Treaty of Versailles
The end of World War I was finalized by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. It was signed by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan but not the United States, as the U.S. drafted its own treaty with Germany in 1921. Many historians argue that the Treaty of Versailles was the major cause of World War II which occurred twenty years later. On the Treatys most superficial level, the extreme punishment and fines that were levied by the Allied Powers on the Germans were causes enough for war. Historians argue that this and the international fallout that resulted most notably with the United States were simply too powerful to avoid war at all. The ramification of the Treaty sent the German economy into a severe depression and planted the seeds needed to sprout revenge and uprising such as the world had never seen before.
Estimates for the costs of the war for the Allied Powers fluctuated between ten billion and one hundred billion dollars. Ultimately, the Allied Powers settled on the astronomical sum of thirty-three billion dollars which the German government was mandated to pay but simply did not have the funds to do so. In addition to paying reparations, Germany had to severely limit military spending and personnel, relinquish land previously gained in the World War, and was barred from having any air force at all. The lack of American involvement, which was sorely needed at this time, had significant impacts on the actions of other key states. Sudden American withdrawal from the Treaty of Versailles sent France into a panic and their subsequent occupation of the Ruhr Valley in Germany. This action dealt a harsh blow to the Germany and British-French relations. The former came into economic conflict with France, creating hyper-inflation, and throwing Germany into a severe depression. Wheelbarrows of money were necessary to buy loaves of bread until the Deutsche Mark became so devalued that the bills were burned to provide heat to those living in poverty.
Following this collapse in German currency, a desperate and vulnerable Germany capitalized on the breakdown of relations between Britain and France and United States isolationism to begin rebuilding. This included rearmament that was in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. The dictator behind this proposed revitalization in economic and military strength was Adolf Hitler. Current economic hardship made Germany ripe for the rise of a dictator. Hitlers timing was impeccable and he perhaps never would have gained such prominence in the German government if it was not for his propaganda that the weary and desperate German people needed so badly to recover from their depression. The depression however, was not contained within German borders. The politics of the era, most notably Americas isolationist policy contributed to world wide economic collapse. This was the result of then President Woodrow Wilsons inability to persuade Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and become a co-signer with the other Allied Powers. The major failure in Wilsons pitch came in his proposal of the Fourteen Point Plan.
The Fourteen Point Plan outlined Wilsons view of what the post-WWI world should look like, providing for the liberation of certain peoples and territories. Presented to Congress on January 8, 1918, strong debate ensued over the proposal of the fourteenth and final provision; a general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. Congress voted against what Wilson dubbed the League of Nations, the failed basis of todays United Nations. Although the U.S. proposed the League, they were the most notable nation that failed to join. The U.S. subsequently retreated to a policy of isolationism and combined with a rebuilding and weakened Europe, there was little opposition to Hitlers rise to power and continued violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
The rest of the world exercised a policy of appeasement, allowing Hitler to make small advances in Europe hoping that he would be satisfied with what he was given. He became emboldened as each of his new advances into Europe met little to no opposition in the international community. He