When World War I came to a close in mid-November of 1918, many ideas were circulating in Europe as to what the peace settlement should entail. In Britain, leaders were thinking about how to increase British colonial power.
In France, many wanted to permanently punish the Germans, partly in revenge for Germany’s aggression in World War I, but also, perhaps subliminally, for the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. In Germany, citizens were worried about how radical changes after the war could affect their daily lives. Finally, in the United States, President Wilson was already concocting a system of permanently preserving European peace.
All these biases, worries, plans, and ideas came together in Paris in 1919, with the Treaty of Versailles, establishing the post-war peace in Europe. Yet just twenty years later, war would once again break out in Europe. So why were the peace settlements of World War I unable to prevent the outbreak of war twenty years later in World War II? The Treaty of Versailles had two main issues on which it focused: Germany’s post war territory and also the amount of reparations Germany must pay.
In the East, Germany was literally split into two parts. The Allies decided that the nation of Poland should be given access to the sea, so they formed the “Polish Corridor.” Poland gained a lot of territory from Germany, including a port on the Baltic, Danzig (Gdansk in Polish.) This isolated the region of Germany known as Eastern Prussia, which includes the city of Königsberg. In the Western part of Germany, more changes were made. France gained the much sought after region of Alsace-Lorraine. The northern part of Schleswig was given to Denmark, an area that had been contested since the time of Bismarck. Belgium also gained the provinces of Eupen and Malmedy.
The Rhineland was to be occupied heavily by allied forces, giving them control of such major cities as Cologne, Bonn and, Frankfurt, and putting troops at the g…