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8 - German World War I Reparations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 October 2023

Simon Hinrichsen
Affiliation:
University of Copenhagen
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Summary

Chapter 8 looks at the famous case of German World War I reparations. Had Germany defaulted already in 1929, it would have saved two years worth of interest payments and entered autarky at the same time, as market access was by then de facto gone. At this point, the European nations did not have the ability to enforce debt contracts and the United States agreed to a de facto cancellation of reparations. The German sovereign default in the 1930s was on debt issued to pay reparations, but it also had several effects on other state liabilities, with loans offering different kinds of creditor protection. Germany in the 1920s had high levels of reparations, but was able to borrow, because it offered de facto seniority to new loans. Creditors were willing to lend into a large debt stock because they thought they would rank senior to reparations. The German default on its sovereign debt was special because it was allowed by its politically weak creditors, who were unable to enforce debt contracts in the 1930s.

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When Nations Can't Default
A History of War Reparations and Sovereign Debt
, pp. 115 - 129
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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