By: Claire Fergusson, Grade 9
After the devastation and heartbreak of the bloodiest war we can recount in our memory laid its weapons down almost a century ago, what was left behind were the reparations, and the Treaty of Versailles. Ninety-two years ago, on June 12, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, attempting to bring together Germany and the Allies after the destruction of World War I.
In early 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was bargained over in order for the details to be fair to all participating parties of the war. Talk was completed in three months and the conditions were presented to the German government on May 7, 1919. They had three weeks to look it over to either accept or decline the offers put on the table. However, if Germany declined, it would most likely equal more war, more fighting, and more money for all the countries involved around the world.
A lot of the countries did not want that; this was why they negotiated so hard to get the terms and policies to their liking.
With over nine million people killed during World War I, Germany had to face their actions. Although they were not happy with the terms set out, their complaints were mostly ignored. The Treaty took away 13.5% of their land that they held in 1914, handing most of it to Belgium. The Treaty also forbade Germany’s use of heavy armoury or weapons, gas, tanks, aircraft and submarines. They were also restricted to an army of 100,000 men for national defence only, and the navy was limited to shipping less than 10,000 tons.
The total sum Germany had to pay was 226 billion Reich marks, or £11.3 billion, which was worth three or four times more in US dollars during that time. In 1921, the amount was reduced to about £4.99 billion because of Germany’s disagreement with the terms.
It was set to be paid out in many forms, such as through coal, steel, property and agricultural produce. This was argued, because if it was paid in money, it would be a problem to Germany’s economy, create hyperinflation, and ultimately ruin their “Wall Street.” However, in spite of this fact, Germany’s economy faced a lot of damage, and has been on the reconstruction since the day they had to repay.
It has been over ninety-two years, and although pay was halted because of the reunification of East and West Germany, the country has finally paid off the bill. The payments have displayed that because of poor decisions by the government, and the war, the whole country has had to fight to rebuild itself. With Germany’s final payment of £56 million paid on October 3, 2010, it marks the end to a struggle that took nearly a century to pay off.