Photographic book

Germany in 1919


General Erich Ludendorff
General Erich Ludendorff

Having surrendered and changed governments, Germans expected a negotiated peace. But the Allies were determined to receive reparation for their losses and to see that their enemy was never again in a position to endanger them. Accordingly, they imposed the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany in 1919. Germany was forced to surrender Alsace-Lorraine to France and West Prussia to Poland, creating a Polish corridor between Germany and East Prussia. Germany also lost its colonies and had to give up most of its coal, trains, merchant ships, and navy. It had to limit its army and submit to occupation of the Rhineland for 15 years. Worst of all, Germany had to accept full responsibility for causing the war and, consequently, pay its total cost—more than $30 billion in gold. These last provisions particularly rankled, since Germans did not consider themselves any more guilty than anyone else and could not possibly pay all that was demanded.

The Treaty of Versailles, justifiable from the Allies’ immediate point of view, did not ensure lasting peace. Germany was neither crushed completely—as some of the victors had demanded—nor encouraged to return to the European community. Instead, by accepting the treaty, the new German government gained a bad name among it citizens and crippled its chances of success, while fueling feelings of bitterness later exploited by the Nazis.

On February 16, 1919, a national assembly, led by the SPD, met in Weimar, Thuringia, to write a new constitution. The constitution adopted on July 31, 1919, transformed the German Empire into a democratic republic, known as the Weimar Republic. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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