The Ruhr Crisis 1923
A German poster urges passive resistance
during the Ruhr crisis, under the motto
“No! You won’t subdue me!”
World War I had left Germany with many economic, social, and political problems. In addition to enduring high inflation and a large national debt, Germans were deeply angered by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, which formally ended the war. The treaty called for German disarmament and massive reparation payments to the Allies of $33 billion. Unable to meet the payments, Germany’s currency collapsed and the German people suffered large financial losses. In January 1923, French and Belgian forces occupied Germany’s main industrial region, the Ruhr, claiming that Germany had stopped making reparation deliveries. German workers were encouraged to strike in protest at the French and Belgian occupation. The result was a period of hyperinflation when the German mark became worthless. Many Germans were desperate by 1923 and were ready to support extremists such as the Nazis or the Communists.
The cities were still there, the houses not yet bombed and in ruins, but the victims were millions of people. They had lost their fortunes, their savings; they were dazed and inflation-shocked and did not understand how it had happened to them and who the foe was who had defeated them. Yet they had lost their self-assurance, their feeling that they themselves could be the masters of their own lives if only they worked hard enough; and lost, too, were the old values of morals, of ethics, of decency.
American author Pearl Buck on the effects of hyperinflation in Germany in 1923
How useful is this source to an historian studying the effects of the 1923 hyperinflation on the fortunes of the Weimar Republic?
(Evaluation: what does it tell you, what doesn’t it tell you. Does the origin affect usefulness? Are there any limitations? In what ways could this source be useful?)