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What if the Allies of WWI had sent the invite to its Centrals in defeat?


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#1 jemimas_special2

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 11:38 PM

It's easy to be consumed by the more popular topics of WWII. Digging deeper, and focusing on the core of it's beginnings conjures a whole new meaning.... I have been researching a big part of my day on the victorious Allies of WWI - (USA, Britain, & France). Understanding that their efforts in creating a peace settlement (Treaty of Versailles) for the future... would fester and store feelings of resentment to come (Germany, and ex-corporal Adolf Hitler).

Before I state my What if?.... Let me preface my topic with a brief but informative background of what really happened.

The dominant Allies held a meeting in Paris, located at the Hall of Mirrors, at the palace of Versailles. As their agenda consisted of prevention for conflicts to come, seperate treaties were signed and agreed upon. Members of the Central Powers (German Empire, Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire, & Austria-Hungary) were non existent, and post-poned to sign the treaties at a latter date. As the Allies had a firm handle on the negotiations, a new Europe was established. A portion of these treaties declared new territories diminishing area's of Germany, division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thus creating Austria and Hungary. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia emerged as new nations, and the Baltic States became independent.

Surrounding countries such as Belgium and Denmark gained former German territory, and Germany lost 13 per cent of its pre-war area. And more specifically, the clause given to Germany accepting fault for the war. As I'm learning more of WWII's inception, and seeing the division of countries and ill-judged decisions.... how could this have been prevented? or is it even a thought?

What if..... Germany had been invited to the Hall of Mirrors in the beginning? Would that have released some rising pressure for the future, despite their loss... especially if there was ONE treaty, and their presence could have been heard.... I dont know. If I have left anything out, or this has been discussed before... mods/admins please close at your convenience. I did not see this posted earlier once searching the What if? section ;) And rogues, If I have failed to include vital points arguing this topic, feel free to correct my post.

all the best,

Jem
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#2 Devilsadvocate

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 02:34 AM

....What if..... Germany had been invited to the Hall of Mirrors in the beginning? Would that have released some rising pressure for the future, despite their loss... especially if there was ONE treaty, and their presence could have been heard.... I dont know. If I have left anything out, or this has been discussed before... mods/admins please close at your convenience. I did not see this posted earlier once searching the What if? section ;) And rogues, If I have failed to include vital points arguing this topic, feel free to correct my post.

all the best,

Jem


I don't think such a gesture would have made any difference at all. I think too much is made of the Versailles Treaty as far as WW II is concerned.

One has to remember that Europe was changing even before WW I; old cultural values were being challenged and the old political and social systems were breaking down and giving way to experiments in democracy, command economies, authoritarianism, and social paternalism. All of this created social, political, and economic upheavals and turmoil leading to uncertainty and fear of the future. These were the things that Hitler exploited in building his Third Reich. Hitler played on strong feelings of German nationalism, but German nationalism actually had it's roots in the 19th. century under Bismarck. Hitler still would have had plenty of German fears and resentment to feed on, no matter how diplomatic the framers of the Versailles Treaty tried to be.

Furthermore, countries like Britain and France were deeply and fundamentally hurt by World War I. For France and Britain, an entire generation of young men had been literally decimated in the European fighting, their societies had been distorted and stretched, and their economies burdened with crushing debt. The British and French peoples were angry that they had been forced to make such sacrifices, and justified or not, they felt very strongly that Germany bore the lion's share of the blame. The Allies wanted to make Germany pay what they felt was it's share of the damage, and they wanted to make sure that Germany could never re-establish a military strong enough to threaten them again.

It can be argued that they went about it in precisely the wrong way, but in 1919, it did not seem that way; the restrictive provisions of the Versailles Treaty seemed exactly the right sort of regime to impose on Germany. I doubt very seriously having Germany at Versailles would have changed much in the long run as the basic conflicts would have remained the same.

