Why were the reparations imposed on Germany the worst provision of the Treaty of Versailles?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Which provision of the Treaty of Versailles was the worst is a matter of opinion. Some might argue that stripping Germany of several territories, including the coal-rich Saar Valley, for example, or even the limits placed on the German military (but not on those of France) were the worst provisions. The reparations imposed on Germany after the war certainly encapsulated the spirit of the Treaty, which was extremely punitive on Germany, which, by signing the treaty, accepted full blame for the war. The reparations were economically ruinous. While an exact amount was not stipulated in the Treaty, the payments imposed on Germany totaled more than 20 billion dollars in today's money, a sum the war-ravaged nation could not possibly pay. Attempts to meet the reparations' demands caused the value of the German Reichsmark to spiral downward rapidly, creating severe inflation. Germany's failure to pay reparations on schedule poisoned the postwar environment, as France occupied German territory in the early 1920s. While American bankers fostered a renegotiation of the terms of the reparations following the crisis, the existence of reparations remained a thorny issue between the two nations. 

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