Here are 10 facts that tell the story of the aftermath of World War One. As a massive, total war the conflict affected millions of lives, and shaped the future in profound ways. Indeed, 20 years later Europe would be shaken by an even greater war that many attribute to the fallout from this first great conflict.
1. The armistice on the Western Front was signed on 11/11/1918 at 11 AM
The armistice was signed in a train carriage in Compiègne. When Germany defeated France on 22 June 1940, Adolf Hitler insisted that the armistice was signed in exactly the same carriage.
2. 4 empires collapsed at the end of the war: The Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian
3. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland emerged as independent nations
4. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to Britain and France taking their colonies in the Middle East as League of Nations mandates
Britain took control of Palestine and Mesopotamia (later Iraq) and France took control of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
5. Russia underwent two revolutions – in October 1917 Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Party took control
The first revolution in March had led to the creation of a Provisional Government, but their failure to stop the war brought massive support for the Bolsheviks.
6. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to accept guilt for the war and pay $31.4 billion in reparations
That is approximately $442 billion in today’s money.
7. Germany’s army was capped at 100,000 and its navy at 6 battleships, no air-force was allowed
Germany’s peace time strength was 761,00 prior to the war, so this was a significant reduction.
8. Germany lost 13% of its European territory – more than 27,000 square miles
9. Many nationalists in Germany called the signatories of the Treaty the ‘November Criminals’ and refused to accept they had lost the war
This led to the ‘stabbed in the back’ myth – some nationalists blamed those responsible for signing the Treaty of Versailles, the new Weimar Government and Jews for the defeat of Germany.
10. The League of Nations was founded on 10 January 1920 with the mission of maintaining world peace
However, without the USA, Germany or Russia joining the League, it was doomed to impotence.
11. French General Ferdinand Foch said this of the Treaty of Versailles:
And he was right! When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933/34, he completely disregarded the treaty and used it as an excuse to fulfill expansionist policies. The failure of the signees of the Treaty of Versailles of the League of Nations to stop him led to World War Two twenty years later.