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The Contender
Pro (for)
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The Treaty of Versailles was the Main Cause of WW2

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/22/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 14,179 times Debate No: 56958
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This debate will be between me and my good friend, GOP.

The first round will NOT be for acceptance (seeing as I am instigating the challenge). To make the amount of argumentation even, GOP (Pro) will not rebut in round 5.

To GOP: Let me know if you want to change any of the settings/the wording of the res. Accept this when you're ready. :)


Thank you, Justin.

Since Con did not define any words or terms, I will do it myself.


1. Treaty of Versailles - "A treaty signed in 1919 that brought a formal end to World War I" (1).

2. Main - "Chief in size or importance" (2).

3. Cause - "A person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition" (3).

4. World War II - "A war fought from 1939 to 1945, in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union,
the United States, China, and other allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan" (4).

The problems that added up to the beginning of World War II:

Main idea: The purpose of the Treaty was to weaken Germany as much as possible,and the Germans
thought it was a harsh peace. The Treaty turned out to be disastrous, and I will show why.

A. Financial Problems

As per Article 231 (The War Guilt Clause), Germany was ordered to pay reparations for all damages that
the Allied forces faced (5). So, Germany made its first annual payment in 1921 since the Allies threatened
to occupy the Ruhr Valley. However, Germany (considering that its debt increased due to WWI). As a
result, the French government sent its troops to occupy the said area. Consequentially, the "inflationary
pressures that had begun in Germany at the end of World War I intensified during the French occupation
of the Ruhr" (6. Spielvogel 805).

As per the Treaty, Germany was supposed to give up many of its lands (which I emphasized in the
next section) that were vital for its economy. For example, Germany lost seventy-five percent
of its iron-ore supply when Alsace and Lorraine were given to France (7. Keynes 87). When Germany lost Upper
Silesia and Saar Basin to Poland and France, it lost its major supply of coal (Keynes 82-84). This was problematic since
coal was needed to keep factories and locomotives running (8. Bessel 111). Logically put, this caused many Germans
to lose their jobs, hence the increase of unemployment.

After Germany lost World War I, there was a German democratic state called the Weimar Republic (9). In
the years 1922 and 1923, the runaway inflation had serious social outcomes.

"Widows, orphans, the retired elderly, army officers, teachers, civil servants, and others who lived on
fixed incomes all watched their
monthly stipends become worthless and their lifetime savings disappear.
Their economic losses increasingly
pushed the middle class to the rightist parties that were hostile to the
republic. To make matters worse,
after a period of prosperity from 1924 to 1929, Germany faced
the Great Depression. Unemployment
increased to nearly 4.4 million by December 1930"
(Spielvogel 817, emphasis added).

Germany's economic hardships paved the way for Hitler's rise to power. Because of Hitler's economic
plans, the masses found the Nazi Party more appealing.When the Nazi party rose to power,
Hitler tackled
unemployment by providing various jobs
and improving working conditions (higher wages, less work
hours, more safety, etc.) (10).
B. German Resentment

Due to the fact that the Treaty was austere (since Germany took a lot of blame for World War I
AND had to pay for the reparations), German people were angry at the Allies. Germans blamed the Treaty
for their economic problems (like unemployment, inflation, etc.), and thought of themselves
as a nation surrounded by
vengeful enemies (11.
Watt 504). As a result of their hatred, Hitler had the opportunity
to manipulate it into feelings of hardcore nationalism.

"The Nazis proved very effective in developing modern electioneering techniques. In their election
campaigns, party members pitched
their themes to the needs and fears of different social groups.
But even
as they were making blatant appeals to class interests, the Nazis were denouncing
of interest and
maintaining that they stood above classes and parties. Hitler, in particular, claimed to
stand above
all differences and party infighting. His appeal to national pride, national honor, and
traditional militarism
struck chords of emotions in his listeners" (Spielvogel 819, emphasis added).
As a result, people began to support Hitler's party in an enthusiastic manner.

