September 30th, 2010
11:32 AM ET

World War I to finally end for Germany this weekend

A French machine gun crew mans a Hotchkiss gun on August 1, 1915.

Germany and the Allies can call it even on World War I this weekend.

On Sunday - the 20th anniversary of East and West Germany unifying about a year after the Berlin Wall fell - Deutschland will make the last in a series of reparation payments that has spanned more than nine decades.

The final payment is £59.5 million, about $93.8 million
, reported London's Telegraph newspaper. Germany had to pay Belgium and France for material damages and the rest of the Allies the costs of fighting the war.

The initial tally in 1919, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, was 96,000 tons of gold but was slashed by 40 to 60 percent (sources vary) a few years later. The debt was crippling, just as French Premier Georges Clemenceau intended.
Germany went bankrupt in the 1920s, Der Spiegel explained, and issued bonds between 1924 and 1930 to pay off the towering debt laid on it by the Allied powers in 1919's Treaty of Versailles.

Under the treaties of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Trianon, other Central Powers, namely the Austro-Hungarian empire, were forced to cede significant territory to Poland, Italy, Romania, then-Czechoslovakia and various other Slavic nations.

Germany thought U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points" would provide the foundation for a future peace treaty, but Great Britain, France and Italy were still bitter, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

French run from an explosion during WWI.

France had been the most devastated by the war, and Clemenceau feared Germany might attack France again if it recovered, so he and other European leaders sought to stifle the nation's economic recovery, and in effect, its ability to rearm, the museum said. Restrictions were placed on its army and navy, and it was forbidden to have an air force.

The Treaty of Versailles not only forced Germany to give up territories to France, Belgium, Poland, the Czechs and the League of Nations, but it also included a "War Guilt Clause" forcing Germany to accept responsibility for the war, thereby making it liable for the damages.

Britain's John Maynard Keynes felt the treaty's demands were too steep and resigned in 1919 after warning, "Germany will not be able to formulate correct policy if it cannot finance itself."

As Keynes predicted, the plan backfired. While Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria all violated the terms of their accords, mainstream voters flocked to Germany's right-wing parties and Adolf Hitler's Nazis rode to power on a wave of resentment over the Treaty of Versailles' terms, according to the Holocaust museum.

World War I historian Gerd Krumeich told Der Spiegel that Hitler's message of tearing up the treaty and restoring Germany to greatness resonated with the country.

"There was tremendous frustration in Germany in the 1920s - this conflict that cost 2 million lives and left 4 or 5 million wounded is supposed to have been in vain, and it was all our fault?" Krumeich told the magazine. "The reparations payments compounded everything. Not only was Germany given the moral blame, it was also supposed to pay an outlandish sum that most people had never even heard of."

Germany discontinued reparations in 1931 because of the global financial crisis, and Hitler declined to resume them when he took the nation's helm in 1933, Der Spiegel reported.

After reaching an accord in London in 1953, West Germany paid off the principal on its bonds but was allowed to wait until Germany unified to pay about 125 million euros ($171 million) in interest it accrued on its foreign debt between 1945 and 1952, the magazine said.

In 1990, Germany began paying off that interest in annual installments, the last of which will be distributed Sunday.

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Filed under: Belgium • France • Germany • Italy • Poland • Romania • War
soundoff (272 Responses)
  1. Sam

    This is ridiculous. How much do they owe over WWII? These same financial penalties are partly what made the German populace so resentful in the first place and susceptible to totalitarian leadership that vowed to fight back with vengeance and THEN DID in WWII. If you take a man's penny he will take your life. They should have forgiven the debt once we defeated communism and Germany was united. That is the greatest thing they gave back to humanity, as well as BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FrauSchmidt

    The Sozialist part has nothing to do with today's idea of Socialism. The Social aspect had to do with power of the state over the individual rights. That is why eugenics, the Lebensborn project and eventually the final solution were drawn.
    The state had expected its citizens to give everything to the party. And it was a ground-up movement with a strict hierarchy. The biggest enemy of the Nazi's were not the Jews or British but the Bolchevik ideology and need for Lebensraum. Some idiots in the American media are confusing terminology. The same idiot that says that Slavery came from "Slavs"..... how stupid can a man be.
    Slavery = latin Sclavus adapted to English from the French word Esclave !

    September 30, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Indeed? Ideas like eugenics were very popular with the Progressives in America in the early part of the 20th Century. Those same Progressives were rabidly racist–though they couched their racism in kindly terms–seeking to limit the reproduction of the "swarthy" races from selective sterilization, while their plan, like that of the Nazis, for "mental deficients", was wholesale sterilization. Progressives then, like today, were to the Left. The Left, as we can see from history, eventually leads to the sort of tyranny found under Hitler and Stalin, cold and inhuman in their approach to ruling. The Right, on the other hand, leads to individual freedom.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nkelly

      gee, don't the democrats expect the "democrats" to give everything for their party? Even the president is expected to promote the "party" at all costs in spite of supposedly being in charge of all of us.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. catfish

    I wonder why CNN choose the pictures they did for this article.....The French run from an explosion! Really?

    September 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nanbawan

      When they apparently run towards said explosion...CNN like other media write what they think people like to read...

      September 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike Quist

    By Sunday night, Germany will start paying her DEBTS for World War 2??

    September 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Terence Gaffney

    How on earth can ANYBODY call it EVEN – Germany v. the Allies – when Germany was responsible for millions of lives in the first World War! Last money payment does NOT CALL IT EVEN! TRPG44

    September 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Are you completely unaware of history? The entangled alliances of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century made just this sort of thing inevitable. And the "spark" did not come from Germany, but from a incompetent Serbian separatist who happened to be in the "right" place at the "right" time after his first plan of murder had failed completely.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sweet_genius

    How did WWI start again? Oh, some muslim shot an Archduke (relative of the Kaiser's) and his pregnant wife. Then WWII started because how bad Germany got screwed after WWI. Moral of the story: Do you still think that muslims are peace loving?

