Skip to main content Accesibility Help

The Myths of Reparations

  • Sally Marks

Reparations after World War I can be divided into two categories: non-German reparations, which remain largely terra incognita to the historian, and German reparations, an excruciatingly tangled thicket into which only a few intrepid explorers have ventured. Understandably, most students of twentieth-century history have preferred to sidestep the perils of travel on territory of extreme financial complexity and, as a consequence, a number of misconceptions about the history of German reparations remain in circulation. This brief summary is not addressed to those few brave trailblazers, whose work it indeed salutes, but rather to those many who have assiduously avoided the subject and to the myths about reparations which still adorn studies of the Weimar Republic and interwar history.

Hide All

This paper was originally presented in abridged form as part of a panel entitled “Reparations Reconsidered” at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., December 29,1976. Its expansion has benefited greatly from the commentaries of Dr. Stephen A. Schuker and Professor Gerhard L. Weinberg.

1. Article 231, Versailles Treaty. The annotated text of the Versailles Treaty may be found in United States, Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States (hereafter FRUS), Paris Peace Conference, 1919, 13 vols. (hereafter PPC) (Washington, 19421927), vol. 13.

2. Under the treaties of Apr. 19, 1839, Britain, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia (later Germany) were obligated to defend the independence, territorial integrity, and neutrality of Belgium. Technically, Britain entered World War I and French troops entered Belgium to honor this legal obligation. Germany openly acknowledged her responsibility in regard to Belgium on August 4, 1914, and May 7, 1919. (O'Regan, J. H., The German War of 1914, London, 1915, pp. 4950; FRUS PPC, 3: 417.) For texts of the 1839 treaties, see Great Britain, Foreign Office, British and Foreign State Papers (London, 1841 – ), 27: 9901002.

3. Article 177 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria and Article 161 of the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary. Texts of both treaties may be found in Israel, Fred L., ed., Major Peace Treaties of Modern History, 4 vols. (New York, 1967), vol. 3. On the question of Austrian and Hungarian interpretation, see FRUS PPC, 13: 415.

4. After Germany protested against Article 231, Allied language in response became intemperate (see, for instance, FRUS PPC, 6: 926–29) but did not charge Germany with “unilateral war guilt.” Random examples of statements by German officials concerning “unilateral,” “sole,” or “exclusive” war guilt may be found in FRUS PPC, 3: 417, 6: 38–40, 42,12:17; Great Britain, Foreign Office, Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939 (hereafter DBFP), ser. 1, 15: 320; Public Record Office, London (hereafter PRO), German declaration, Sept. 26, 1925, F.O. 371/10740.

5. For example, Nicholls, A. J., Weimar and the Rise of Hitler (London, 1968), p. 58; Bailey, Thomas A., Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace (New York, 1944), pp. 239–43; Keynes, John Maynard, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (New York, 1920), pp. 154–57; Lamont, Thomas, “Reparations,” in House, Edward M. and Seymour, Charles, What Really Happened at Paris (New York, 1921), p. 272.

6. Keynes, pp. 157–58; Bailey, p. 243.

7. Burnett, P. A., Reparations at the Paris Peace Conference, 2 vols. (New York, 1940), 1: 60; Furst, Gaston A., De Versailles aux experts (Nancy, 1927), p. 346; Bailey, p. 245.

8. Articles 235, 233, Versailles Treaty. The exchange rate was approximately four gold marks to the dollar. “Billion” is used in the American sense (1,000 million).

9. The total figure was 20.598 billion gold marks. (Waley to Foreign Office, June 8, 1932, F.O. 371/15911.) Figures based upon publications of the Reparation Commission and the Bank for International Settlements. American figures credit Germany with almost a billion marks more, the discrepancy arising from small transfers made by the BIS after 1932 and balances held by it in 1937. (FRUS PPC, 13: 409.)

10. While the Reparation Commission's estimate of pre-May 1921 payments came to 8 billion gold marks, the actual sum eventually realized and credited to Germany was 7.595 billion marks. (FRUS PPC, 13: 439; Reparation Commission, 4: Statement of Germany's Obligations, London, 1922: 11.) On prior charges, see Versailles Treaty, Article 235. The cost of armies of occupation to May 1, 1921, was 3.143 billion gold marks. Food and raw materials supplied to Germany amounted to almost 4 billion marks. (Reparation Commission, 4: 10, 16.)

11. The exceptions were Alsace-Lorraine and territories transferred to Belgium. (Versailles Treaty, Article 256.)

12. Versailles Treaty, Articles 254, 255. Germany had refused to assume any portion of the French debt when she annexed Alsace-Lorraine in 1871. (Versailles Treaty, Article 255.)

13. Although the Reparation Commission decision of Apr. 27, 1921, excluded restitutions from the total reparations bill, credit was in fact given for such deliveries. FRUS PPC, 13: 433, 525, 504, 508.

14. Articles 177–190, Treaty of Saint-Germain; Articles 161–174, Treaty of Trianon.

15. The specified sum was 2¼ billion gold francs. (Article 121, Treaty of Neuilly-sur- Seine, text in Israel, vol. 3.) Article 122 authorized reduction. In 1923, Bulgarian reparations were reduced to 550 million gold francs plus a lump sum payment of 25 million francs for occupation costs set in 1924. (Toynbee, Arnold J., Survey of International Affairs, 1924, London, 1926, pp. 439–49.)

16. Article 231, Treaty of Sèvres (text in Israel, vol. 3); Article 58, Treaty of Lausanne (text ibid., vol. 4).

17. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: Report on the Work of the Commission from 1920 to 1922 (London, 1923): 159ff., 224–25. By the terms of the Protocols for the financial reconstruction of Hungary of Mar. 14, 1924, reparations aside from coal deliveries were to be abandoned during the period of reconstruction (until June 30, 1926) and paid in reduced amounts thereafter. (Toynbee, Survey, 1924, pp. 425–31.)

18. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 108–14; Furst, p. 316; FRUS PPC, 13: 516–18. While the largest American claims were for occupation costs and mixed claims, which technically did not constitute reparations, United States government reparations claims for submarine damage, the Veterans' Bureau, the Shipping Board, and the Railway Administration came to $110,668,701. From the Dawes annuities, the United States received 300,430,667.80 gold marks up to May 21, 1930. (FRUS PPC, 13: 388.) Thereafter payments both for occupation costs and for mixed claims were regulated by German-American agreements signed on June 23, 1930. For texts, see FRUS PPC, 13: 942–48. Germany paid regularly on the mixed claims account through September 30,1931, partly because German payments were going to private American citizens, not the United States government. For occupation costs, she paid less than half of what was due in 1930. Under the Hoover Moratorium, further claims for occupation costs were postponed. (FRUS PPC, 13: 630, 778; Memo by U.S. delegation, n.d., London Committee of Experts, 1931, L.(E)21, F.O. 371/15192.)

19. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 98–99. Germany evidently used the Spa premiums and advances to repay certain British claims, not for their intended purposes. Paris, Quai d'Orsay archives, Leygues to Dubois, Nov. 20, 1920, Laurent to Leygues, Nov. 22, 1920, tel., et seq., Millerand Papers/16.

20. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 229; DBFP, ser. 1, 7: 547; 8: 471–81, 584, 598–605, 623–25; Hymans, Paul, Mémoires, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1958), 2: 567–68.

21. Furst, pp. 346, 124–26; National Archives, Washington, Wallace to Hughes, Apr. 27, 28, 1921, tels. 291, 296, State Department 462.00R29/708, 713; Weill-Raynall, Étienne, Les Réparations allemands et la France, 3 vols. (Paris, 1947), 1: 665–66; Keynes, John Maynard, A Revision of the Treaty (New York, 1922), p. 39. For text of the Reparation Commission decision, see FRUS PPC, 13: 433. Estimates of total reparations claims vary because the claims were submitted in assorted fluctuating paper currencies. (Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1, Appendix VII, 191A.) By American estimate, total Allied claims came to about 266 billion gold marks. (FRUS PPC, 13: 475.) Furst (pp. 13–15) lists a total of 213 billion marks, of which about 108 billion represented claims for material damages while the remainder represented claims for pensions, wartime forced levies by Germany on Allied civilian populations, and similar charges. Weill-Raynall, 1: 323 gives a total of over 226 billion gold marks, about 102½ billion for material damages and more than 123½ billion for damages to individuals. None of these totals includes United States claims.

22. Some aspects of British views are displayed in George, David Lloyd, The Truth about Reparations and War-Debts (London, 1932), pp. 15, 43, 4551, 83. Others may be seen in Brussels, Foreign Ministry archives (hereafter BMAE), Moncheur to Hymans, Mar. 4, 1920, no. 1034/346, B/366/II; Moncheur to Jaspar, Feb. 4, 1921, no. 505/202, BMAE B/366/III; Report of Federation of British Industries on German Reparations, n.d. [late 1921], BMAE B/366/V.

23. It was also hoped that C Bonds could be transferred to the United States as a means of disguising cancelation of Allied war debts to America. (Gaiffier note, Dec. 21, 1921, BMAE B/366/V.) For a more detailed analysis of the London Schedule of Payments, see Marks, Sally, “Reparations Reconsidered: A Reminder,” Central European History 2 (12 1969): 356–65. The final version of the German offer of Apr. 24, 1921, via the United States, came in two forms: 50 billion gold marks (capital value) or 200 billion gold marks in annuities (nominal value). (FRUS, 1921, 2: 46–48, 53.)

