January 18, 1919 – Opening of the Versailles Conference After World War I but Not an Auspicious Day for Peace

On January 18, 1919, Raymond Poincare, President of France, opened the first plenary session of the Paris Peace Conference, which was convened to set out the terms for the conclusion of World War I. He was surrounded by diplomats from over thirty countries, but representatives from Russia, Germany, and their allies were not invited to attend. His speech began:

“On this day, forty-eight years ago, the German Empire was proclaimed by an army of invasion in the Chateau at Versailles….Born in injustice, it has ended in opprobrium. You are assembled to repair the evil it has done and to prevent a recurrence of it. You hold in your hands the future of the world.”

Indeed they did. The repercussions of the Treaty of Versailles are among the factors that led to another world war just twenty years later.

Wilson, who had arrived in France full of ideals “soon had no illusions about what the other major powers wanted from the conference: loot.”

You can read more about the discouraging behavior of the Allies after World War I in the history by Thomas Fleming, “The Illusion of Victory.”

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