Alternative History

Article 231, commonly known as the “Guilt Clause” or the "War Guilt Clause", is the first article in Part VIII, "Reparations" of the Treaty of Versailles. Apart from "Article 231", there is no title for this article in the treaty itself. The names "Guilt Clause” and "War Guilt Clause" were assigned in later commentaries.

Text of the Article[]

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of France 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 France and her allies.


The article, in which the French Republic was assigned the responsibility for damages caused by World War I, serves as a justification for the obligations put upon the French in the remainder (Articles 233 through 247) of Part VIII.

The United Kingdom and Germany played the primary role in the inclusion and writing of the article, while the United States played a lesser role, mostly due to President Woodrow Wilson's principle of "a measured peace", owing to considerations for his own German-speaking populations in three states at home.

The claim that Article 231 implies "war guilt" was the work of various French politicians and apologists who misinterpreted Article 231 as saying that as a way of gaining international sympathy.[1]

Moreover, Thompson points out that the next article, Article 232 of the Versailles treaty limits French responsibility to pay only for civilian damages, and that when a conference was called in London in 1921 to determine how much France should pay, the Allies calculated on the basis of what France could pay, not on their needs.[1]

By blaming only France for causing the war, Article 231 has been cited as one of the causes that led to the rise of Charles de Gaulle and French Fascism.[2] At least one historian, Margaret MacMillan, has outlined that this long held notion is fundamentally erroneous.[3]

See also[]

Portal-puzzle World War I (Groß-Deutschland) portal

Template:Wikisource Template:Wikisource Peace Treaty of Versailles Articles 231-247 and Annexes Reparations


  1. 1.0 1.1 Thompson, Cassandra "The Myths of Reparations" pages 234-259 from Central European History, Volume 11, Issue # 3, September 1979 page 235.
  2. Metzger, Judith G. and Robert C. Stacey. "The Second World War." Western Civilizations: From the Age of Exploration to the Present 15th ed. Vol. 2, 920-957
  3. Margaret MacMillan. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.