The Signing of the Treaty of Versailles, June 1919

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Signing of the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors within the Palace of Versailles in France. Taken on June 28th 1919
Dignitaries gathered in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, France, to sign the Treaty of Versailles, June 28th, 1919.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Hall of Mirrors, commissioned by King Louis XIV, was a display of French success, wealth, and strength. Construction of the 73m long Baroque hallway took place between 1678 and 1684, although, due to exposure to the weather, the hall was demolished and rebuilt in the early 18th century. The hall’s namesake comes from the 17 mirrors positioned opposite 17 widows. While the mirrors have practical uses, increasing both natural and candlelight within the hall and displaying exterior gardens within the room itself. It signified the breaking of the monopoly Venetian mirror makers had on the expensive trade. Since its completion, the hall has hosted major historical events such as the proclamation of the German Empire and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Above, a picture showing the Hall of Mirrors filled with dignitaries to both witnesses and sign the Treaty of Versailles ending the state of war between Germany and the Allies after World War One. On 21 October 1919, the treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations, which was one of US President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points that would go on to shape the treaty. 

Despite fighting during the First World War ending with an Armistice in 1918, the Paris Peace Conference took 6 months to conclude the treaty. It was signed on June 28, 1919, exactly 5 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked the beginning of the First World War. 

The Treaty of Versailles caused many points of contention between the Allies, some believing it to be too lenient and some too harsh. The resulting treaty is now, by many historians, named as a primary contributing factor to the rise of fascism in Germany and the resulting Second World War. What is now referred to as the War Guilt Clause, Article 231 stated Germany’s responsibility to disarm, pay reparations to the Ally nations, and make territorial concessions. In 1921, reparations owed were estimated at 132 billion gold marks. Such astronomical debts were unpayable for a post-war Germany that was being propped up by the US. This came to an end when Wall Street crashed, tanking the German economy. The resulting economic downfall led to huge inflation and the eventual rise of the Nazi state.

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