24. Reparation Commission, 1: Statement of Germany's Obligations (London, 1922): 15. The payment in gold and assorted hard currencies was spread over three months by common consent to reduce dislocation of international money markets. (FRUS PPC, 13: 439–40; Weill-Raynall, 1: 653.) For added details, see Paris, Archives Nationales (hereafter AN), Reparation Commission, Annex 944b (199th meeting), June 16, 1921, Papers of French Delegation to the Reparation Commission, AJ5/406; Mayer to Reparation Commission, May 30, 1921, no. 3041, Mauclère to Doumer, Sept. 9, 1921, no. 1488F, AJ5/387.

25. F.O. Summary, Mar. 16, 1921, F.O. 371/6018; PRO, I.C.P. 208, Aug. 13, 1921, CAB 29/32; Hardinge to Curzon, Sept. 28, 1921, no. 2672, F.O. to Ryan, Sept. 28,1921, tel. 86, F.O. 371/6068. The continuing occupation at Düsseldorf was justified on grounds that Germany had not met treaty requirements on disarmament and surrender of alleged war criminals. (FRUS PPC, 13: 434–35.)

26. The Nov. 1, 1921, variable annuity was 300 million marks. Germany paid a little over 13 million. (Reparation Commission, 1: 28, 15.) The annuity was deemed to be largely covered by payments in kind since May 1, 1921. (Faille to Jaspar, Oct. 17, 1921, no. 8050/3842, BMAE B/366/V.) The original schedules for 1922 called for total payments of a little over 3 billion marks. Germany paid about 435 million in cash. Cash payments ceased altogether in the summer of 1922 (except for paper marks requisitioned for use by occupation forces in the Rhineland). As the Cannes Conference in January 1922 did not resolve matters, a partial moratorium was devised in March 1922, and in August six-month treasury bills were substituted for cash for the remainder of the year. (Reparation Commission, 1: 28, 15; 4: 22, 12, 19, 23; Reparation Commission to German Government, Mar. 21, 1922, C.P. 3916, Annex 1352, F.O. 371/7476; Reparation Commission to German Government, Aug. 31, 1922, F.O. 371/7484.)

27. Dubois to Millerand, July 18, 1922, Millerand/22. For data on German currency depreciation, see Weill-Raynal, 2: 78n., 150n., 191n., 241n. Reparation Commission, 3: Official Documents (London, 1922): 121–24, 6: Official Documents (London, 1923): 2022; I.C.P. 250, 251, Aug. 7, 1922, F.O. 371/7481.

28. F.O. memo, Nov. 23, 1922, F.O. 371/7487; Paris, Quai d'Orsay archives (hereafter FMAE), Saint-Aulaire to Poincaré, July 13, 1922, tel. 605, Serie Z/Allemagne/473; Lasteyrie note, July 15, 1922, Seydoux note, Aug. 8, 1922, Millerand/22. As Allied leaders well realized, the depreciation of the mark also gave German industry competitive advantages on world markets. (Gaiffier to Jaspar, Dec. 9, 1921. no. 12121/5860, BMAE B/366/V; Seydoux note, May 23, 1923, Millerand/26.)

29. For instance, Felix, David, Walther Rathenau and the Weimar Republic (Baltimore, 1971), p. 84. Felix also stresses the German budget deficit (pp. 26–29) which undoubtedly contributed to the inflation. However, all Allied experts consistently held that German monetary problems arose from irresponsible printing of paper money, unrestricted and massive flights of German capital to other countries, and the dramatically unbalanced budget which itself stemmed from lavish expenditures and very low tax rates, far below those in victor countries (where deficits were also large as a result of reconstruction costs). For a careful Allied analysis based upon German data, see Conférence d'experts de Bruxelles, Rapport aux gouvernements alliés, Jan. 18, 1921, BMAE B/366/III. A later tax reform was ineffectual because extremely slow collection in conjunction with rapid inflation insured that the tax yield remained low. See also Reparation Commission to Wirth, Mar. 21, 1922, AN, AJ5/385.

30. Brüning, Heinrich, Memoiren, 1918–1934 (Stuttgart, 1970), pp. 221, 329, 377. While payments in the late 1920s were financed chiefly by government borrowing and foreign investment, such payments as were made in the early 1920s were financed in the same fashion. See, for instance, Kerchove to Hymans, July 2, 1920, no. 4557/1702, BMAE B/366/II; Nieuwenhuys to Jaspar, Aug. 1, 1921, no. 5950/3076, BMAE B/366/V.

31. Stephen A. Schuker, “A Comparative Study of German, British, and French Strategies for Economic Reconstruction after the First World War: Finance and Foreign Policy in the Era of the German Inflation,” paper read at conference: Historische Prozesse der deutschen Inflation, Berlin, July 1976, sponsored by Historische Kommission zu Berlin. See also Maier, Charles S., Recasting Bourgeois Europe (Princeton, 1975), pp. 287–88, 298–99, 358; Ringer, Fritz K., ed., The German Inflation of 1923 (New York, 1969), pp. 9093; Schuker, Stephen A., The End of French Predominance in Europe (Chapel Hill, 1976), pp. 16, 22; Akten der Reichkanzlei, Weimarer Republik, Das Kabinett Wirth, 2 vols. (Boppard am Rhein, 1973), 2, passim; Das Kabinett Cuno (Boppard am Rhein, 1968), passim.

