This weekend, Germany will finally finish paying off its reparations from World War I. Following Germany’s defeat in the war, the Allied Powers hit it with a steep bill in the form of the Treaty of Versailles, which mandated that it pay £23.6 billion ($393.6 billion in today’s dollars). Reparations plunged postwar Germany deeply into debt, and as Wikipedia summarizes, came in the form of “coal, steel, intellectual property (eg. the trademark for Aspirin) and agricultural products” as well as money.
Resentment over reparations helped propel Hitler into power and sparked anti-Semitic propaganda like this cartoon (via); when Hitler took power, the payment of reparations ceased, although they were reinstated by West Germany in 1953.
“On Sunday the last bill is due and the First World War finally, financially at least, terminates for Germany,” said Bild, the country’s biggest selling newspaper.
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.