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1919 - Treaty of Versailles

Treaty of Versailles - negotiated among the Allied powers with little participation from Germany, the treaty reassigned German boundaries and assigned liability for reparations

The negotiations revealed a split between the French, who wanted to "squeeze Germany until the pip squeaks", dismembering the country to make it impossible for it to renew war with France, and the British and Americans, who did not want to create pretexts for a new war.


The eventual treaty included 15 parts and 440 articles. Part I created the Covenant of the New League of Nations, which Germany was not allowed to join until 1926. Part II specified Germany’s new boundaries, giving Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine back to France, substantial eastern districts to Poland, Memel to Lithuania, and large portions of Schleswig to Denmark. Part III stipulated a demilitarized zone and separated the Saar from Germany for 15 years. 

Part IV stripped Germany of all its colonies, and Part V reduced Germany’s armed forces to very low levels and prohibited Germany from possessing certain classes of weapons, while committing the Allies to eventual disarmament as well. Part VIII established Germany’s liability for reparations without stating a specific figure and began with Article 231, in which Germany accepted the responsibility of itself and its allies for the losses and damages of the Allies “as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” Part IX imposed numerous other financial obligations upon Germany.

The German government signed the treaty under protest. Right-wing German parties attacked it as a betrayal, and terrorists assassinated several politicians whom they considered responsible.

For five years the French and the Belgians tried to enforce the treaty quite rigorously, leading in 1922 to their occupation of the Ruhr. In 1924, however, Anglo-American financial pressure compelled France to scale down its goals and end the occupation, and the French assented to modifying important provisions of the treaty in a series of new agreements. 


Further Reading


BBC - Versailles and Peacemaking

National Archives - How Did the Various Sides React to the Treaty of Versailles?

1919 - Life After War

Coming to Terms with Life after the War - the horrors of the war were not easily erased.  For those who served, were injured, turned into refugees or orphans, adjustment to peacetime would take time. 

When the guns fell silent on 11 November 1918, millions of British Empire soldiers hoped they would soon be back home. But the task of demobilising so many troops was huge. The government's efforts to quickly integrate returning soldiers back into society had mixed results. There was also much debate about how best to mark the Allied victory and commemorate the fallen.  The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I were about 40 million: estimates range from 15 to 19 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

Of the wounded, many suffered long-term disabilities caused by amputation, blindness, disfigurement and poison gas damage to heart and lungs. The scars of war were visible for decades after in the towns and villages of Europe. Others had mental health problems caused by the psychological traumas they had experienced. Improvements in artificial limbs, plastic surgery, facial reconstruction techniques and psychiatry brought some relief. But many were left to fend for themselves with little financial or social support from the state.

There were hundreds of thousands across Europe who no longer had a home to return to.  Those who had lived and worked near the front lines would have almost certainly not have recognized the devastated areas they had once used to call home, their property destroyed if not by fighting then by looting.  Many millions more lives were turned upside down through the deaths of loved ones. It was especially hard on orphans or women with large  families, who had to take on the role of sole provider.


Further Reading


National Army Museum - Peace and Commemoration

Irish Times - Aftermath of WWI

AHRC - The Messy Aftermath of World War One

Daily Mail - Colour Images from End of World War One

Chicago Race Riot - outbreak of racially motivated violence led to a week of rioting between gangs of black and white Chicagoans, leaving 15 whites and 23 blacks dead and more than 500 people injured

The “Red Summer” marked the culmination of steadily growing tensions surrounding the migration of African Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North that took place during World War I. When the war ended in late 1918, thousands of servicemen returned home from fighting in Europe to find that their jobs in factories, warehouses and mills had been filled by newly arrived Southern blacks or immigrants. Amid financial insecurity, racial and ethnic prejudices ran rampant. Meanwhile, African-American veterans who had risked their lives fighting for the causes of freedom and democracy found themselves denied basic rights such as adequate housing and equality under the law, leading them to become increasingly militant.

On July 27, 1919, a 17-year-old African-American boy named Eugene Williams was swimming with friends in Lake Michigan when he crossed the unofficial barrier between the city’s “white” and “black” beaches. A group of white men threw stones at Williams, hitting him, and he drowned. When police officers arrived on the scene, they refused to arrest the white man whom black eyewitnesses identified. Angry crowds began to gather on the beach, and reports of the incident–many distorted or exaggerated–spread quickly.

Violence soon broke out between gangs and mobs of black and white, concentrated in the South Side neighborhood surrounding the stockyards. After police were unable to quell the riots, the state militia was called in on the fourth day, but the fighting continued until August 3. Shootings, beatings and arson attacks eventually left 15 whites and 23 blacks dead, and more than 500 people (around 60 percent black) injured. An additional 1,000 black families were left homeless after rioters torched their residences.

The Chicago Commission on Race Relations - composed of six white men and six black - was set up to investigate the causes.  It reported that competition for jobs, inadequate housing options for blacks, inconsistent law enforcement and pervasive racial discrimination triggered the riots.  However, improvement in these areas would be slow in the years to come.

President Woodrow Wilson publicly blamed whites for being the instigators of race-related riots in Chicago, and introduced efforts to foster racial harmony, including voluntary organizations and congressional legislation. In addition to drawing attention to the growing tensions in America’s urban centers, the riots in Chicago and other cities in the summer of 1919 marked the beginning of a growing willingness among African Americans to fight for their rights in the face of oppression and injustice.


Further Reading


Chicago 1919 - Confronting the Race Riots

Chicago Tribune - Chicago's 1919 Race Riot

1919 - Chicago Race Riots
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