32. F.O. memo, Nov. 23, 1922, F.O. 371/7487. See also Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 2258, Minutes of the London Conference on Reparations, August 1922 (London, 1924) and Cmd. 1812, Inter-allied Conferences on Reparations and Inter-allied Debts Held in London and Paris, December 1922 and January 1923: Reports and Secretary's Notes of Conversations (London, 1923).

33. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 260.

34. For the myth, see, for example, Medlicott, W. N., British Foreign Policy since Versailles (London, 1968 ed.), p. 49, or Carr, E. H., International Relations between the Two World Wars, 1919–1939 (London, 1955), p. 56. For the German offer and actual 1922 timber quotas, see Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 140–41. There had been prior deficiencies from 1919 on; in 1921 France received only 20% of her quotas, but the balance was canceled by the Wiesbaden Agreement (which otherwise never went into effect). In 1922, at quota deadlines France had received 29% of her sawn timber allotment and 29% of her share of telegraph poles. The default was specifically declared on deliveries to France. (Ibid., pp. 138–42, 249; Weill-Raynall, 2: 268–69.) There was also substantial default on timber deliveries to Belgium and Italy, while Britain admitted that she was still awaiting 99.80% of her 1922 quota of sawn timber. Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 243–44, 246; pt. 2 (French ed.): 465–70.

35. Although the Reparation Commission credited German deliveries of timber in gold, the German government had entered into contracts with suppliers at fixed rates in paper marks. The fall of the mark rendered supply at the agreed price impossible, but the German government tried to enforce the contracts and refused to authorize the commencement of renegotiation until late July. (Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 241–42, 246; pt. 2: 456–66.)

36. Sir John Bradbury, British delegate to the Reparation Commission, argued that the failures “in view of the financial obligations under the Treaty, were almost microscopic.” (Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 253.) Naturally, default in a single category in a single year would not loom large in comparison with total obligations in all categories over thirty-six years. Bradbury's argument also overlooked substantial default in coal and (to all practical purposes) in cash. See also Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 2: 473–88.

37. Unlike the Belgians, who had no illusions about the magnitude of the Ruhr operation, who opposed actions which would heighten the German desire for revenge, and who above all feared rupture of the Western Entente, British leaders had no clear-cut reasons for opposing the Ruhr occupation. Policy formulation was as unsystematic as usual, and the view had merely evolved that Britain was by definition opposed to punitive measures. See, for instance, Moncheur to Jaspar, Apr. 8, 1921, no. 1648/576, BMAE B/366/IV. Britain had instinctively reverted to her traditional balance-of-power role, and since British leaders consistently underestimated the German power of recuperation and equally overestimated the French power of sustained military predominance, the power alignment gradually shifted until it was, more often than not, Germany and Britain against an overmatched France, reluctantly supported by Belgium and sometimes Italy.

38. Coal defaults in March and June 1920 exceeded 50% of quotas and in July 1920 neared 50%. Between January 1920 and January 1922, Germany was scheduled to deliver 53,209,350 tons of coal but only delivered 37,554,461 tons. For 1922, Bradbury estimated the coal default at 16¼%. French estimates were higher. (Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 229, 104–5; pt. 2: 465–88, 430–31; FRUS PPC, 13: 512; Weill-Raynal, 2: 281.) On June 4, 1921, the Reparation Commission, in response to the Silesian problem, divided the coal quota into three categories of urgency, indicating that Germany should fill the first category. This was not fulfilled, although Germany was exporting coal to Austria and Switzerland. Therefore, on Dec. 9, 1921, the Reparation Commission banned German coal export except to Holland. Germany then agreed to fulfill the categories of first and second urgency if export were permitted, but in fact did not fulfill the first category. (Reparation Commission, 5, pt. 1: 181–82; Weill-Raynal, 2: 275–77.) Bradbury himself admitted that “it is no doubt true that until December 1922 the Reparations Commission exhibited a good deal of patience in dealing with Germany.” (PRO, Bradbury to Bonar Law, Feb. 19, 1923, Premier 1/23.) For further data on coal defaults, see Le Trocquer note, Dec. 23, 1922, AN, AJ5/414.

39. Jordan, W. M., Great Britain, France, and the German Problem, 1918–1939 (London, 1943), p. 90.

40. Cmd. 1812, pp. 68–70.

41. Texts of the French and Italian plans may be found in France, Ministère des Affaires Étrangeres, Documents Diplomatiques: Demande de moratorium du gouvernement allemand à la commission des réparations (14 novembre 1922); conférence de Londres (9–11 décembre 1922); conférence de Paris (2–4 janvier 1923) (Paris, 1923). All the plans are summarized in Bergmann, Carl, The History of Reparations (Boston, 1927), pp. 163–69.

