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The Great War Ends
The Aftermath Of World War I
By the fall of 1918, the tides had turned, and it became clear the Allies were going to win the war. Bulgaria was the first to surrender, followed by Turkey, bringing to an end the seven-centuries-old Ottoman Empire. Austria-Hungary, facing starvation and civil war, signed an armistice agreement thereby splitting the union into several smaller countries and bringing an end to the Hapsburg Empire. With Germany on the verge of chaos and civil war, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, resulting in the country becoming a republic and its new leader, Chancellor Friedrich Ebert, asking the Allies for an armistice. Finally, the fighting was over. At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—the guns fell silent.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the Great War, Americans celebrated Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919. In 1938, Nov. 11 became a national holiday known as Veteran’s Day to honor the veterans of World War I. Today, Veteran’s Day honors all military veterans.
The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I, was signed on June 28, 1919. The main authors of the treaty were the leaders of France, England, Italy and the United States. Germany and its former allies were not allowed to participate in the negotiations. The resulting treaty was a compromise that fully pleased no one—least of all, Germany. The terms were very harsh toward Germany, stating that it was solely responsible for starting the war and requiring it to disarm, to surrender its overseas colonies and to pay massive reparations for the losses suffered by the Allies. Germany also relinquished sizeable areas of territory to France, Belgium, the newly formed Poland and to other new countries created as the Allies redrew the map of Europe. The Allies also redrew the map of the Middle East, dividing the area into spheres of French and British influence and sowing the seeds for future discord and strife. The peace terms forced upon Germany caused lingering resentment and humiliation, setting the stage for many of its citizens to search for national leadership which would make Germany a world power once more. They would ultimately turn to the Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler.
While the maps of Europe and the Middle East were being redrawn, citizens in the United States were experiencing changes to their own societal landscape. On June 4, 1919, Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment. It was ratified by the required two-thirds majority of the states on Aug. 18, 1920. The text of the amendment states: