Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann, the son of a innkeeper, was born in Berlin on 10th May, 1878. Stresemann attended universities in Berlin and Leipzig where he studied history, literature and economics.

After completing his studies he worked for the German Chocolate Makers's Association. In 1902 he founded the Saxon Manufacturers' Association and the following year joined the National Liberal Party. A right-wing party, Stresemann emerged as one of the leaders of the more moderate wing who favoured an improvement in social welfare provision.

In 1908 Stresemann was elected to the Reichstag. He soon came into conflict with his more conservative colleagues and he was ousted from the party's executive committee in 1912. Later that year he lost his seat in Parliament. Stresemann returned to business life and was the founder of the German-American Economic Association. A strong advocate of German imperialism, he aliened himself with the political views of Alfred von Tirpitz and Bernhard von Bulow.

He returned to the Reichstag in 1914. Exempted from military service during the First World War because of poor health, Stresemann was a passionate supporter of the war effort and advocated that Germany should take possession of land in Russia, Poland, France and Belgium.

During the war Stresemann became increasing right-wing in his views and his opponents claimed he was the parliamentary spokesman for military figures such as Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. He became increasingly critical of Bethmann Hollweg and advocated unrestricted submarine warfare against the Royal Navy.

In 1918 Stresemann formed the German People's Party. After Germany's defeat Stresemann was sympathetic to the Freikorps and welcomed the defeat of the socialists and communists in the German Revolution. However, he became increasingly concerned by the use of violence of the right-wing groups and after the murders of Matthias Erzberger and Walther Rathenau, Stresemann decided to argue in favour of the Weimar Republic.

With the support of the Social Democratic Party Stresemann became chancellor of Germany in 1923. He managed to bring an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed payment of reparations. He also tackled the problem of inflation by establishing the Rentenbank.

Stresemann was severely criticized by members of the Social Democratic Party and Communist Party over his unwillingness to deal firmly with Adolf Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch. Later that month the socialists withdrew from Stresemann's government and he was forced to resign as chancellor.

In the new government led by Wilhelm Marx, Stresemann was appointed as foreign minister. He accepted the Dawes Plan (1924) as it resulted in the French Army withdrawing from the Ruhr. Under Hans Luther Stresemann's skilled statesmanship led to the Locarno Treaty (December, 1925), the German-Soviet Treaty (April, 1926) and Germany joining the League of Nations in 1926. Later that year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gustav Stresemann negotiated the Young Plan but soon after that he suffered two strokes and on 3rd October, 1929 he died of a heart attack.

I have spoken before of the loss we have sustained in losing a man who might well have been the instrument of a great work of reconciliation in Germany. To me his loss seems the heaviest because such reconciliation is so sorely needed. The old Germany and the new ought not to be permanently opposed; the Reichsbanner and the Stahlhelm should not for ever face each other as antagonists. Some means must be found of fusing the old and the new. And the dead man would certainly have been one of those who would have set themselves wholeheartedly to such a task. The reserve with which we formerly regarded the President, which had indeed already been broken through by the impression of his conscientious labours, vanished on that August 11th when the President made up his mind to raise the Deutschlandlied above the turmoil of Party strife and restore it to its place as the song of the Germans. Let us not underestimate such a symbol. We wave flags enough against each other. It would be a pity if we tried to sing each other down! Thus we have at least a national song that unites all Germans, and is the symbol of our sixty-million nation.

The result of the election is psychologically extraordinarily interesting. There can be no doubt that the personal element won the day. During the turmoil of the election campaign there was no lack of effort to discredit the significance of Hindenburg's personality. But with little success. Many indeed were doubtful whether the burden of age might not be too heavy for one who aspired to the Presidential office. But in the end the great name produced its effect, and brought forth reserves of voters who would hardly otherwise have been available in such numbers if they had not regarded it as a patriotic duty to record their votes for the great commander in the Great War.

On the other side, Hindenburg's nomination combined the Weimar Coalition even more firmly than would have otherwise been the case. Anyone acquainted with the reports of the meetings held by the Social Democratic Party at the time of the elections knows how violent was the reaction against the idea of electing a leading member of the Centre Party to the Presidency. It was opposed by the Levi Group, which saw a betrayal of the conception of the Class War in any co-operation with the Centre bourgeoisie. It was opposed by the whole body of Freethinkers - and where are these stronger than in the ranks of the Social Democratic Party? - who had no notion of voting for the champion of denominational schools, and the avowed supporter of the Christian attitude to the State and the world. It was opposed above all by the women in the areas where the denominational conflict is acute, owing to their fear that the election of Marx would lead to a strengthening of Catholicism. And the opposition was much more intense among the Democrats. Not only from Bavaria came protests against the support of the Centre candidate. In other districts too the Democratic creed was shaken.

Peace between France and Germany is not merely a Franco-German but a European affair. The last world War in my opinion produced no victors who could rejoice in their victory. The War, and the continuation of the War by other means, were responsible for social, political, and economic upheavals in Europe which have directly confronted the older civilized nations with the question of their future material existence. In the debates that recently took place in this honourable House, you have discussed a problem that is one of the effects of the War on Europe, not merely on Germany, namely the problem how to relieve by any public measures those who have been proletarianized by the collapse of currency and trade. They were, not merely in this country but in others, the supporters of the idea of the State, the most steadfast pillars of the present order. The collapse of the currency has spread from East to West, and has hitherto not stopped at any national frontier. I do not belong to those who expect any advantages for Germany from the continuance of this currency fall in France. I can envisage no political or even economic advantages if this fall goes on. Still less do I share the opinion which seemed to be implicit in an interjection at the beginning of my remarks, to the effect that the position of France as a Great Power, which she held after the Peace of Versailles, can be permanently shaken by any difficulties in the Rif territories of Morocco.

Not here lie the great problems of the present time; they lie, I believe, in the fact that, without the cooperation of the great territories that are today the paramount factors in the trade of the world, neither French financial distress nor German economic distress can be removed. It is not merely our interest but that of other nations in Europe that these world Powers should set about the reconstruction of a ruined Europe, and they cannot expect these world Powers and their public opinion to undertake the task, unless they~feel that they have before them a pacified Europe, and not a Europe of sanctions and of wars yet to come.

At the moment of initialling the treaties that have here been drafted will you allow me to say a few words in the name of the Chancellor and in my own. The German delegates agree to the text of the final protocol and its annexes, an agreement to which we have given expression by adding our initials. Joyfully and wholeheartedly we welcome the great development in the European concept of peace that has its origin in this meeting at Locarno, and as the Treaty of Locarno, is destined to be a landmark in the history of the relations of States and peoples to each other. We especially welcome the expressed conviction set forth m this final protocol that our labours will lead to decreased tension among the peoples and to an easier solution of so many political and economic problems.

