Peace Settlement of 1919 Examination of the readings for this week illustrates the Peace Settlement of 1919 was doomed from the outset. There are several reasons this is true: the sufferings and resentments of Europe’s people were deep-seeded and long-standing (i. e. 1871, Alsace-Lorraine), the peace treaty was modeled on Wilson’s Fourteen Points (including self-determination and no annexations) and the Germans weren’t happy with these losses; in terms of financial reparations it was essentially a blank check from Germany to the Allies, loss of the coal and iron producing areas still left Germany as the strongest economical force in Europe with the ability to dominate most of her victors, and the biggest reason for its failure, there was no incentive for Germany to live up to the schedule of reparations that had been set for it.
In terms of no annexations, the treaty provided for the return of areas that Germany had previously taken such as Alsace-Lorraine and Poland. The Germans “had long ruled over the Poles… and the reversal of positions was intolerable. The German’s were hardly likely to welcome the creation of an independent Poland” (Steiner 69). The issue of self-determination was difficult and confusing at best. Was this to be determined via race, a geographical area, language or community?
Even President Wilson conceded the difficulty of self-determination: “When I gave utterance to those words [self-determination], I said them without knowledge that nationalities existed, which are coming to us day after day. ” (History in Quotations #11). The coal and iron clauses would only succeed in the loss of the most efficient mining of these essential ores, as “Germany could only execute the … demands of the treaty by abandoning the bulk of her industries and returning to the status of an agricultural country (Keynes 127), not something Germany was likely to do.
Finally, it was a no-win situation, economically. Weakening Germany too much would make it impossible for her to make reparations. Allowing her to remain strong to permit reparations would make the defeated nation remain an industrial powerhouse, enabling loser Germany to fare better than victors France, Belgium and Poland. Finally, the lack of incentive, not pointed out by Germany: “… if Germany worked hard and cleared its first debt, its reward was a second heavy burden… [and] if Germany failed to pay, its debt would be sharply reduced, as it effectively was.
This immense inducement to default arose from an Allied commitment to … a more moderate reality” (Marks 364). The German economy was irretrievably tied to the well-being of the economy of the rest of Europe and mightn’t have survived/ thrived had Germany been forced to make reparations. Hence her industry was allowed to continue to grow (fueling the Nazi’s programs in the next decade). A better solution would have been a more structured, albeit not so large, schedule for paying back the countries Germany had taken advantage of and to have lessened the altruistic appearances for which the Allies strove.