Moreover, Spielvogel said that Germany's territorial losses comprised the cession of Alsace
and Lorraine to France and sections of Prussia
to Poland on page 799.

On the same page, he added, "
German lands west and as far as 30 miles east of the Rhine was established
as a demilitarized zone
and stripped of all armaments or fortifications to serve as a barrier against future
German military
moves westward against France."

So, Germany wanted to reunite its land and people (12. Mayer 774), especially considering that German lands given to
Czechoslovakia and Austria had left around ten million Germans behind (in total) (13. Grunberger 116-117).
This contributed to their hatred, which Hitler was also able to manipulate to his advantage.

C. Appeasement Policy

According to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was supposed to reduce the number of soldiers
to 100,000 men, curtail its naval power, and have no air force (Spielvogel 799). This was known
as the disarmament policy. On March 9, 1935, he announced the "creation of a new airforce"
and "military draft that would expand Germany's army from 100,000 to 550,000 soldiers" (Spielvogel 841).
On page 842, Spielvogel says that Britain accepted Germany's rearmament when it agreed to the
Anglo-German Naval treaty. This pact allowed Germany to have a navy that's 35% the size of the British

Hence, he writes, "
The British were starting a policy of appeasement, based on the belief that if
European states satisfied the reasonable demands of dissatisfied powers, the latter would be content, and
stability and peace would be achieved in Europe" (Spielvogel 842).

Hitler's troops entered the demilitarized Rhineland (violating the terms of the Versailles treaty again) (14),
but France couldn't react since the British viewed it "as another reasonable action by a dissatisfied power."
Due to the appeasement policy, Hitler kept conquering more areas like Austria and Czechoslovakia (15).
The main issue, however, is that Hitler started his conquest
when he was weaker than the Western nations.
As a result of letting the Nazis gain more power, the German leader became a more formidable enemy.

Simply put, the British thought it was reasonable for Germany to take these actions because they were
discontent with the terms of the Versailles Treaty. In other words, Britain came up with the appeasement
idea BASED ON the Treaty's austerity towards the Germans. Hence, they missed the chance to put an end
to Germany in the FIRST place (when they were not as strong as the Allied forces). Because they missed it,
Germany continued taking over more areas freely until Poland got subdued. Thus, the Second World War began.
Once again, Germany was already getting stronger at this point.


The Versailles Treaty was indeed the MAIN cause of WWII because it ruined the German economy,
the emotional wellness of its people, and it led Britain to let Germany increase its power on the grounds
that it was dissatisfied with its previous conditions.







6. Jackson J Spielvogel, Western Civilization. (Boston: Wadsworth Pub Co, 2009)

John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of Peace (New York: Penguin Books, 1995)

8. Richard Bessel, Germany After the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)



11. Richard M. Watt, The Kings Depart (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968)

Arno J. Mayer, Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1967)

13. Richard Grunberger, Germany 1918-1945 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1964)



Debate Round No. 1


I accept the definitions Pro has so graciously provided.

Right off the bat, I intend to make my position clear with two statements.

1. The Treaty of Versaille contributed to WW2

2. The Treaty of Versaille was not the main cause of WW2

Pro has done a brilliant job of showing you how the Treaty of Versaille paved the road for Nazi Germany and the rise of Hitler. However, he has not shown you how the treaty caused WW2.

I concede that the Treaty of Versaille ruined Germany financially, as well as caused feelings of resentment. But these merely brought about the right conditions for war. They were far from its true cause. Thus, instead of fighting the losing battle of trying to show how the treaty didn't make Germany ripe for war, I will bring about new contentions for why the treaty did not cause WW2, even if it contributed towards certain aspects of it.

C1. World =/= Europe
While certainly the most infamous, Nazi Germany was not the only Axis power in World War 2. World War 2 was largely fought in three separate continents (commonly referred to as theatres). These were Europe, Africa, and the Pacific (Imperial Japan).

