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. Carl

    What NO ONE ever tells you is that the JEWS were responsible for the Versailles Treaty which Hitler always mentioned. but the US allowed it to happen because of the Jewish advisers it had in power, much like it has today. THIS is the reason we started WWII and it CANNOT be the reason to start another world war-in thie case today, it will be the Jews that control the US at any cost to save Israel.

    My family is Jewish and I dread the Zionist agenda. God Bless America.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah


      September 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lenny

    They can finally focus their efforts on WW2

    September 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Keith in NJ

    Look into how during the depression the usa flirted with the idea of going facist or communinist or how FDR was considering dictatorial powers. It is true. Beware of the extremists around today. they may be the mainstream of tomorrow. We need to find a middle ground before it is too late.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Spence

    "Reparations". Yeah, that's what the loser of a war gets to do–accept "responsibility" for the war, be blamed for it, including responsibility for ALL costs, both fiscal and human. Don't lose a war! The winners also get to write the history, making themselves naturally the particpants in a "righteous" war, with no blood on THEIR hands of course.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rider_83

    No one seems to ever ask "Why did Germany turn on the people of the jewish religion? They didn't turn on religions they only turned on the people of the jewish religion, WHY??? What did the people of the jewish religion do to so anger all the Germans?? Why is it that so many people, countries, or races dislike the jewish religion so much? Remember jewish is a religion and that is all it is! You are NOT born jewish nor can you be 1/2 jewish!!

    September 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • AM

      Germany didn't. Hitler did. There are many stories of German Christians who saved German Jews.

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

      hmmm... have you looked at the jew infiltration of EVERYTING in US today? Now picture the same jew infiltration of europe then and direct involvement in crafting of the Versailles Treaty that scorned the Germany... thats why...

      September 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I'm hoping you're just a troll, but if not, you have some serious gaps in your historical knowledge. No one "turned" on the Jews in the 20th century The Jewish Question in Europe goes back centuries - for instance, Jews were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Hitler used them to ignite fear, just like politicians go after Islam today.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jn

      also Catholics and they absolutely hated Jehova Witness

      October 2, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tarheelalan

    Its called war. Germany should not have paid anyone squat!!

    September 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rali

      Though this is only a part of the entire issue, you need to understand what people were actually thinking at the time. The belief was that a world war – or a massive war – could not happen because economics would prevent it. In other words, our finances were too tangled up and there was too much money to lose. Therefore, no world war. It is just too expensive. A small group was arguing that an industrialize nation would actually fight to the bitter end, spending everything and using every resource to win – which is what happened. But they did not learn from their mistakes – the belief, in part, at the end of the war was that if they made Germany pay, then everyone would see what the cost of losing a war was – and thus no one would dare fight another world war. They were really just trying to make sense of what happened – WWI defied their expectations, but they didn't learn from their mistake, they just tried to justify their beliefs.

      Also, as for the 'fairness' of it, Germany offered to make France pay Belgium for the damages the German army caused traveling through Belgian lands after Germany won the war – IF Belgium let German pass through without a fight and left the roads and bridge intact. So Germany was already planning to 'make France pay' for the war and was trying to bribe Belgium with French plunder. It was a major theme that ran through the entire war – right from the very beginning. Everyone wanted to know who was going to pay.

      Whether it all makes sense now is a matter of hindsight.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      That's not the way it works Tarheel. You start something, and then lose, you're paying your @ss off.

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

    Who will be the first TOOL to bring up Bush in this unrelated story?

    September 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tarheelalan

    The next time, perhaps Germany will have an important and powerful ally so they may complete the job they left unfinished.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      I'm assuming you dont' know what you're talking about dude, because IF Germany had won, we may not be here typing on this blog today.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. yanni

    I think the whole right-wing left-wing discussion is funny. You seem to be trying to tie the communists to the Democrats and the nazis to the Republicans. I would guess that both U.S. parties are actually fairly middle of the road when the spectrum includes nazis and communists. BTW early Christians were probably early communists/socialists in that they shared their material goods and shared everyting amongst the group ACTs 2:44

    September 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. B. Gray

    Yip. Hitler and Stalin were cut from the same cloth. Hitler fueled hatred by focusing on the Jewish faith, as a cause to blame for Germany's plight in the 30s. Stalin just focused all his ambition for the Motherland. The Nazi's sent an estimated 6 million Jews to their deaths in horrible ways. It's been said that Stalin had over 30 million of his own people murdered – of no particular faith – I'm sure their fate was no less cruel. We've made sure the pages of history vilify Hitler for his atrocities – and rightly so – but why is it that Stalin is still not talked about in the same light?

    September 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • NWA

      Because Rosevelt and Uncle Joe go way back...

      September 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Juanito

    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.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steve The Goat

    I have no pants.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Middleman

    I agree with the consensus that Nazis were right-wing, but of course it soon changed to a dictatorship. The same happened in the Soviet Union; left-wing party changed to a dictatorship. Therefore I think all extremes are bad, and there should be a party or parties in the middle and the nutcases of both sides could have their own parties on sides.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Veganistic

    "World War I to finally end for Germany this weekend" Finally! Now we can move on to WW3

    September 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jane

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Nazi party only rise to power in the early 1930's after the the 1929 economical crisis? Hitler had tried gaining power during the 1920's, and although he did attract followers, he hadn't been that successful, mostly because the German economy had actually started to recover due to financial aid received from the USA. After the 1929 crisis, the USA stopped lending money and that was when Hitler's ideas gained massive support and his party was elected.

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