This Day in the Law
June 28

Treaty of Versailles Signed (1919)

On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris, thus bringing an end to World War I. It was signed exactly five years to the day after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which was the final catalyst to start the war.

Negotiations between the Allied powers (the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and several smaller nations) began in January 1919. Initially, 70 delegates of 27 nations participated in the negotiations. Russia, though part of the Allies, did not participate because it had negotiated a separate peace with Germany in 1918, in which Germany gained a large fraction of Russia's land and resources. Negotiations continued throughout the year, with the final conditions being determined by the leaders of the “Big Three” nations - British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and American President Woodrow Wilson. The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919.

The treaty’s main aim was to weaken Germany’s power. Limits were put on how many armed force troops Germany was allowed to have (100,000) and how long those men could serve (12 years). Naval forces were limited to 15,000 troops and 30 boats. Also, manufacturing, importing, or exporting weapons, poison gas, armed aircraft, tanks, and armored cars was completely prohibited. Further, Germany had to return any territories, colonies, and disputed land, thus decreasing the size of the nation considerably. Lastly, German had to pay extensive reparations to the Allied nations.

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most controversial required Germany to accept sole responsibility for causing the war. This provision is frequently called the “war guilt” provision, and is often sited as one of the causes that led to the rise in socialism in Germany and the birth of World War II.

The Treaty of Versailles was only one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. The other Central Powers were dealt with in separate treaties.