Countries like Britain, France, and the US believed themselves to be the victors in WW I, and as such they felt they had the right to establish a new order in Europe and the world, which protected their political and economic interests, and to build institutions which perpetrated that status quo. Unfortuantely, the future Axis countries, Italy, Germany, and Japan all harbored strong nationalists movements which believed they also had a right to pursue expansionist policies at the expense of their neighbors, and this threatened the status quo. The Versailles Treaty was merely a symptom of coming conflict, not the root cause.
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#3 panzer kampf gruppen 6

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 04:24 AM

In my opinion no one won the war nothing was gain from it the treaty made things worst plus with the Russain revolution Eastern Eroupe was in chaos.

#4 jemimas_special2

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 05:34 AM

I don't think such a gesture would have made any difference at all. I think too much is made of the Versailles Treaty as far as WW II is concerned.

Hitler still would have had plenty of German fears and resentment to feed on, no matter how diplomatic the framers of the Versailles Treaty tried to be.


DA,

Reading extensive amounts on the affects of WWI, and it's unbalanced outcomes... your delivery was spot on. I formed the same understanding that no matter how the Treaty of Versailles was delivered, or conceived... in the eyes of the German Empire, and harnessed by Hitler's rising National Socialist German Workers' Party... the future's outlook lied bleak. I do have one question for you... because Germany was forced to pay for damages and destruction caused, America had established reparations payments. Led by American banker's, Charles Dawes and latter Owen Young.... Germans stated that the terms engaged were still harsh to repay. I welcome your thoughts on this....

Jem

#5 brndirt1

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 03:56 PM

I suppose the first thing to be remembered is that the victorious Germans had dictated peace terms to the French at the close of the Franco-Prussian war, in that very same setting. The Hall of Mirrors, forcing the French Emperor to abdicate, and the French nation to pay reparations (in gold, which they did), even though no German territory nor industry had been destroyed, and all the fighting was done on French soil. The French being a bit less than magnanimous can be understood if this is included in the equation. I've put this together over the years after reading Margaret MacMillan's; Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World a few years ago. Good book, pick it up sometime.

Let’s not forget that the Turks weren’t party to the creation of the Treaty of Versailles either since Istanbul was occupied before the meeting in Paris, and they were presented with a separate dictated peace. However, they rejected the terms of the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and went back to fighting the allies. They were again defeated, and the 600+ year old Ottoman Empire came to a complete end with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. They lost more territory than the Germans. Continuing to battle the allies didn’t work out well for them in the end, as she lost most of her holdings in Europe, and a great deal of Asia Minor as well.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, and separate treaties were signed with Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria and those nations lost as well. Their own monarch (Charles I) hadn’t sued for an "armistice" he had surrendered unconditionally on Nov. 3rd, 1918; and then on Nov. 11th, he abdicated. So they were dealt with in a different fashion than their partner, Germany. Austria-Hungary signed two peace settlements, indicative of the fact that this state was to cease to exist entirely and be divided into two entities as terms of their surrender.

Austria signed the Treaty of Saint Germain, and Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon, Then the southern part of Czechoslovakia and parts of Poland were formed out of land formerly held by Austria. Hungary lost territory to Romania and Yugoslavia, then when Bulgaria signed theTreaty of Neuilly on Nov. 27th, 1919, she also lost territory to what was going to become Yugoslavia, so those new nations weren’t included in the Treaty of Versailles either it appears.

Only Germany it would appear was left to deal with, and since they had been by far the most aggressive of the Central Powers, they were dealt with more harshly than their European partners. The Turks probably received the worst outcome from their partnership/dealings with Germany.

Margaret MacMillan’s book; Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, holds that Versailles has been given a bum rap. The allies, she says, were not the caricatures history has remembered: vengeful Frenchmen, pusillanimous Britons, or naive and bumbling Americans. And to blame the treaty for World War II, she says, is "to ignore the actions of everyone–political leaders, diplomats, soldiers, ordinary voters–for 20 years between 1919 and 1939."

