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Date Posted: 00:43:19 04/30/04 Fri
Author: Mr John D Clare
Subject: Treaty of Versailles
In reply to: Jacqui 's message, "Hitler and the Treaty of Versailles" on 17:59:12 04/27/04 Tue

Some historians blame the treaty of Versailles for the rise of Hitler:
1. The Treaty symbolised the humiliation of Germany in WWI. Although defeated, many Germans refused to believe they had lost the war, preferring to believe the 'stab in the back theory'. Versailles was the ongoing manifestation of that defeat, and as such was objectionable per se - i.e. it would have been hated WHATEVER it said. So, when Hitler said he would destroy it, he automatically touched a nerve in the German psyche.
2. Versailles was genuinely unfair. If you read http://www.johndclare.net/peace_treaties5.htm it will give you the German opinion on the Treaty, point by point. Thus (on top of the general hatred of the Treaty as in point 1) the Germans had genuine reasons to hate the Treaty. And they were happy support Hitler when he promised to destroy it - ie Versailles created whole groups of Germans (eg people whose relatives now lived in Poland, army officers who had lost their jobs, businessmen who were taxed to pay reparations etc) who were made angry enough by the Treaty to support Hitler.
3. Many western politicians believed that Versailles was unfair. This meant that - when Hitler, say, marched into the Rhineland - they actually agreed with him! Thus they did nothing to stop him (appeasement). Others believed that it was a flawed Treaty that would not give lasting peace, so they were less than enthusiastic in defending it (e.g. the British made their own separate naval agreement with Germany in 1935, abandoning the terms of the Treaty which limited Germany to 6 ships). This gave Hitler credibility, and made him look unstoppable, and generated more support for him in Germany. ie Versailles helped Hitler by undermining the determination and justification of his opponents and making them look weak.
4. Hitler's appeal was centred on hate and blame. It could be argued - not just that Hitler milked the Treaty to generate support - but that the Treaty of Versailles CREATED Hitler - i.e. that the Treaty made the people of Germans full of hate and blame, and so they cast around for a leader who embodied this hate and blame - and the loathesome little corporal was that man.

In the exam, however, it is highly unlikely that you will be asked a question this detailed. You are more likely to be asked something along the lines of 'how important was the treaty in helping Hitler's rise to power?', in which case don't forget to mention the other factors that helped Hitler come to power (see http://www.johndclare.net/Weimar7.htm).

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