Reparations: A Dish Best Served Cold

The following post was originally an historiographic discussion submitted as a term paper for a Modern European History reading colloquium. This was the first paper I ever wrote in my graduate history program. Reading it again years later, I’m still happy with the paper though I should have added more of my own thoughts and opinions. I also think I missed some articles and books that would have been better sources. Finally, this paper help me discover an interest in the history of US foreign policy, especially from the Civil War to the end of World War II. The most interesting aspect of German reparation payments was that they were mostly financed by the US banks, making the initial payments and the Ruhr occupation the only material hardship visited upon Germany. Still, I think it is clear the reparations were a political mistake as far as preserving peace in Europe. 


In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote, “What could have been done with this peace treaty of Versailles?!” He continues:

This instrument of boundless extortion and abject humiliation might, in the hands of a willing government, have become an instrument for whipping up the national passions to fever heat. With a brilliant propagandist exploitation of these sadistic cruelties, the indifference of a people might have been raised to indignation, and indignation to blazing fury![1]

For among the “cruelties” of the treaty, “…the shameless and monstrous word ‘reparations’ was able to make itself home in Germany.”[2]

The following is a brief examination of the historiography of German reparations under the Treaty of Versailles (or the “Treaty”) as a casus belli for the Second World War. While quoting Hitler always risks cliché, the sentiment of outrage concerning the Treaty demonstrates why European historians, political relations historians, and economic historians have delved into the history of German reparations. This post has three parts: (1) a high-level overview of the historical events of German reparations and the contemporary critique of reparation issues by John Maynard Keynes, (2) an overview of the first wave of historical analysis on German reparations, and (3) more recent revisionist analyses that examine the German war reparations. The post concludes with a few thoughts on this historiography and why the topic of German war reparations remains relevant.

The proverbial saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold” comes to mind when considering Germany’s war reparations. Though a product of nation-state negotiation and ostensibly based on concepts of justice (victimhood, guilt, compensatory damages, and punitive damages), rather than settling a war the reparations were simply war by other means: Forcing an extraction of wealth under threat of force. When countries consider imposing economic sanctions on another country, the lessons of German war reparations ought to be considered. This discussion tends to confirm that repartaions, like any economic sanction imposed on one state from another, are simply war by other means.

Overview of German War Reparations and the Analysis of John Maynard Keynes

Articles 231 and 232 of the Treaty of Versailles held that Germany accepted the responsibility for the war and all losses and damages resulting to the Allies and those countries aligned with the Allies. This provision became known as the “war guilt clause” which meant, “the Weimar Republic … ultimately carried the full burden of German war guilt and reparations.”[3] France and Belgium, where most the war on the Western Front had been waged, were facing an enormous undertaking to rebuild infrastructure, housing and industry,[4]  at a time when all Allied economies (with the exception of the US) were in disarray from years of war. The US wanted its war time debts from Allied countries repaid, which would be assisted by reparation payments to those countries from Germany.[5] Prior to the Treaty being signed in 1919, there was considerable disagreement among the Allies of how to calculate the amounts due from Germany for damages caused by the war[6] and how the Allies would ensure the collection of payments, with France taking the position that continued occupation of the Rhineland was necessary in order to control productive German assets.[7] After the Treaty was signed, reparations in kind (ships, coal, timber, livestock, industrial good, German-owned assets in other countries that were appropriated) were paid by Germany in order to assist in Allied post-war recoveries.[8],[9] Germany was also required to make an immediate 20 billion gold mark payment to the Allies, of which it only paid approximately 8 billion gold marks (including the value of in kind materials and assets) by mid-1921.[10] As called for in the Treaty, a Reparation Commission composed of Allied representatives began negotiations with Germany to quantify the war debt and establish a payment schedule. By April 1921, the Reparation Commission determined the German war debt was 132 billion gold marks,[11] an amount that, “[D]id not take into account German capacity to pay … nor did it state a schedule of payments.”[12] Under the London Schedule of Payments issued in May 1921, the commission called for the war debt to be monetized in three tranches: the “A” and “B” bonds totaling 50 billion gold marks would be issued by Germany in 1921 and paid over 36 years[13] while the remaining 82 billion gold marks of war debt would be paid under “C” bonds that would not be issued or bear interest until Germany had paid the A and B bonds.[14] Germany made its first cash payment of 1 billion gold marks that summer.[15]

