By SARTHAK GARELLA, London, United Kingdom
Stresemann was a politician of the Weimar republic after Ebert. When Stresemann came into power, Germany was still under the influence of the effects of the treaty of Versailles. Germany was in economic peril, owing 6600 million pounds to the victors of the First World War, militarily crippled as the armed forces were reduced to only 100,000 men and no battleships, no armored vehicles and no aircraft or submarines as well as no troops in the Rhineland. The war guilt clause, article 231, also left Germany hating the allies and the treaty of Versailles as they thought it was unfair. Stresemann entered Germany when it was in a state of peril, however, one could argue that his successes outweighed his limitations and he was very significant in the recovery of Germany after 1923 until his death in 1929.
When Stresemann came into power, there was a major financial problem in Germany; Hyperinflation. This was caused by Ebert who printed more money than they had gold in the reserves. This led to the Reich mark becoming almost worthless in comparison to the dollar or pound over a very short period of time. Stresemann solved this major issue by introducing a new currency which solved this problem. This new currency was called the Rentenmark. This helped with Germany’s recovery as the Rentenmark helped increase production levels and therefore increased the economy and GDP of Germany. The increased economy meant that Germans had more money to spend and this helped with the recovery of Germany.
In 1924, Stresemann negotiated the Dawes plan, which reduced the amount of reparations that they had to pay as stated by the treaty of Versailles. The new figure was 132 million marks. This was to be paid under allied supervision and showed the people of Germany that he was addressing the issues at hand. The Dawes plan helped Germany’s recovery as they now had to give less of the money that they had made to the allies, and now could use it to improve the economy or the standard of living in Germany.
In 1925, Stresemann signed the Locarno treaties, in which Germany voluntarily accepted its western boarders, however did not accept its eastern ones. This allowed France to feel safe and now Germany could focus on its own growth. The Locarno treaties also renounced the use of force to solve international matters. The Locarno treaties improved international relations and got Germany into the League of Nations as an important member, therefore Stresemann signing the Locarno treaties was very significant to Germany’s recovery as it improved its international relations with her neighbours, got her the chance to be at the center of international politics and decisions and let her focus on her own land instead of worrying about land that was lost in the First World War.
Peace was the way forward in the “golden twenties”. In 1928, Stresemann signed the kellog-briand pact which was created in order to try and solve all problems peacefully instead of taking the path of violence. This was contrary to the secret re-armament that was occurring in Germany however it showed the allies that Germany were willing to co-exist peacefully with her neighbours and allowed them to recover their relations with other countries and Stresemann helped by improving Germany’s foreign affairs.
By calling of passive resistance (the French and Belgian troops left the Ruhr), a tactic that was created by Ebert and cost 100 lives and the resettlement of 150000 people, Stresemann got France to give Germany the Ruhr back which was occupied by France in 1923 after Germany fell behind on reparations payments in 1922. This was very good as the area of the Ruhr was a significant contributor to the German economy and would significantly help speed up the economic recovery of Germany. The speeding up of Germany’s economic recovery was due to Stresemann getting the Ruhr back under German control.
In 1929, Stresemann created the young plan to further reduce reparations. The new total was 37 million marks to be paid over the course of 58 years with no allied supervision. This showed that Stresemann had gained the trust of the allies and having the allies supporting Germany could really help speed up the recovery of Germany after 1923. This meant that Stresemann had helped recover international relations with Germany’s neighbours.
While Stresemann was chancellor, social and cultural parts of Germany flourished with over 900 dance clubs in berlin alone and the Bauhaus architecture project receiving over 15000 visitors. While some people may have considered the new forms of entertainment vulgar and crude, some others saw this as a fantastic opportunity to bring people together and share one common interest. This recovered the social involvement of people in Germany and helped recover Germany as a whole as people were happier overall with the new changes.
In 1926, Germany joined the League of Nations as an important member with the ability to veto decisions. Stresemann used this to get his views and popular German views across on a national and international scale. This increased confidence in businesses and they were more likely to invest in Germany and therefore improve the GDP and economy, helping with the recovery of Germany after 1923. Also, this granted Germany greater acceptance from other countries, a success on the foreign policy front and helped Stresemann recover Germany.
On the other hand, Stresemann did not please the socialists and the communists by signing the Locarno treaties. Socialists thought that he was accepting the treaty of Versailles by signing these treaties by accepting territorial terms and he was not well likes for it. Communists however, thought that the Locarno treaties were a secret plot to destroy communism, especially in Russia. One could say that the Locarno treaties were a success as they allowed Germany into the League of Nations where Stresemann could voice his opinions on an international scale and therefore were more important than the unhappiness of some people in Germany.