    September 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      Get a clue: Gavrilo Princip, the assassin, was a Bosnian Serb, not a Muslim.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • paddy

      I see that you subscribe to the "All Indians walk in single file. At least the one I saw did." school of logically fallacious thought.

      All Christians gave the Native Americans blankets infected with Yellow Fever, too.

      Princip was an impressionable, 19-year-old, expelled student who got involved in what was more an anarchist movement than anything. He espoused no religion. He may or may not have believed in any religion. That he was a Serb does not mean he was a Muslim. At 17, he fought against the Ottomans, who were definitely Muslims.

      His motivations for being involved with six other conspirators to assassinate Franz Ferdinand were personal and political, not religious.

      Home schooling failed you, too.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Princip was a Serb (by political definition an Orthdox Catholic) who lived in Bosnia. The Ottoman Empire had slowly disintegrated for years....Serbia was now independent from it. But the Austian Empire had the mandate for Bosnia, which Serbia wanted to grab (similar to the 1990s). Simple as that. Ha!

      September 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ivan

    Selection of images from Great Grandfather's diary and drawings from WW1

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=245276&id=832514003&l=d2ece397de

    September 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gabriel

    most guys here mix ww1 with ww2, this is sad. there was nothing about facism (which by the way is an italian thing, not german) nor nazis. This came first in 33, ie 15 years after ww1. And ww1 was the 2nd war that france had with germany over much disputed Alsace region; the first was the 1870 war. Read good history books, and stop vomiting the garbage brain wash the press gives you.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Doug

    "Get it right, gang. The Nazis and communists voted together to oust the Weimar Republic. As for Germany's brand of socialism: it was the vehicle to carry Hitler to fascist rule. They called it National Socialism(contradiction in terms?). As for true communism: it doesn't exist. All 'communist' countries have maintained a dynamic ruler(Stalin in USSR, Ho Chi Minh in Vietam, Mao in China, Castro in Cuba, Kim in NK, etc) and what THEY say is the rule of law. The 'People's Committee' is their personal puppet."

    Wow I never thought I would see a post here from someone who actually knows history rather than spewing left wing lies told by some idot dope smoking hippy professor.

    Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it, when it comes to repeating the mistake of putting a national socialist in office, every Democrat sings as part of the left wing chorus "Yes we can"!

    September 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      "A national socialist in office?"
      There are many clues on this discussion board that you clearly never bothered to get. Comparing Obama to Hitler (or Stalin) is as ludicrous as comparing Chester A. Arthur to Genghis Khan.
      As for the crack over "dope-smoking professors", well, that just shows you're not much into book-learnin'.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      Carl Sagan was a "dope smoking professor", and his intellectual capabilities were leagues beyond anything you could ever hope to reach.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dirk

    I wonder if there was a giant check involved. People might not like politics, but everyone loves a giant check!

    September 30, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Edward Sevume

    Great job done to help Ben sort out the facts.
    My wonder though is this, which schools do people like Ben attend if they do attend at all.
    For one thing, one notes that some contributers here (read Ben)do add arguments that are based on ignorance.
    With the existance of people like Ben, it makes governing a country as the US very difficult indeed!
    The Nazis in Germany came to power through the use of peoples ignorance and operating on their feelings of not being fairly treated. It is how the neo nazis get support for their hidden agenda in Europe.
    America has to settle the issue of giving the citzens access to schools so folks get proper education.
    This is the basis for political participation based on facts rather than ignorance!

    September 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. smedleybutle

    In the photo, the French are running toward the explosion, not from it. Who is writing these for CNN? Need to brush up on your grammar.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      And France lost 3 million people in that war, as the western front was almost entirely on French soil.

      That's really why the French were for punishing Germany, and against provoking Hitler later.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Prof.

    And the moral of the story is that the Allied nations were the villains every time! At least the others admit the war was wrong. But the Allied nations still put out propaganda about how it was so moral of them to kill innocent babies, elderly and women who had nothing to do with it!

    September 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Prof.

    And if you don't think the Nazis had anything to do with socialism you don't know anything about their social programs. Their social programs were far more supportive of the people than anything in the world today. Seems like most Americans love to talk a lot about things they don't understand, but the world knows that already...

    September 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuyInNC

      I think the Roman phrase "bread and circuses" sums it up nicely. They loved social programs, if and only if they kept people quiet. (Of course, they used other means of keeping people quiet too.)

      September 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • paddy

      They "supported" the right people.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Germany was the first country to introduce "social benefits," under the imperialists Bismark and Kaiser Wilhelm. Hitler couldn't take those away and remain in power. The first thing a good dictator does is take care of his/her people, so they don't have the need to rise up. People don't start revolutions when they are fat and happy.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    Please stop with the generalizations of Republicans. It just makes you sound like an Idiot! All people of any group do not think the same way or support the same issues.

    The hyperinflation of post WWI Germany has been the accepted catalyst for the rise of Nazi Germany. When people had to use their life savings to buy food that would only last them a day or a week at most. It was a surge Nationalism that Hitler used to rise to power. When you are starving and out of money, you will be more than happy to point the figure at someone and blame him or her. When someone restores the economy and you can work and eat again. You would go to great lengths to support that leader. You would not be willing to accept when other tell you that the person is really bad. Until it is too late.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • LouAz

      All those pictures of Germans PRIOR to 1939 don't show any skinny Germans. I disagree that they were starving.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
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