During the establishment of London Schedule, the German economy began to experience high inflation, a continued devaluation of the mark that had begun prior to the end of the First World War. Through 1922 Germany kept making partial in kind reparation payments but had failed to adhere to the schedule of payments called for by the A and B bonds. The weakened state of the German mark was pointed to as reason to suspend all reparation payments, and on this point there was once again disagreement among the Allies: France, to which 52% of reparations were owed,[16] arguing German inflation was due to bad monetary and fiscal policy, while the British were open to a four year moratorium on payments.[17] When Germany failed to make a full delivery of timber in late 1922, the Reparation Commission voted (with Britain dissenting) to declare Germany in default of the treaty and called for a French and Belgian military occupation of the industrial Ruhr Basin.[18] The proceeding Ruhr crisis in 1923 was met with passive German resistance as the French and Belgians attempted to monetize resources and industrial goods from the Ruhr Basin. German exports suffered while the mark experienced further depreciation, causing the Allies to call for a new payment plan.[19]

Though not party to the Treaty, the United States was asked to intervene in the negotiations between the Allies and Germany in early 1924. The resulting Dawes Plan called for a new schedule of payments and additional bank financing of £40 million (~$200 million USD) to Germany.[20] At the same time the French-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr Basin was reduced to a skeleton force.[21] The German balance of payments,[22] now subsidized predominantly with American bank loans, enabled Germany to pay reparations to the Allies while the French and British governments repaid the United States Treasury for debt incurred during the Great War.[23] The Dawes Plan called for German reparation payments of 1 billion gold marks in the first year, followed by escalating payments over 3 years until payments were “normalized” at annual payments of 2.5 billion golds marks plus a payment based upon “a complex index” determining German economic prosperity. In addition, the Dawes Plan called for German economic reforms, including an increase in German domestic taxes.[24]

Thanks to financing predominantly from the US, Germany complied with the Dawes Plan for five years (albeit with slight underpayments) and, as the payments increased, Germany opted to re-open negotiations on reparations. At that time the Rhineland was still under occupation by the Allies, and Germany sought demilitarizing the Rhineland and working out a final reparations payment plan. In early 1929 the Young Plan was struck, calling for a 59-year amortization schedule at annual amounts lower than the Dawes Plan. The Young Plan established the Bank of International Settlements and eliminated the post-war Allied bureaucratic structure (and its monitoring apparatus) built by the Reparation Commission. The Allies agreed to evacuate the Rhineland by mid-1930.[25]

Going into 1929, the Great Depression hit the economies of North America and European countries, including Germany which began to experience hyperinflation and financial crisis. Germany defaulted on loans owed to US and other foreign banks. German leaders once again sought reparations relief, an effort which gained the support of US President Hoover who called for a 1-year suspension of payments on intergovernmental debts. The Lausanne Convention held in 1932 attempted to come to a final agreement on reparations, now reduced to a proposed final payment of 3 billion gold marks. However, the agreement was never ratified by the Allies or Germany, and Hitler’s rise to power made it evident that further negotiation would be futile.[26] By May 1935, Hitler renounced the entire Treaty in a speech to the Reichstag.[27]

In addition to Germany’s consistent objections, contemporary criticism of the Treaty’s requirements for reparation payments came most famously from John Maynard Keynes, then an official in the British Treasury participating in the Paris Treaties. Keynes pointed out that Britain’s economic recovery was largely dependent upon trade with Germany, so reparations would ultimately be against British self-interest.[28] Keynes was highly critical of France’s desire to punish Germany in order to keep it in check. After the Treaty was signed, Keynes issued a strong polemic against the Treaty, calling it a “Carthaginian peace” in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace. In the book, Keynes estimates German war reparations should be limited to $10.6 billion[29] and the German annual reparation payment should not exceed $250 million.[30] Keynes claimed it would be impossible for Germany to ever pay off its war debt, and by forcing reparations the economy of Europe was doomed to collapse. Keynes’ argument was embraced by the German government and many in the Anglo-American commentariat.

