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What if The Treaty of Versailles wasn't as harsh?

Unlike many other alternate history scenarios, we know the largest change that would happen if either A. The Treaty of Versailles wasn't as harsh or B. The Central Powers won the war. If either of these would have happened, the rise of Hitler and WW2 as we know it wouldn't exist. The reason Hitler could even rise was because of the dire economic crisis Versailles put Germany in.

So for Option A, if the other allied powers weren't so gung-ho on revenge and listened to President Woodrow Wilson and his famous 14 points, Our history could have been very different. Firstly, Germany wouldn't have had such a bad depression and wouldn't have just finished paying reparations recently. It would have also improved stability, making coups and rebellions less likely. A unlikely possibility as well, if the Entente didn't overthrow Wilhelm II, it would have allowed more stability. For example, look at Iraq or Libya in our modern day. Both are a mess after the US deposed Hussein and Ghadaffi. They are terrorist cess pools. Overthrowing governments doesn't work well, as history tells us. If the Kaiser stayed in power, he may not be popular but he would have kept rebellions in check. There would have been a strong military to crush rebellions if needed.

Now for Option B. Now I'm not saying that the Central Powers winning would be good OR bad, I am simply pointing out the pros. The main pro, is that it would guarantee that Hitler never rises. For Hitler to rise, Germany would need to be in the shitter and have a need for revenge. Even if the economy collapsed eventually, it still wouldn't have worked. He wouldn't gain support because he as no need for revenge. He could have also possibly avoided the gas attack that supposedly turned him crazy. The serious consequences for this outcome would be to France, Benelux, and Russia. Even if the Soviets won, Austria and Germany would keep them in check, invading if they attempted to retake places like Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic states. France would be in bad shape because Germany probably would be sucking money out of them and have annexed land. Benelux, or to a greater extent, Belgium and Luxembourg, would be in a bad situation. Luxembourg would probably be under German occupation as well as Eastern Belgium. A german puppet government would probably be installed in Belgium and Netherlands would be trapped next to a powerful nation. In the Balkans, The Ottomans, Bulgaria, and Austria would have probably partitioned the region, excluding Albania and Greece. In Africa, Germany probably would have taken some colonies and maybe annex Belgian Congo.


This is just how I would imagine this scenario. Feel free to tell me your version below.
 

BiteNibbleChomp

Gone Fishin'
If Germany surrenders on November 11, 1918 and the war goes exactly as it did OTL, with the divergence being in the peace conference, then you can't have Wilhelm II come back into power for the simple reason that he had already abdicated, and if anyone gets the credit for keeping Germany running as long as it did, it would be Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Wilhelm didn't do much more than sit around and let those guys do it for him.

Germany was a living wreck in 1918. Any treaty that gets signed has to ensure that:
  • Brest Litowsk is repealed.
  • Poland gets independence
  • Alsace-Lorraine goes back to France (France will raise an absolutely MASSIVE fuss if they don't get this)
  • Germany loses its colonies. With the exception of Lettow-Vorbeck's raiders, Germany had lost all strength in its colonies by January 1915.
  • Austria-Hungary gets balkanised. This was happening from the middle of 1918.
  • Ottomans may or may not keep power in Turkey/Anatolia/whatever. Everything else goes to the Entente.
  • League of Nations formed. Not that this matters much.
  • Don't know about Yugoslavia.
There were many that thought Germany was getting off too lightly with Versailles, especially when put in comparison to the absolute 'we will destroy your guts three times over' that Brest Litowsk was. So Germany won't be much lighter off, as there were too many that wanted it harsher.

So what happens in Germany?
  • Everyone starves. A given in 1919, nothing this late is going to change anything.
  • Germany's currency still crashes. Perhaps not as much/badly, but the way that Germany paid for the war meant that this is the only possible outcome in a Germany-loses scenario.
  • Germany will likely have its army reduced (though maybe only to 500k instead of 100k). That still means a lot of (angry) people out of work.
  • Germany's navy gets shattered, like OTL. Germany can't be a naval great power in the 1930s.
  • The Communists will still raise a fuss. This had begun some time in late 1918.
  • Likely, Germany still has to pay some reparations. If this is done by October 28, 1929, then Germany may be in some sort of shape to deal with the Great Depression peacefully.
  • Hitler will be less successful than he was in OTL. However, he was an excellent speaker, and the Great Depression was able to ruin financially-strong America, so he will raise a fuss. Maybe not big enough to get into power, but he will still be there, and whatever NSDAP members get into the Reichstag will have a bit of influence.
Elsewhere, the USSR will rise at some point and bring Stalin or a similar character into power, so there will still be a 2nd World War - the only thing that will change is who starts it. Japan may become closer to the Western Powers if it is given a better say (Racial Equality Clause) in the treaty, in which case it would be a loyal ally in a future war. China will probably still get invaded, as it was a mess and Japan sought an empire.