42. Cmd. 1812, pp. 112–16; Bradbury to Blackett, Oct. 13, 1922, F.O. 371/7486; Bradbury to Baldwin, Dec. 15, 1922, F.O. 371/7490; Bergmann, p. 160. British officials had given the plan to Germany, although apparently not to Entente representatives. Reparations were a Treasury matter and, since communication between the Treasury and the Foreign Office had deteriorated acutely (as it did from time to time), the Foreign Office did not see the final plan until after Cabinet approval. While the Foreign Office was aware earlier of the salient features of the plan, it did not take upon itself the task of reminding the Treasury of the political realities which were bound to dictate the plan's failure. (Phipps to Curzon, Dec. 17, 1922, no. 2944, F.O. 371/7490; Wigram to Crowe, Jan. 4, 1923, F.O. 371/8626; C.P. 4376, n.d., received at F.O. Jan. 2, 1923, F.O. 371/8625.)

43. Weill-Raynal, 2: 336.

44. For text, see Cmd. 1812, pp. 112–19. In return for its stringent requirements, the British plan offered war-debt relief to France and Italy. For the German proposal of Dec. 9, 1922, see pp. 57–60.

45. Ibid., pp. 101–8, 135–36.

46. Bergmann, p. 176; FRUS PPC, 13: 486–87, 781–82; F.O. memo, May 28, 1924, F.O. 371/9832; Weill-Raynal, 2: 284. Artaud, Denise, “A propos de l'occupation de la Ruhr,” Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, 17 (0103 1970): 121, and Walter McDougall, “Treaty Execution vs. Rhineland Revisionism: French Models for German Reintegration after Versailles, 1919–1924” (paper delivered at American Historical Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C., Dec. 30, 1976), both argue that Poincaré made the decision to occupy the Ruhr in June 1922 and that his chief aim was to force the Anglo-Americans to underwrite reparations (and, according to Artaud, to reduce war debts). This author finds their evidence slender and supports the contention of Jacques Bariéty that Poincaré's decision was taken reluctantly and late. (Conversation with Prof. Bariéty, Mars Hill, N.C., Oct. 16, 1975.) See also n. 49, below.

47. Godley to War Office, Jan. 7, 1923, tel. c.o. 371/7/1 and minutes, F.O. 371/8703. The British later adjusted zonal boundaries to transfer a key railway to French control so that France could handle her increasing Ruhr traffic. (Crewe to Curzon, Feb. 11, 1923, tel. 173, F.O. 371/8713; Cab 10 (23), Feb. 15, 1923, CAB 23/45; Saint-Aulaire to Poincaré, Feb. 16, 1923, tel. 166–68, FMAE Z/Ruhr/11.)

48. Curzon to Kilmarnock, Jan. 15, 1923, tel. 3, F.O. 371/8793; Cab 1 (23), Jan. 11, 1923, CAB 23/45. For the legal opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown (political appointees whose task it was to find the interpretation the Cabinet wished), see F.O. memo, Apr. 10, 1924, F.O. 371/9824. For relevant portions of the Versailles Treaty and prior Reparation Commission interpretations thereof, see Versailles Treaty, Part VIII, Annex II, pars. 12, 13f, 18; FRUS PPC, 13: 484.

49. On Bonar Law's reluctance to break with France, see Saint-Aulaire to Poincaré, Dec. 24, 1922, tel. 1171–77, FMAE Z/Allemagne/477; Saint-Aulaire to Poincaré, Dec. 24, 1922, tel. 1171–77(2), FMAE Z/Allemagne/236; Saint-Aulaire to Poincaré, Jan. 17, 1923, tel. 50–53, FMAE Z/AUemagne/237. On Poincaré's reluctance to occupy the Ruhr, see memo, Crowe, 12 27, 1922, F.O. 371/7491; France, Demande de moratorium.…, pp. 93–97; Ryan to Lampson, Jan. 5, 1923, no number, F.O. 371/8626. And later on: Grahame to Curzon, Jan. 1, 1923, tel. 39, F.O. 371/8718; Crewe to Curzon, July 14, 1923, no. 680, F.O. 371/8643; Phipps to Tyrrell, Sept. 8, 1923, Phipps to Crowe, Nov. 6, 1923, Phipps Papers (courtesy of Lady Phipps, Wilcot, Pewsey, Wiltshire). To this should be added the evidence from French sources presented by Schuker, , End of French Predominance, pp. 21, 2425, 117, and Bariéty, Jacques, Les Relations franco-allemandes après la première guerre mondiale (Paris, 1977), pp. 101–9. See also Poincaré to Saint-Aulaire, Dec. 26, 1922, tel. 2681, FMAE Z/Grande-Bretagne/50, and Gaiffier to Jaspar, Apr. 27, 1923, no. 5614/2595, BMAE, Correspondance Politique, France 1923.