We have undertaken the responsibility of initialling the treaties because we live in the faith that only by peaceful cooperation of States and peoples can that development be secured, which is nowhere more important than for that great civilized land of Europe whose peoples have suffered so bitterly in the years that lie behind us. We have more especially undertaken it because we are justified in the confidence that the political effects of the treaties will prove to our particular advantage in relieving the conditions of our political life. But great as is the importance of the agreements that

are here embodied, the treaties of Locarno will only achieve their profoundest importance in the development of the nations if Locarno is not to be the end but the beginning of confident cooperation among the nations. That these prospects, and the hopes based upon our work, may come to fruition is the earnest wish to which the German delegates would give expression at this solemn moment.

At the moment when the work begun at Locarno is concluded by our signature in London, I should like to express above all to you, Sir Austen Chamberlain, our gratitude for what we owe you in the recognition of your leadership in the work that is completed here today. We had, as you know, no chairman to preside over our negotiations at Locarno. But it is due to the great traditions of your country, which can look back to an experience of many hundred years, that unwritten laws work far better than the form in which man thinks to master events. Thus, the Conference of Locarno, which was so informal, led to a success. That was possible because in you, Sir Austen Chamberlain, we had a leader who by his tact and friendliness, supported by his charming wife, created that atmosphere of personal confidence that may well be regarded as a part of what is meant by the spirit of Locarno. But something else was more important than personal approach, and that was the will, so vigorous in yourself and in us, to bring this work to a conclusion. Hence the joy that you felt like the rest of us, when we came to initial those documents at Locarno. And hence our sincere gratitude to you here today.

In speaking of the work done at Locarno, let me look at it in the light of this idea of form and will. We have all had to face debates on this achievement in our respective Houses of Parliament Light has been thrown upon it in all directions, and attempts have been made to discover whether there may not be contradictions in this or that clause. In this connection I say one word! I see in Locarno not a juridical structure of political ideas, but the basis of great developments in the future. Statesmen and nations therein proclaim their purpose to prepare the way for the yearnings of humanity after peace and understanding. If the pact were no more than a collection of clauses, it would not hold. The form that it seeks to find for the common life of nations will only become a reality if behind them stands the will to create new conditions in Europe, a will that inspired the words that Herr Briand has just uttered. '

I should like to express to you, Herr Briand, my deep gratitude for what you said about the necessity of the cooperation of all peoples - and especially of those peoples that have endured so much in the past. You started from the idea that every one of us belongs in the first instance to his own country, and should be a good Frenchman, German, Englishman, as being a part of his own people, but that everyone also is a citizen of Europe, pledged to the great cultural idea that finds expression in the concept of our continent. We have a right to speak of a European idea; this Europe of ours has made such vast sacrifices in the Great War, and yet it is faced with the danger of losing, through the effects of that Great

War, the position to which it is entitled by tradition and development.

The sacrifices made by our continent in the World War are often measured solely by the material losses and destruction that resulted from the War. Our greatest loss is that a generation has perished from which we cannot tell how much intellect, genius, force of act and will, might have come to maturity, if it had been given to them to live out their lives. But together with the convulsions of the World War one fact has emerged, namely that we are bound to one another by a single and a common fate. If we go down, we go down together; if we are to reach the heights, we do so not by conflict but by common effort.

For this reason, if we believe at all in the future of our peoples, we ought not to live in disunion and enmity, we must join hands in common labour. Only thus will it be possible to lay the foundations for a future of which you, Herr Briand, spoke in words that I can only emphasize, that it must be based on a rivalry of spiritual achievement, not of force. In such co-operation the basis of the future must be sought. The great majority of the German people stands firm for such a peace as this. Relying on this will to peace, we set our signature to this treaty. It is to introduce a new era of cooperation among the nations. It is to close the seven years that followed the War, by a time of real peace, upheld by the will of responsible and far-seeing statesmen, who have shown us the way to such development, and will be supported by their peoples, who know that only in this fashion can prosperity increase. May later generations have cause to bless this day as the beginning of a new era.

Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929) was a German politician, Reichstag deputy and, for a brief time in 1923, chancellor. As foreign minister, Stresemann became one of the most significant and effective leaders of the Weimar Republic.

Stresemann was born in Berlin, the son of a Protestant publican, brewer and beer salesman. The family was lower-middle-class and the quiet, scholarly Gustav was the only one of five children able to complete high school and enrol at university.

In 1897, Stresemann began studying history and literature at the University of Berlin. He later changed to economics, probably to increase his prospects of employment. After completing a doctorate, Stresemann spent the next decade working as an administrator for various trade associations.

Stresemann’s interest in politics began at university and continued into his professional life. He joined the National Liberal Party in 1903 and demonstrated progressive views, such as support for state-funded social welfare measures. After serving six years on the city council of Dresden, Stresemann entered the Reichstag in 1907.

As a young man, Stresemann’s views were liberal – but by his 30s he had become more nationalist and conservative. During World War I, Stresemann supported the monarchy and the war effort and backed calls for unrestricted submarine warfare. As the Weimar Republic was emerging in late 1918, Stresemann co-founded the right-wing German People’s Party (DVP).

Despite his association with right-wing nationalists, Stresemann became a pragmatist who was prepared to work with his political opposites, including the Social Democratic Party (SPD), for the benefit of the country.

Stresemann’s short stint as chancellor (1923) was doomed by the ongoing Ruhr occupation, rampant hyperinflation and a fragile government coalition. It was as foreign minister, however, that he would make his mark on the Weimar Republic.

Stresemann served almost six full years (1923-29) as the Republic’s foreign minister. Recognising that Germany could not recover without international support, he worked to restore and rebuild diplomatic ties, renegotiate the reparations debt and secure foreign loans.

Among Stresemann’s achievements as foreign minister were the negotiation of the Dawes Plan (1924), the Locarno Treaties (1925), a treaty with the Soviet Union and Germany’s admission as a member-state of the League of Nations (both in 1926). Stresemann and French statesman Aristotle Briand shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Locarno agreements, which reconciled Franco-German relations.

Stresemann was less conciliatory when it came to eastern Europe, particularly Poland. Like other German nationalists, he rejected the idea of Polish sovereignty and sought the reclamation of German territories surrendered to Poland after World War I.

Stresemann’s premature death in 1929, at the age of 51, robbed Weimar Germany of its most effective statesman, at a time when he was needed most.

Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929)

During the Weimar years, Stresemann became the leader of the German People’s Party . Stresemann struggled to maintain party support for the Republic despite the anti-democratic forces within the German People's Party.

