On June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allied Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors at the famous Palace of Versailles, officially ending World War I. World War I, or the Great War, lasted from 1914 to 1918, and claimed the lives of nearly ten million soldiers and approximately thirteen million civilians. Germany and its allies in the Central Powers had lost the war, so representatives of the victorious Allied Powers including the United States, France, and Britain negotiated the terms of the treaty. President Woodrow Wilson and his allies wanted the treaty to provide a lasting peace following Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech delivered on January 8, 1918. European powers sought peace but also wanted to punish Germany, who they blamed for causing the war. Germans also expected that the Fourteen Points would be the basis for the peace talks when they signed the armistice in November 1918. When the Allied Powers met in Paris to discuss the world after the war, however, a much more punitive plan emerged.
The Treaty of Versailles required Germany to pay vast sums of money for the damage caused by the war, accept full responsibility for the conflict, reduce its military, and forfeit colonial territories, among other measures. The treaty also redrew the map of Europe to create buffer states, or small neutral nations situated between hostile neighboring nations, and to ensure that the Great War, or the “war to end all wars,” would indeed be just that. Germans did not receive the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles well, especially being forced to accept the guilt for the war, and the long-term economic impact of the treaty resulted in deep resentment. Little did the “Big Four” negotiators of the treaty, David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando of Italy, and Georges Clemenceau of France, or Woodrow Wilson of the US, know that they were sowing the seeds for World War II, an even more devastating conflict that would consume them all once more only two decades later.