Sunday, October 3, 2010

It’s Finally Over Over There

If you thought the First World War ended with the Armistice on November 11, 1918 or with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, you were wrong. It officially ends today.

Germany and the Allies can call it even on World War I this weekend.

On Sunday – the 20th anniversary of East and West Germany unifying about a year after the Berlin Wall fell – Deutschland will make the last in a series of reparation payments that has spanned more than nine decades.

The final payment is £59.5 million, about $93.8 million, reported London’s Telegraph newspaper. Germany had to pay Belgium and France for material damages and the rest of the Allies the costs of fighting the war.

The initial tally in 1919, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, was 96,000 tons of gold but was slashed by 40 to 60 percent (sources vary) a few years later. The debt was crippling, just as French Premier Georges Clemenceau intended.

Germany went bankrupt in the 1920s, Der Spiegel explained, and issued bonds between 1924 and 1930 to pay off the towering debt laid on it by the Allied powers in 1919’s Treaty of Versailles.