Keynes was joined by many who viewed the Treaty as unfair to Germany. The Treaty was generally criticized for its divergence from Wilson’s Fourteen Points,[31] the anti-Treaty/anti-reparations point of view was held by many in the US and British establishments,[32] among both diplomatic [33] and economic elites. [34]

However, there was active debate on the impact of reparations on Germany. For example, the economist Bertil Ohlin disputed Keynes’ continued claims of Germany’s inability to pay in the late ‘20s, pointing to the massive capital inflows from American financing that provided ample liquidity for transfers out per the reparations schedule.[35]

The First Wave of Historical Analysis on German Reparations

The outbreak of the Second World War was generally seen as a consequence of the Treaty, though certainly not the sole cause, and with much debate over a degree of causation. In general, outrage over the Treaty’s provisions permeated all levels of German society[36] and eventually became a useful rhetorical device for the Nazis to build German nationalist sentiment and stoke resentment. The postulate “the Treaty was unfair to Germany”[37] as claimed by the Germans, argued by Keynes, and endorsed by many in the Anglo-American political class and intelligentsia became the nub of a first order historical judgment of the Treaty. The contemporary view among British politicians and commentators was Hitler’s rise was an “inevitable” consequence of the Treaty,[38] a view that was reified at the outbreak of war, so creating a first order historical judgment as a narrative that begins with Treaty’s “punishment” of Germany and ends at the consequences of the Second World War.[39] In simple terms, the narrative goes as follows: ‘The Treaty’s reparations caused German hyperinflation and political instability which brought about Hitler’s rise to power which then caused the Second World War.’  This first order historical judgment would be subsequently explored in the first wave of revisionist analysis.

The first order historical judgment continues to be promulgated to this day: At the outbreak of war Europe saw “the grim prophecy of 1919 that a powerful, resurgent Germany could again prove a scourge to its neighbors and the civilized world,”[40] declares a chapter describing the politics of the Paris Conference, Keynes’ heroic opposition, levying and collecting reparations, and the subsequent economic calamities of the Weimar Republic culminating in Hitler’s rise to power.[41] In another example, an author declares Germany’s resurgence “should have caused no surprise” given “[t]he republican government of Germany was invited [to the Paris Conference] only to sign the Treaty of Versailles without comment, to accept sole guilt for the preceding war, and to pay astronomic reparations.”[42]

Shallow examples of scholarship aside, the first order historical judgment has been highly critiqued. Two of the most notable first revisionists on the history of reparations were Étienne Mantoux and A. J. P.  Taylor.

Keynes’ conclusions in The Economic Consequences of the Peace were directly refuted by French economist Étienne Mantoux who argued it was economically possible for Germany to pay the reparations the Treaty demanded. In addition to answering Keynes’ polemics, Mantoux identified numerous problems with Keynes’ financial analyses. Mantoux pointed to Germany’s economic revival and arms build-up in the ‘30s as proof the Treaty’s enforcement was not overly zealous.[43] Indeed, the Reparation Commission had been fairly accommodating to Germany, and while it claimed an inability to pay reparations Germany was reequipping and modernizing its industries with the proceeds of international loans. To his credit Mantoux realizes the limits of his analysis: The demands of the Treaty “were not economically impossible. Whether they were politically practicable is of course another question.”[44]

A. J. P. Taylor focuses on the question of politics and largely affirms the anti-reparation position, and tends to connect reparations with German outrage to Hitler’s rise; however, he does not take the view that Hitler “planned” the Second World War.[45] Taylor describes German views of the Treaty as “crushing and vindictive; a Diktat or a slave-treaty”.[46] While dismissing Mantoux’s analysis as mere “academic interest,” Taylor agrees with his conclusion that Germany could have paid the reparations without becoming an impoverished economy and likely stood to see a net gain to due to American financing. However, “[T]he economic facts about reparations were of little importance” but were instead powerful symbols of “resentment, suspicion, and international hostility.” Taylor concludes, “More than anything else, [reparations] cleared the way for the second World war [sic].”[47] Furthermore, Taylor argues Keynes’ critique of the Treaty contributed to a widespread belief that Germany’s economic problems were due to the Treaty, and thus provided justification for Britain’s policies of appeasing Germany, including the various efforts to revise reparation debt amounts and payment schedules.[48]

