Both World Wars play a significant part in The Remains of the Day, the period between the wars being of is especial significance. As the narrative is confined to a butler's experience of the outer world from within the walls of a noble manor house, we are given only snippets of information—references to the Treaty of Versailles, the rise of Nazism, and so on. The Treaty of Versailles is an important historical document to understand, as the document forms a large part of Lord Darlington's impetus to help Germany.
The Treaty of Versailles, drawn up at the end of World War I, was signed by the Allied and Associated Powers at Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. The original intention was that the Treaty should be only one part of a general and inclusive settlement with Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, as well as with Germany. However, delays in dealing with the smaller nations, especially Hungary and Turkey, not only separated the German treaty from the others, but also caused it to be the first to be signed and the first to come into force.
The Versailles Treaty was bitterly criticized by the Germans and by many people in other countries, such as Lord Darlington in the novel. One complaint was that the treaty has been "dictated"—not only in the sense that it was imposed on a defeated enemy, in the sense that there had been no verbal negotiations with Germany. Germany also protested that the Treaty was not in harmony with the fourteen points that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the pre-Armistice agreement had set out as the basis of peace. Indeed, there was much truth to Germany's claim. The third, and perhaps most important complaint Germany set forth was that the Treaty demanded staggering sacrifices that could not be carried out without completely wrecking the German economy. This claim, however, was only partly true. Though the war reparations were significant, it was not the reparations themselves that landed Germany in economic dire straits—it was the staggering cost of the war itself.