End of the War
On the 11th November 1918, Germany had formally surrendered and all nations had agreed to stop fighting, this day is known as Armistice Day. On the 28th June 1919, Germany and the Allied Nations signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the war.
Why did Germany lose the war?
At the start of 1918, Germany was in a strong position and Russia had left the war during the Russian Revolution. However, the USA joined the war in April 1917 and this gave the Allies an advantage with resources, including soldiers and weaponry. Moreover, the German Navy was on strike at the time.
In November 1918, it became clear that Germany and her allies could not win the war. The leaders of the German army told the government to stop and Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down on 9th November 1918.
The Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles marked the end of the First World War. Britain, France and the USA discussed the terms, and Germany, Austria and Hungary were not invited. The terms were notably harsh, primarily pushed by those who lost the most, France. France had suffered significant losses during the war, due in part due to their proximity to Germany – when the peace terms were negotiated, they wanted to punish Germany and reclaim compensation.
Of the many provisions in the treaty, the most important and controversial required “Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” during the war. The war guilt clause was contended as Germany did not believe it responsible. There were other clauses including:
- Germany could not join the new League of Nations, where countries worked together for peace and minority issues were to be resolved, such as those that sparked the First World War.
- Some territories Germany used to own, like Alsace-Lorraine, were taken from them. Notably, France lost this territory in 1871 to Germany and reclaimed it. This severely undermined Germany’s imperialist ambitions.
- Germany were banned from having an army of more than 100,000 men and from having any submarines or an air force. They were also banned from allying with Austria as before.
Think about why the First World War happened and how it came to end – do you think it was fair Germany was blamed?
Experiences after the war
Once the war was over, soldiers were expected to return to their nations and re-integrate into society. However, many suffered loss, injury or post-traumatic stress. Society remained marred by the war, and many societies had to rebuild in some way – whether it was the physical buildings or the repopulation.
In Britain, training centres were set up to support ex-servicemen and retrain them in new jobs, such as cobblers. Women were expected to return to domestic duties and free up job opportunities – however, some women remained in the service industry.