This weekend is a big one for Germany. The country will finally pay off its debt from World War I, 92 years after their defeat, with a final installment of almost £60 million, or nearly $100 million U.S. (This makes our little credit card situation seem like nuthin’.)
Some history: The Allies had initially demanded 269 billion gold marks, or about 96,000 tons of gold, but that was reduced to 112 billion gold marks by 1929. In 1931, with the financial crisis, Germany stopped payments, which Hitler didn’t see fit to resume when he came into power in 1933. Starting in ’53, however, West Germany started repaying principal on the bonds, and after East and West Germany were united in 1990, they’ve been paying off interest in annual installments.
For those who like to get introspective about things historical, Professor Gerd Krumeich, a German historian, told Der Spiegel that the debt stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles had a lot to do with Hitler’s rise to power:
“The central factor behind Hitler’s seizure of power was his promise ‘I’ll win this war in the end, I will undo this injustice and tear up this treaty and restore Germany to its old greatness,'” Krumeich said.
While we can’t change what happened, and certainly can’t say Hitler wouldn’t have come into power regardless of the treaty (nor that the Allies were wrong for stipulating reparations), theories based on hindsight sure are interesting to ponder in the comfort of your own library. But anyway, Germany, congrats. This must feel like a load off your back.
[via Der Spiegel]