Between 1923 and 1929, Stresemann served as Weimar Foreign Minister. He worked to create good relations between Germany and her neighbors, particularly France. Stresemann frequently spoke at the League of Nations. He also negotiated treaties to renounce war in favor of peaceful resolution of disputes. The Nazis considered Stresemann one of their principle enemies. Stresemann’s death in 1929 robbed the Weimar Republic of one of its greatest defenders.

Other information about Gustav Stresemann:

Gustav Stresemann was a German politician who led the German People’s Party during the Weimar period. Stresemann combined academic strengths with business smarts, writing a scholarly dissertation on the beer industry. He began his political life as a monarchist and during World War I, Stresemann was a strong supporter of aggressive German expansion. However, by the end of the war, Stresemann had become a convinced republican. He believed that disputes between nations should be settled via negotiation and diplomacy. During the Weimar years, Stresemann became the leader of the German People’s Party. As the leader of the DNVP, Stresemann struggled to maintain party support for the Republic despite the anti-democratic forces within the DNVP. Between 1923 and 1929, Stresemann served as Weimar Foreign Minister. He worked to create good relations between Germany and her neighbors, particularly France. Stresemann frequently spoke at the League of Nations. He also negotiated treaties to renounce war in favor of peaceful resolution of disputes. The Nazis considered Stresemann one of their principle enemies. Stresemann’s death in 1929 robbed the Weimar Republic of one of its greatest defenders.

Further Reading

Stresemann's papers, collected and screened by his former secretary, were translated and edited in slightly condensed form by Eric Sutton, Gustav Stresemann: His Diaries, Letters and Papers (3 vols., 1935-1940). Although there is no definitive biography of Stresemann, there are several fine, balanced studies. Henry L. Bretton, Stresemann and the Revision of Versailles (1953), emphasizes Stresemann as the skillful manipulator of peaceful diplomacy. Hans Gatzke, Stresemann and the Rearmament of Germany (1954), portrays him as an upright, great statesman and nationalist unabashedly two-faced about German armament. Stresemann's role in German politics is discussed in Henry A. Turner, Stresemann and the Politics of the Weimar Republic (1963). Marvin L. Edwards, Stresemann and the Greater Germany, 1914-1918 (1963), treats the war years. Of the many earlier, favorable accounts of the foreign minister as the "good European," two stand out: Rochus von Rheinbaben, Stresemann: The Man and the Statesman (1929), written with Stresemann's help, and Antonina Vallentin, Stresemann (trans. 1931). □

Holding Out for a Hero: Gustav Stresemann Survives

I read a while back that Britain proposed a cancelling of WWI intra-allied debts similar to that they did after the Napoleonic Wars. Partly this was because of the impact on the world economy and to cancel debts would revive world trade. Partly also possibly while Britain had the largest loans the bulk of those were to Russia which, with the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks looked highly unlikely to ever be repaid. However, think this was shortly after the end of the War and the US refused at the time.

Pity some agreement hadn't been worked out either then or in the early 20's as think it might have done a lot to revive world trade and possibly avoid, if not the depression then the worst effects and some of the dictators.

If it makes you feel better, there was plenty of such stuff to go around such as the French proposal to internationalize civilian aircraft, or the claim that submarines were a defensive weapon.

The entire conference seemed vaguely silly to me, so sorry if it seems like I'm picking on Britain.

Thanks. It was sounding rather like Britain was getting singled out and I was starting to feel rather ratty about it.

I think there was a lot of genuine concern to avoid war, coupled with the desire to cut spending given the depression and conventional economic thought at the time. However always been doubtful about most disarmament talks because generally the people willing to take steps weaken themselves compared to those who are less principled.

Also it is genuinely highly difficult with such matters because most weapons can be used either defensively or offensively. Even submarines were thought of initially as defensive weapons because of the limitations of the early versions and the view that they would only be used against military targets. However as we all know they changed character totally once they gained the capacity and will to be used against civilian targets. Similarly at sea mines can be a defensive measure to keep an enemy away from your coastline or an aggressive one to strangle their own shipping.


When Stresemann gained power, his most difficult problem was averting the real possibility of a Nazi-military putsch. Many in the Reichswehr either had Nazi sympathies, or had an intense dislike of the German Left. Having Stresemann as President was, therefore, obviously something they opposed.

As soon as Stresemann took office, he began his efforts to combat the Nazis and Communists and in doing so, avert the Civil War he feared. On apper, the Nazi position was strong. Three quarters of a million brownshirts and Steel Helmets stood on the right, and no one knew how the army would act. Yet democracy was not defenseless, and had its own paramilitary force: The Iron Front.

The Reichsbanner was formed in 1924 in a response to the right wing unrest of the 1920s as part of a campaign to defend the Republic. From its inception it had been supported by the SPD and, to a lesser extent, the DDP and Center Party, but in the second half of the 1920s the movement had withered as the Republic seemed stable, and fallen under the control of the Social Democrats. Faced with the threat posed by Hitler and the Communists, Stresemann led the DDVP, sometimes kicking and screaming, into support for the movement and revitalizing a pan-democratic paramilitary force. An unlikely association of supporters, ranging from Gustav Krupp to dockworkers in Hamburg, the disparate movement was united only by one ideal: Respect for the Republic and its institutions. [1] By the spring of 1932 the movement, known as the Iron Front, had almost half a million members.

Yet the Iron Front was not merely a wholesome movement dedicated to democracy. The Iron Front attempted to adopt the tactics of their enemies. For the Presidential election, the Social Democrats ordered all local groups to wear a party badge, use a clenched –first greeting, and shout “Freedom!” at appropriate moments. Iron Front’s use of a three arrow symbol (symbolizing an attack on the foes of Democracy) also illustrated yet another adoption of Nazi methods, as did its efforts to rally people around “their” leader, Stresemann. Compared to their foes on the left and the right, the Iron Front was still the guardian of democracy in Germany.

Nevertheless, no one wanted a civil war, and while the army might lend Stresemann its support, they would only do so if all alternatives were exhausted first, including a deal with the Nazis.

“Look, Herr President, the fact remains that the Nazis are among the largest parties in the Reichstag. You can’t keep them out of the government forever.” Von Schleicher leaned back in his chair and waited for Stresemann to speak.

“Is that your advice, or the advice of the Reichswehr?”

”We’re just concerned about the undemocratic nature of your regime.” Stresemann noticed that Von Schleicher managed to keep a straight face as he said that. “More to the point, we’re concerned that you’re pushing the Nazis into launching a putsch, and we don’t want to have to fight other Germans.”

Stresemann stared across the table, and thought for a moment. “You’re right.” He scribbled something on a notepad, to make it appear as if he was thinking. “I won’t offer Hitler a position. But we could make Strasser Minister of Transportation.”

Schleicher shrugged. “That’s all?”