MacMillan is not alone. Her book, which recently won the Samuel Johnson Prize, one of Britain's most prestigious awards for nonfiction, has also earned wide praise from a group of like-minded historians, who have quietly pointed out for years that many of the issues facing western leaders at Versailles; i.e. self-determination, ethnic nationalism, western hubris still resonate today. Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson, and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George may not have built a perfect peace, they say, but the treaty was far more fair than flawed.

At the top of their list is the "reparations myth." The compensation payments the victors demanded of Germany have long been fingered for sending Germany into an economic free fall that paved the way for Hitler. John Maynard Keynes, among others, even argued that it was Allied foolishness in setting the payments so high that crushed the German economy.

But MacMillan and the other historians think not. "Whatever the treaty," she argues, "Germany would have been an unhappy place in the 1920s." Reparations were initially set at $33 billion. But MacMillan maintains that Germany paid only about $4.5 billion in the entire period between 1918 and 1932. Slightly less, she points out, than what France paid after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and with a much smaller economy. The French had paid on time, and in gold, so holding the Germans to reparations was far from unfair.

Some historians have gone even further. Stephen Schuker, a University of Virginia historian and author of American 'Reparations' to Germany, 1919- 1933, believes the Germans, by using the proceeds of American loans to pay off their debts in Europe, ultimately paid no reparations at all. And when the Germans defaulted, Schuker argues, American bankers had effectively paid reparations to Germany, and may have had a part in the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929. Indeed, according to Schuker's calculations, the total net transfer from the United States to Germany in the period 1919-1931, adjusted for inflation, "amounted to almost four times the total assistance that the United States furnished West Germany under the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1952."

In any case, the majority of the delegates at the conference felt the initial figures were fair. European wars had ended in reparations payments for centuries. And, after all, Germany had declared war on France, not the other way around. "The war was fought on French soil and in French towns," MacMillan says. "It destroyed French mines and farmland and the French transportation network. Why should they pay for it?"

Germans may have convinced themselves, she writes, that without reparations "life would go back to normal; the sun would shine and there would be happy afternoons in the beer gardens." But, given the dollars actually paid, money wasn't the source of German malaise. "Losers complain," historian Gordon Martel of the University of Northern British Columbia has written. "It may be graceless to do so, but it is not unexpected."

Indeed, MacMillan writes, after hearing German grumbling about the terms, the American president's response was simple: "It is enough to reply that we don't believe a word of what the German government says." MacMillan believes and makes a good point that; the real problem was that Germany did not feel defeated. "They didn't think they had lost the war," she said during a recent visit to Paris. "They'd never seen foreign troops on German soil. The German army marched back in good order to Berlin. German industry was intact. Germany was still the biggest European country west of the Soviet Union. It never really disarmed, and it was strong enough in 1939 to conquer most of Europe."

So should the Western powers have continued the war and taken it into Germany? This happens to be my own belief, and coincides with General Pershing’s stated opinion at the time. He was one of the first to say that if the German’s didn’t see their enemies marching in the streets of Berlin they would NEVER feel they lost the war. Their army was after all allowed to withdraw, with their small arms, and they themselves paraded in their cities as if they were "winners, not losers" with crowds throwing flowers in the streets, and no German territory had felt the weight of a foreign boot.

By fall 1918, MacMillan said that while the United States had only recently entered the war, France and Britain were exhausted by prolonged trench warfare that had cost them millions of lives. And they had another, more political, reason for signing the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918: "The French and particularly the British felt that, if the war went until spring 1919, the Americans would be that much more powerful, and they didn't want the Americans to be the dominant partner."

MacMillan and others also believe Germany (contrary to the conventional wisdom), was not politically emasculated by the treaty. Hitler, for one, claimed in the 1920s and '30s that the European boundaries drawn at Versailles unjustly separated thousands of "ethnic" Germans from their brethren in the Fatherland. But many historians now believe Wilson stayed as close to his declared principle of drawing boundaries on the basis of ethnicity as was economically and strategically feasible at the time. Czechoslovakia and Poland, for example, both of which were recognized, not created by the peace conference, could not have survived ethnic homogeneity.

The Czechs needed the mountains to the north (Germany’s Sudatenland), to protect their cities and industry in the valleys below, and the Poles, to be commercially viable, required access to the sea. As a result, tens of thousands of those ethnic Germans living in the middle ended up Czech or Polish. If the Allies had drawn boundaries on ethnicity alone, Boston University historian William Keylor points out, they would have made postwar Germany bigger than it was in 1914. And that, after four years of fighting and millions of deaths, "was politically impossible."

When you look at Europe at the end of 1919, says Keylor, author of A World of Nations: the International Order Since 1945, it comes as close to an ethnographic map as any settlement before or since." Paris 1919; tracks the complex and heated negotiations that preceded the signing of the peace treaty with Germany in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles on June 28th 1919. But it also places the peace conference, which continued for three more years, in the broader context of the extraordinary reorganization of European borders that followed the demise of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. In the Middle East, too, new nations were created; Iraq, Syria and Jordan, among them while at least the idea of a Jewish state was born.

So why has it taken historians so long to reconsider Versailles? For one thing, because the conventional view makes a good story, says MacMillan (who happens to be David Lloyd George's great-granddaughter). "We like to believe that statesmen are a bunch of boobs anyway, if not wicked," and for many years after the settlement respectable voices said just that. She credits the end of the Cold War, though, for bringing many historians into her camp. Civil wars in the Balkans, rebellions in Africa, fighting in Palestine, the squabbling of minorities in Iraq–all are the same issues faced by the peacemakers in Paris.

Today, as western leaders continue to struggle with these same problems, she says, we can see that Clemenceau was right: "Making peace just isn't as easy as we thought." Yet Ms. MacMillan still hesitates before condemning Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau for the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and the Paris peace conference.

"I kept on thinking, 'What would I have done differently?' " she recalled. "I'm never going to be a great statesman, but if I am going to criticize them, I have to at least think; O.K., what would I have done differently? And you know, I don't know what I would have done differently."

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Happy Trails,
Clint.

#6 Devilsadvocate

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 07:07 PM

DA,.....I do have one question for you... because Germany was forced to pay for damages and destruction caused, America had established reparations payments. Led by American banker's, Charles Dawes and latter Owen Young.... Germans stated that the terms engaged were still harsh to repay. I welcome your thoughts on this....

Jem


Jem,

I pretty much agree with Clint; The reparations demanded of Germany weren't all that far out of line considering how destructive the war had been, especially in France. And considering that Germany actually didn't pay much, and defaulted on the American loans anyway, it's a bit disingenuous to claim that Germany was somehow severely economically damaged by the Versailles Treaty reparations. Germany's economic problems in the 1920's and 1930's were not all that unique among industrialized nations when viewed from our perspective. Adam Tooze says in "Wages of Destruction",

"One of the many extraordinary features of German politics in the aftermath of World War I is that throughout the existence of the Weimar Republic the German electorate faced a choice between a politics (sic)
centered on the peaceful pursuit of national prosperity and a militant nationalism that more or less openly demanded a resumption of hostilities with France, Britain and the United States
."

It was an angry Hitler, struggling with his own demons, who created the myths about WW I which tapped into the strong German nationalistic feelings and German ambiguity about the outcome of of that earlier conflict, in order to reignite a sense of conflict with the rest of the world. Tooze argues that this was possible primarily because Germany's surrender in 1918 was "less complete" than in 1945.
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#7 Old Schoolr

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 07:35 PM

Thank you all for the excellent posts. I've learned a lot from this.

