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The Treaty of Versailles was a peace treaty signed on 28 June 1919. As the most important treaty of World War I, it ended the state of war between Germany and most of the Allied Powers. It was signed in the Palace of Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties. The United States never ratified the Versailles treaty and made a separate peace treaty with Germany. Although the armistice of 11 November 1918 ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. Germany was not allowed to participate in the negotiations; it was forced to sign the final treaty.
|Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany|
|Signed||28 June 1919|
|Location||Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, Paris, France|
|Effective||10 January 1920|
|Condition||Ratification by Germany and three Principal Allied and Associate Powers|
|Languages||French and English|
|Treaty of Versailles at Wikisource|
|Paris Peace Conference|
Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine
The most critical and controversial provision in the treaty was: "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." The other members of the Central Powers signed treaties containing similar articles. This article, Article 231, became known as the War Guilt clause. The treaty required Germany to disarm, make ample territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion gold marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US$442 billion or UK£284 billion in 2023).
Prominent economists such as John Maynard Keynes declared the treaty too harsh, styling it as a "Carthaginian peace", and saying the reparations were excessive and counterproductive. On the other hand, prominent Allied figures such as French Marshal Ferdinand Foch criticized the treaty for treating Germany too leniently. This is still the subject of ongoing debate by historians and economists.
The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left no one satisfied. In particular, Germany was neither pacified nor conciliated, nor was it permanently weakened. The problems that arose from the treaty would lead to the Locarno Treaties, which improved relations between Germany and the other European powers. The reparation system was reorganized and payments reduced in the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan. The treaty's terms against Germany resulted in economic collapse and bitter resentment which powered the rise of the Nazi Party, and eventually the outbreak of a second World War.
Although it is often referred to as the "Versailles Conference", only the actual signing of the treaty took place at the historic palace. Most of the negotiations were in Paris, with the "Big Four" meetings taking place generally at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Quai d'Orsay.
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