While Hitler led the charge with Nazi Germany in the European theatre, other tyrants were wreaking havoc across the world. Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator if Italy, joined the war on the Axis side, attacking British positions in Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.[1] Meanwhile, Tojo Hideki, Prime Minister of Japan, was the mastermind behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.[2] Imperial Japan had, over the course of many years, amassed an empire containing a large portion of Asia. Japan's alliance with Nazi Germany was largely political, with Japanese and German forces never really fighting side-by-side. Nonetheless, the Pacific theatre was where the majority of U.S. forces were originally deployed, and accounted for a frightening 2 million casualties between the U.S. and Japan alone.[3]

So, we see here that even if the Treaty of Versaille had been the cause of the European theatre, it was certainly not responsible for the equally viable African and Pacific theatres.

C2. Hitler (Nazi campaign wouldn't have happened w/o Hitler)
The next contention I have is twofold. I will use the example of Hitler. Put simply, the war could not have happened without the leadership Hitler provided to the Weimar Republic, which shortly became Nazi Germany.

The Treaty of Versaille merely paved the way for Hitler to lead his people down the road towards fascism.

In an interview on, Professor Sir Ian Kershaw gives his opinion on what WW2 would've looked like without Hitler...

Well he was, of course, crucial in this. If you pose the counterfactual question, would there have been general European war by 1939 without Hitler, with another nationalist German leader? Quite conceivably the answer is 'No'. There would have been pressure within Germany to regain territories that had been taken away at Versailles and there would probably have been some adjustment to that, those territorial losses as time went on and so on.

But by 1938-39 quite considerable sections of the German elites – the military elite, the elites in the higher ranks of the Foreign Office and so on – and not just that but even within the Nazi Party itself were getting cold feet about the prospects of a war which they thought Germany might well lose. And no less a figure than Hermann Goering, the second man in Germany, said in August 1939 to Hitler, “Mein Fuehrer, must we always go for broke?” And he wanted to back down really from that, seek some sort of negotiated way out of the crisis building up over Poland. And Hitler’s reply was a characteristic one, “Goering, you know all my life I’ve gone for broke.” [4]

(To see Professor Kershaw's credentials, see [5])

While we can't say for certain that another wouldn't have done what Hitler did, a man like Hitler (and there weren't many) was required for the European theatre of the war to have taken place. The Treaty alone could not have brought it about.

C3. Appeasement Policy
Remember Pro's reference to Appeasement Policy? I was rather shocked he did, since I this is actually a rather strong argument for my position. Here's how.

Appeasement Policy was a problem because the United Kingdom was letting Germany break the Treaty of Versaille. When Hitler began to rearm Germany, instead of holding them to the treaty, the other European nations simply smiled politely and gave little Germany an awkward pat on the head (akin to a parent saying of their child, "Oh, it's just a stage. They'll grow out of it."). But because Germany was allowed to get away with breaking the treaty, Hitler was able to launch his campaign into Europe.

You see, the problem was that the UK didn't hold Nazi Germany to the treaty in the first place. The treaty would've, rather ironically, prevented Hitler from invading his neighboring countries.

C4. The buck stops where?

The last point I'd like to make could be stated as a question. Where does the blame truly lie? Sure, we can say the Treaty of Versaille was the problem, but what caused the treaty? (For those who may not know, it was World War I) So was WWI the cause of WW2? What caused WWI?

Or what about the reverse? The treaty merely caused economic strife. But isn't the strife itself really to blame for the war? One could even go so far as to say that the true cause of the war itself was the decision by the UK and US (and Canada) to fight back. After all, it takes two to tango.[6]

While that all might seem rather ridiculous when taken to a certain point, it is logically valid. Why would we blame just one cause of a cause for being the reason the entire war happened? It's a ridiculous proposition.

I've shown...

1. The European theatre was only one of three major conflicts in the war. Even if the Treaty was responsible for the conflict in Europe, it cannot be held as the main cause for the war.

2. The war would not have happened if it wasn't for Adolf Hitler, regardless of whether or not the treaty existed.

3. Appeasement policy was a huge cause for the war in Europe. If the UK had held Germany to the treaty, the war would've been impossible.

