Why Did the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 Fail?


After the end of World War I, on 28 June 1919 at Versailles, Paris, France, the Treaty of Versailles had established and signed by the allied powers including the United States represented by Woodrow Wilson, Great Britain by David Lloyd, France by Clemenceau, Japan and Italy and central power is Germany. Two major purposes of this treaty are to restrict the power of Germany and to ensure peace and security between both parties as well as in the world. It had put a pressure and limitation in reconstruction Germany’s armed force which known as Reichswehr and also demanding this country to make a reparation to the damaged countries such as France and Great Britain. This treaty also led to the establishment of the League of Nations, an intergovernmental organization which established in January 20, 1920 and aimed to promote world peace and stability. However, later on, it turned out that the treaty was fail due to a few significant reasons. The purpose of the article is to identify and analyze the different factors which caused the failure of the Treaty of Versailles. 

One of the reasons of the failure is because it had failed to prevent the Second World War to occur. The purpose of the treaty itself was to stop another big war to exist again on this earth, yet it had unsuccessfully done so. The war still happened and the destruction of it was even larger and more serious than in WWI and other war in history of humankind due to the fact that the technology is increasing, and thus the weapons using are more powerful than ever, for instance, aircrafts, tanks, machine guns, and especially the use of nuclear bombs in Japan to end the war. Consequently, it resulted in dead of 75 million people including 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.

Furthermore, the cause of failure of the treaty was because it was lack of the enforcement mechanism and lack of willingness of the allied powers. Many terms stipulated in the treaty were not implemented. For example, the 14 points of President Woodrow Wilson including “1) no more secret treaties, 2) countries must seek to reduce their weapons and their armed forces, 3) national self-determination should allow people of the same nationality to govern themselves and one nationality should not have the power to govern another , 4) all countries should belong to the League of Nations,” and an intention of France in dividing Germany into smaller states did not occur, and thus it just caused the treaty to become weak; as a result, Germany could take the advantages of it. Germany had violated the treaty for several time and the allied countries had done nothing to prevent Germany from doing so. There are a few significant violations made by Germany such as in March 1935, Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding the armed forces, in March 1936, Germany reoccupied the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland, and in March 1938, Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss which was prohibited in the treaty. Great Britain and France were noticeably destroyed during WWI; therefore, they were still busy with recovering their economies and building up their state defenses also, so they did not pay much attention and resulted to be neglected in stopping the rising of Germany.

On the top of the above point, the Treaty of Versailles failed can be due to and absence of the United State in taking action. Even though the US was not a superpower state at that time which until that post WWII, still it had known as one of the powerful states. It is the fact that the US had signed the treaty; however, it did not ratify nor join the League of Nations – the world organization – since the US considered it could affect its sovereignty of state and limit its power in determining its own affair. The US did nothing to fight against Germany, yet it chose to implement a policy of isolationism. The US thought to join the League of Nations and to take action in enforcing the Treaty of Versailles would not provide it any benefit or interest to its nations; on the other hand,  it would lost a lot of its troops in war and slow down its economy and power. Not so different from the US, the other allied countries themselves also were lack of willingness and commitment in enforce the treaty.

In addition, the treaty was likely to fail because of its controversial features which were opposed internationally. Russia was excluded from the peace conference to establish the peace treaty though it has fought in war with the allies for three years and lost a lot of people than any other countries. The ignore of Russia was a weakness of the treaty and that might have contributed to the failure of it also since Russia as a neighbor to Germany could have supported the allies and take action to prevent the violation of Germany. Hence, it caused Russia dissatisfaction, and therefore, the treaty could not win the support of majority of nations that resulted into its failure.

Another reason this ineffective is because the meanings and statements stated in the treaty were too harsh on Germany to implement. The treaty demanded Germany to accept the complete responsibility for causing the WWI and severely forced this country to pay for a large among of repetition. There should be an establishment of a declaration or small agreement first in order to make it become easier instead of intending to put much pressure on Germany and resulted in ineffective. It should have been taken much consideration on the process of implementing and enforcing of the treaty by the member states.

