After the Alliance’s victory in World War 1, much of industrialized northern France lay in desolate ruins. The Allies and the French in particular were very bitter towards their defeated enemy and vowed to extract reparations. For a young newly formed German republic, these debts to the world were of such incredible proportions, that nobody ever believed that they could be paid. Facing a full occupation, they had to try. Outside of Germany, the Allies were divided by their respective opinions of the Germans. A combination of war debts to the USA and the enormous reparations threw onto Germany caused a complicated and unstable economic flow, that ultimately cumulated in a global depression. The Treaty of Versailles was not a solution, but a careless and vengeful reprimand that only protracted and intensified hatred and the same problems as before.
The German people finished the war in a state of near-starvation, thanks to the British blockade. The German army had surrendered while on French and Belgian territory, and the common people and the common people felt betrayed by the government, by their leaders, and the world all of a sudden was a scary, confusing place. The new German republic established at Weimar moved quickly to Berlin and watched hopelessly in 1921 as the Allied Reparations committee handed them a bill for 132 billion gold marks.
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There was absolutely no way that the Germans could afford to pay such a pricey bill. In 1921 they paid 2.5 billion gold marks, but the next year inflation caused an economic crisis at home, and they could not pay. They proposed a delay on payments for three years, so they could stabilize their government and economy, and then hinted strongly that drastic reductions of reparation would have to be made later. Germany was never close to being in a position to pay what the allies demanded, and to demand it was an invitation to precipitate deep hatred and resentment culminating in huge problems a few years down the road.
Even during the writing of the treaty, the Allies were deeply divided as to how to treat Germany. The US wanted to embark on a strategy of reconstructing Germany into a civilized western country. The French on the other hand wanted violent and drastic reparations, while the English ran a somewhat middle course. Ultimately, because the French had suffered the brunt of the fighting, they won out. When Germany declared that it could no longer pay, the French and Belgians occupied the Ruhr region, vowing to extract reparations in the form of raw materials and machinery.
The German republic protested vigorously, but there was little they could do besides have the Ruhr workers strike and let their hatred ferment inside of them, anticipating revenge. Eventually, the French Premier, Poincare, accepted an offer of a reassessment of Germany’s reparations. Charles G. Dawes of the US came up with the Dawes plan, which was that Germany would borrow from the US to pay France and Britain so that they could pay the US for wartime loans. This complicated system held up for a while, and it looked like things might have worked out, but then the depression hit.
The depression was a result of many things, but it had its roots in the Treaty of Versailles. The depression started for Germany in the early twenties with the collapse of the Mark, and then the German economy. Germany was no longer able to pay war debts, which prompted borrowing from the US to pay France and Belgium so that they could pay the US. Eventually, all these complications forced the US and a lot of other nations off of the gold standard. The recent jump of the US stock market had been on borrowed money, and finally, it all came crashing down. The world was built on a rotten economic foundation, made by the treaty of Versailles. The depression in Germany paved the way for the Nazi party to gain power and start World War II.
The Treaty of Versailles was nothing close to the solution to the problem that precipitated World War One. Instead, it was a tough reprimand imposed by bitter and hateful people upon their tormenter. It was not destined to solve any problems, but to enhance the old and create new. It threw Germany into a severe depression, that eventually rose to Hitler. It divided the Allies, and it also eventually forced them into the worst depression ever. The Treat of Versailles was simply a mistake; a compromise between three sides that fulfilled none of their desires completely, and ultimately was a complete failure.
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