- BNC
 
Hitler will be less successful than he was in OTL.


Why?

As the election results of 1928 and 1930 pretty clearly show, the main factor in his rise was the depression. As late as 1928, resentment of the TOV had not enabled the Nazis to make any serious headway. There's no reason why a few clauses more or less should make any major difference to that.
 

BiteNibbleChomp

Gone Fishin'
Why?

As the election results of 1928 and 1930 pretty clearly show, the main factor in his rise was the depression. As late as 1928, resentment of the TOV had not enabled the Nazis to make any serious headway. There's no reason why a few clauses more or less should make any major difference to that.

A less brutal treaty means that Germany will pay less reparations, hence the crash in 1922 will be less severe, and less people will join the NSDAP in its early days.

Fast forward to 1929, Hitler is working from a weaker base, and is less likely to get the votes from the 'fence-sitters' that only decide who to vote for at the last moment. Those people are usually the ones that tip the balance in an election.

I did say he will do enough to get a handful of people into the Reichstag. However I think it is pushing it a bit to say he will still become Chancellor or Fuhrer.

Ultimately, it would depend on just how harsh the treaty is, that would be how far the balance tips.

- BNC
 
Much of the "humiliation" that was Versailles resulted out of actually "only" a few things

Germany feeling cheated out of the part of the war they actually won (i.e. Brest Litovsk). THE fact that it had to give lands to countries it effectively did not lose to (Lithuania, Poland, Denmark) and finally the limitations it faced after the war including the loss of sovereignity (Rheinland, Saar, etc.).

Reparations - well they could be a bit more lightly - maybe same amount of money, but more time to pay... could "help"

Alsace Lorraine/Belgium - well that would be acceptable - we lost, so THAT land was lost, no big matter

Colonies - difficult, if the Allies had only taken bits and pieces here and there - that would be OK, but all looked like an insult. But OTOH colonies were not real contributing for Germanys turn to Fascism

SO the Wallies could achieve much of OTLs treaty and leave GErmany "national pride" intact without cost to them. Poland of course would be landlocked and more Eastern. A strong(er) Germany might even insure that the Soviets don't attack Poland (the Soviet Polish war) and even the Ukraine copuld survive instead of being reabsorbed into Russia...

THe Problem of Versailles was alos that Wilsons "self determination" was not applied when the entenet wanted parts of Germany (A-H) - only when it was between the sucessor states of the Monarchy (maybe, but not really exception was the Carinthian plebiscite).
 
Unlike many other alternate history scenarios, we know the largest change that would happen if either A. The Treaty of Versailles wasn't as harsh or B. The Central Powers won the war. If either of these would have happened, the rise of Hitler and WW2 as we know it wouldn't exist. The reason Hitler could even rise was because of the dire economic crisis Versailles put Germany in.

So for Option A, if the other allied powers weren't so gung-ho on revenge and listened to President Woodrow Wilson and his famous 14 points, Our history could have been very different.
I don't think lack of listening to the 14 points was the real problem. It was more the complete mishandling of the whole reparations conundrum by the Anglo-Saxon powers. After all, France's first choice for ensuring Germany didn't go to war was economic cooperation with Germany, which required low reparations - something which was shot down by the UK and US.
Firstly, Germany wouldn't have had such a bad depression and wouldn't have just finished paying reparations recently. It would have also improved stability, making coups and rebellions less likely. A unlikely possibility as well, if the Entente didn't overthrow Wilhelm II, it would have allowed more stability. For example, look at Iraq or Libya in our modern day. Both are a mess after the US deposed Hussein and Ghadaffi. They are terrorist cess pools. Overthrowing governments doesn't work well, as history tells us. If the Kaiser stayed in power, he may not be popular but he would have kept rebellions in check. There would have been a strong military to crush rebellions if needed.

Now for Option B. Now I'm not saying that the Central Powers winning would be good OR bad, I am simply pointing out the pros. The main pro, is that it would guarantee that Hitler never rises. For Hitler to rise, Germany would need to be in the shitter and have a need for revenge. Even if the economy collapsed eventually, it still wouldn't have worked. He wouldn't gain support because he as no need for revenge. He could have also possibly avoided the gas attack that supposedly turned him crazy. The serious consequences for this outcome would be to France, Benelux, and Russia. Even if the Soviets won, Austria and Germany would keep them in check, invading if they attempted to retake places like Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic states. France would be in bad shape because Germany probably would be sucking money out of them and have annexed land. Benelux, or to a greater extent, Belgium and Luxembourg, would be in a bad situation. Luxembourg would probably be under German occupation as well as Eastern Belgium. A german puppet government would probably be installed in Belgium and Netherlands would be trapped next to a powerful nation. In the Balkans, The Ottomans, Bulgaria, and Austria would have probably partitioned the region, excluding Albania and Greece. In Africa, Germany probably would have taken some colonies and maybe annex Belgian Congo.


