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A Perfidious Distortion of History: the…
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A Perfidious Distortion of History: the Versailles Peace Treaty and the…

by Jurgen Tampke

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The Versailles Peace Treaty, the pact that ended World War I between the German empire and the Allies, has not enjoyed a high reputation among politicians, historians, and opinion-makers since its signing in June 1919. Conventional wisdom has it that, guided by motives of punishment and revenge, and based on the untenable claim that Germany had caused the war, the treaty's chief instigators, United States president Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George and French prime minister Georges Clemenceau, imposed a Carthaginian peace upon the defeated enemy. Loss of vital industrial and agricultural regions and the imposition of massive reparation payments crippled the economy of the Weimar Republic. This in turn constantly destabilised the Republic's political life. Thus the gentle seeds of democracy that are said to have been sown in the aftermath of the Great War were not allowed to flourish. Instead, the fourteen years of the Republic were marked by perpetual confrontations, setbacks, and unsurmountable difficulties - all linked to the harshness of the Versailles Peace Treaty - which in the end drove the German people into the arms of Adolf Hitler, whose evil potential, of course, no one could foresee. In this authoritative and well-written book, Jurgen Tampke argues that Germany got away with its responsibility for World War I and its behaviour during it; that the treaty was nowhere near as punitive as has been claimed; that the German hyper-inflation of the 1920s was at least partly deliberate policy to minimise the cost of paying reparations; and that WWII was a continuation of Germany's longstanding war aims (which went back beyond WWI to the late nineteenth century). Woodrow Wilson and the US's role also play an important part in this story.… (more)

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