Taylor focuses on the balance of power aspects of the Treaty. With the failure of the US to ratify the Treaty, the collective security provisions of the League of Nations and US backing to check Germany’s power on the continent were gone, leaving France to fend for itself. France sought to check German power through the Treaty, and the reparations were a means to that end. Taylor saw France as the pivotal player in the reparations drama, and its stand on reparations only weakened France’s government both domestically and internationally: Creating tension between with the Americans and British, failing on promises to its electorate that the Germans would be made to pay for reconstruction, and the “failed” Ruhr Basin occupation.[49] Finally, given the Treaty allowed Germany to avoid Allied partition and remain a unified state, Taylor pronounces that it was only a matter of time until Germany would once again become the main continental power and force revision of the Treaty in its favor.[50]

More Recent Revisionist Analyses

The history of German reparations has been subject to a great deal of revision. Recent economic and political histories have had the benefit of far archival material made available by governments, opening vast amounts of records from the interwar era.[51], [52] Regarding the first order historical judgment that the Treaty was “unfair to Germany,” more recent scholarship by specialized political and economic historians takes issue with this claim, arguing the Treaty’s economic terms were not particularly unfair or unreasonable[53] or unaffordable to Germany.[54] In analyzing the Treaty, historians have been distracted by the ostensibly large reparation owed by Germany and, perhaps, deterred by the technical nature of the issue,[55] which may explain the persistence of the first order historical judgment. Governmental records and documents have provided far more information to historians than the journalistic reporting from the time.[56]

Records have allowed the original intent of reparations to be reconsidered. Efforts to quantify war damages at the Paris Conference are not believed to be an endeavor to punish Germany, though the underlying tensions of war guilt[57] and future security came into play as conference attendees were forced to reckon with post-war turbulence in Russia, Germany, and parts of Central and Eastern Europe.[58] To the contrary, driven popular demand, the conference attendees wanted to derive a figure affordable to Germany based on its capacity to pay and then “bury a realistic sum in misleading devices implying a vast figure.”[59] This approach carried over to the Reparation Commission which reached “a series of ambiguous compromises that would imperfectly reconcile the exigencies of security and prosperity.”[60] The creation of the London Schedule of Payments and its 132 billion gold mark war debt was taken at face value in past historiographies; functionally, the actual war debt was 50 billion gold marks as the majority of the war debt—the 82 billion (the “C” bonds)—is now generally understood as political symbolism with little serious intent to actually collect from Germany, whether it be an assumption of access to American financing, [61] knowledge that German central could be loosened, [62] or the looseness of the Treaty’s language.[63]

The question of negative economic impact of reparations on Germany has been deeply explored in more recent work, a continued debate of many of the issues raised by Keynes and answered by Mantoux. The German position throughout 1919 to 1932 focused on the “balance of payments problem” in that by paying reparations through in kind transfers and appropriated assets, Germany had lost (and would continue to lose) economic capacity and therefore could not raise enough marks to pay the cash portion of reparations. This argument deliberately obscured inputs to German cash (payments for exports and proceeds of foreign financing). The balance of payments problem was a theory advanced by the Germans in Treaty negotiations. Certain members of the Allied side subscribed to the argument, including Keynes.[64]

The balance of payments argument has continued to be examined, calling for a focus on German economic data and Germany’s “capacity to pay,” for which there are divided opinions among historians.[65] There is debate regarding the impact of reparations on Germany’s economy, particularly as the cause of Germany’s massive inflation from 1919-23.[66] One view is the depreciation of the mark began during the war and was made worse through Weimar Republic economic policies.[67] However, Niall Ferguson argues German’s central bankers to the rational step to stimulate mark depreciation in order to soften the impact of reparation payments with cheaper money and to make the case for revising the Treaty’s terms on reparations (i.e., the reparations were harmful to its economy). The unintended consequence of mark depreciation was that it stimulated German exports which spurred industrial growth, causing inflation to become out-of-control.[68] However, while clearly a consequence of reparations, Germany’s decision to depreciate the mark was not forced upon Germany by the necessity of paying reparations and, instead, were the result of fiscal and monetary policy mistakes by the Weimar Republic.[69] Nevertheless, the early years of reparation payments prior to the Dawes Plan were likely to have a materially negative impact on the Germany economy, consuming between 4 to 7 percent of total national income.[70]

