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N°33 I quarterly I april 2014 Focus | 19 Treaty of Versailles, June 28, 1919. Article 231: “... Germany accepts the responsibility ... for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected ...” By placing the entire responsibility for starting the Great War on a single nation, the famous treaty, signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, puts forth a historic interpretation of the conflict. Yet many others are possible. “The question of responsibility for the war has been the subject of an impassioned debate over the past century,” explains Nicolas Beaupré, researcher and professor at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. This issue is extremely sensitive, highly political, and fraught with consequences: indeed, the humiliation inflicted upon the Germans in 1919 provided a fertile ground for the rise of Nazism, and contributed to the outbreak of World War II. the hunt for clues Since the 1920s, the so-called “War Guilt Clause” has been called into question. “The parties involved have been waging a war of documentation to sway public opinion, each side publishing collections of diplomatic exchanges to downplay its responsibility while emphasizing that of the opponent,” explains Nicolas Offenstadt, a researcher at the LAMOP.1 Based on these sources, whose interpretation was never clear-cut, historians more or less agreed that all belligerents shared responsibility for the hostilities in 1914—until a German historian dropped a figurative bombshell. In 1961, Fritz Fischer published Griff nach der at war Between 1914 and 1918, the military conflict that set Europe ablaze was of unprecedented intensity. This First World War, which would have wide-ranging consequences— demographic, political, economic, social, or cultural—changed the world forever. a report by Louise Mussat, Philippe Testard-Vaillant, and Denis Guthleben Origins of the Conflict © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/COR BIS


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