How Much Do You Know About the Treaty of Versailles?

HISTORY

John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: http://iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/c-000242.jpg

About This Quiz

In 1914, the world witnessed the outbreak of armed warfare the likes of which no one could have ever imagined. The bloodbath that was World War I featured major technological advances, like machines guns, enormous artillery guns and for the first time, fighters and bombers sweeping through the skies. Generals on the ground couldn’t make any sense of the tactics they needed to address these tools of destruction … and so men died by the millions. In this quiz, what do you know about the document that finally ended the state of war between the combatants?

The Treaty of Versailles is no ordinary treaty. It brought an official end to the worst war that humankind had seen up to that point. As such, it has a major place in history. But the treaty turned out to be simply a ceasefire of the worst kind – it gave the combatants just enough time to review their strategies, build their armies, and then collide again in an even bigger war. What do you recall about the political implications of this iconic document?

At issue in the Treaty of Versailles: How do the victorious countries deal with the losing side, particularly when they perceive the vanquished as the war’s instigators? The answer, at least in 1919, was to punish the losers with the full force of international law. Sadly – and predictably – there were a lot of unintended consequences of the treaty. And less than a generation later, the world would reap the harvest of the treaty’s terms.

This quiz is no dry exercise in diplomacy’s paperwork. It’s all about the devastation of war, the human desire for vengeance and the karmic consequences of murder. What do you know about the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles brought an end to which war?

The Treaty of Versailles is probably the most famous treaty in human history. It brought an end to the unexpected bloodbath that was World War I.

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The treaty ended the war between _____ and the Allied Powers.

Germany and its allies took on the Allied Powers in WWI. The result was half a decade of warfare that tore Europe to shreds, killing millions of troops and civilians.

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How did WWI begin, anyway?

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian political extremist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The murder started a round of political hostilities that culminated in WWI.

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Where was the treaty signed?

Leaders of the combatants gathered -- as they so often have in human history -- in Paris to conduct their peace talks. It's where they finally signed the treaty in 1919.

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True or false, did the Treaty of Versailles bring an end to the actual bloodshed on Europe's battlefields?

The treaty brought an official end to the state of war. An armistice, signed half a year earlier, was what ended live combat.

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The treaty was signed exactly _____ years to the date after the assassination that triggered the war to begin with.

On June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the leaders of the war signed the treaty in Paris. Because if you're going to end the suffering of millions of people, the date should have a nice ring to it.

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Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles has a famous nickname. What is it?

In Article 231 of the treaty, the Allies point to Germany as the nation that started the war. It is called the "War Guilt Clause," and it had some very serious repercussions.

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What was one startling result of Article 231?

Later, leaders used Article 231 (the "War Guilt Clause") to force Germany to provide reparations for the destruction it caused in WWI. The terms and numbers were exceedingly punitive and created more problems than they solved.

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How many soldiers were killed in WWI?

WWI was a bloody affair that matched industrial weapons against pitifully outdated battlefield tactics. The result? About 10 million dead soldiers.

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The Treaty of Versailles is often derided as the agreement that fueled ______.

Sure, the treaty ended WWI, but it was so punitive in its treatment of Germany that many people also call it one of the causes of WWII.

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What was the "Big Four"?

Four men -- the Big Four -- were responsible for wrangling many of the terms of the treaty. They were Woodrow Wilson of the United States, David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando of Italy, and Georges Clemenceau of France.

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In addition to extreme debt, what was another impact of the treaty on Germany?

Not only was Germany forced to pay extreme amounts of money toward reparations, but the treaty was downright humiliating in its terms. The treaty created wounds that gave rise to fascism, courtesy of a short dude with crazy eyes and a mustache.

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In today's dollars, about how much did Germany wind up paying in total reparations?

The burden of reparation was a big one. In today's dollars, Germany paid about $400 billion … which is why it took the country nearly 100 years to pay it off.

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True or false, by 1931, did other countries cancel Germany's international debts?

Because Germany was so broke, by 1931, other countries had forgiven Germany's international debt. But by then, the nation was already so destitute that Hitler's mad political schemes were already taking hold in the country's consciousness.

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The treaty specified that Germany wasn't allowed to have an army consisting of more than ______ troops.

The treaty prohibited Germany from building an army of more than 100,000 men -- enough for defense … but not enough to invade and conquer other countries.

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Why did France, in particular, want large reparations to be a condition of the treaty?

French leaders were convinced that if left to their own devices, the Germans would quickly rearm and attack again. They hoped that severe reparations would inhibit Germany from creating the industry and military necessary for a major war.

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The treaty expressly prohibited Germany from creating what?

As part of the treaty, Germany was prohibited from maintaining an air force. And the Allies knew that air power would be necessary for any real future attacks.

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Why were the French insistent that the treaty inflict the harshest of terms on the Germans?

France suffered mightily during the war. It was simple human nature that led the French to demand the harshest terms possible against their German foes.

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In the years following the war, what did the treaty's reparations cause in Germany?

The extreme reparations led to hyperinflation … which was then followed by the worldwide strife of the Great Depression. It was the perfect breeding ground for nationalism of the worst kind. The Nazi Party took note.

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For how long did the Allies insist on strict adherence to the treaty's terms?

After just five years of strict enforcement, the Allies began to relax the treaty's terms a bit. France was leery … but agreed to a few changes in the treaty's harshest provisions.

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How much input did Germany have with regard to the treaty's terms?

Germany had almost zero input into the treaty. The Germans had no real power in the provisions that completely altered their society.

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Why were the British and Americans leery of the treaty's harsh terms?

France wanted to punish Germany as harshly as possible. But the British and Americans were cautious, fearing that a burdensome treaty would only cause the Germans to lash out later … and they were right.

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How did Germany's leaders sign the treaty?

Germany was totally forced into signing the treaty. Its leaders signed the paperwork under protest … and swore that there would be problems down the road. They were right.

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Historians think about how many civilians died during the war?

No one will really ever know how many non-combatants were killed … because there were just too many bodies. More civilians (13 million) than soldiers (10 million) died in WWI.

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The first part of the treaty also created what?

The treaty's first part created the charter for the League of Nations, which was designed to prevent another World War. Germany was blocked from joining the League until 1926.

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How did the treaty affect democracy-minded leaders in Germany?

The treaty was so harsh that it actually marginalized democratic German politicians … further providing a way for Nazism to gain momentum. Soon, radical leaders were winning more and more power in Germany.

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When did Germany finally finish paying its WWI reparations?

The heavy-handed reparations sparked by the treaty were so huge that it took until 2010 -- nearly a century -- before Germany finally finished paying for them.

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In the 1920s and 1930s, the German Nazi Party promised to do what?

The Nazi Party directly promised to violate some terms of the treaty. For example, Hitler said he would rearm the nation with a real military … and then he did just that.

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In 1935, what did Hitler do regarding the Treaty of Versailles?

In 1935, Hitler publicly denounced the treaty. He leveraged its harsh provisions as a way to gain political power in Germany.

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From 1937 to 1939, what measures did Hitler take to alter the treaty's outcomes?

Hitler began slowly rolling back the territorial provisions of the treaty, annexing lands that had been taking from Germany after the war. Then, in 1939, he invaded Poland … and World War II began in earnest.

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