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World War I Officially Financially Ends
September 29, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

World War I will officially financially end this Sunday on the 20th anniversary of the Reunification of Germany (German Unity Day) and 91 years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles as the last debt is paid.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. Article 231, known as the Guilt Clause, made Germany responsible for all of the damages to the Allies. In January 1921 this debt was set at a value of 269 billion gold marks ($32 billion US dollars at the time, ~$380.5 billion US dollar currently).
posted by Deflagro (34 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
And an article by MSNBC on the subject.
posted by Deflagro at 2:49 PM on September 29, 2010


It's about goddamn time.
posted by grubi at 2:57 PM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


This kind of blows my mind: "October 3 this year will also be the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany."
posted by smackfu at 2:59 PM on September 29, 2010


Coverage from SPIEGEL International (in English).
posted by jedicus at 3:06 PM on September 29, 2010


They should contact the three surviving Great War veterans and ask them if they thought it was worth it.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:06 PM on September 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Never heard of these payments (and the article is not really clear about where they go). Are we sure that this article is not an European version of the Onion ?
posted by Zurgl at 3:08 PM on September 29, 2010


While it's clearly wrong to lay the blame for Hitler on Versailles, there is maybe a lesson here about the purely pragmatic value of being gracious to a vanquished foe that we would all do well to reflect on.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:08 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The money paid by Germany generally goes to pension funds and private individuals.


to who?!
posted by Hoenikker at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


to who?!

According to the Telegraph, "Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war."

I would guess the governments receiving the payments sold bonds in them, such that the purchasers of the bonds receive the payments directly.
posted by Partial Law at 3:16 PM on September 29, 2010


Mmm... securitized war debt. An under-appreciated asset class.
posted by GuyZero at 3:20 PM on September 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Call Christo, someone needs to put a giant "Don't Laugh, it's Paid For" sticker on the Reichstag.
posted by condour75 at 3:35 PM on September 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


While it's clearly wrong to lay the blame for Hitler on Versailles, there is maybe a lesson here about the purely pragmatic value of being gracious to a vanquished foe that we would all do well to reflect on.

To say the least! By their vindictive and destructive demands for war reparations (which where squeezed out of Germany all through the 1920s), the Allies basically bought themselves World War II. The end of reparations might be said to have brought to a symbolic end the destructive cycle that began with the Franco-Prussian war, and whose last echoes (we hope) are Iraq and Afghanistan. Two lessons: Stay out of wars, all wars, period; and if you happen to win, don't grind the face of your enemy.
posted by Faze at 3:46 PM on September 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


To quote Someone from Gawker: "This is what happens when you only make the minimum payment."
posted by drezdn at 4:17 PM on September 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


In the United States, however, World War I is not yet over, because we are still paying veterans benefits and will continue to do so for some time. The U.S. still has one surviving veteran (Frank W. Buckles), but there are also surviving spouses of veterans who have life benefits. We finished paying benefits, including spousal benefits, related to our wars generally 100-130 years after they ended:
-American Revolution in 1911
-War of 1812 in 1946
-Indian Wars in 1973
-Mexican War in 1963

As of 2008, the VA was still paying benefits to(PDF link):
2 Civil War veterans' children
90 Spanish American war spouses
94 Spanish American war children
60 Mexican border war spouses
15 Mexican border war children
4,873 World War I spouses
3,169 World War I children

World War I widows and dependent benefits probably won't run out until maybe 2040 or 2050 based on the prior wars. The VA still lists "Indian Wars" as one of the possible qualifying periods for spousal benefits, because actuarially, there could still be surviving spouses from those wars (if a veteran of an 1898 war, aged 20 at the time, married a young lady in 1950 when aged 72, that spouse could very easily be still alive.) Any such spouses (or unmarried children under 18 or "seriously disabled" though over 18) may be eligible for a "Death pension" from VA.

It should be assumed that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even if they end pretty soon, will still be costing taxpayers money in the year 2150.
posted by beagle at 4:38 PM on September 29, 2010 [46 favorites]


Above stats updated for 2009, which is the most recent info from VA. Still 2 Civil War vet children's benefits.
posted by beagle at 4:53 PM on September 29, 2010


By their vindictive and destructive demands for war reparations (which where squeezed out of Germany all through the 1920s), the Allies basically bought themselves World War II.

Well THAT'S a bunch of bullshit.
posted by incessant at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2010


By their vindictive and destructive demands for war reparations (which where squeezed out of Germany all through the 1920s), the Allies basically bought themselves World War II.

This view (which dates from Keynes' The Economic Consequences of the Peace) has actually been challenged by historians generally. Wikipedia has a useful summary of the debate.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:28 PM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Never heard of these payments (and the article is not really clear about where they go). Are we sure that this article is not an European version of the Onion ?

Did you also know the SS Titanic sunk? Hope I didn't spoil the movie for you.
posted by Talez at 6:29 PM on September 29, 2010


Was there a little 91 veteran on a bike screaming "I want my $2!"?
posted by stormpooper at 6:43 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that if you asked the people involved, they'd say the war ended when people stopped being killed.
posted by Dasein at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


incessant: Note how AdamCSnider has done what you wanted to do, and learn.
posted by eritain at 6:58 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


eritain: I applaud him for his teacherly ways, but sometimes bullshit also needs to be called bullshit. Yes, let's blame Nazism on the Allies. Also, she was asking for it.
posted by incessant at 7:40 PM on September 29, 2010


Wikipedia: Schuker has noted that between 1921 and 1931, Germany paid 19.1 billion marks in reparations, and in the same time, took in 27 billion marks in loans from the United States, which Germany defaulted on in 1932.