50. Curzon to Crewe, July 4, 1923, tel. 283, F.O. 371/8641; Brussels, Archives Générales du Royaume, minutes, Franco-Belgian meeting, Apr. 9, 1923, Rolin-Jaequemyns Papers/3; Archives Générales du Royaume, Jaspar to Gaiffier, May 17, 1923, personal, minutes, Franco-Belgian meeting, June 6,1923, Jaspar Papers/226; Schuker, , End of French Predominance, pp. 220–21; Le Trocquer note, Dec. 28, 1922, Millerand/52; Kerchove to Hymans, July 2, 1920, no. 4557/1702, BMAE B/366/II; Delacroix to Theunis, June 29, 1921, no. 3/466, BMAE B/366/IV.

51. Lord Kilmarnock, British High Commissioner in the Rhineland, pointed out this fact but went unheeded. (Kilmarnock to Curzon, Jan. 22, 1923, tel. 15, F.O. 371/8706.)

52. FRUS PPC, 13: 487, 785. Furst (p. 336) gives higher net totals. Under the Finance Ministers' Agreement of Jan. 14, 1925, the United States ultimately received 61,814,210 gold marks of the Ruhr receipts for occupation costs. (FRUS PPC, 13: 785.)

53. Das Kabinett Cuno, pp. 158–59; Bergmann, p. 181; Seydoux note, June 20, 1923, Millerand/27.

54. Maier, p. 367; Reparation Commission, 14: Official Documents (London, 1927): 25, 42; Seydoux note, May 23, 1923, Millerand/26; Carr, William, A History of Germany, 1815–1945 (New York, 1969), pp. 314–15; Furst, , p. 10.

55. Cole to Wigram, Jan. 30, 1923, F.O. 371/8709; Ramsbottom to Bennett, Aug. 24, 1923, Board of Trade memo, Aug. 25, 1923, F.O. 371/8651.

56. FRUS, 1923, 2: 69; Library of Congress, Washington, Hughes interviews with Chilton, Oct. 13, Oct. 15, 1923, Hughes Papers/175/77a.

57. Reparation Commission, 14: 10. Once Poincaré recognized that an expert inquiry could not be avoided, he took the lead in proposing it in order to limit its scope. (Poincaré to Barthou, Nov. 11, 1923, no. 1337, Dec. 6, 1923, no. 1417, AN, AJ5/362.)

58. For text, see Reparation Commission, 14.

59. For the text of the Belgian Études, see Moncheur memo, June 11, 1923, F.O. 371/8639. For a summary, see Furst, pp. 166–69. On Young's role, see Schuker, End of French Predominance, p. 180. See also Phipps to Crowe, Mar. 20, 1924, Phipps Papers.

60. Until the Dawes Plan went into effect, the cost of the Rhineland occupation, clearing house charges, and the considerable expense of maintaining the various commissions established under the treaty were all prior charges on German payments and only the balance, after these items were paid, was applied to the reparations account. (For instance, Versailles Treaty, Art. 241.) On commensurate taxation, see Part VIII, Annex II, par. 12. The misconception that the Dawes Plan did not reduce the total reparations bill is particularly prevalent in textbooks. See, for example, Benns, F. Lee and Seldon, Mary Elizabeth, Europe, 1914–1939 (New York, 1965), p. 168.

61. Furst, p. 225.

62. This author agrees with Professor Marc Trachtenberg that the transfer problem has been greatly exaggerated. Marc Trachtenberg, “France and Reparations: The First Phase” (paper read at American Historical Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C., Dec. 29, 1976).

63. Reparation Commission, 14: 14, 20–21, 31–32. While the mark depreciated in conjunction with payment of the first billion in 1921, it did so because the German government chose to acquire much of the foreign currency involved by massive selling of paper marks on the open market. Schuker, End of French Predominance, p. 16.

64. MacDonald to Barthou, Apr. 24, 1924, F.O. 371/9741; Brussels, Archives Générales, Hymans and Theunis to Barthou, Apr. 24, 1924, Mussolini to Barthou, Apr. 24, 1924, Hymans Papers/171; Poincaré to Barthou, Apr. 24, 1924, F.O. 371/9742; D'Abernon to MacDonald, Apr. 15, 1924, tels. 151, 152, F.O. 371/9740; F.O. Summary, July 10, 1924, F.O. 371/9750.

65. Heavily edited minutes of the technical work of the conference may be found in Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 2258, Minutes of the London Conference on Reparations, August 1924 (London, 1924), and Cmd. 2270, Proceedings of the London Reparations Conference, July and August 1924 (London, 1924). No formal minutes were kept of political discussions.

66. Schuker, End of French Predominance, pp. 300–318, 351–52; Herriot, Édouard, Jadis, 2 vols. (Paris, 19481952), 2: 155–58.

67. Phipps to MacDonald, Aug. 29, 1924, no. 1893, Phipps Papers. The last French and Belgian troops left the Ruhr (and the area around Düsseldorf) in mid-August 1925.