This is just how I would imagine this scenario. Feel free to tell me your version below.

A CP victory warrants a revanchist France no matter how, given how fixated the French elites were on Alsace-Lorraine. Therefore you don't get lasting peace.

To avoid a WWII, you need neither France nor Germany to be aggressive. The first is warranted by giving France Alsace-Lorraine back. The second is warranted by keeping Germany prosperous - which means smaller reparations and an economic buffer to the Great Depression. Which can be either a Keynesian policy or a Franco-German cooperation.
 
Reparations could be limited to equivalent of German 1913 Military budget for 25 years, since Germany is demilitarized that makes sense and is understandable.
Clear rules about plebiscites and how they were to be implemented.
Avoiding a war guilt clause, which gets the allies no particular benefit really.

Otherwise Versailles isn't all that bad for Germany, considering they lost, and pretty easy to say the Germans started it it.
 

Deleted member 1487

Honestly a less harsh ToV wouldn't necessarily have mattered if the ToV was enforced smartly. Recognizing the German economy was no in a position to pay right away in 1919 and the early 1920s and then not demanding it in gold when they had no gold stocks left, having sold it off to finance war purchasing via neutrals. Same with the demand that Germany couldn't float it's currency even as it had no gold to base it on. Overall the terms were relatively fair (though the border changes in a number of areas weren't) and could have been a sustainable deal with reasonable enforcement and the Briand idea of a EU in the 1920s/30s had been actually followed through on. France was too fixated on preventing Germany from recovering rather than reconciliation, which probably doomed the lasting peace, as it was French behavior around the Austro-German customs union plan in 1930-31 that caused the failure of Credit Anstalt, which caused the knock on failures in the German banking sector and created the Depression in Europe as we know it. Had they not percipitated the financial crisis by short term F-U behavior against Germany, the Nazis and WW2 could have been avoided.
 
I mean, what could happen is have Germany take Paris in 1918, and yet have the Americans/Italians/Thai/rest of the world show up right on it's doorstep. That way, Germany "won," but if it demands anything it will have it's door blown in. They'll demand all of their colonies back, probably along with Warvis Bay; and probably give some pretty extensive Civilian visitation rights or even arrange for a sort of population transfer in Alsace-Lorraine. Really, the Germans will want to just hit back the Status Quo Ante Bellum in the west and south and then focus it's energy on Russia.
 
Firstly, Germany wouldn't have had such a bad depression and wouldn't have just finished paying reparations recently. It would have also improved stability, making coups and rebellions less likely.

Why? How do less reparations solve the problem of far left communists and far right authoritans being trapped in a state both utterly despise? How does it solve the the absolute collapse of the german economy even before anything is paid?

A unlikely possibility as well, if the Entente didn't overthrow Wilhelm II, it would have allowed more stability.

The Entente didn't overtrow him.

If the Kaiser stayed in power, he may not be popular but he would have kept rebellions in check. There would have been a strong military to crush rebellions if needed.

Where was this strong military when all the german princes and kings were disposed,and Wilhelm II decided to flee to the netherlands? It wasn't entente troops that kicked their asses out of their palaces.

The main pro, is that it would guarantee that Hitler never rises. For Hitler to rise, Germany would need to be in the shitter and have a need for revenge. Even if the economy collapsed eventually, it still wouldn't have worked. He wouldn't gain support because he as no need for revenge.

The need for "revenge" was not the main supporting reason for the nazis.


He could have also possibly avoided the gas attack that supposedly turned him crazy.

Thats...just silly.
 
As the election results of 1928 and 1930 pretty clearly show, the main factor in his rise was the depression.

Much of the "humiliation" that was Versailles resulted out of actually "only" a few things

Germany feeling cheated out of the part of the war they actually won (i.e. Brest Litovsk).

So now I'm imagining a world where Hitler still shows up and people go "damn if only Versailles had been harsher that wouldn't have happened"
 
Much of the "humiliation" that was Versailles resulted out of actually "only" a few things

Germany feeling cheated out of the part of the war they actually won (i.e. Brest Litovsk). THE fact that it had to give lands to countries it effectively did not lose to (Lithuania, Poland, Denmark) and finally the limitations it faced after the war including the loss of sovereignity (Rheinland, Saar, etc.).