4. We can't just choose one link in the chain of events leading up to WW2 and claim it's the "main cause". In this case, the treaty was caused by other things and caused other things that all helped propel the war.

The resolution is negated. Back to you, Pro.



Thanks, Justin.

C1. World =/= Europe

While it is obvious that World =/= Europe, the entire conflict cannot be referred to a World War if it were not for Hitler's invasion of Poland. According to the Merriam-Webster, the definition of "World war" is, "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world" (17, emphasis added). Notice the part, "all or most of the principal nations of the world". Prior to the invasion of Poland, not too many principal nations were involved in battles. When Hitler invaded it, many nations, such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia (Canada and Australia are nations in a different continent) got involved within a few days (18). Then, Hitler declared a war on on the US and the Soviet Union years later (19). One must also keep in mind that Japan and Italy formed the Axis powers one year after the invasion of Poland, making the global conflict a clash between the Allied and the three-way pact (20).

After the formation of the Axis powers at the beginning of WWII, Hideki Tojo and Mussolini attacked many other countries. These acts of tyranny committed by Italy and Japan were simply PART of the very war whose genesis was marked by the invasion of Poland. Even though the Germans and the Japanese never fought side by side, what matters is that they all had the common goal of defeating the Allies.

If we remove Hitler from the picture, could we really say that all these major nations would have joined the fight? Would Italy have been able to instigate battles without the support of its German ally?

Simply put, Hitler (whose motives were inspired by the austerity of the Versailles Treaty) caused the spark that led to many allied nations (PRINCIPAL Allied nations from DIFFERENT CONTINENTS) to oppose it. Because of him, the major nations known as Italy and Japan teamed up with Germany, turning the entire situation into a global clash between the Allied and Axis coalitions.

C2. Hitler

One thing we must understand is that in history is generally caused by great men or women. This is true because the masses take certain actions under the guidance of those people.

Con also says, "The Treaty alone could not have brought it about." Well, obviously, the Treaty ITSELF could not cause the war, because a treaty is merely an agreement that's written on paper. To understand this more clearly, one can think about the the U.S Bill of Rights for example. Now, the Bill of Rights ITSELF didn't guarantee personal freedoms, as it was simply a piece of paper containing the first Ten Amendments (21). It's the RATIFICATION of it that did the job. The ratification was carried out by the politicians at that time. However, we still say that the Bill of Rights is the cause (or the reason why) for people to have more freedom, albeit it's the people (the politicians) who did the work.

The same logic is applied for the cause of WWII. Just as the ratification of the Bill of Rights occurred by the reason of its very presence, Hitler's plans were carried out because of the existence of the Treaty that angered Germans. Written papers can't do the job. They need influential people to take certain actions (either for it or against it).. So, it stands to reason that the Treaty caused the war by making people like Hitler work against it in this case.

C3. Appeasement Policy

Even though the INTENT of the Treaty was to prevent people like Hitler from invading other countries, the problem is that it was counter-productive. Remember, we're talking about the very same pact that caused not only Germans to be angry, but also caused the British to be easygoing with Hitler's conquests. The intent of the Treaty is completely irrelevant, because the fact is that the Treaty was so harsh that it predisposed both of the nations to break the rules.

If the Treaty was not so hard on Germany, would Hitler have been able to manipulate a bunch of angry Germans? Remember, his radical solutions only appealed to the masses because of the conditions after the effects of the Versailles Pact (Spielvogel 819).

Again, the Treaty SHOULD HAVE prevented Hitler's conquest, but we must also keep in mind that the interpretation of text can be subjective in general (So, the Treaty would give people different feelings of how they would interpret it). Many could see it as an unreasonable agreement, and its harshness led the British to think that Germany was reasonably trying to satisfy its need for power by violating it.

C4. The buck stops where?

