THE defeat of Germany in the last war left vanquished, victors, and the world at large with an evil legacy in the shape of what came to be called "the German reparations problem." It helped to produce an embittered German people. It aroused friction between the erstwhile Allies. It bedevilled international economic relations. It acted as a barrier to the construction of a satisfactory political world order. In all these ways it helped to lay the ground for a second world war. In no quarter today will it be contended that the victors handled the issue wisely. But there is still much difference of opinion as to the nature of the errors made.
History is going to repeat itself in the form of another decisive defeat of Germany. It may repeat itself also in the form of a second German reparations problem, leading to a third world war. What few official pronouncements have been made and what public discussion has occurred reveal that for the most part what happened before has not been forgotten and that there is a determination not to repeat the errors then made. They do not reveal, however, either clearness or unity of opinion as to what these errors were, or that, if they are successfully avoided this time, there will not be substituted for them a new set of errors of perhaps equal trouble-breeding potentiality.
The issues involved are complex, both in their economic and political aspects. For the most part they are not of a kind for which certain and precise answers are available. The decisions concerning these issues must be such as are acceptable to the peoples of the United Nations at the time they are made. During the last war the important decisions were postponed until after the formal peace negotiations were under way. Except in England, there was no previous cool-headed survey of the possibilities of collecting reparations and of the economic and political implications of such collection. There had been no
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