68. Waley to F.O., June 8, 1932, F.O. 371/15911. This not only indicates the small annual defaults but also that German payments under the Dawes Plan came to about 7½ billion gold marks. According to Reparation Commission, 22: Official Documents (Berlin, 1930): 214, German borrowing abroad from January 1925 to April 1930 amounted to 6.7 billion gold marks, to which must be added the 800 million gold marks of the Dawes Loan plus any other loans made to Germany late in 1924. Much of the borrowing was done not by the Reich but by the several states, provinces, municipalities, private enterprises, and church organizations. It should be noted that, on the basis of German data, Erich Eyck reports higher borrowing totals for 1925–26 (A History of the Weimar Republic, 2 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1962, 1: 75). For further information on the discrepancies in data on German borrowing and reparations payments, see n. 85. Finally, it should be remarked that the Wiggin-Layton Report on Aug. 18, 1931, stated categorically that German foreign payments (reparations and other items) were not made out of Germany's own resources (DBFP, ser. 2, 2: 487).

69. Jacobson, Jon, Locarno Diplomacy (Princeton, 1972), pp. 143202 passim; Belgium, Académie Royale de Belgique, Documents Diplomatiques Belges, 1920–1940, 5 vols. (Brussels, 1964–66), 2: 480–560 passim; DBFP, ser. 1A, 5: 335.

70. Jacobson, p. 279. The phrase was common parlance in this era. For instance, Part 9 of the Young Plan was entitled “Liquidation of the Past” and began: “In order to arrive as rapidly as possible at a general liquidation of the financial questions raised by the war and the subsequent treaty of peace …”: Reparations Commission, 20: Report of the Committee of Experts (Cmd. 3343) (London, 1929): 26. Further, the first Hague Conference was officially entitled “The Conference on the Final Liquidation of the War,” and one of the committees it established was called “the Committee on the Liquidation of the Past.” Toynbee, Arnold J., Survey of International Affairs, 1930 (London, 1931), pp. 496–97; Myers, Denys P., The Reparation Settlement (Boston, 1929 [sic]), p. 36.

71. For text, see Reparation Commission, 20.

72. For the convention establishing the Bank for International Settlements, see Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 3766, International Convention Respecting the Bank for International Settlements (London, 1931). For its present role in the European Economic Community, see Encyclopaedia Britannica (1975 ed.), Micropaedia, 1: 792.

73. For the Hague Agreements, see Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 3392, Protocol with Annexes Approved at the Plenary Session of the Hague Conference, August 31, 1929 (London, 1929); Cmd. 3763, International Agreements Regarding the Financial Obligations of Germany (London, 1931); and Cmd. 3484, Agreements Concluded at the Hague Conference, January 1930 (London, 1930), which includes all the non-German settlements. For the negotiations, see Myers or Jacobson, chaps. 8 and 9. On attitudes of the Labour government toward the Young Plan, see Carlton, David, MacDonald versus Henderson (New York, 1970), chap. 2.

74. Fest, Joachim C., Hitler (New York, 1975 ed.), pp. 260–65.

75. Nicholls, pp. 136–39; Bracher, Karl Dietrich, The German Dictatorship (New York, 1970), pp. 160–62.

76. Waley to F.O., June 8, 1932, F.O. 371/15911; Myers, p. 44.

77. FRUS, 1931, 1: 2, 4, 9–12; Bennett, Edward W., Germany and the Diplomacy of the Financial Crisis, 1931 (Cambridge, Mass., 1962), pp. 1525, 3436, 99, 181–82. On the sudden flight of capital, see n. 85. From 1928 on, new American investment in Germany slowed, but this decline was partially offset by investment from other countries. Thus, while the net inflow of capital decreased somewhat, there was no net outflow until the dramatic withdrawals after the 1930 election. Before the election, Germany was in recession, not depression. While the working class was suffering, it did not vote for the Nazis in noticeable numbers (Allen, William S., The Nazi Seizure of Power, Chicago, 1965, pp. 12, 24, 34; Eyck, 2: 278–79). Foreign-policy issues, including widespread calls for repeal of the newly ratified Young Plan, dominated the campaign (DBFP, ser. 2, 1: 502). Thereafter, the sharp reaction of investors to the election returns led to the flight of capital which in turn not only much accelerated Germany's swift plunge into acute depression but also aggravated the mounting international economic crisis. Germans, however, tended to blame both economic distress and currency deflation on the Young Plan (Bennett, pp. 116–17).

