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. Mike 216

    It's a new century everyone let's not ever repeat the last.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • tlarose

      Yes, let's not repeat the cure to polio, or the space program, or scientific breakthroughs in DNA research, or any research in general to name but a few! 🙂 How about we all just live by the old saying (I saw this at Dachau...very fitting!) "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Let's LEARN from our mistakes...humans are supposed to be one of the intelligent I've heard. 🙂

      September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maggie

      @tlarose: I'm sure Mike216 was referring to the wars in the last century.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    We must have learned a lesson from this experience, since we implemented the Marshall Plan after World War Two in order to help Europe rebuild itself. Perhaps this helped prevent a third world war...

    September 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • it'shiddenfromyou

      I am proud to be an American but I think it shows great character and disipline that Germany has done this. I think we Americans are too spoiled.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linders

      Dan – and include Vietnam, too. Rebuilding decimated countries is profitable – both for businesses and diplomacy. The fabulous national health services of war-torn Europe were created because all the hospitals were bombed. The US really erred when she avoided the international cache of joining the League of Nations. We could have rebuilt Europe with a decidedly nation building (Thanks, Dumb Dubya, for the phrase ...) twist and – perhaps, avoided WWII.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Soulcatcher

      Good point at least it postponed it 80 or so years.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    "The Nazis rose to power because we punished them" – Half truths spoken as full truths. We must return to Torah to know what the truth is.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • it'shiddenfromyou

      Joe, there is truth in the torah but theres more.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. J. Boltaire

    If the were "not" right wing why did they fight the German Communist so party so violently in the streets. The comunists went to the concentration camps as early as the Jews.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • JainaJade

      They clashed with all the groups at the time, however the communists were an easily identifiable group unlike the group that represented the majority of the people (Social Democrats of Germany). The NAZI viewed their main opponents as the Marxists, the Jews, and the Capitolists.
      The NAZI party existed prior to Hitler, and at their start they were a nationalist group (DAP) representing the lower class of German workers who weren't flourishing like the middle/upple class during the Weimar Republic. The socialist term (which was in the original name proposal) was incorporated in order to reflect the social services they believed the gov't owed to true Germans, as well as their belief in profit sharing. This is when they started to gain a following from the middle-class Germans who were starting to feel the pinch of the coming economic collapse.
      To look at any of these groups as right-wing or left-wing during this time frame would be extremely hard, as the zietgiest of the time was calling for a return to more traditional times with a focus on nationalism. Most of the groups also favored a large controlling gov't, and the lack of this gov't during the time of Present Heidelburg (sp?) is what gave the NAZI party the parlimentarian boost that they needed. If you were to do a score card or a grid of left-wing vs. right wing views of all of these parties during this time frame you would find them to be right down the middle if not slightly to the left due to fiscal/gov't views.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. E

    Thomas... That's just the name.... They were definitely right wing. If I remember correctly they added the national socialists part a bit later, to attract a broader base.... Also...I guess GWP doesn't have the ring that Nazi does...

    September 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. LouAz

    "When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” – Sinclair Lewis 1935

    September 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • tlarose

      Wow! Sinclair Lewis – He's almost as accurate as H.G. Wells. Too bad this 'prophecy' is coming home to roost...

      September 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J. Boltaire

    They also used the military and industrialist to rise to power. Sounds right wing to me.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CSh

    No, the nazi party were right wingers. They were 'socialist' in the same way North Korea is 'democratic' . They were actually nationalists.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LiberalNN

    I blame Bush.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Well you can actually blame a Bush...GW's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was one of the financier's of the Third Reich...

      September 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick P

      Prescott Bush

      September 30, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. publius enigma

    So was the debt imposed really for damages done or did it exceed the costs of WWI? If it was for actual damages I dont care how poor it made them they are obligated to pay for what they did.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • tlarose

      How do you put a price on the damamges of a world war? Surely Germany didn't act alone in WWI, why weren't their allies bankrupted with repartations, as well?

      September 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Neil

    Got it all wrong. Nazi's were right wing. Socialist was there spin on the names. Hitler was anti socialist and anti communist. Ask the Soviets. Speaking of J-School education, maybe you should check out your old history books.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSh

      Yeah, kinda like the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea ......