As mentioned by Con himself, this can seem ridiculous when taken to a certain point. Although WWI led to the Treaty which caused WWII, we cannot say that WWI is the MAIN cause of WWII. We cannot say that the issues prior to WWI are the MAIN causes of WWII either. This is because neither WWI nor its previous causes led to the problems I mentioned in the first round. Unlike the Versailles agreement, WWI itself did not cause Germany to be burdened with debt to other nations, nor did it cause Germans to be angry. On the other hand, the Treaty is responsible for these things. The Treaty itself is what provided the foundation for Hitler's agendas.

What about the reverse? No, the treaty didn't "merely" cause economic strife. It also caused Germans to get separated (its lands were removed) and humiliated by the Allied forces.

Con also asks, "Isn't the strife itself really to blame for the war?"

Again, the difference is that the Treaty increased the strife to the point that Germany harbored feelings of hatred towards its adversaries. In the process, German masses were also easy to be manipulated by radicals like Hitler. Wars don't normally have to be concluded with treaties being hard on one specific country.

Moving on, my opponent says, "One could even go so far as to say that the true cause of the war itself was the decision by the UK and US (and Canada) to fight back." My opponent supports this by citing a mere idiom, which is not a reliable source. The real issue is that Germany is the one who started/caused the situation by invading Poland. The response of fighting back is not the cause, or the starting point. (Cause is synonymous with start/origin (22)). They fought back AS A RESULT of German tyranny.

Con's argument is also problematic since the idiom "it takes two to tango" is "something that you say
which means if two people were involved in a bad situation, both must be responsible" (23). This idiom only says that both Germany and the Allies are responsible, not that the Allies started the war by fighting back.

Lastly, I never blamed ONE "cause of a cause for being the reason the entire war happened." I said that the Treaty is the MAIN cause of WWII, which implies that there are other causes for it, but not as grand as the Versailles pact.


I have shown that..

1. The invasion of Poland marked the beginning of WWII. It made many principal nations get involved from many different parts of the world. Also, Mussolini and Tojo invaded other nations DURING WWII.

2. Hitler could not have carried out his plans if it were not for the Treaty's "injustice". I could also argue that the ratification of the Bill of Rights couldn't have occurred without the politicans, but we can still say that the Bill of Rights is the reason why we have more freedom.

3. The appeasement policy occurred due to the "injustice" regarding Germany's conditions. I explained that the Treaty can be interpreted subjectively, and those interpretations have caused people to react differently, despite the INTENTION of those who authored the Versailles agreement.

4. Any other event in the "chain" cannot qualify as the MAIN cause because they themselves didn't lead to German resentment and be in debt to the Allies. Also, UK, US and Canada didn't start this violent situation in fighting Germany back.

Your turn, con.



Debate Round No. 2


JustinAMoffatt forfeited this round.


I hope everything is alright for Justin.

Arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 3


JustinAMoffatt forfeited this round.


Arguments extended.
Debate Round No. 4


JustinAMoffatt forfeited this round.


Debate's over.

Vote for me.
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by George_Clinton 2 years ago
And Japans actions would bring France and UK in the war eventually (France owned Vietnam, UK owned India, Australia would also become involved, as well as the Dutch)... And Japan may have struck the US eventually as they did so over a trade dispute... So yeah I guess Japan could have started the world war regardless of the treaty.
Posted by George_Clinton 2 years ago
If you think about it Japan did technically start WW2 in Asia and it did not involve the treaty of Versailles... hm...
Posted by 16kadams 2 years ago
ima follow this, I love researching WWII, Wermacht fanboi

No I am not nazi

Posted by GOP 2 years ago
Posted by JustinAMoffatt 2 years ago
Nice opening argument, GOP!
Posted by GOP 2 years ago
Justin, can you change the title to "The Treaty of Versailles is the main cause of World War 2?"
Posted by JustinAMoffatt 2 years ago
Well, yes and no. You won't get points based on it alone. But you may need to cite sources to win, still. Overall, it's going to come down to who more people thought won.
Posted by GOP 2 years ago
So, if the point system is "Select Winner", then does that mean it's useless to cite sources?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture.