Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Lingering doubts

Sir: Whatever the truth of the Hanratty case, it is not correct to say that the police officer who investigated the case now accepts that Hanratty was innocent (Letters, 15 February). Detective Chief Superintendent Robert Acott is reported in the weekly newspaper Bedfordshire on Sunday, dated 2 February 1997, as saying that he is quite confident that Hanratty was the murderer, and he went on to say that he believes that Hanratty's mother also thought he was guilty. The mother is now suffering from senile dementia, but other members of the Hanratty family deny that she ever believed him guilty. This casts doubt on a small part of Paul Foot's defence of Hanratty, causing one to wonder what else that is stated as irrefutable fact might not be quite so certain. N.J. Mustoe Blackthorn Cottage, 20 Cross End, Thurleigh, Bedfordshire

The reparations myth

Sir: Following Anne McElvoy's article on the myth of Versailles reparations (`The consequences of a myth', 15 February), may I appeal through the columns of The Spectator for a British publisher to bring back Etienne Mantoux's book, The Carthaginian Peace, or the Economic Consequences of Mr Keynes, published in 1945?

As Etiennes's only surviving brother, I believe that the renewed interest in Germany makes it propitious to reintroduce his critique of Keynes's view of the Versailles Treaty to a British audience.

As he wrote in the conclusion to his book, `It was to the coming generations that Mr Keynes dedicated his book 20 years ago. This is the answer that comes from that generation.' Present and future generations in Europe should be aware of the true nature of a fascinating and neglected historical argument. Jacques Mantoux 22 avenue Nicolas Boileau, Grenoble, France

Sir: Anne McElvoy takes the Sunday Times to task for mentioning the role of reparations in our `potted history' of the Weimar Republic. Everyone knows, I think, that Germany paid only a fraction -- approximately one-tenth - of the reparations, 226.4 billion gold marks, demanded in 1920. The bill for reparations, however, certainly contributed to the mood of economic crisis in the early 1920s. It also had a direct impact later. In 1931, when the German government announced it could no longer make payments under the Young Plan (a 1929 plan under which Germany received a United States loan and a new 59-year schedule for the payment of reparations), there was a flight from the reichsmark. In 1934 Germany defaulted on both the Young loan and an earlier loan under the Dawes Plan. The burden of reparations was certainly not the only factor behind successive German economic crises in the interwar years, but it was a factor. David Smith Economics Editor Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London El

Anne McElvoy writes: David Smith is a frequent exploder of economic myths, most recently that of `job insecurity'. But in this case he is upholding one. 'Everyone' does not know that Germany paid only a fraction of the reparations. Keynes's dire warning about Versailles is still much better known than the counter-thesis.

That the claim contributed in a psychological sense to the crisis is true - but only because Weimar politicians chose to manipulate it that way. The Sunday Times article suggested that the mark collapsed because of the bill for reparations. It did not. The prime cause of inflation and the failure to contain it was the high spending and fiscal mismanagement of the Weimar Republic (and its unwillingness to raise taxes to cover successive budget deficits).

By 1931, Germany was feeling the impact of the Great Depression and experiencing a massive capital flight. Compared with this, the 800 million marks paid for reparations in the first half of that year were a minor annoyance. By 1934, Hitler was already in power, so Mr Smith can't talk at this point of the economic conditions contributing to his rise.

From Mein Kampf: `My programme was to abolish the Treaty of Versailles', he placed economics at the service of territorial ambition. …

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