On the 11th January 1923, French and Belgian troops marched into Germany and occupied the industrial Ruhr area. The two countries had grown increasingly frustrated by Germany frequently defaulting on its reparations that had been agreed in the Treaty of Versailles. The occupation was met with passive resistance, which was only called off on the 26th September as rampant hyperinflation crippled the German economy.
Although the French leader Raymond Poincaré was initially reluctant to occupy the Ruhr, he had grown increasingly exasperated by Germany’s regular defaults and the lack of international support for sanctions as a way to persuade her to pay. He argued strongly that the reparations themselves were not the key issue, but rather that allowing Germany to defy this part of the Treaty of Versailles could lead to further attempts to undermine the Treaty at a later date.
Despite these arguments it was Germany’s failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922 that provided France and Belgium with the excuse to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923. They established the Inter-Allied Mission for Control of Factories and Mines to ensure that goods payments were made, but the Germans responded with a campaign of passive resistance. Tensions were high between the occupiers and Ruhr locals, and by the time Gustav Stresemann’s new government called off the strikes in September approximately 130 German civilians had been killed by the occupying army.
The occupation enabled France and Belgium to extract reparations, but it was Germany that won international sympathy. The last French troops finally left the Ruhr on the 25th August 1925.