“The Social Democrats still have a majority.” Stresemann thought for a moment. “Let’s offer Goering a position. Hitler would approve of that, wouldn’t he?”

The Rise of the National German Workers' Party

The National Socialist movement was on the verge of disarray in the second half of 1932. They had been decisively defeated in the Presidential election, although they gained seats in the Reichstag election of May. Yet new elections in October indicated that the Nazi Party had peaked, with the party only gaining 28% of the nation’s votes. As the economy improved, the situation would only worsen for the party. The Party was also riven by factional strife, as the Strasser brothers urged for the Nazis to join Stresemann’s “National Government”. Ernst Rohm, meanwhile, urged the use of the party’s hundreds of thousands of SA to seize the state by force. Thus Strasser and Röhm became allies n support of a national revolution.

The end of 1932 thus witnessed two strains in the party those urging a “national revolution, as exemplified by a joint Nazi-Communist strike in Berlin in opposition to Stresemann, and Hitler and Goering’s “conservative” faction. In this unstable situation, there was only one outcome.

Stresemann puffed a cigar and smiled as he read the paper. “So, Strasser and Rohm are forming the National Socialist German People’s Party, are they?” He quoted from the paper. “The rise of National Socialism is the protest of a people against a State that denies the right to work. If the machinery for distribution in the present economic system of the world is incapable of properly distributing the productive wealth of nations, then that system is false and must be altered. The important part of the present development is the anti-capitalist sentiment that is permeating our people.”

He chewed on the cigar looked out the window of the Reich Presidential Palace onto the courtyard. Rain fell against the windows, and the leaves had mostly fallen from the trees. No matter, really. Spring was just around the corner.

While Strasser and Rohm continued to pledge their loyalty to the ideals of the Nazis, their break led to widespread Fighting between the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and the National German Workers’ Party erupted across Germany. Stresemann retaliated by instituting the death penalty for any “political executions”, while the Communists gleefully predicted the collapse of the “Bourgeois Republic. Nevertheless, both the National German Socialist German Workers' Party and the National German Workers' Party were hit badly in the 1933 election, as middle class voters defected, afraid that both parties were reverting to their socialist roots. If they were to gain power, many believed it would be no or never.

Stresemann sighed as he finished a letter. “Herr Doctor Nebel,” he wrote, “I am, like you, concerned about the possible militarization of rocketry. The world does not need more ways to blow itself up!”

He paused and then continued. “Bon Bülow.once wrote that Germany wanted its place in the sun, but you would give us the stars themselves.” In case Nebel wasn’t persuaded, He added, “Nevertheless, if you do wish to work with the government, I am sure others would who are less pacifistically inclined. That being so, would it not be better if you led the research?”

Stresemann put the pen down, and shrugged. While he doubted that Nebel’s men would ever build rockets that reached the moon, it captivated the mind of many Germans, and he’d rather they think about that than war. In any case, the ability to lob tons of explosives at Warsaw using some means other than bombers could be useful. Putting his pen down, he yawned and picked up the phone. And then all hell broke loose.

Stresemann heard a series of sharp barks outside, which picked up and then died down quickly. Irritated, he picked up the phone. “What’s going on out there?”

“Herr President,” said the voice on the other end, “it would seem that the Brownshirts have launched a coup.”

Stresemann responded with an interesting string of curses, and said, “I didn’t think they’d have the brains for it. Alright, have you called the Reichswehr?”

”Ja, but their head office has been attacked too. Reinforcements are coming from outside the city, but.”

Stresemann sighed. “Okay, get ahold of the police and Reichsbanner.”

He hung up as an officer ran in. “Herr President, you must flee out a side entrance. There may still be time for you to escape.”

Stresemann stood in the hallway, and looked at the walls. The paintings were tacky, depicting Germany’s leaders in the romantic style he’d always found dull. Yet he still felt the eyes of Bismarck and Frederick the Great staring at him, and the weight of their presence.

“We’re not fleeing to Stuttgart again.[2] If Hitler wants to kill me, let him shoot me in the office where I have a right to sit.”

He blinked for a moment. “There aren’t any Askari around, are there?”

Stresemann shrugged. “No reason.”

In hindsight, the failure of the SA’s coup was ineveitable. Their inability to cut communications between Stresemann, holed up in the Presidential Palace, and the rest of Berlin ensured that the Reichswehr, Prussian Police [3], and Reichsbanner could subdue the uprising. Some members of the SA refused to rise up at all, still loyal to Hitler, who dithered long enough to lose any opportunity to act. This put Hitler in the unfortunate position of finally offering his support to Rohm only after most of Berlin had been secured, and it should come as no surprise that he ultimately fled to Austria. Martial law was declared across Germany, with an uneasy peace supported by some Steel Helmets, the Reichsbanner, the army, and others.

Meanwhile, the German economy lay in ruins only the government’s currency controls and closure of the stock market had prevented an economic disaster, and Stresemann’s vision of a national community was in disarray. It would be up to him to pick up the pieces.

[1] Krupp really didn’t like the Nazis until 1933, thinking they were a threat to business. So, given his support of Stresemann, I find this pretty reasonable.

[2] During the Kapp Putsch, the government fled to Baden.

[3] Who are Social Democrats, bless their hearts.

Lord Insane

Arctic warrior


I, um, I'm not getting what these guys have to do with anything.

Nevertheless, great update! I wonder how Stresemann will rebuild the German economy. has he met a certain Mr Keynes?

Lord Insane

Keith Robertsson

Askaris? von Lettow-Vorbeck reference?


This is a bad reference to my last TL, where Von Lettow made an appearance with Askari guards.


Ah, the Reichsbanner.
The unfallible German Wikipedia actually has their flag in the article.



Ah, the Reichsbanner.
The unfallible German Wikipedia actually has their flag in the article.

I won't lie it's not the most stirring of images.

Lord Insane


Possibly assuming too much sophistication but could it be meant to be that way? That their loyal to and supporting a Germany that metaphorically has been trampled underfoot?

Lord Insane

Possibly assuming too much sophistication but could it be meant to be that way? That their loyal to and supporting a Germany that metaphorically has been trampled underfoot?


But it has arrows! Which symbolise. uh. symbolic stuff.

Alright, it's not much good. But what were the flags of the Stahlhelm and the Communist paramilitaries? Let's compare them, then we'll see whose looks best!


Possibly assuming too much sophistication but could it be meant to be that way? That their loyal to and supporting a Germany that metaphorically has been trampled underfoot?


Hah, wouldn't be that hard too.

Anyway, sorry about the appearance of "Faeelinsman" I'm at the bf's, and didn't realize he was logged on.

Keith Robertsson

But it has arrows! Which symbolise. uh. symbolic stuff.

