will within a few years create an Imperialistic call for revenge in Germany."
How can France humiliate and fleece the German Empire without abandoning the French Nation to the revenge of the German people's hatred? But the time will come when the whole world will no longer be France's shield. The French people tremble in the face of this possibility so Germany must be dismembered. German-Austria must not join the Empire; and Belgians, Poles, Czechs and Danes are incited to seize Imperial territory. When France in July 1807 dictated its will, it was mighty as a state has rarely been before and Prussia seemed crushed forever. Seven years later Friedrich Wilhelm III rode into Paris. We will not tolerate chains which have already been broken.
Workmen decommission a heavy gun, to comply with the treaty.
THE END OF GERMANY - It has never been demanded of any nation to confess itself dishonourable, to regard its own death sentence as just, to let its leaders be tried as rascals and criminals. No peace treaty has ever been drawn with such cold, calculating determination kill without allowing rise again as this. Germany is dead; the place of Central Europe, which fertilised the world, and has for forty years kept the peace, is taken by confusion and chaos, which M. Mr. Lloyd George, and President Wilson, and all those who were accessories, have sown the dragon's teeth of eternal and poisonous hatred.
"Germany -which is lacerating itself in party warfare, can neither economically recover, nor order her own finances, nor pay war money the Entente - is manifest. What we need now is a despot to compel the nation to work. If we are unable to set him up with our own strength, our enemies will send him. Germany must work.
Germany is not to be given repose. She is not to be able to be able to build up, but is to be held in permanent economic, military and political bondage, and to sink to the status of a tributary State of the League of Nations. If the terms are accepted, fresh revolutions are inevitable, for, if fulfilled, the demands for billions must bring about the overthrow of our native industries, impoverish owners, and enormously swell the ranks of unemployed."
The Neue Freie Preset:
As the war was a capitalistic war so the peace is a capitalistic peace. England and America are now lords over hundreds of millions of people living between the Far East and the Far West, rulers on land and sea, and judges over assembled nations with power to pronounce an economic death sentence on refractory people by withholding foodstuffs and material.
Of the three great commercial Powers in the world only two remain, England and America. If they unite they can monopolise the trade of the world.
The Arbeiter Zeitung:
"it cannot be denied that the origin of the war was in Vienna. The war was prepared in the Ballplats, and Count Berchtold (Austrian Foreign Minister in 1914) was perhaps more responsible than anybody else for this human slaughter. The only questionable point is Germany's share in Vienna's guilt. That the Entente did not want war is shown by their earnest endeavours to prevent war
"From now onwards not a day must pass in which it is not repeated in the German Press, including even the smallest of the provincial papers, 'the Peace Treaty must revised'. Our protest against it must be made permanently! Our hatred must be fraternity! Our hope must be faith in ourselves and our children!"
Prominent German Journalist Theadore Wollf wrote:
One thing is certain, that there can be no question of this being a peace of justice. What a peace of justice after Entente pattern and in accordance with French desires, looks like is show by these conditions, which leave nothing of Germany but torn and tattered territory, a jumping-off ground for enemy armies, an economic corpse, which even the greatest exertions could not revive. For Germany there is no self-determination. German territory it torn off; a German Population which was waiting for union with Germany must remain outside; in a word Germany has ceased to exist. A peace proposal has been put before us which is unexampled in the history of peoples. This peace is unacceptable.
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