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The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was written up by the allied powers without any input from the Germans. The Treaty was ruinous to Germany in many ways. It contained a "war- guilt clause" under Article 231 which forced the Germans to accept all responsibility for damages caused to any of the allied countries during the war. Furthermore, it forced demilitarization of the Rhine, an elimination of the German air force and near elimination of the German navy, and a maximum allowance of 100,000 troops in the German army. The Germans were forced to give up the territories of Alsace and Lorraine to France, and a great deal of Prussian territory went to the new state of Poland. To be given the opportunity of signing a peace treaty at all, the Germans were forced to accept a democratic government.

The Treaty of Versailles, however, had further effects than the crippling of German military power and economy. It was an insult which the Germans could not overcome, and was to be one of the major forces of World War II. Many who were against the Weimar government from the start, and later the Nazi party in its rise to power, would describe the Treaty as a "stab-in-the-back" by traitors such as Jews and communists who set out to destroy Germany. They believed that the "invincible" German army could not have been defeated, since no allied troops had set foot in Germany during the war. This argument against the so-called "November Criminals" who allowed the destruction of the German government for its replacement by the Weimar Republic was to be a great source of Nazi propaganda in promoting German nationalism.

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