After the 1924 Dawes Plan and the advent of American financing (loans later defaulted on and then renounced by Hitler’s regime), there appears to be less debate over Germany’s ability to pay reparations as well as the degree of negative economic impact. Here we have the (in)famous circular flow of funds from American banks to Germany to pay reparations to France, Britain, and other Allies, which in turn resulted in repayment of war time loans from those countries back to American banks. Albrecht Ritschl describes this as a “Ponzi scheme”[71] where Germany keeps borrowing and, in effect, never repays the reparations. With the Great Depression and its worldwide economic contraction and US bank failures, the Young Plan of 1929 was agreed to under more demanding terms of lending to an economically weakened Germany. This national credit constraint forced “the Ponzi scheme of recycling reparations through foreign credit” to break down.[72] Germany faced a foreign debt crisis where it would depreciate the mark and default on its foreign debt.[73]

There appears to be general consensus on the aggregate impact of reparations on Germany’s economy: Germany only paid 20 billion gold marks of the nominal 132 billion gold mark reparation debt,[74] and saw no more reason to pay any more.[75] As far as the impact on the Germany economy, “[f]or the whole period 1919–31, Germany transferred to the Allies, in cash and kind together, an average of only 2.0 percent of national income.” Meanwhile, transfers into Germany (the impact of mark deflation on foreign-owned German assets in 1919-1923 and Germany’s default on most of international debt in 1931) amounted to 5.3 percent of German national income, meaning “[o]n balance, the United States and, to a lesser extent, the European Allies subsidized Germany during the Weimar era, and not the other way round.”[76] Finally, there is an interesting analysis that shows the benefits to Germany’s central budget that came as a result of the Treaty’s restriction on the size of the military, the avoided cost of which would have provided ample funding to meet the payments under Dawes Plan.[77]

From conception, reparations were primarily a political issue.[78] Hardly a passive victim, subsequent research has shown German leaders were planning strategies on minimizing any obligations of the Treaty prior to even being presented with the reparations bill.[79] Further research has revealed a German foreign office campaign to refute responsibility for the war and spread disinformation to sway public opinion in Allied countries regarding German war guilt.[80] There was a desire among Weimar politicians to “tell the German people what they wanted to hear” and exaggerate the onerous nature of the reparation demands.[81] This “misdirection and propaganda” by Germany played a dual role in both negotiations to lower reparations and in swaying public opinion.[82] But in reality there was a dichotomy between Germany’s public positions on its treatment by the Allies and the numerous accommodations the Allies made for Germany, and despite the economic impact of reparations being negligible, the issue was used to stoke German resentment. “Not the treaty but Germany’s burning resentment of it fostered Hitler’s rise,” writes Sally Marks.[83]

The Reparations issue also divided the Allies, perhaps weakening a united front that encouraged Nazism and German chauvinism. With the splintering of British-French alignment on reparation enforcement, France was left alone to rebuild its economy and address its security concerns.[84] Thus France was forced to take a far more aggressive stance on reparations.[85] Under the leadership of Raymond Poincaré there was a tendency to be hawkish on reparations issues, including the Ruhr occupation. Under Edouard Herriot, France was economically troubled and forced to go ahead with the German-accommodating Dawes Plan. This became the turning point in the French-German struggle, with Germany extending the reparation repayment schedule receiving US financing and France leaving the Ruhr Basin.

Finally, there have been many interventions on Taylor’s views of reparations. Importantly, at the time of his writing Taylor did not have the benefit of government archival information from the interwar period that was later made available. These interventions have dealt with Taylor’s views on the political impact of reparations[86] and his analysis of France’s position on reparations as a means of keeping Germany in check.[87]


“World War I ended over the weekend. Germany made its final reparations-related payment for the Great War on Oct. 3, [2010] nearly 92 years after the country’s defeat by the Allies.”[88] The banks and governments of the US, Britain and several other nations that had financed the Weimar Republic’s reparation payments had their amounts due reinstated by West Germany after the Second World War. A resurgent German economy allowed for ample government revenue to meet these payments, so it ended up being the postwar German taxpayer who ultimately satisfied the reparation demands of the Treaty of Versailles.

The financial existence of Germany’s war debt was extinguished in 2010 but its historical significance lives on. While materialist economic arguments show, on balance, reparations were both affordable and not necessarily devastating to Germany’s economy, reparations became tools of propaganda and extreme rhetoric, thus they are given over-attribution as a cause to the Second World War.[89] However, extracting wealth from one state to another is a coercive act, as the payment of war reparations ultimately required a threat a force in order to be enforceable–the Ruhr Valley occupation fulfilling that threat, with military forces ensuring the extraction of German resources for two years. Thus reparations, like economic sanctions, are simply war by other means. If the western Allies were truly committed to peace, they should have not gone the reparations route which, in essence, helped to keep the fires of war in Europe smoldering during the interwar period.