Alright, it's not much good. But what were the flags of the Stahlhelm and the Communist paramilitaries? Let's compare them, then we'll see whose looks best!


Building the National Community

DDVP poster from the 1930s. "Bread and work for the city and country against dictatorship from the Left and the Right."

The old Germany and the new ought not to be permanently opposed the Reichsbanner and the Stahlhelm should not for ever face each other as antagonists. Some means must be found of fusing the old and the new.-Gustav Stresemann, 1925​

Stresemann’s own political beliefs were badly shaken in the aftermath of the aborted SA coup. The Nazis and Communists gained millions of votes in local elections, and it seemed that over a decade after the Republic’s birth violence was still a political tool. What had gone wrong? Stresemann, like many others, sought to answer this problem. Unlike many thinkers, he thought democracy still had a future.

Ultimately, Stresemann blamed democracy’s failure on the legacy of Wilhelmine government. In the Imperial era, parties had been based around interest groups who sought favors from an authoritarian government, whereas the Weimar state was based on coalition building by parties with varying interests. Thus, the Bourgeois were divided in the Republic into a variety of special interests groups as there was no true middle class consensus unable to accomplish anything of import, many then turned to the extreme right.

Stresemann also noted which parties didn’t lose votes to the extremes: namely, the Socialists and the Center Party. The difference, in his opinion, was that they offered their members a secure place in a rapidly changing world. So too, he recognized, did the Nazis and Communists. The problem was in providing a place for the average German in a democratic society.

Meanwhile, Stresemann’s own beliefs changed during the early 1930s. He had always thought that the individual, although retaining personal and social freedom and the courage of responsibility, could live a full and meaningful life only as part of national community. Such a group depended as much on deep vital forces, "spiritual factors" as Stresemann put it, as much as on material or political factors. Instinct, culture, custom, and the "imponderables of the national soul" all contributed to the organic social community. The inclusion of all classes in the responsibility of state affairs, Stresemann argued, would infuse the idea of community with a sense of practical vitality. Stresemann, in short, imagined a welfare-oriented paternalism, where there would be cooperation between social units based not on mechanistic integration but on a spontaneous and sincere commitment to the national community. “[1] By 1933, however, Stresemann had decided the government must push for democracy, whether the people wanted it or not.

Among Stresemann’s contributions was the formation of a Republican youth movement. Germany had long had a variety of youth movements, and all the political parties attempted to recruit young people by providing them with their own organizations, such as the Bismarck Youth or the Windthorst League. The growing division among Germany’s youth was, in Stresemann’s view, a serious concern, and in 1931 he had discussed the possibility of a “united youth movement”, designed to inculcate Germany’s children with the values of the Republic. Although Stresemann had banned the Hitler Youth shortly after his election, he was aware of the potential, and 1934 witnessed the formation of the German Youth. Although it was never mandatory, pressure was put on parents financially to enroll their children in the program, which was to “inculcate the Children with German values and German traditions.”

The German Youth stressed charity (by using children to pressure adults into donating money to relief funds), the pride in Germany’s countryside (by sending children to work for farmers as cheap labor) and, ideally, the lessons of German history. There were problems, of course. Many of the leaders and coaches had profoundly conservative leanings, or failed to understand the material they taught. Far more successful were the various specialized organizations, in fields ranging from husbandry to aviation.

The German Youth was just one aspect of Stresemann’s vision of Germany’s future others, such as the formation of the German Broadcasting Corporation, was another. Perhaps the most controversial, however, was his thoughts about the restoration of the monarchy. Stresemann had mixed feelings about the Empire, recognizing the good as well as the bad. He recognized, however, the hold that the Emperor had over the minds of many in the middle class, who he thought had turned towards self-destructive nationalism. Stresemann was not averse to a restoration of the monarchy per se he had written to Prince August Wilhelm about restoring the monarchy in 1925. On the other hand, he has no desire to bring back Wilhelm, who he views as a doddering old fool and August Wilhelm is a bit too close to the far right for Stresemann’s taste. In any case, Wilhelm has told his children that there will be hell to pay if they take a throne, and talks about restoring the monarchy in 1933 are too premature it would look like a move of desperation. If only there was some other Hohenzollern. [2]

It is, however, worth remembering that there was no overarching plan, with much of Stresemann’s proposals driven the needs of the moment. Ultimately, it was not until 1936 that he could consider implementing any more serious reforms. For the survival of a National Community required ending the Depression.

Germany’s economic recovery began soon after the banking crisis of 1931. With the implementation of currency controls and a moratorium on reparations, Stresemann took advantage of the opportunity to create an inflationary money supply. The German government rapidly began putting unemployed workers to work on projects across Germany. The government built canals, power plants, schools, and even began construction on Germany’s now famous autobahns [3], financed through a variety of ingenious schemes. The effects of Stresemann’s programs were soon felt, and by the middle of 1933 unemployment had been reduced to three million [4], and by the beginning of 1936 was down to two million. More than anything else, it was Stresemann’s success at restoring the economy that brought his government success, and, ultimately support. Yet in the long run, how Stresemann combated the Depression was as important as his success at doing so, for his actions led to Germany’s world renowned auto industry and helped give birth to the computer revolution.

On June 3, September 1933, Stresemann turned the first sod on the first stretch of the Hamburg to Basel motorway, and by 1938 thousands of miles of roadways had been built, crisscrossing Germany like arteries . Built in a modernist style that Stresemann ironically hated, they symbolized the mastery of technology over nature, and, with the People’s Cars that began to dot the roads, the German people’s triumph over poverty. Stresemann also promoted car races and authorized tax cuts on car purchases, leading to the quadrupling of car production by 1935. [5]

Yet Stresemann also used tax cuts in other ways, notably to solve the unemployment problem among the graduates of Germany’s universities. [6] Afraid that the Depression would diminish interest in the sciences, he passed legislation giving companies tax cuts for hiring engineers and scientists coming out of Germany’s universities. While these are not solely responsible for the renaissance in German engineering in the latter half of the 1930s, with the discovery of the transistor and mass production of televisions, given the predominance of younger engineers in electronics, it is fair to say that Stresemann’s policy laid the foundation for much of Germany’s electronics industry. [7]

Yet there was one major failure in Streseman’s policy, and that was the agricultural sector. Stresemann was never comfortable amidst farmers the DVP had drawn its support from the great cities, from merchants in Hamburg and businessmen in Berlin, and he was unfamiliar with their conditions. Moreover, subsidizing German agriculture by promoting autarky would have risked a tariff war that threatened Germany’s foreign trade, as well as raising costs for urban consumers. Although Stresemann supported programs to give farmers low interest loans, cheap fertilizer, and cheap labor, agriculture failed to recover as rapidly as the rest of the German economy. Given this situation, it is no surprise that many in the countryside to vote for nationalist parties.

Stresemann also continued to irritate Germany’s industrialists with his support for the cornerstones of the Weimar state. The Republic’s social security network remained in place, as did its system of collective wage agreements, trade unions, and state arbitration in industrial disputes. Although many industrialists were satisfied with Stresemann’s handling of economic recovery, they thought he was too sympathetic to the unions. For Stresemann, however, supporting the cornerstone of democracy by ensuring that workers received a square deal wasn’t something that troubled him in the slightest.

Still, as 1936 dawned, Stresemann could look with satisfaction on what he had done. Stresemann had brought his nation out of the Depression and restored its place in European affairs, with many calling him the Second Bismarck. And like Bismarck, he recognized that there were some changes to be made to map of Europe.

[1] A real cool paper by Stephen G. Fritz, entitled The Search for Volksgemeinschaft: Gustav Stresemann and the Baden DVP, 1926-1930, covers this pretty well.

[2] And of course restoring Wilhelm is the perfect way to freak out the rest of Europe.

[3] Why not? If you’re going to go for public works, go for roads.The motorways had another purpose, of course, creating 125,000 jobs in construction alone by 1935.

[4] It was around 4 million at this point under the Nazis.

[6] As opposed to under the Nazis, where Germany’s education system became a disaster.

[7] Unfortunately, he also liked zeppelins. So I guess they hold out a bit longer.

Gustav Stresmann – Man Crush Monday!

 Professor Philip Nash explains his man-crush on Gustav Stresemann, the important German politician during the Weimar period. What do Stresemann’s career and his hopes for Germany tell us about the strengths that can be found in nationalism? And we engage in some “what if Stresemann had lived” speculation. Would we have seen the rise of Hitler? Episode #394

Jonathan Wright, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar’s Greatest Statesman

Gustav Stresemann was the exceptional political figure of his time. His early death in 1929 has long been viewed as the beginning of the end for the Weimar Republic and the opening through which Hitler was able to come to power. His career was marked by many contradictions but also a pervading loyalty to the values of liberalism and nationalism. This enabled him in time both to adjust to defeat and revolution and to recognize in the Republic the only basis on which Germans could unite, and in European cooperation the only way to avoid a new war. His attempt to build a stable Germany as an equal power in a stable Europe throws an important light on German history in a critical time. Hitler was the beneficiary of his failure but, so long as he was alive, Stresemann offered Germans a clear alternative to the Nazis. Jonathan Wright’s fascinating new study is the first modern biography of Stresemann to appear in English or German.

Stresemann and Weimar

Prophet of European unity or pre-Hitler nationalist bent on wiping out Germany's Versailles humiliation? Sixty years after his death, Jonathan Wright reassesses the career and motives of Germany's leading statesman of the 1920s.

Gustav Stresemann, who became foreign minister of the Weimar Republic in 1923 and remained in that office until his death in October 1929, is one of the most controversial of the German political leaders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He ranks, with Bismarck, Hitler, Adenauer and Brandt, as a figure who exerted a profound influence on Europe. From being a violent nationalist in the First World War, he became the leading statesman of the Weimar Republic. Together with the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand, and the British foreign secretary, Austen Chamberlain, he negotiated the Locarno Pact in 1925. This held out the promise of peace after the ravages of war and the turmoil of the immediate post-war period. Yet, over this achievement hangs a question mark. Was Stresemann's goal a peaceful Europe in which Germany was a reliable partner, or was his aim rather the step by step revival of Germany as a great power until it had regained a position of dominance?

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1 Oncken , Hermann , “Stresemann ah historische Gestalt,” Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung ( Berlin ), 10 6, 1929 Google Scholar . Oncken, the leading German political historian of his generation, was close to Stresemann's line of thought in many ways. He has been frequently misrepresented at home and abroad, especially in recent years. About his aims as an historian and scholar-politician see the articles of this writer, which are based on a long and close association: “Ein Historiker des Lebens: Hermann Oncken als nationaler und liberaler Politiker,” Preussische Jahrbücher, CCXVIII ( 1929 ), 162 – 181 Google Scholar , and “Hermann Oncken and the end of an era,” Journal of Modern History, XVIII ( 1946 ), 148 – 159 .Google Scholar

2 Löwenstein , Hubertus Prinz zu , Stresemann: Das Deutsche Schicksal im Spiegel seines Lebens ( Frankfurt , 1952 ), p. 9 .Google Scholar

3 Rheinbaben , Rochus von (Dresden, 1928 )Google Scholar . — Olden , Rudolf , Stresemann ( Berlin , 1929 )Google Scholar . — Bauer , Heinrich , Stresemann: Ein deutscher Staatsmann ( Berlin , 1930 )Google Scholar . — Vallentin , Antonina , Stresemann: Vom Werden einer Staatsidee . Second edition , with Nachwort by Henry Bernhard ( Munich-Leipzig , 1948 )Google Scholar . —See also Stern-Rubarth , Edgar , Stresemann der Europäer ( Berlin , 1930 )Google Scholar and the same author's personal memoir Three Men Tried: Austen Chamberlain, Stresemann, Briand and their fight for a new Enrobe (London, 1939 ).Google Scholar

4 Stresemann , Gustav , Vermächtnis: Der Nachlass im drei Bänden . ( Berlin , 1932 – 1933 ).Google Scholar

5 Personal telegram from Hoesch to Curtius, of February 17, 1930. Unpublished.

6 See Vermächtnis , Das , II , 553 – 555 Google Scholar . Consult also Olden , Rudolf , “Was Stresemann sincere?”, Contemporary Review ( London ), CXLVII ( 1935 ), 557 – 565 .Google Scholar

7 See Knight-Patterson , W. M. , Germany from defeat to conquest, 1913–1933 ( London , 1945 )Google Scholar Bieligk , K. F. , Stresemann: The German liberals' foreign policyGoogle Scholar (London, no date) Boas , George , “ Stresemann: Object lesson in post-war leadership ”, Public Opinion Quarterly , VIII ( 1944 ) 232 – 243 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , with the reply by this writer: “Stresemann: good European or unrepentant sinner?” in the same journal, IX ( 1945 ), 258 – 260 .Google Scholar

8 Görlitz , Walter , Gustav Stresemann ( Heidelberg , 1947 )Google Scholar . — Löwenstein , Hubertus Prinz zu , Stresemann: Das deutsche Schicksal im Spiegel seines Lebens ( Frankfurt , 1952 )Google Scholar

9 Dr. Thimme has given this writer an outline of her forthcoming book which will be published by the Bollwerk-Verlag, Offenbach am Main, in a new series of brief political biographies.

10 See, e.g., Schlottner , Erich Heinz , Stresemann der Kapp-Putsch und die Ereigmsse im Mitteldeutschland und in Bayern im Herbst 1923 ( Frankfurt , 1948 )Google Scholar

11 Curtius , Julius , Sechs Jahre Minister der deutschen Republik ( Heidelberg , 1948 )Google Scholar and his posthumously published study Der Young-Plan: Entstel-lung und Wahrheit (Stuttgart, 1950 )Google Scholar Radbruch , Gustav , Der innere Weg ( Stuttgart , 1951 )Google Scholar Schiffer , Eugen , Ein Leben für den Liberalismus ( Berlin , 1951 )Google Scholar Schreiber , Georg , Zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur: Persönliche Erinnerungen, 1919–1944 ( Münster , 1949 )Google Scholar Severing , Carl , Mein Lebensweg . 2 vols. ( Cologne , 1950 )Google Scholar . See also Stampfer , Friedrich , Die ersten vierzehn Jahre der deutschen Republik ( reissue Offenbach , 1947 )Google Scholar , which is still most useful for the understanding of the period. For William Sollmann, another leading social democratic supporter of Stresemann's foreign policy and a member of his cabinet, see this writer's recent articles: “Memories of William Sollmann,” American-German Review, XIX ( 1953 ), 14 – 16 Google Scholar , and “William Sollmann, wanderer between two worlds”, South Atlantic Quarterly LII ( 1953 ), 207 – 227 Google Scholar . The author owes much to Sollmann for his constant encouragement in his Stresemann studies. Neither the Memoirs of Franz von Papen (London, 1952) nor the fat volume by Meissner , Otto , Staatssekretär unter Ebert, Hindenburg, Hitler ( Hamburg , 1950 )Google Scholar add substantially to our picture of the Stresemann era there may be more of interest in the life story of Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, which has been announced for early publication. Former Chancellor Dr. Hans Luther told this writer in great detail about his relations wtih Stresemann see his printed address Vor 25 Jahren war Locarno—was ist heute? given before the Amerika-Gesellschaft, Hamburg, on 12 5, 1950 .Google Scholar

12 Dirksen , Herbert von , Moskau, Tokio, London: Erinnerungen und Betrachtungen zu zwanzig Jahren deutscher Aussenpolitik, 1919–1939 ( Stuttgart , 1950 )Google Scholar Kordt , Erich , Nicht aus den Akten ( Stuttgart , 1950 Google Scholar Prittwitz , Friedrich von und Gaffron , , Zwischen Petersburg und Washington: Ein Diplomatenleben ( Munich , 1952 )Google Scholar Schmidt , Paul , Statist auf diplomatischer Bühne, 1923–1945 ( Bonn , 1949 )Google Scholar Weizäcker , Ernst von , Erinnerungen ( Munich , 1950 )Google Scholar . Three books published in this country are indispensable for an understanding of the international situation in the Stresemann era: Craig , Gordon and Gilbert , Felix (editors), The Diplomats, 1919–1939 ( Princeton , 1953 )Google Scholar Holborn , Hajo , The political collapse of Europe ( New York , 1951 )Google Scholar and Neumann , Sigmund , The future in perspective ( New York , 1946 ).Google Scholar

13 The list of these names is far too long to be given here, but at least the unfailing helpfulness of Konsul Henry Bernhard should be grate-fully acknowledged.

14 See especially his articles “The Portent of Stresemann”, Commonweal, XLI , ( 1945 ) 486 – 489 Google Scholar , “Locarno: twenty-five years after”, Contemporary Review (London), CLXXVIII ( 1950 ), 279 – 285 Google Scholar , and “Adenauer and Stresemann compared”, New York Herald Tribune, 04 10, 1953 Google Scholar . The present article incorporates also some points raised by the author in a lecture on Stresemann given at the University of Heidelberg in July 1949 and passages from a paper read at the Boston meeting of the American Historical Association in December 1949.

15 Stresemann , Gustav , “ Politische Umschau ”, Deutsche Stimmen , XXXIV ( 1922 ), 421 – 427 Google Scholar . See also the most recent presentation of Rathenau's ideas by Kollman , Eric C. , “ Walter Rathenau and German foreign policy ”, Journal of Modern History , XXIV ( 1952 ), 127 – 142 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar

16 See Schiffer , Eugen , Ein Leben für den Liberalismus, p. 112 Google Scholar . Schiffer gave a similar account of the incident in a statement for this writer.

17 Unpublished the exact date when Stresemann wrote the poem, could not be ascertained.

18 See Oncken , Hermann , Rudolf von Benningsen . 2 vols. ( Stuttgart 1910 )Google Scholar . This is the only major contribution to the history of the national liberal party.

19 Example, in his Reden und Schriften, (Dresden, 1926 ), vol I , p. 140 – 163 Google Scholar and in his introduction to Eschenburg , Theodor , Das Kaiserreich am Scheidewege ( Berlin , 1929 ).Google Scholar

The Stresemann years

Gustav Stresemann, who served briefly as chancellor and then as foreign minister for most of the 1920s, was one of the Weimar Republic’s most effective statesman. Unlike many Weimar politicians, Stresemann demonstrated a thoughtful pragmatism, a passionate but rational nationalism and a capacity for getting things done. These qualities helped Germany endure the rocky political and economic waters of the 1920s.

Stresemann’s premature death in 1929 robbed Weimar Germany of one of its few political leaders not mired in self-interest, partisanship or extremism. His demise removed one of the republic’s few obstacles to chaos, dictatorship and totalitarianism.


Stresemann entered politics as a National Liberal Party candidate in Saxony. In 1907, he became the youngest member of the Reichstag, aged 28. By 1917, Stresemann’s political talents had propelled him to the party leadership.

At this point in his career, there was little to differentiate Stresemann from several other nationalist politicians. He was a fervent monarchist and nationalist and was firmly committed to the war effort.

When the National Liberal Party began to dissolve in 1918, Stresemann joined the newly formed German Democratic Party (DDP). His nationalist views placed Stresemann in the right-wing of the liberal-centrist DDP and he soon became disenchanted with the party’s program.

The German People’s Party

By early 1919, Stresemann and several colleagues had abandoned the DDP and formed their own party, the Deutsche Volkspartei (DVP, or German People’s Party).

In April, he explained his vision for the DVP: “We are on course to become the old ‘middle party’ which is indispensable to the life of the state”.

The Treaty of Versailles heightened Stresemann’s nationalism. He cursed the treaty as a “moral, political and economic death sentence” for Germany and labelled the League of Nations “a farce, an American-English world cartel for the exploitation of other nations”. He also condemned politicians like Ebert for believing the “foolish dreams” about Germany being treated fairly by the Allies.

Through mid-1919, Stresemann lobbied against the Reichstag’s ratification of the Versailles treaty (it was passed 237 votes to 138). In August 1919, Stresemann reasserted the nationalist view that Germany must work to restore her strength:

“We are united that we must again attain a respected position in the world, and this goal can only be achieved by strong leadership. We will not be deceived by talk of a ‘League of Nations’. Already we see the triple alliance of Britain, America and France… what is this except a return to the old system. Our views have already been proved more right than even we anticipated. There will be powerful alliances again in the future, and the task for us is to become alliance-worthy again.”

A shift in views

In the early 1920s, Stresemann’s nationalism began to dilute and his politics shifted towards the centre.

Historians have pondered the reasons for this change. Some suggest Germany’s economic turmoil in 1922-23 convinced Stresemann that recovery was impossible without international co-operation.

Stresemann was certainly disillusioned by the militant nature of German nationalist movements. He thought that reform rather than revolution was the best way to secure Germany’s future.

Stresemann disapproved of both the failed Kapp putsch (1920) and the NSDAP’s Munich putsch (1923). He was also alarmed by right-wing political violence, especially the assassinations of Matthias Erzberger (1921) and Walther Rathenau (1922). Though Stresemann had his share of disagreements with both men, their murders appalled him.

Chancellor Stresemann

By 1922, Stresemann was working more closely with moderate and left-wing members of the Reichstag. In August 1923, chancellor Wilhelm Cuno was forced from office and Stresemann was invited to replace him, leading probably the broadest coalition government of the Weimar period.

The ongoing occupation of the Ruhr, spiralling hyperinflation and the weakness of Stresemann’s coalition doomed his government to inevitable collapse. He did not shy away from difficult decisions, however, calling a halt to ‘passive resistance’ in the Ruhr and giving the Allies a commitment to restoring Germany’s reparations instalments.

This did not mean Stresemann had changed his view of Versailles: he still loathed it and hoped for a revision of its strict terms. But he believed the best way to facilitate this was to abide by the treaty and begin negotiations with the Allies in good faith.

Rising unpopularity

These measures were ultimately successful but they made Stresemann unpopular across the political spectrum.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD), the architect of ‘passive resistance’ in the Ruhr, opposed Stresemann’s cancellation of it.

The SPD would eventually withdraw from the Stresemann coalition. This forced Stresemann’s resignation as chancellor on October 3rd, though Ebert had little option but to reappoint him two days later, this time with a much thinner coalition.

Nationalists were also incensed by Stresemann’s preparedness to co-operate with the Allies. On October 21st, separatists in the Rhineland – who considered the Weimar regime spineless and incapable of protecting their interests – attempted to establish their own republic. The Rhenish Republic, as it was known, collapsed after just a month.

The government collapses

This separatism in the Rhineland was followed a fortnight later by an ambitious attempt to seize control of the Bavarian government. Initiated by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists (NSDAP) in a Munich beer hall, the putsch was crushed in under two days.

Though both putsches were unsuccessful, they cast a shadow over Stresemann’s cabinet. Stresemann himself chose not to take strong action. He had low regard for political fringe groups like the NSDAP and considered their putsch a relatively minor incident.

Others in the Reichstag, however, were more concerned about the increase in ultra-nationalist activity under Stresemann’s watch. By late November, the chancellor was facing a no-confidence vote in the assembly. He resigned the chancellorship on October 23rd, this time for good.

Foreign minister

Though no longer chancellor, Stresemann remained as foreign minister in the newly formed government of Wilhelm Marx. He would hold this office for more than six years under three different chancellors.

Stresemann continued his political pragmatism as foreign minister. He contributed to the Dawes Plan to renegotiate Germany’s reparations debt, forged reconnections with Germany’s European neighbours, restored diplomatic ties and sought international support.

In August 1928, Stresemann’s work was interrupted by a small stroke, suffered during a party meeting. He took no time off but while his mind remained keen, Stresemann’s essential skills – reading and writing – were noticeably affected.

Death and global reaction

Gustav Stresemann died in October 1929, aged 51, after another much larger stroke. The European press hailed him as a hero, a man befitting the ‘new Germany’. The London Times wrote that he saw “co-operation as the only escape from chaos [and] did inestimable service to the German Republic. His work for Europe as a whole was almost as great”.

A historian’s view:
“With the possible exception of Aristide Briand, no figure since the war has so dominated European affairs as did Herr Stresemann and no statesman has shown so unwavering a devotion to what he conceived to be the right course for his country. By a fortunate coincidence, it was also the right course for the world. Herr Stresemann may be said to have been the first of the Europeans.”
J. Wheeler-Bennett

1. Gustav Stresemann began his career as a right-wing nationalist politician. He supported the monarchy, detested the new republic and despised the Versailles treaty.

2. As the leader of the German People’s Party or DVP, Stresemann’s position moderated in the early 1920s. He adopted a pragmatic position and opposed political extremism.

3. Stresemann served as German chancellor briefly in 1923, ending passive resistance to the Ruhr occupation before his coalition collapsed and he was replaced by Wilhelm Marx.

4. As foreign minister, Stresemann worked to rebuild good relationships with Germany’s European neighbours, renegotiate her reparations obligations and revise the Versailles treaty.

5. Stresemann’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy was largely responsible for Germany’s re-entry into the community of nations. It helped to finalise the Dawes Plan, secure foreign loans and negotiate several treaties and agreements.

Citation information
Title: “The Stresemann years”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: September 28, 2019
Date accessed: Today’s date
Copyright: The content on this page may not be republished without our express permission. For more information on usage, please refer to our Terms of Use.

Stresemann, Gustav

Although Stresemann knew of efforts by Hans von Seeckt to evade the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, he won the confidence of the Allies. He ended (1923) the passive resistance in the Ruhr district against French and Belgian occupation and obtained the evacuation of the Ruhr in 1924 he accepted the Dawes Plan (1924) and the Young Plan (1929) for reparations he raised the hope for peace by his part in the Locarno Pact (1925) he renewed (1926) the Rapallo treaty with the USSR and he had Germany admitted (1926) into the League of Nations with the rank of a great power. His harmonious relation with France's Aristide Briand became one of personal friendship. In 1928, Stresemann signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Soon after obtaining his last success, the evacuation of the Rhineland, Stresemann died of the consequences of overwork. His death was, prophetically, considered a calamity by all but the extremist elements in Germany. Stresemann shared the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize with Briand.

See his Essays and Speeches (tr. 1930, repr. 1968) E. Sutton, ed., Gustav Stresemann: His Diaries, Letters, and Papers (3 vol., 1935–40) biography by J. Wright (2003) studies by H. L. Bretton (1953), H. A. Turner (1963), D. Warren (1964), F. E. Hirsch (1964), and C. M. Kimmich (1968).

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