In the frenzied post-war atmosphere, politicians from all parties agreed that the treaty, and in particular its despised 'War Guilt' clause, was vindictive, unfair and impossible to execute. They portrayed it as an unjust peace, and appealed to progressive forces across Europe to help them to revise it.
The civilian and military authorities knew that a peace negotiated on the basis of the idealistic Fourteen Points suggested by President Wilson of the United States would be exceedingly severe. They also knew that Germany would have to become a fully constitutional monarchy similar to that of the British, with a responsible parliamentary government, before the Allies would begin negotiations.
The causes, nature and consequences of disorder 1918-1924
On 7 November a motley crew of socialists and anarchists under Kurt Eisner seized power in Munich. The King abdicated in Bavaria, and a republican 'Free State of Bavaria' was proclaimed. On the following day, revolutionary sailors and workers took over control in Brunswick. By 8 November Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Halle, Osnabrück and Cologne were in the hands of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils. The mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, calmly announced that he fully accepted the new circumstances.
Video clip - Contents of the Treaty of Versailles
The lengthy deliberations seriously disrupted planning for the German spring offensive that was to begin on 21 March 1918. Over one million men were still in the east to enforce the treaty and to occupy the Ukraine. These forces were badly needed on the Western Front, and the disruption of agriculture due to war and civil war meant that they were able to extract precious little in the way of additional foodstuffs from the former Russian Empire to overcome the shortages at home.
Video clip about the content of the Treaty of Versailles
Most serious of all, although very few of the German and allied troops were attracted to Communism, the Bolshevik appeal for an end to the war met with a powerful resonance and was the direct cause of a wave of strikes beginning in Vienna in January 1918 and spreading to Germany.
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This serious challenge to Wilson within the United States increased the determination of the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and the French Premier, Clemenceau, to push forward the demands of their own electorates. Lloyd George won a crushing election victory in Britain in December, 1918, under the banner of 'making the Germans pay'. French opinion was even more vociferous in calling for security against future German aggression and for reparations for all the damage caused by the Germans in northern France.
- General Howe term papers discuss George Howe's military career.
German officials were not slow to recognise that Wilson's principles and 'new diplomacy' could be turned to Germany's advantage, and used to justify territorial gains in Europe, even in the face of military defeat.