[1] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Boston: The Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971), 632.

[2] Hitler, Mein Kampf, 468.

[3] Norman Graebner and Edward Bennett, The Versailles Treaty and Its Legacy: The Failure of the Wilsonian Vision (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 48.

[4] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, (London;New York: Routledge, 1995), Adobe Digital Editions, 62.

[5] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 46, 66 – 67.

[6] Robert Gerwarth, Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), 201-202. 

[7] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1961), 27.

[8] Elisabeth Glaser, “The Making of the Economic Peace,” in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years,  ed. Manfred Boemeke, Gerald Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 381-385.

[9] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” Central European History 11, no. 3 (1978): 233-236,

[10] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 233.

[11] This amount is roughly equal to $33 billion (US) in 1921. Using inflation calculators for the US dollar, the German debt would equal approximately $465 billion in 2018 dollars. The author utilized the website for this calculation.

[12] Gerald Feldman, The Great Disorder: Politics, Economics and Society in the German Inflation, 1914-1924 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), Adobe Digital Editions, 339.

[13] Gerwarth, Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 202.

[14] Feldman, The Great Disorder, 340.

[15] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 237.

[16] Sally Marks, “Smoke and Mirrors: In Smoke-Filled Rooms and the Galerie des Glaces,” in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years,  ed. Manfred Boemeke, Gerald Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 369.

[17] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 238 – 240.

[18] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 240 – 241.

[19] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 243 – 246.

[20] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 45.

[21] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 246.

[22] The net sum of imports, exports and transfers to/from the state’s individuals, companies and government.

[23] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 45-46.

[24] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 246 – 247.

[25] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 249 – 252.

[26] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 253 – 254.

[27] Norman Graebner and Edward Bennett, The Versailles Treaty and Its Legacy, 126 – 127.

[28] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 30.

[29] John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920), 134.

[30] John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 207.

[31] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 55.

[32] For example, a contemporary scholarly article on German trade written in 1922 widely cites figures from Keynes’ book and concludes the reparation payments are causing a series of economic problems for Germany. John Williams, “German Foreign Trade and the Reparation Payments,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 36, Issue 3, 1 May 1922, 482–503,

[33] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 59.

[34] Stephen Schuker, “The end of Versailles,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered, ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 2014), 40.

[35] Fanny Coulomb, “The Evolution of the Economic Thought Confronted with World War I and the Reparations’ Issue,” In Economists and War, (London: Routledge, 2016), 44-47.

[36] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 46-47.

[37] Clearly other provisions of the Treaty that came at the expense of Germany (loss of territory, loss of colonies, occupation of Rhineland, limitations on military size) also contributed to this point of view.

[38] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 55.

[39] Stephen Schuker, “American ‘Reparations’ to Germany, 1919-33: Implications for the Third World Debt Crisis,” Princeton Studies in International Finance No. 61 (July 1988), 14.

[40] David Andelman, A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today, (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014), 313.

[41] David Andelman, A Shattered Peace, 284-316.

[42] Norman Davies, No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945, (New York: Viking, 2006), 133. Italics added.

[43] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 65.

[44] Étienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace, or The Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes, (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), 157.

[45] Gordon Martel, “The revisionist as moralist — A. J. P. Taylor and the lessons of European History,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered, ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 2014), 3.

[46] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 24.

[47] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 44.

[48] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 48.

[49] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 44 – 46.

[50] A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War, 51.

[51] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered, ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 2014), 28-29.

[52] Stephen Schuker, “The end of Versailles,” 39 – 40.

[53] Stephen Schuker, “American ‘Reparations’ to Germany,” 14 – 15.

[54] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 66.

[55] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 24 – 26.

[56] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 30.

[57] The origin of Article 231 of the Treaty was based on legal reasoning by US representative John Foster Dulles who sought to establish Germany’s “moral and theoretical responsibility for the entire cost of the war” while attempting to limit its liability to civilian damage (versus the total Allied cost of the war). The unintended consequence of the clause was stoking German resentment to the Treaty. “The ‘war guilt’ clause, formulated as part of the complex financial settlement, was only one, though clearly the most powerful, of the weapons which the Versailles reparations settlement handed to the Germans.” See Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 28, 66.