In the treaty of Versailles, Germany’s armed forces were greatly reduced and this damaged national pride. Stresemann did not openly re arm Germany and this made them a weak target and in the League of Nations which they had joined in 1926, they could not take part in military action as their armed forces were too small. When the armed forces were cut from 1 million to 100000, around 900000 people lost their jobs to build the economy after world war one more jobs would have to be created. Stresemann, however, did not create any jobs especially for those who had been in the military, and therefore couldn’t recover Germany completely. Unemployment was a major area where Stresemann failed as he did not find jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people who were left without a job after the First World War. Germany could not recover if a large percent of is population was unemployed and therefore by not helping the unemployed, he slowed down the time it took for Germany to recover socially as well as financially (less people working meant that less money was made, thus a worse recovery of Germany after 1923).
The Dawes and young plan that were devised incorporated loans from the USA, however the money could be withdrawn at any time, leaving Germany economically crippled again. This is exactly what happened in the great depression and people found out that the risk was greater than the reward. Stresemann could not foresee the impending crash of the Wall Street leading to a knock on effect all around the world. As the Wall Street crashed in America, they frantically called back the loans they had lent to Germany, but Germany could not pay leading to them being in a lot of debt in the Great depression. This recovered Germany in the short term, however in the long term, the money that was loaned from the USA has catastrophic results on the German economy further down the line.
The pact that Stresemann made with Russia distanced him from them as they thought that he was going to be Russia’s ally. As Germany did not re-arm openly, towards the end of Stresemann’s life, Germany re-armed secretly in order to build up their resistance to an attack.
When there was free speech, people in the cities became more distanced from people in the countryside. One of the min groups that opposed these new changes was the Wandervogul. They believed that the new changes destroyed traditional family values and were destroying traditions that had lasted for generations. This was a strong feeling that was taken advantage of by the Nazi party when they came into power later on. These groups usually thought that Stresemann’s policy of free speech was morally wrong and the Wandervogul thought that the new changes that were made did not help recover Germany at all.
After world war one, 2 million children were left fatherless and there were 600000 widows, meaning that there was no trade for the children to continue (as they usually carry on their fathers’ trade). Stresemann did not combat this major issue and a lot of people lost their livelihoods due to this mistake. This meant that they had no job prospects and they could not contribute to the German economy and raise the GDP. Stresemann, by ignoring these issues, he slowed the recovery of Germany, especially socially and economically after 1923.
The political system of the Weimar republic had a major flaw; proportional representation. This meant that no party could get into power with a majority meaning that there would be a lot of arguments on what to do meaning that next to nothing would actually be accomplished. The government was made up of coalition parties, but having one party could greatly speed up the recovery of Germany. This was because coalition parties had no stability and the parties were often vastly different to each other. Some people thought that a strong lead figure was required to make that hard decisions quickly and act upon them so actual progress was made. Stresemann’s government type did not do this and deliberated at length to make a decision as the whole Weimar republic had to vote. Overall, one could argue that Germany was not ready for the democratic government that was trust upon it by the terms of the treaty of Versailles and Stresemann’s government did not speed up or aid Germany’s recovery after 1923.
To conclude, one could argue that Stresemann was very significant in the recovery of Germany after 1923 as he solved to a great extent the problem of reparations (created by the treaty of Versailles), the problem of hyperinflation (created by Freidrich Ebert). He signed the Locarno treaties to deal with territorial issues and peace issues were solved by signing the kellog-briand pact. However, some could say that he experienced limited success in employment, social and even military issues to some extent. Stresemann himself blamed the allies for his failures saying that if the allies had even agreed to one of his proposals, then he would have been able to get the support of the German public, a lot more would have been accomplished and he would have been more significant in the recovery of Germany after 1923. He also said that the future of Germany depended on its youth. The same youth who were resentful of Germany’s loss in the First World War and outraged at the amount of reparations that they had to pay. The youth had not been given a lot of opportunities and they were resentful and angry at previous events, were not very promising for Germany’s recovery. Taking all of the evidence into account, one could argue that Stresemann’s successes outweighed his limitations and he was very significant to the recovery of Germany after 1923. If Stresemann was not there, the fat of Germany during the golden twenties may not have been so golden at all, but from what is known, one could say that Stresemann was a vital and significant part of Germany’s road to recovery after 1923.
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