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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 21 
This poster of a bawling baby reflects German anger that those born after the war would spend their entire lives paying reparations.
Photo: Ullstein Bilderdienst
The Versailles Treaty

The signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty in June 1919 marked the formal conclusion of the war between Germany and the former Entente powers. Written entirely by the victors, the treaty was universally loathed by Germans.

The treaty required Germany to relinquish the territories of Alsace, Lorraine, Poznan, West Prussia, and Upper Silesia as well as its prized colonial possessions in Africa. In addition, Germany lost control of its coal mines in the Saarland. The military provisions of the treaty removed German troops from the Rhineland, dismantled Germany's navy, and limited its army to 100,000 men. Exorbitant reparations, 132 billion gold marks (about $31 billion), were also exacted.

The most devastating feature of the treaty was the infamous "war-guilt clause." Article #231 stipulated that Germany must accept complete and total responsibility for the war, a demand that humiliated even moderate Germans who recognized Germany's obligations to make restitution.

Saddled with the burden of defeat and the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty, Germany's postwar government, the Weimar Republic, was accused by its critics of having stabbed Germany in the back. A call to overturn the treaty was the most salient feature of the Nazis' political platform before their ascension to power in 1933.

In 1923 Germany experienced one of the most desperate inflationary spirals any industrialized nation has known. The country's wartime financing had depended less on increased taxation and much more on loans and bonds, which then were repaid by the government's already inflationary policy of increasing the money in circulation at the time. As quickly as the paper money was printed, its value depreciated.

Unfortunately, the problems plaguing Germany's economy went well beyond both the debts that had accumulated during wartime and the reparations demands that were another immense price for defeat. The war had harmed Germany's industrial capacity. Its stock of raw materials and goods had been severely depleted. Then there were the high costs of converting the economy from wartime to peacetime operation, a difficulty compounded by Germany's high unemployment. That problem, in turn, was made no easier by the fact that in 1920 Germany still maintained 660,000 soldiers. To meet the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, 560,000 had to be demobilized and then, somehow, absorbed into the German labor force. That goal could scarcely be accomplished in an economy whose inflationary instability was rapidly destroying confidence in the government.

 313: Roman Emperor Constantine issues a decree that grants tolerance for all religions, including Christianity.
 4th century: Jews are discriminated against by the Christianized Roman Empire.
 4th-6th centuries: Several Church councils and dozens of Roman laws attack Judaism and Jews, forbidding, for example, marriage between Christians and Jews.
 4th-6th centuries: Christians begin to attack Jews as "Christ killers" in league with the devil.
 c. 500-1000: During the early Middle Ages, European Jews, generally working as merchants, suffer scattered persecution.
 1096-1099: The first Christian Crusaders massacre Jews in Europe and capture Jerusalem.
 11th-13th centuries: Many Christian Crusades include massacres of Jews. Thousands are slaughtered, and synagogues and homes are plundered.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 21 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.