The signing of the most important one, the treaty with Germany, took place at the great Palace of Versailles. Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles reads:
The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.
It was unprecedented in the history of peace negotiations that those who lost a war should have to admit their guilt for starting it.
In the interwar period, a consensus developed among scholars that the war-guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty was historically worthless. Probably the most respected interpretation was that of Sidney Fay, who apportioned major responsibility among Austria, Russia, Serbia, and Germany. In 1952, a committee of prominent
French and German historians concluded: the documents do not permit any attributing, to any government or nation, a premeditated desire for European war in 1914. Distrust was at its highest, and leading groups were dominated by the thought that war was inevitable; everyone thought that the other side was contemplating aggression. . . .
this consensus was shaken in 1961 with the publication of Fritz Fischer’s Griff nach der Weltmacht or Grab for World Power, 1961. In the final formulation of this interpretation, Fischer and the scholars who followed him maintained that in 1914 the German government deliberately ignited a European war in order to impose its hegemony
over Europe. (Would that all historians were as cynical regarding Sidney B. Fay, The Origins of the World War, 2 vols. (New York: Free Press, 1966 ).
Joachim Remak, The Origins of World War I, 1871–1914, 2nd ed. (Fort Worth,
Tex.: Harcourt, Brace, 1995), p. 131.
See Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War (New York: W. W.
Norton, 1967 ); idem, War of Illusions: German Policies from 1911 to 1914
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1975 ), Marian Jackson, trans.; Imanuel Geiss,
July 1914: The Outbreak of the First World War, Selected Documents (New York:
Charles Scribner’s, 1967 [1963–64]); and idem, German Foreign Policy, 1871–1914.
GREAT WARS AND GREAT LEADERS
The motives of their own states. The researches of the Fischer school forced certain minor revisions in the earlier generally accepted view. But the historiographical pendulum has now swung much too far in the Fischer direction. Foreign historians have tended to accept his analysis wholesale, perhaps because it fit their “image of German history, determined largely by the experience of Hitler’s Germany and the Second World War.” The editors of an American reference work on World War I, for example, state outright that “Kaiser and [the German] Foreign Office . . . along with the General Staff . . . purposely used the crisis [caused by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand] to bring about a general European war. Truth is simple, refreshingly simple.”