#8 jemimas_special2

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 09:20 PM

Old Schoolr..... this is just a piece of the wisdom that roam these parts. I'm glad you took away something beneficial from this post. I join your disposition ;)

brndirt1 and DA,

Thank you for all your time and efforts is posting this meticulous feedback. I have gained an enormous amount of compensation through these posts, and can now shift in new directions towards a better understanding of WWII's beginnings. I have nothing more to add, and my question has been answered! Cheers to the both of you ;)

all the best,

Jem

Edited by jemimas_special2, 14 December 2009 - 09:28 PM.


#9 brndirt1

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 09:27 PM

Old Schoolr..... this is just a piece of the wisdom that roams these parts. I'm glad you took away something beneficial from this post. I join your disposition ;)

brndirt1 and DA,

Thank you for all your time and efforts is posting this meticulous feedback. I have gained an enormous amount of compensation through these posts, and can now shift in new directions towards a better understanding of WWII's beginnings. I have nothing more to add, and my question has been answered! Cheers to the both of you ;)

all the best,

Jem


Thanks for the kudos, and don't forget the other part of the Franco-Prussian war and its ending. By the terms of the final treaty (Treaty of Frankfurt), signed on May 10, 1871, at Frankfurt am Main, Germany annexed the French provinces of Alsace (excluding Belfort) and Lorraine as well as 4% of the Vosges district, that on the eastern slopes of the mountain range; the French were also ordered to pay an indemnity of five billion gold francs.

German troops occupied France until September 1873, when the full amount had been paid in gold francs. To add insult to the treaty while the Germans occupied France awaiting their reparations, they used the Hall of Mirrors as their headquarters.

Happy Trails,
Clint.

#10 jemimas_special2

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 09:37 PM

Very good Clint, it's interesting to see the Hall of Mirrors being designated more than once for a central meeting place??.......

Jem

#11 LRusso216

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 09:54 PM

Clint and DA have pretty much covered the arguments about Germany in the years between the wars. It's important to remember that German politics in the 20s and 30s was a mixture of right wing nationalists and communists (Liebknecht and Rosenberg) that had little love nor tolerance for Weimar or democracy. The centrists, who tried to abide by the Treaty condititions were denounced by the communists as siding with the international bankers, while the nationalists excoriated them for trying to erase German pride. If the majority of the populace consists of those who don't support the government, it can't last long. It wasn't uncommon for bloody street brawls to occur between the freikorps and the communists. The government was nearly powerless to stem this tide of violence. Add to this the economic problems experienced by Germany and others in the time period, and it isn't difficult to understand why the German people were anxious for someone to suggest an alternative. Politically, Germany had no tradition or experience with democracy. Most of the ruling class still followed the old Prussian traditions of autocracy coupled with a distrust of Jews and tremendous fear of communism.

The treaty was harsh, but given the conditions imposed by Prussia on France in 1870, it wasn't as onerous as it could have been. Since Germany had not been invaded, and the imperial press continued to trumpet German successes on the battlefield right up until the armistice, I guess it was difficult for the average citizen to comprehend what had occurred to them. Thus, they were ripe for the various "conspiracy" theories that abounded in Germany, whether they were concerning the "stab in the back", international bankers, or Jews, among others.

I'm not sure the outcome of the treaty would have been significantly different even if Germany had ben invited to the table. There were just too many diconnects politically and socially in Germany to expect a much different outcome.

Thanks for posting this thought provoking "What if..." At least there is some meat to chew on.

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Lou


#12 urqh

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 10:00 PM

As well as reperations it is important not to miss American loans out of the equation between the wars.

#13 Anderan

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 10:14 PM

I wonder sometimes if it would not have just been better if the American banks had not loaned money to the allies and just let Germany win the war. Even if the allies won with out America there was still the fact that France would have been as harsh as possible on Germany.

#14 belasar

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 12:15 PM

If Imperial Germany had won the war it brings up some ineresting possibilities. A 2nd world war between Imperial Germany and communist Russia?




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