As Margaret McMillan commented about, the cost of reparations were a phantom scapegoat pretext in the rise of fascism in the 1930's. The German economy was messed up after WW1, but the cause for that was WW1 itself, not reparations.

As we know, when times are tough, our leaders will show us who to blame.
posted by ovvl at 8:12 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


So can I finally take these puttees off?
posted by Abiezer at 11:33 PM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


As Margaret McMillan commented about, the cost of reparations were a phantom scapegoat pretext in the rise of fascism in the 1930's.

They weren't a phantom scapegoat. They were a real scapegoat, and gave the worst elements of German society a symbolic grievance to rally around. (Don't we see enough of this in our own time?) Now there's a possibility that if it hadn't been for reparations they would have manufactured some other symbolic grievance, but the demand for reparations was carried out so obsessively and publicly (on the world stage) in the 1920s, that it constituted an ongoing loss-of-face for the German people that made it an ideal rallying point. Reparations were one of the many bad decisions made by the world powers between 1910 and 1920 that gave us the world we have today.
posted by Faze at 4:32 AM on September 30, 2010


War is costly. After being financially crippled by the WW2 Britain took out a large loan for post-war recovery from the USA. It was also only recently paid back in 2006.

Also, according to this article, Britain is still paying off debts for the Napoleonic wars!
posted by jonesor at 6:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


...Britain is still paying off debts for the Napoleonic wars!

Queue 'Waterloo' by Abba.*



*I'm here to help.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:20 AM on September 30, 2010


Can someone explain to me how we are still paying benefits to the children of a Civil War veteran? I don't know anything about the criteria for these benefits, but it seems to me that if a Civil War veteran had these children, he would have had to impregnate someone some 45 years the War ended, his child would be pushing 100. So is this scenario actually feasible or is this a $1000 toilet seat? Or is my math just bad?
posted by fusinski at 8:37 AM on September 30, 2010


It should be assumed that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even if they end pretty soon, will still be costing taxpayers money in the year 2150.

If you count interest on the national debt, we'll likely be paying for them in perpetuity.
posted by jedicus at 8:45 AM on September 30, 2010


if a Civil War veteran had these children, he would have had to impregnate someone some 45 years the War ended, his child would be pushing 100. So is this scenario actually feasible or is this a $1000 toilet seat?

Are you asking if it's feasible for a ~65-year-old man to father a child, and feasible for a person to live to be 100 years old? Yes, I'm pretty sure both of those are feasible.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2010


I took a moment to read some of the actual text of the Treaty of Versailles. The reparations section is pretty long and mostly dry. But there are two stand out demands:
Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty the King of the Hedjaz the original Koran of the Caliph Othman, which was removed from Medina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II.

Within the same period Germany will hand over to His Britannic Majesty's Government the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa which was removed from the Protectorate of German East Africa and taken to Germany.
posted by jedicus at 12:04 PM on October 4, 2010


Did the Treaty of Versailles also mention the Eye or Hand of Vecna?
posted by GuyZero at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I read the series of books that Churchill wrote about WWII. He said that WWII could have been avoided if the Germans were treated with a little more respect after WWI. He said that between the loans that were made to Germany at outrageous interest rates combined with the sanction that Germany not be allowed to have a military caused the German people to be humiliated. This humiliation led to the Germans seeking someone who could stand up for Germany and not take shit from other countries. They wanted their pride back. Hitler stood up for Germany and stopped taking shit from other countries. He was rather successful there. Churchill said that if Germany had been allowed to function more as a regular country during that time, then Hitler wouldn't have happened because the conditions that created the desire for Hitler would not have happened.

Nine years ago Bush wanted to invade Iraq. Iraq was a country that the US had defeated in war about ten years earlier. Since that time, Iraq was humiliated by the US and the world. Iraq was not allowed to fly planes over two-thirds of its own country. Iraq was required to allow inspectors from other countries into their military facilities and any other place those inspectors wanted to go. The people of Iraq felt like they were being bullied. They wanted someone who would stand up for Iraq and not take shit from other countries.

Bush liked to compare himself to Churchill at the time. Churchill is known for taking more of a hard line against the Germans before others (Chamberlain) were willing to do so. But Churchill took that position after Hitler continually broke promises to and invaded other countries.

Bush was, in reality, the anti-Churchill. Churchill would have recognized that the situation in Iraq had been created by the actions of the US and the world from the first war. He would have tried to get Iraq to rejoin the global community so that they wouldn't feel so bullied and isolated. He would have tried to get the scared animal to come out of the corner before it did something harmful.

Bush tried to kill the scared animal we had chased into the corner. He learned nothing from Churchill, and it is among the countless reasons why I think he was a terrible president and person.
posted by flarbuse at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2010


beagle: It should be assumed that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even if they end pretty soon, will still be costing taxpayers money in the year 2150.

I am amazed at the stats beagle quoted (we paid the last survivors benefit for the American Revolution less than a century ago...wow) -- and the quality of the comment. And I have no qualms about the benefits to those who fought in the war -- or their dependents -- being paid until 2150. It's the interest on the debt we required to finance the way -- which I'm afraid we'll be paying off until long after 2150 -- that bothers me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:00 PM on October 4, 2010


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