1919-1933: an economic overview

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By 1914 Germany had become Europe’s most powerful economic and military power, and was second only to the United States in the world. Four long, terrible years of warfare meant that, by 1918, Germany’s economy was in ruins.


The effects of defeat

Warfare meant that Germany could not import or export industrial goods and severely limited trade. Resources and food were diverted to the war. As a result of the war, by 1919 Germany was no longer the second most economically advanced nation in the world.

The terms of the Treaty of Versailles ordered that Germany had to pay huge sums in reparations to the Allies. In 1921, as Germany could not pay, French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhr to take goods and raw materials.

During 1923 Germany printed more money to pay striking workers. Hyperinflation resulted, wiping out the value of savings.


The 'Golden Years'?

The years 1924 to 1929 became known as the 'Golden Years' – Germany became increasingly prosperous and peaceful. The USA lent Germany huge sums of money. The economy was rebuilt, unemployment was reduced and people began to feel secure.



The collapse of the American economy after the Wall Street Crash during the autumn of 1929 had terrible consequences all over Europe. Between 1929 and 1933 there was high unemployment and severe poverty in Germany.