This year is the Centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Signed on 28 June 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles Palace, the Treaty was the most important of the peace treaties that brought an end to World War I. To mark this anniversary, the Peace Palace Library has put together a collection of books exploring the background and aftermath of the Versailles Treaty. Part VI: Territorial Changes.
The Versailles Treaty stripped Germany of 65,000 km2 of territory and circa 7 million people. It also required Germany to give up the gains made in the East. In Western Europe Germany was required to recognize Belgian sovereignty over Moresnet and cede control of the Eupen-Malmedy area. To compensate for the destruction of French coal mines, Germany was to cede the output of the Saar coalmines to France and control of the Saar to the League of Nations for 15 years; a plebiscite would then be held to decide sovereignty. The treaty "restored" the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine to France. The sovereignty of Schleswig-Holstein was to be resolved by a plebiscite to be held at a future time.
In Central Europe Germany was to recognize the independence of Czechoslovakia and cede parts of the province of Upper Silesia. Germany had to recognize the independence of Poland and renounce "all rights and title over the territory". Portions of Upper Silesia were to be ceded to Poland, with the future of the rest of the province to be decided by plebiscite. The border would be fixed with regard to the vote and to the geographical and economic conditions of each locality. The province of Posen, which had come under Polish control during the Greater Poland Uprising, was also to be ceded to Poland. Eastern Pomerania, on historical and ethnic grounds, was transferred to Poland so that the new state could have access to the sea and became known as the Polish Corridor.
The sovereignty of part of southern East Prussia was to be decided via plebiscite while the East Prussian Soldau area, which was astride the rail line between Warsaw and Danzig, was transferred to Poland outright without plebiscite. An area of 51,800 km2 was granted to Poland at the expense of Germany. Memel was to be ceded to the Allied and Associated powers, for disposal according to their wishes. Germany was to cede the city of Danzig and its hinterland, including the delta of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea, for the League of Nations to establish the Free City of Danzig.
Territory, Versailles and Books
- Brönner, W., Stimmen führender Ostleute: "der unmögliche Friede", Danzig, [s.n.], 1920.
- Coussange, J. de, Le Slesvig: le droit des peuples et le Traité de Versailles, Paris, Pedone, 1932.
- Kremser, H., "Elsass-Lothringen bei den Versailler Friedensverhandlungen", in: Der Erste Weltkrieg und seine Folgen für das Zusammenleben der Völker in Mittel- und Ostmitteleuropa: Teil 1, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2017, pp. 99-111.
- Pape, A., Die schleswigsche Frage und der Versuch ihrer Lösung im Vertrag von Versailles, Thèse Würzburg, Paderborn, [s.n.], 1930.
- Territoire de la Sarre, Genève, Société des Nations, 1934-35. 27 volumes.
Treaty of Versailles Centennial
The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties. Although the Armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.