The case of Weimar is one of the most extreme inflationary deleveragings ever. At the end of the war, the Reich government was forced to choose between a shortage of cash and economic contraction or printing to stimulate incomes. The government chose to print and devalue to stimulate the economy, beginning with a 50% devaluation at the end of 1919 that brought the economy out of recession. Eventually, a loss of confidence in the currency and an extreme amount of printing led to hyperinflation and left the currency basically worthless.
As shown below, the currency fell essentially 100% against gold and printing was exponential. Starting debt of 913% fell to basically zero. Non-reparations government debt of 133% GDP in 1919 was wiped out by inflation. Gold-based reparation of 780% GDP effectively went into default in the summer of 1922 when reparation payments were halted. We summarize this in the table below and then go through the pieces.
As discussed, the non-reparations government debt was eroded rapidly through inflation. While the reparations were not techincally imposed until 1921, they effectively existed shortly after the war and it was mostly a question of negotiating how big they would be (the official amount was settled at the start of 1921 and then reduced that spring by about 50%, still a huge sum). Because the reparations were denominated in gold, they held their value until Germany ceased payments in 1922. They were then restrutured several times over the next decade until they were effectively wiped out.
Well, as the Greek case study has shown, this time around the gold will first be confiscated. All of it. Only then will the debt be forgiven. In the form of a hyperinflating of trillions in claims, in a coordinated way across all currencies, and relative to a basket of hard assets.
Click here for more for a further comparison to today's massive debt build-up in western Europe and the US, and how we are following in the precise footsteps of the Weimar Reich government in the 1920's.