Additionally, a huge failure of the Versailles treaty is due to it brought the rising of Adolf Hitler. The treaty placed a number of restrictions on Germany and put them in financial ruin and later on lead to depression and inflation. According to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany could have no more than 100,000 soldiers, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no poison-gas supplies, no aircraft and no airships and the limitation of the German Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with no submarines. It also needed to repay all the damage occurred during WWI. This caused Germany’s economy become very weak and affects all German people’s lives. It seemed like allied powers wanted to bankrupt Germany by putting heavy financial penalties on the nation. As a result, German were mad of humiliated and put hard pressure on this country which led to having a strong sense of nationalism. Then they considered Hitler as their savior as he promised to bring back Germany on the world stage, to create jobs, wealth, and infrastructure. And that led to WWII. Also, it is the fact that the United States wanted to eliminate the imperialism set by colonial rules in different parts of the world. In contrast, the Treaty of Versailles has brought a new set of colonial rulers to world order.

Therefore, who are responsible for the failure of this treaty? It is more than sure that the unsuccessful and ineffective of the treaty was a responsibility of the allied powers including all the five countries mentioned above. All of them were thinking only their own nations interests, and they did not put the whole nations and the world’s interest as a reason to enforce the treaty and to fight against Germany. There were often controversies occurred among the allied countries themselves during the discussion to make the treaty. Therefore, it showed that there were lacks of cooperation with one another. Also, they need to be responsible for this failure because they were the groups who established this treaty and intended to put a severely punishment on Germany. As a result, it caused the German people encountered hardship in living and angry with the allied powers and wished to revenge for their humiliation. The allied powers should not have put such serious pressure on Germany by following the treaty instantly after it had signed. Instead, they should have provided time, compromised to seek for suitable punishment on Germany, and focused on the process of implementation the treaty so that it would decrease or even omit the problem. Once again, if all the allied countries came together as one, they would have formed a strong force and voice to successfully ensure the effectiveness of the treaty and prevent WWII to happen.

The United States have to respond for this consequence also because of its unwillingness and selfishness. As mentioned above the US decided to isolate itself from the world and did nothing to help the situation. Also, the US senate always disagreed to the ideas and proposal of the President Woodrow Wilson, for instance, the 14 points proposing to include in the treaty and requesting to be a member of the League of Nations. The absence of the US in playing an important role in enforcing the treaty and preventing the violation of Germany had contributed a lot to the failure of the treaty. If the US had joined the League of Nations and was willing to maintain peace and security in the world, it would stop such scenario of failure to exist.

Great Britain and France while encountered difficult in recovering the countries themselves put a large punishment on Germany and especially demanding for repetition which caused the depression and hardship in this country. One more thing, because their inability and lack of capacity in take action in preventing the violation of Germany, also regarded as their false.

Likewise, Japan and Italy instead of cooperating with other allied power to combat the war and ensure an effectiveness of the treaty. They had decided to join with Germany since they thought they would gain more benefits with this country. Thus, it just brought Germany power to be more powerful and succeeded in creating the war.

Germany itself also needs to respond for the failure of the treaty because it was the one who violated the treaty. Though the points stating in the treaty were hard to implement and considered as a severe punishment, Germany could seek for other possible solution such as negotiation or compromising with the allied powers to decrease the scale of punishment to certain level which can be applied to the situation of Germany and suitable to implement.

All in all, all of the countries who were members of the Treaty of Versailles had small or large contribution to the failure of the treaty and were the countries that need to be responsible. No individual country could bring such a big unsuccessfulness, yet all of the states had contributed to it.



Brezina, C., 2005, “The Treaty of Versailles, 1919: A Primary Source Examination Of The

Treaty That Ended World War I,” USA: The Rosen Publishing Group.

“League of Nations instituted,” History, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/league-


McDonald, S., 2004, “Versailles: Treaty or Armistice?,”


“The Treaty of Versailles,” History Learning Site: They Treaty of Versilles,


Treaty of Versailles/Preamble.

“Why Did the Treaty of Versailles Fail?,” Historyrocket.com,




4 thoughts on “Why Did the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 Fail?

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  2. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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  4. This is very well written and informative. However, the picture at the top is not from the Versailles Peace Conference. It is a photo from the Washington Naval Conference (ca. 1923) in Washington, DC/

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