[58] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 69 – 70.

[59] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 25.

[60] Stephen Schuker, “American ‘Reparations’ to Germany,” 14.

[61] Stephen Schuker, “American ‘Reparations’ to Germany,” 14 – 15.

[62] Feldman, The Great Disorder, 339.

[63] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 30.

[64] Niall Ferguson, “The Balance of Payments Question: Versailles and After,” in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years,  ed. Manfred Boemeke, Gerald Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 404-406.

[65] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 30.

[66] Gerald Feldman, “A Comment,” in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years, ed. Manfred Boemeke, Gerald Feldman, and Elisabeth Glaser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 445 – 446.

[67] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 62.

[68] Niall Ferguson, “The Balance of Payments Question: Versailles and After,” 426 – 440.

[69] Niall Ferguson, “Constraints and Room for Manoeuvre in the German Inflation of the Early 1920s,” The Economic History Review 49, No. 4, (Nov., 1996): 635-666.

[70] Niall Ferguson, “The Balance of Payments Question: Versailles and After,” 425.

[71] Albrecht Ritschl, “Reparation transfers, the Borchardt hypothesis and the Great Depression in Germany, 1929-32: A guided tour for hard-headed Keynesians,” European Review of Economic History 2 (1998): 57 – 58.

[72] Albrecht Ritschl, “Reparation transfers, the Borchardt hypothesis,” 57.

[73] Albrecht Ritschl, “Reparation transfers, the Borchardt hypothesis,” 49 – 72.

[74] Sally Marks, “The Myths of Reparations,” 254-255.

[75] Ferguson’s estimate is close to this number: 19 billion gold marks representing 2.4 percent of total national income from 1919 – 32. See Niall Ferguson, “The Balance of Payments Question: Versailles and After,” 424 – 425.

[76] Stephen Schuker, “The end of Versailles,” 43.

[77] Max Hantke and Mark Spoerer, “The imposed gift of Versailles: the fiscal effects of restricting the size of Germany’s armed forces 1924-9,” Economic History Review 63, no. 4 (2010): 849 – 864.

[78] Sally Marks, “Smoke and Mirrors,” 367 – 370.

[79] Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 68.

[80] Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 19 – 20.

[81] Sally Marks, “Smoke and Mirrors,” 338 – 339.

[82] Sally Marks, “Smoke and Mirrors,” 364 – 367.

[83] Sally Marks, “Smoke and Mirrors,” 367.

[84] Stephen Schuker, “The end of Versailles,” 46.

[85] Norman Graebner and Edward Bennett, The Versailles Treaty and Its Legacy, 76-77.

[86] While not delving into technical financial or economic aspects, Taylor’s saw the value of Mantoux’s contributions, recognized the German government’s role in making its economic problems, and correctly intuited that Germany stood to benefit after the Dawes Plan of 1924 (a claim supported by subsequent analysis); at the same time,Taylor’s assertion that the German people were justified in their outrage over reparations is somewhat contradictory to his other claims. See Stephen Schuker, “The end of Versailles,” 43. However, Taylor may have been attempting to express the point of view of the “common German” taking the concept of reparations at face value.

Furthermore, Taylor characterizes the reparations issue as an ongoing controversy; however, in fact, the London Schedule, Dawes Plan, and Young Plan covered most of the decade under a set payment regime. See Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 25 – 26.

[87] Taylor’s “balance of power” analysis has been revisited and questioned, but largely supported. Taylor made less connection between economic power and political power. Post-Treaty, Anglo-American interests in returning to pre-war international economic arrangements resulted in considerable support to Germany, and therefore took accommodating positions on reparations. On the other hand, reparations were key to France’s plans for industrial recovery at the expense of Germany. See Ruth Henig, Versailles and after 1919-1933, 67.

Taylor also claims France’s occupation of the Ruhr was a failure and as an act of increasing desperation by France to confront Germany’s increasing strength. However, evidence has shown the Ruhr occupation was likely profitable to France. See Sally Marks, “1918 And After,” 26.

[88] Claire Suddath, “Why Did World War I Just End?” Time, October 4, 2010,,8599,2023140,00.html/.

[89] In contrast, the Paris Treaties, taken as a whole, had far greater historical consequences by providing for self-determination among national groups previously part of dynastic land empires, drawing new borders, and defining new countries. See Gerwarth, Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 174.

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