Top Stories

treaty of versailles, woodrow wilson
Associated Press
Seated together in Paris, 1919, are the Big Four leaders of the Allies. Left to right: Vittorio
Orlando of Italy, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France and
President Woodrow Wilson of the United States.

On This Day: Treaty of Versailles Signed

June 28, 2007 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On June 28, 1919, Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending its involvement in World War I.
Fighting in World War I ended Nov. 11, 1918, when representatives from Germany and the Allied Powers signed an armistice, or ceasefire, that brought about an indefinite end to hostilities.

Two months later, representatives from more than 20 Allied Powers met in Paris to create a formal and lasting peace treaty. The leaders of France, Britain, Italy and the United States were the primary drafters of the treaty. Germany was not included at all in the negotiation. (Macrohistory and World Report)

The European leaders wanted to punish Germany for its actions during the war and inhibit its ability to fight future wars. In May, after months of tense negotiations, the Allies reached an agreement on the treaty and presented it to Germany.
(EyeWitness to History)

It included many harsh measures. Germany was forced to pay billions of dollars to repair war damage, give up some of its territory and all of its colonies, and accept all financial and moral responsibility for the war. Germany was unable to negotiate any changes with the Allied Powers, who threatened to resume hostilities if the treaty was not promptly signed. (Macrohistory and World Report)

The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, France. Two German representatives were the first to sign the Treaty of Versailles, followed by representatives of many of the Allied Powers. (MSN Encarta, EyeWitness to History)

Background: World War I

World War I was fought in Europe from 1914 to 1918. The two sides were the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) and the Allied Powers, a coalition of more than 30 countries. The main Allies were Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Russia and, beginning in 1917, the United States. (PBS)

Later Developments: The rise of Hitler

France had hoped that the measures against Germany would prevent future attacks. Instead, PBS reports that many historians believe they helped create the conditions that gave rise to Adolf Hitler. (PBS)

The restrictions and penalties against Germany hurt its economy and weakened the post-war government known as the “Weimar Republic.” The signing of the treaty embarrassed and angered many Germans. Some of them turned to far-right organizations, such as Hitler’s Nazi Party, which promised to restore Germany’s glory. The Nazi Party took control of the government in 1933 and Hitler became chancellor. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Sources in this Story

EyeWitness to History: Signing the Treaty of Versailles, 1919

Macrohistory and World Report: The Paris Conference and Versailles Treaty

MSN Encarta (Los Angeles Times): Treaty of Versailles Signed

PBS: The Great War: Versailles Treaty—From the German POV (Encyclopedia Britannica): Weimar Republic

PBS: The Great War

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines