Tuesday, September 28, 2010

World War One Reparations

Thanks to Daniel Trakulhoon for forwarding me this neat link to news about Germany paying the last of its reparations from World War One. Read the article and tell me what you think.....



  1. Ya, I read that article online a couple hours ago and found it ironic that we had just studied this in class. I obviously think that the War Guilt Clause was a bad idea which uprooted Germany's economy and ultimately lead to the start of WW2. Before the start of world war two, the German economy was comparable to Zimbabwe's today. As the article states, 10 billion marks couldn't buy you a loaf of bread. This caused the Nazi political party to gain power as desperate times call for desperate measures.
    It's a bit sad that people living in Germany today had to pay off these debts especially considering that not a single German soldier who fought in WW1 is even alive today.

    -Robert Desjardins

  2. @robert The last German soldier who served in the WWI died only about 3 years ago. "the German economy was comparable to Zimbabwe's today. As the article states, 10 billion marks couldn't buy you a loaf of bread." A loaf of bread costs 10 million Zimbabwe dollars, so 10 billion would be able to buy a thousand loaf of bread, meaning the economy in German then is a thousand times worst than in Zimbabwe now, and a 100000% difference in food expense is not similar.(source - http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2008/0325/p06s02-woaf.html)

  3. Another interesting article about the World War I: the Christmas truce. I love the "YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT" sign and the exchange of gifts, chocolates and tobacco. http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/truce.asp

  4. @Daniel
    Exactly, thanks for proving my point about not a single German WW1 veteran being alive today...
    I wasn't meaning the comparison of the economy of Germany to Zimbabwe to match statistically but to be an example of hyperinflation. Besides, your source was written on march 28, 2008 and the inflation rate in Zimbabwe at that time was 98% a day meaning that basically each day the price of something would double.
    AND you can't compare different currencies on a one to one basis. For example, if a loaf of bread is 1$ US it would be 84 Japanese Yen. This doesn't mean that the economy of Japan is 84x worse than that of the US.


  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. @robert Let's assume a loaf of bread is 1 dollar (because the difference in percentage and the ratio between the two currencies will still remain the same.) During world war I, 1 U.S. dollar = 1 trillion German dollars (marks). Using the currency rate at this moment, 1 U.S. dollar = 361900 Zimbabwe dollars. The inflation might be high for both countries at the time, but you can't say 276319425% difference is "comparable," since Germany's economy is much much worse then than our modern day's country's worst economy (Zimbabwe). For the fact about the last soldier who died only 3 years ago, I was pointing out that the reparations will end around the same time the last soldier died (only 3 years apart since the war started about 92 years ago) so because he, who represented Germany, supposedly caused the war (according to the war guilt), Germany must pay for what they have done, which the debt only lasts around when the last soldier died (not making 10 generations of their children pay for their "mistakes.")

  7. @Daniel
    Didn't I just explain this in my previous post? It doesn't matter that 1 Zimbabwe dollar today is worth more than 1 German dollar was worth 70 years ago. This comparison is a fallacy because it doesn't truly represent the economies of each of the countries. In fact, Zimbabwe is CONSTANTLY making new currency and decommissioning old currency because it gets inflated so high. Last year 12 zeros were taken off the Zimbabwe currency because the bills they were using were getting ridiculous. This doesn't make the Zimbabwe economy one trillion times better but by your logic it does...
    The fact that 1 US dollar is worth 361900 Zimbabwe dollars today when last year 1 US dollar was worth 3-4 Zimbabwe dollars just shows how much inflation is happening there. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7865259.stm)

    And the fact that the last soldier died 3 years ago doesn't really hold any merit. There are 81 million people living in Germany today while there were around 13 million German soldiers who had fought in the war. So, even if everyone of those soldier were alive today the vast Majority of the people who are paying because of the War Guilt Clause didn't even fight in the war (And there aren't 13million German veterans today, there are 0). And by your logic, if 1 German soldier from WW1 was alive for the next decade then 81million who had never fought in the war should continue paying for the War Guilt Clause...

  8. @robert

    What you stated is not the same as the source you provided "On Sunday, US$1 (£0.71) was equal to Z$3 or Z$4 trillion." You were off by 12 digits there buddy (Z$3000000000000 =/= Z$3)

    When a family goes in debt, the children will have to pay for it same as the 13 million German soldiers who "started" the war has to get their children to pay for it. Today it also exists as a collateral loan that if I'm starting a business and I have you sign the forms and my business goes bankrupt, the bank will come to you instead, even though you didn't do anything wrong. I'm saying the debt wasn't that long since the debt was paid in one lifetime. My logic isn't "if 1 German soldier from WW1 was alive for the next decade then 81million who had never fought in the war should continue paying for the War Guilt Clause," because I know when the reparations started and when it will end. There is no "what if" when it has already been decided.

  9. Anyway, it was a fun debate, I knew what you meant since the first time you replied to me, I was just trolling trying to prolong it. Going to sleep now.

  10. the french took adavantage of the germans

  11. Personally, I think they should have been charged way more than 226 billion. It didn't really stop the Germans last time.... the guy with the red armband and the mustache didn't regard the debt...and look what he did. Germany has twice proved that they wanted to take over the world, and twice they've failed. The UN should place heavier restrictions on what Germany can and cannot do. Germany is a strong and great country now, but trying to wipe out a race is a crime against humanity, and they should still be paying annual installments to the allies and all the other people they effected.

  12. The French took advantage of the Germans. I think the War Guilt Clause was really unfair, and it's also unfair that the Germans still have to pay for the mistakes of their parents and grandparents. This 'war guilt clause' just perpetuates animosity and hostility between countries, and prevents true peace. The people who were 'compensated' are already dead, though, so that kind of sucks.

  13. I agree with Tim in that a few generations of a country should be responsible for paying for the what happened in the past.

  14. If people don't want their federal budgets to be put towards paying off previous wars, then go to another country! Each country (and the people in it) have a responsibilty for its past glories and failures.
    -Matthew Lau

  15. @Daniel and Robert

    Zimbabwe was much MUCH worse than Germany!
    According to Wikipedia...

    In January 2008, 1 USD = 2.5 million ZWD

    In July 2008, re-denomination removed 10 zeroes (!) from the currency.

    However, by December 2008, inflation has made 1 USD = 2 million "new" ZWD.

    This means that 1 USD at that time was 2 * 10^16 ZWD, and that would probably had bought a loaf of bread at best.

    That's not end yet. Just 2 months later, another re-evaluation took 12 (!) zeroes from the "new" Zimbabwe Dollar because the number of zeroes (yes, the number of zeroes) was growing exponentially!

    It is estimated that at the end of the hyperinflation (around 2009 July), 1 USD = 10^30 "old" ZWD

    Now, don't tell me Germany was anywhere close to that!


    In regards to the article, I do agree that the reparations were too much and contributed to the collapse of German economy, which led to the rise of Hitler.

    However, the German economy might have collapsed anyways even if there were no reparations. The 1930 depression was so severe after all. Hitler, thus, might have actually rose to power regardless. It's just that the reparations made such event inevitable.

  16. Agreed with Jason, he makes very valid points that I support.

  17. Although Germany is considered one of the more economically advanced nations, we must also realize that the government is dealing a large debt crisis. Germany recently agreed to help the Greek government with the faltering economy. And as a random fact...ironically, Germany used to sold money printing paper to Zimbabwe, but the German government stopped two years ago because Zimbabwe needed too much paper for their 10 billion dollar bills.

    I'd also like to point out that history is written by the winners; the Germans basically got bullied by the French and British after the war simply because they lost the war. The British was responsible for the Battle of Somme as they launched the invasion, and thus it demonstrates the element of injustice in the War Guilt Clause.

  18. I agree with Alex. Germany can be considered a little miracle having risen to be one of more powerful nations economically in Europe even after experiencing hyperinflation during the Wiemar Republic and WWII until Hitler. Paying off a 22 billion dollar damages agreement is no small feat and it is indeed unfair that the Allies were able to bully the Germans into accepting the burden of the blame for the Great War. Perhaps, the failure of the League of Nations was 'karma' for the Allies precipitating the hatred felt by war-torn Germany and cause the rise of Hitler.

    In regards with hyperinflation, both Germany and Zimbabwe do not hold the record for the single highest point of hyperinflation: a title held by Hungary when after WWII. 400 octillion pengo (the old currency) was stabilized into one forint (the present currency)

  19. @Dennis
    We weren't arguing on which country holds the world record of highest inflation.

  20. @Dennis
    Actually, Zimbabwe holds the title for the "single highest point of hyperinflation" as 1 ZWD inflated to 10^31 ZWD, while 1 Hungarian pengo inflated to 10^29 pengo.

    Hungary holds the title for the highest rate of inflation.

    Zimbabwe got higher than Hungary because it was allowed to run for like 15 years while Hungary only had 4 years.

  21. The french didnt help their overall image by taking everything they could from germany and completely destroying the germans economy. And obviously these Reparations didnt help keep peace cause they aided the rise of Hitler and the beginning of WW2.

  22. I agree with tim saying that "War Guilt Clause was really unfair, and it's also unfair that the Germans still have to pay for the mistakes of their parents and grandparents".

    Also I don't understand why people are making arguments that value of currency = inflation = bad economy. the value of currency has nothing to do with the economy, in fact. For example, a Canadian dollar is worth about 1000 Korean Won. This does not make Korea's economy 1000x worse than Canada's; on the contrary, Korea is quite prosperous.

    - William Kim

  23. @William
    "Also I don't understand why people are making arguments that value of currency = inflation = bad economy."

    Apparently Daniel was making that argument in the 2nd post. It's obviously incorrect, non of the subsequent posts are saying that. In fact, the rate of inflation is a much more accurate figure for this purpose, to which I have already proven that Zimbabwe has a much higher rate of inflation (at one point, 5 zeroes added in 1 month!).

  24. ok let's just stop talking about me please. I was bored, and I saw the only comment here was Robert's, so I thought "ok I don't care what Robert is saying, but I'm just going to support the opposite of it," which I realized I made mistakes while doing it, but I just kept on going. I actually found the link on hyperinflation saying Zimbabwe was worse while writing my 2nd post, but that doesn't help me so I used 2 "modern" currency exchange websites instead which I knew were very inaccurate because I know 1 US =/= Z3000000.

  25. @Daniel

    I know you weren't arguing about records of hyperinflation. It was just a comment. I didn't make a more intelligent comment, because like you said, the argument sort of just went in circles; much like World War I.

    I do appreciate you bringing up the article though. I can't imagine present-day Germany to be anything like the German Empire of World War I. I don't think it matters that you made mistakes. I think we all learned a lot without realizing from this.


    To end this weird discussion on hyperinflation, I admit I used the wrong word. I was trying to point out the daily rate of Hungary's inflation which was at a high of 207% daily. Zimbabwe only comes at 99%. Point wasn't the right word to describe this, I agree.

    About the currency this (for Jason and William), I am a bit confused as to what you guys are pushing at. From my understanding, economy is affected by the value of currency not currency itself. Is this correct or a misconception? I am not too clear on the workings behind this topic.

  26. When I say "I can't imagine present-day Germany to be anything like the German Empire of World War I" I was just trying to say what everybody else has touched on...it is unfair that they have to pay off their debts that their grandparents or....etc

    I have a feeling you guys may question me on that so I am just clarifying..

  27. I think that the consequences of the war, such as death, destruction and whatnot, outweighs any amount of money that can be paid. On the other hand, Germany is not the way it was at the present, and for them to pay a debt established so long ago (and to who the money goes to) is obscure.

    -Steven Zheng

  28. Although some may feel that forcing Germany to pay for the damages of WWI was a strict, harsh and possibly unfair blow to the German population and government, i do support the War Guilt Clause.
    Despite the fact that some suggest that the individuals who were supposed to be compensated for their losses during the war are now dead, the extent and impact of the war extends beyond many generations. Families were torn apart, businesses lost, lives ruined. The war itself changed the futures of countless families beyond the current generation of that time period and because of this, i do believe compensation was still necessary, despite the fact that the war took place many years ago.

    There are always consequences to our actions; Germany learned that the hardway.

    - Anthony Hui

  29. Many people seem to blame Germany entirely for their actions in WWII but you have to remember not all Germans were Nazis and others were against the actions by Hitler (depicted in movies like Valkarie if that's how you spell it). Just a random comment so we don't go on disliking Germany so much.


  30. I found the article extremely informative, intriguing, but also frustrating. In my opinion Germany should have been and was made mostly liable for the cost of WWI. However, West Germany ultimately took on full responsibility for the war debt paying both principle and interest, settling the debt in 1983. I consider the so called London Debt Agreement of 1953 that required further interest be paid if Germany were ever reunited slightly unfair. As east and west coming together would have put new burdens on that unionized country as well. However on a positive note this final payment reflects a country's integrity and the finality of the Great War.

  31. braydn smith

    i find this article quite intriguing in the fact that germany is still paying off the war debt to this day, i found that the war guilt clause was an unjust article in the treaty of versailles that pinned the whole war on the backs of germany, outnumbered and worn down germany had no say in its own fate and i feel that the allies took advantage of germany's vulnerability. though germany did need some consequences for its actions i feel that forcing germany to pay for all of the war damages of other countries as well as its own was grounds for the british to be labelled again as the british bullies, the amount of debt and the state of germany's economy left it in need of a leader and this leader was Hitler.

  32. Eric Yang-
    After reading this article, it interested me by how much the Germans had to pay for something that they are not completely faulty for. The Treaty of Versaille is only an excuse for the other countries to dodge these responsibilities and pushed it all on Germany. All they did was hide behind the War Guilt Clause, and receive money from it. This is one of the main reasons why Hitler rose and started WW2. Their debt was so enormous that they had to pay even until this very day.

  33. I totally support the War Guilt Clause because Germany started the war, and wanted to rule the world, so its only fair that they pay the consequences. Its funny because they didn't learn their lesson with the consequences of war, because with the invasion in Poland they started WW2, and I think they should still be paying fines like Liam says. WW1 was suppose to be the War to end all wars, except it was just the beginning of future wars.

  34. I really enjoyed reading this article, but the sad thing was that everyone blamed the causes on German whereas not all Germans where part of the War nor all of them supported Hitler. though in the future other countries were supportive for Germany.


  35. World War I reparations refers to the payments and transfers of property and equipment that Germany was forced to make under the Treaty of Versailles (1919) following its defeat during World War I. Article 231 of the Treaty (the so-called 'war guilt' clause) declared Germany and its allies responsible for all 'loss and damage' suffered by the Allies during the war and provided the basis for reparations.

    -sajen gill