Strong perceptions of worldwide disgrace and self-preservation followed on the heels of World War I among the vanquished Germans. These perceptions emanated from the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, a document that initiated deep-rooted and intense sentiments of nationalistic pride which Hitler and the Nazi Party ultimately exploited for their own objective of world domination. The map of Europe was transformed in the aftermath of WWI. Germany lost about half its territory. The diminished borders further fueled political, cultural, and social clashes between regions. The map in the Middle East was also altered, a circumstance which, not surprisingly, had a similar effect amongst indigenous persons in the region. Britain’s three provinces of the former Mesopotamia, Palestine, and created Iraq, a country, which experiences heated internal rivalries to this day.
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According to the terms of the treaty, the Germans were forced to relinquish the Alsace-Lorraine region to France and consented to a military occupation by the allies (American, British, French, and Belgian) in the majority of western Germany including the Rhineland and many cities. Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Denmark gained sections of former German territories. Additionally, the German Navy was reduced significantly to only a handful of small vessels. Financial reparations outlined in the treaty were substantial and ambiguous. Germany was forced to effectively sign over a blank check to the countries of Western Europe, an enormous amount that was to be paid out for several decades (“The Treaty of Versailles”, 2007).
While the treaty of Versailles was intended as a punishment and a means of controlling the expansionists, the Germans did not view their actions in such light and felt the treaty went too far in reducing its territory and ability to protect itself. It was perceived that Germany was being whittled away and most Germans were more than willing to defend their country from the ultimate destruction they were certain was intended. The Treaty of Versailles was unquestionably the catalyst that not only ignited the fire of resentment and calls for retaliation by the vast majority of Germans but continually fanned the flames as well during the years leading up to WWII. The treaty caused the widespread confusion and discontent that ruled Germany immediately after the WWI surrender.
The resentment of Western involvement in Arab lands began at this time which initiated nationalistic Arab and Islamic movements. Unlike the resentment of the German people, the tensions in the Middle East were not resolved by World War Two. “Everyone understood at the time that this was a thinly disguised new form of colonialism…,” according to Zachary Lockman, Professor of Middle East history at New York University. “The British and French had no thought of going anywhere anytime soon, and fully intended to remain in control of these territories for the indefinite future.” However, following the war, Arab opposition forces surfaced to challenge Western domination. As of today, the cultural, religious, and social differences between people of the Middle East and Westerners are great. Arabs still resist such radical changes to their society and resent Westerners for infringing on them, a sentiment that has grown since WWI (Shuster, 2008).
The terms contained within the Treaty of Versailles, whether justifiable or not, were indeed harsh. The Germans were humiliated, stripped of territories, military, and the financial means to thrive, or possibly survive, as a nation. more lenient and if it had been adopted as the final draft would have prevented the intensely hostile feelings of the Germans towards those countries that imposed the treaty. Had the Treaty been the making of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who suggested a more lenient plan, Hitler’s rise to power and the deaths of more than 60 million people may have been prevented. Had the British not attempted to control the Middle East, the terrorism of today may have been prevented.
- Shuster, Mike “The Middle East and the West: WWI and Beyond” NPR Politics and Society.
- “The Treaty of Versailles” (2007). Waterville, Maine: Colby College. Web.