      September 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Uh, no. The National Socialists were slightly to the LEFT of Mussolini's Fascists, which the life-long Italian Socialist viewed as an improvement for his beloved Socialism. The only political movement that was LEFT of the Nazis was Stalin's Communism. It was Stalin and his boys who called Nazis "Right Wing".

      September 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • carolinago

      @Thorrs: You have to realize that Hitler hated communists and "unionists"- they were sent packing along with the Jews.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JainaJade

      Thorr is correct, the best way of looking at these parties when using today's terminology is by using the horseshoe analogy another viewer mentioned. The NAZI party was to the right of the Marxists but they were to the left of the Social Democrat group that held the majority of the power prior to the NAZIs and to the far left of the very few and very small right-wing (by modern definition) groups.
      Also the people clamoring to join this group, would be a lot more similar (looking at all factors but race i.e. education/wealth/social status) to the liberal grass-root movements during Bush's terms than those currently joining the Tea Party.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      carolinago, to be exact, he railed against "Trade-Unionists" but the truth was, his National Socialists were little different save that they believed in keeping it local, rather than embracing "International Communism". Hitler may have set his sights on the world in the same fashion that Stalin did, but he was taking it in smaller bites. "Today Germany, tomorrow, that world". Stalin believed that he could sweep the world in a tidal wave of communism. Didn't work for either of them, mostly because they each wanted the same thing for them self. Without Hitler, Stalin might just have succeeded, without Stalin, Hitler just might have succeeded. The differences between what they preached were vanishingly small, really. The differnce between the REALITY of "Mother Russia" and the "Fatherland" were a matter of culture rather than political ideals.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Paul

    So does this mean that the US will need to start paying Iraq and Afganistan for starting those wars? YIKES!

    September 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSh

      You only pay if you lose.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Oh no the US is really sunk than

      September 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nkelly

      war has a funny meaning nowadays. War is an excuse to go in a build schools and hospitals so the people living there can tear them down.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    Any chance we can get some of that money to pay off the debt that Bush and Bammer just crushed us with

    September 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    Just a note about ceding territory to Poland... its more like giving back what one has taken, ceding sounds like it was their territory. If I take your wallet and after beating me you get it back, I guess I have ceded it to you 😉

    September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mmmiller

    As said before- the Nazi's were unquestionably right-wing. Communists were left-wing. (Learn the political spectrum from an historial standpoint- this wasn't just recently invented!) Thus the unmitigated hatred between Nazis and Communists. As someone said before- Nazi's were not Socialists by any stretch- they only used the name. In Naziism, the preservation and promotion of the Arian race was supreme. In Facisim (a'la Italy), the state was supreme . WWII Facists were also, obviously, right wing but they didn't try to exterminate all non-Italians because they were'nt race-focused.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Wrong. That has long been the Communist propaganda, but the Nazis were only slightly less to the Left than Uncle Joe and his boys in the Kremlin.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • carolinago

      Right on! Thorrs you're wrong.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      carolinago, you need to study the real history of the world, not what the Leftist professors are pushing today (Today's professors were the Leftist students of the '60s) They still hold a loyalty to the failed philosophy of communism.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • paddy


      I went to College in Montana in the 70s. A regular bastion of long-haired, dope smoking, hippy communists is was!

      And don't get me started on the lefty organization I belonged to for 24 years! I probably became a lefty somewhere during those 24 years I was a Commissioned Army Officer and was inundated by all that hippy drivel.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tilex

      Sorry Thorrsman but you got it all wrong, you base your assessment on the redefined U shaped Americanised political spectrum of the 80's that placed way too much importance on size of governemnt and finance, if you used the almost circular international spectrum you would know that Facism and Communism both almost touch each other at the top of the spectrum and are also as far as possible on the other direction.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thorrsman

      Tilex, Incorrect. Simple linear scale. By YOUR definition, Left and Right meet in Tyranny. In truth, the Left becomes tyrannical (for the good of the people, they claim) while the Right, with less and less government as the eventual goal, provided more and more freedom for the individual.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
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