Aftermath of the Great War

Though the armistice was in effect, the Allies continued to wage war against Germany via a naval blockade and to pressure Germany into acquiescence at Versailles. The United States briefly sent troops to Russia to overthrow the Bolsheviks, but this half-hearted and ineffective interference in Russian affairs would only lay the groundwork for the Cold War decades later.

Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris in December 1918 to negotiate the peace agreements, and to secure a new-world order, but he soon lost his fight for a more lenient, humane settlement. Instead of open-door deliberations he had promised, the negotiations took place behind closed doors. Wilson got the League of Nations he desperately wanted, but paid the price of a harsh peace to get it. As the conference continued, many people in Europe became disillusioned with Wilson, thinking he had betrayed them. In effect, the conference became a sham; from the Balkans to the Middle East, the unresolved issues of the Great War were simply rearranged.

The Treaty of Versailles was finally signed June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The peace treaty proved no real peace. Instead, the seeds were sown for an even more catastrophic war just one generation later.

For the “lost generation” the war became a war without end, one that continued through missing limbs, mutilated faces and shaking bodies. The question that haunted civilians throughout Europe was why so many of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers had to die? Writers and other artists tried to create an answer. Memorials were established for the fallen, and people visited the battlefields to retrace the footsteps of their loved ones. Millions also searched for hope and messages from the departed through Spiritualism.

In the United States, President Wilson was determined to get the United States Senate to back the League of Nations. He embarked on a national campaign to gain the support of the American people for the League. His efforts were ultimately unsuccessful; in one way, Wilson was also a victim of the war.

While in Germany, the sense of betrayal and dishonor prompted some Germans to seek revenge. Many Germans, especially members of the army, believed that Germany had not lost the war on the battlefield. This was a delusion, but a dangerous one. These people felt that Germany, the army and all those who had lost their lives in the war had been betrayed by traitors at home who had undermined the soldiers at the front. The man who rose up to lead them was Adolf Hitler.


11:02 am on November 21, 2018