The creators of the peace structure

The victors invoked the principle of “national self-determination”, but their decisions bore no trace of this.

In chateaus and palaces around Paris, the victorious powers were quick to set about redrawing the maps of Europe and the world. The slogan chosen to feature as the peace structure’s most important principle in sonorous pronouncements was “national self-determination”. This promised the nations of Europe and the rest of the world that they could decide their own destinies. That promise remained unfulfilled. At the peace talks the principle of national self-determination was only adhered to when it coincided with the interest of the victors; but it did not apply in relation to the empires and countries declared to have lost, or to national minorities under the rule of the victorious allies – or indeed to the native peoples of their colonies. Unlike peace treaties agreed after earlier European wars, the interests of the defeated countries were ignored – indeed the true aim was to break and humiliate them. Another unparallelled approach was the blanket stigmatisation of the vanquished as war criminals, while efforts were made to break down their national pride in every way possible.


„The Versailles peace system is the key to World War II.”
Lucian Boia

„Wilhelm II lost the war. Clemenceau lost the peace.”
Ferdinand Foch

„This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.”
Ferdinand Foch

„This peace did more damage to the world than the war had.”
Count Pál Teleki

„But injustice, arrogance, displayed in the hour of triumph will never be forgotten or forgiven.”
David Lloyd George

„Force is right.”
Georges Clemenceau

„There will be never be peace in South-Eastern Europe if every little state now coming into being is to have a large Magyar population within its borders.”
David Lloyd George

„The old order must be abolished and the new one erected in its place.”
Woodrow Wilson

„Italy will not give up Fiume without a fight.”
Vittorio Emanuele Orlando

„I can see the hubris and folly of the victors.”
Thomas Mann


Title page of Act XXXIII/1921, ratifying the Treaty of Trianon, signed by Miklós Horthy and István Bethlen

(Hungarian National Archives, authorised facsimile)

Writing set, with lidded inkstand

(Ministry of Defence, Military History Institute and Museum)

Repatriation certificate Passport of the Kingdom of Hungary

(László Makai, authorised facsimiles)