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Posted September 28, 2013
I always open Fred Taylor's books with a sense of great anticipa
I always open Fred Taylor's books with a sense of great anticipation. His style brings alive what it was like to be there - and this book is no exception. How did one survive - and some thrive - when the mark to the US$ exchange rate went from 4.19 in August 1914 to 6.7 trillion in December 1923? We find out.
Who was to blame? Just about everyone had some role. The Germans actually had a policy of allowing inflation since this wiped out internal debt, much of it owed to the upper middle class, leading to a massive social upheaval and loss of class privilege on an unprecedented level. The Americans refused to even discuss forgiving any of the war debt owed by all of the major European powers, forcing France, one of the largest debtors, to insist on impossibly high reparations by the Germans. Britain supported France but pressed for more realistic repayments. France, after defaults by Germany, invaded and occupied the Ruhr causing Germany even more problems both politically and financially. How could any German government hold all this together?
Internally, few Germans accepted that the war was their fault and most believed the reparations were unjust. Organised labor, flirting dangerously close to Communism, was pitted against anti-Republicans (who controlled the remains of the militia). After years of carting around wheelbarrows full of worthless paper marks, both sides were clamoring for a strong dictatorship to restore order. Enter Corporal Hitler.
Although there is a great deal of information conveyed in the book, Fred Taylor makes it exciting and accessible. It is quite a story and, if like me, you did not know or had forgotten much of the detail, you have a treat in store. It is commonplace to blame the Treaty of Versailles for the Second World War, but, like most things, it was a lot more complex than that. This book reveals all.
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Posted February 1, 2014