Colonies - difficult, if the Allies had only taken bits and pieces here and there - that would be OK, but all looked like an insult. But OTOH colonies were not real contributing for Germanys turn to Fascism

I agree with these points. The reparations were difficult but it was the humiliation factor that kept the animosity at a level that stoked the people to want revenge. I believe France was still seething about the War of 1870 and how Germany humiliated them after that loss. France didn't want reparations as much as it wanted to humiliate Germany. Again I understand the tit-for-tat mentality but you would think that leaders of countries would be beyond that pettiness. (Yeah Right!!:evilsmile:)

Had Germany been kept together from a border perspective and kept their African colonies I don't think Hitler would have gotten as far as he did.
 
the war of 1870/71 was a humiliation for the French, but not because of the treaty (I think they actually got off quilte lightly) but because the French superblown ego got deflated by the ease the Germans did win... ;)
 
the war of 1870/71 was a humiliation for the French, but not because of the treaty (I think they actually got off quilte lightly) but because the French superblown ego got deflated by the ease the Germans did win... ;)
I am French and approve this message.

The reparations were fairly light but it was the speed of the defeat that was really bad, as well as the collaboration of the authorities with the Prussians to defeat the Commune which I believe was one of the sticking points.

The Alsace-Lorraine or the Treaty... It was a convenient ploy to stoke national ardeur.

The German economy was well on its way to recovery after 1925 when american investments started pouring in. Those investments increased dependency of the German economy which is why it was struck even harder by 1929
 
There were many that thought Germany was getting off too lightly with Versailles, especially when put in comparison to the absolute 'we will destroy your guts three times over' that Brest Litowsk was. So Germany won't be much lighter off, as there were too many that wanted it harsher.
Yeah. What he said.
After such a long and brutal war, the British and French governments, and their people even more so, were out for blood.
'Never again', 'War to end all wars' were more than just slogans
Disarming Germany (so they'd never have to fight them again) was probably a precondition.
Significant reparations to pay off some of the crippling debts the UK and France had accumulated was probably a precondition.
Making Germany admit war guilt was probably a precondition.
Transferring Alsace-Lorraine back to France was probably a precondition.

Yes, the harshness of the treaty sparked revanchisme in Germany. And, yes, the Entente lost its will to enforce those limits, which led to Hitler's early successes (remilitarization of the Rhineland, etc.)
But how on earth you're going to get a less harsh treaty, I'm sure I don't know. As BNC pointed out, it's easy to get a harsher treaty - it's hard to get a less harsh one.

To get a more balanced treaty, you'd probably have to have a war that stalemated, with neither side able to make progress, and finally both sides are so exhausted they're prepared to seek terms.
In which case, all three countries go bankrupt.

-----
To avoid reparations, you'd need to get the US to forgive all the loans they made to Britain and France (which is what those countries primarily needed the reparations for). And that was just not going to happen. Even if Wilson (or whoever was president) signed such a treaty, the US would never ratify it, and Congress would never agree to pay it.
 

Zagan

Donor
There were many that thought Germany was getting off too lightly with Versailles, especially when put in comparison to the absolute 'we will destroy your guts three times over' that Brest Litowsk was. So Germany won't be much lighter off, as there were too many that wanted it harsher.
Why do you think that Brest-Litowsk was harsher than Versailles?

After all Russia did not lose any Russian territory, but only territories inhabited by other nations. I have to stress this: Russia lost parts of its Empire but no piece of Russia Proper!
OTOH, Germany lost territories with ethnic German majority like Alsace, Eupen, Danzig, Memel.
It's one thing to lose parts of your Empire, similar to Colonies (the Baltics, Finland, Ukraine, Bessarabia, Poland) and it's quite another to lose parts of your core National territory!

So I think that Germany was way nicer to Russia than the Entente was to Germany.
 
But how on earth you're going to get a less harsh treaty, I'm sure I don't know. As BNC pointed out, it's easy to get a harsher treaty - it's hard to get a less harsh one..

Yiy probably aren't. As it was, a lot of people grumbled that the treaty was too lenient.

Of course, a harsher one only impales us on the other horn of the dilemma, since it would require more effort to enforce, and the war=weary populations wouldn't be willing for any length of time to make that effort.

So they were pretty well doomed to end up with a severe treaty which their successors would lack the will to enforce - the worst of all possible worlds.
 
Why do you think that Brest-Litowsk was harsher than Versailles?

After all Russia did not lose any Russian territory, but only territories inhabited by other nations. I have to stress this: Russia lost parts of its Empire but no piece of Russia Proper!
OTOH, Germany lost territories with ethnic German majority like Alsace, Eupen, Danzig, Memel.
It's one thing to lose parts of your Empire, similar to Colonies (the Baltics, Finland, Ukraine, Bessarabia, Poland) and it's quite another to lose parts of your core National territory!

So I think that Germany was way nicer to Russia than the Entente was to Germany.
There is a problem with defining ethnic German majority. Are Alsaciens ethnic Germans? Integration in the French way would suggest they aren't.
Besides, Alsace and Moselle were core French territory when they were taken too.
Now Eupen-Malmédy, Danzig and Memel are more open to discussion. But Alsace-Lorraine's ethnicity depends very clearly on the definition and could be argued not to be ethnically German.
 
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