78. For text, see FRUS, 1931, 1: 33–35.

79. Lindsay to Henderson, July 10, 1931, no. 1083, F.O. 371/15188; Bennett, pp. 129, 136–40; Dawes, Charles G., Journal as Ambassador to Great Britain (New York, 1939), pp. 350–52, 356. Dawes was in America and in close touch with Hoover at the time. See also DBFP, ser. 2, 2: 70–71. As German trade balances improved in 1929 and 1930, Germany was earning enough foreign exchange in 1930 and 1931 to cover reparations payments in full (conditional and unconditional) but not enough to cover the annuities and the interest on her private debts. In 1930, the balance was covered by borrowing. The flight of capital after the 1930 election and the unwillingness of new investors to replace the old precluded continuation of this course; hence the credit crisis of 1931 and the Hoover Moratorium. Wiggin-Layton Report, Aug. 18, 1931, DBFP, ser. 2, 2: 487–89.

80. Cahill minute, June 24, 1931, Tyrrell to F.O., June 22,1931, tel., no number, Leith-Ross to Vansittart, June 24, 1931, Layton to Noel-Baker, June 22, 1931, F.O. 371/15182; Tyrrell to F.O., June 28, 1931, tels. 133, 134, F.O. to Lindsay, June 27, 1931, tel. 446, F.O. 371/15183; Dawes, pp. 353–54.

81. Bennett, pp. 186, 177. To insure that Germany did not use the funds involved for her naval building program or other rearmament, the final scheme specified that reparations (minus service of the Dawes Loan) be paid by Germany to the German railway corporation. France was induced to accept the moratorium by an American reminder that, if Germany postponed the conditional annuities, France, who received five-sixths of the unconditional annuities, would be required to deposit 500 million Reichsmarks in the BIS as a guarantee fund to safeguard the eventual rights of other recipients. This circumstance, together with continuing war debt payments to the United States and Great Britain, would leave France with a net loss for the year of about $100 million despite receipt of the unconditional annuities. (Cmd. 3343, p. 65; Dawes, p. 356; Leith-Ross to Layton, Nov. 27, 1931, F.O. 371/15200.)

82. Tyrrell to Simon, Jan. 16, 1933, no. 70 (France, Annual Report, 1932), F.O. 371/17299.

83. For text, see Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 4126, Final Act of the Lausanne Conference, Lausanne, 9 July 1932 (London, 1932). For the “Gentlemen's Agreement” not to ratify, see Great Britain, Parliament, Cmd. 4129, Further Documents Relating to the Settlement Reached at the Lausanne Conference (London, 1932). In a press release on July 9, 1932, the State Department confirmed that United States views of war debts remained unchanged. (FRUS PPC, 13: 407.)

84. Gerhard L. Weinberg, commentary at “Reparations Reconsidered” panel, American Historical Association annual meeting, Washington, D.C., Dec. 29, 1976. See also Weinberg, Gerhard L., “The Defeat of Germany in 1918 and the European Balance of Power,” Central European History 2 (1969): 248–60.

85. See n. 9. The exact figures for foreign loans to Germany are difficult to ascertain after April 1930, the last date covered by the reports of the Agent-General for Reparations. (See n. 68.) After the September 1930 elections, Germany lost within three months at least 1.3 to 1.6 billion Reichsmarks out of a total of 3.8 billion RM in foreign credits then in Germany. The losses were chiefly transfers out of Germany by German Jews and German liberals along with withdrawals of short-term credits by French, Belgian, and Swiss financiers. On the whole, Anglo-American creditors did not withdraw. (Bennett, pp. 15–17.) The Wiggin-Layton Committee Report of Aug. 18, 1931, for the BIS estimated withdrawals of short-term credits in the first seven months of 1931 to be 2.9 billion RM. Some long-term credits were also sold by foreigners, creating a total loss of around 3½ billion RM. The Wiggin-Layton Report estimated that during 1924–30 inclusive (a longer period than that covered by the Dawes Plan), German foreign indebtedness grew faster than her foreign assets by 18.2 billion RM. This influx of capital (together with earnings on shipping and services) enabled her to pay the interest on her debts, increase her holdings of gold and foreign exchange, cover an unfavorable trade balance in several years, and pay reparations to a total of 10.3 billion RM. At the end of 1930, the net debt to foreigners was estimated at 15.8 billion RM, of which 10.3 billion RM was in short-term loans, over half of which were owed in March 1931 to American and British investors. (DBFP, ser. 2, 2: 486–89.) The German government declared on Oct. 23, 1931, that the Wiggin-Layton Report's estimates of German foreign indebtedness were much too low, claiming that the total foreign debt was 28 or 29 billion RM, of which 12 billion RM were in short-term credits. (Ibid., p. 304.) As the German government was attempting to avoid resumption of repayment of private foreign credits at the expiration of the six-month Standstill Agreement on Feb. 29, 1932, it was in Germany's interest to inflate her total estimates of foreign indebtedness, and these figures must therefore be treated with some reserve. (Rowe-Dutton to Leith-Ross, Dec. 8, 1931, F.O. 371/15267.) According to American sources, German borrowing in dollar bonds totaled $1,524,655,000 with an outstanding value of $840,389,113, all of which were defaulted by the German government on June 9, 1933. Obligations in other currencies appear to have amounted to about $250 million. (FRUS PPC, 13: 410.)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed