Treaty of Versailles, 1919

Political Disorder: The Weimar Republic and Revolt 1918-23

International Agreements

Stresemann Era, 1923-29

The Rise of the Nazi Party, 1933

Hitler's Foreign Policy and Appeasment

The Holocaust


Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929)

Gustav Stresemann is the man credited for Germany’s golden years in the 1920s. He was Chancellor of Germany for 100 days in 1923 and then from foreign minister till 1929, the year of his death. During this time he was able to end the workers strike resistance in the Ruhr Valley and managed to put the hyperinflation into check, stabilizing the currency situation. After multiple revolts Stresemann was able to bring peace and stability to Germany.  Stresemann believed that Germany’s economic problems could be solved through negotiation. As a result, he was able to work with Charles Dawes, an American banker to create the Dawes Plan of 1924, which subsequently eased the reparations pressure on the Weimar Republic.  This plan also stimulated the German economy to bring about prosperity. In the months before his death Stresemann was in the process of negotiating the Young Plan. Stresemann was also a key figure in the Locarno treaties, for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize along with the other leaders from Europe such as Briand. Moreover, when Stresemann is considered to be responsible for Germany’s entry into the League of Nations in 1926.  However, this prosperity was short lived as it came to an abrupt end with the Wall Street and subsequent Depression. Thus, right wing and extremist views that were dissatisfied with Stresemann’s actions could no longer be silenced.


The Wall Street Crash and the Depression, 1929

On October 29, 1929, the stock market on Wall Street Collapsed. This triggered a chain reaction all over the world. Germany was badly affected being as she had prospered with American loans. Now that those loans were being recalled, the German economy collapsed. This time it was worse than the situation in 1923 as there was no prospect of outside help. As banks collapsed, the savings of many Germans were wiped out. Employment was rampant. It was at this time that people turned to Nazis and Communists as their extremist views only seemed to provide a suitable answer. The chaos that ensued involved the collapse of the coalition in the government that had been successful in the Stresemann era. Additionally, Chancellor Brunning’s policy of cutting government expenditure further exacerbated the situation.



Comparisons to today

Thus, we can conclude that at this time German reliance on the USA was a bad idea. If Germany had not taken loans from America, Germany would’ve still been hit by the depression, perhaps not as severly though. But this is a debatable topic that need not be discussed.  The relevance about Germany relying on America and then suffering because of it is contemporary implications for countries that currently take aid from the USA. Being dependent on the USA is clearly not healthy. However, at the same time in the recent recession no country has suffered the way Germany in the Depression because of its reliance on the American economy. This may not necessarily be because there was an improvement in the system. It may be a matter of statistics. The USA had unemployment at 25% after the Depression hit, where as when the recession hit the unemployment rate was 10%.  However, the situation of aid may not be much better than it was in the 1920s as the USA is still stuck in the Cold War system of giving aid – aid given to keep countries pro-capitalist. As a result, the International Rescue Committee has urged the USA to restructure the foreign assistance system. After all, if there the aid system was not built with an actual focus to help the countries receiving aid or to ensure that the USA is not stretching itself, what guarantee is there that if another economic crisis occurs that countries dependent on the USA will remain economically stable?

Another dimension for aid in general is how people don’t like outside help.  It seems to be a pattern. The Germans didn’t like receiving aid from the USA and this was confirmed by the Depression. Today, the Irish people are unhappy with the political party in power accepting EU aid, as it seems like they are giving up their sovereignty. Clearly, the nation state ideology is still strong even centuries after its rise to prominence. The most ironic part of the Irish situation is that the Political Party accepting EU aid, a significant portion of which comes from Britain, was the party that got independence from Britain. Now the Irish left wing party is becoming a popular. This was the same party that was linked to a guerilla group of the Irish Republican Army. Prime Minister Brian Cown is losing his majority support. Just like in Weimar Germany in desperate times people are turning to more extreme views. When Ireland joined the EU, some people were critical saying that this was a loss of sovereignty. In the same way, according to Dr.Kimmich Germans too felt that they lost their freedom when in 1926 they entered the League of Nations, an organization created by the hated Treaty of Versailles. But the difference here is that Germany did not receive aid from the League, Germany was financially assisted by the USA, a country that was not a member of the League. Another way to look at this comparison between the League and the EU is that the League did not have an army and therefore lacked teeth to have successful endeavors in International affairs or be involved in the US foreign assistance program to Germany.  Will the EU be successful, considering it has no army? Perhaps this was the reason why German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed the creation of a EU army. But this was opposed by Britain, which did not want something that competes with NATO. Note, Britain has a selfish interest in mind just like it did when it was the leader of the League of Nations and lacked dedication due to a focus on internal affairs.  As to whether the EU will be able to help Ireland recover, I believe it will because the EU does not have the structural weaknesses that the League had and in all of this comparison one most note the many significant differences especially the fact that Ireland does not have a hostile history with the rest of Europe (to the magnitude of being enemies in a World War).

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