Germany's international position, 1924-28


Gustav Stresemann and the policy of fulfilment

  • All Germans agreed that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust and it placed millions of Germans outside the territory of the Republic – foreign policy was based on trying to revise the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. 
  • The parties disagreed on how this should be done – the nationalist right argued to reject its terms. 
  • A more pragmatic approach was taken by Stresemann – the policy of fulfilment. 
  • Germany would cooperate with France, Great Britain, the USA and Italy on issues like reparations payments and allied occupation forces on German territory. 
  • This cooperation would lead to more revision of the Treaty of Versailles. 
  • Gustav Stresemann was responsible for ending passive resistance to the French occupation of the Ruhr and cooperating with the Allies over the Dawes Plan – caused French and Belgian forces to leave the Ruhr in 1925. 
  • France were still suspicious of Germany, so Stresemann concentrated on finding ways of reassuring France of Germany’s peaceful intentions – caused the Locarno Pact. 
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The Locarno Pact, October 1925

  • The Western European powers met, at Germany’s suggestion, at a conference in the Swiss city of Locarno i.e. the USA, Britain, France and Italy, but not Russia. 
  • Discussions led to the Rhineland Pact and Arbitration Treaties, known collectively as the Locarno Pact. They were finally signed in London on 1 December 1925. 
  • Under the Rhineland Pact, it was agreed that: 
    • Germany, France and Belgium would honour the western frontier. 
    • Germany would keep its troops out of the Rhineland. 
    • Britain and Italy would help Germany, France or Belgium if any were attacked by their neighbours. 
  • Under the Arbitration Treaties, it was agreed that: 
    • Any dispute between Germany, France, Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia would be settled by a conciliation committee. 
    • France signed treaties of ‘mutual guarantee’ with Poland and Czechoslovakia – France would make sure that Germany didn’t break the agreement above. 
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The Locarno Pact, October 1925

  • It was hailed as a major triumph: it was the first time Germany had recognised the western border in the Treaty of Versailles and accepted the loss of territories; France was guaranteed British support if there was another German attack; for Germany, the Ruhr occupation would never be repeated.  
  • The French agreed to withdraw forces from the Rhineland and this was done over the next five years. 
  • Although, the eastern borders were not recognised in the same way – Germany could revise the eastern borders in the future. 
  • Stresemann saw the Locarno Pact as his greatest achievement – he was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. He had established Germany’s position as equal to that of France, Britain and the USA in diplomatic negotiations. 
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Relations with the USSR

  • There were similarities between Germany and Russia in the post-war situation of each country in that both felt that Poland, which was supported by France, was a threat to their security and both were treated as ‘outcasts by the Allies and couldn’t join the League of Nations. 
  • Therefore, some in Germany wanted a closer working relationship with the USSR – Walther Rathenau negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo (April 1922) with Russia: 
    • Germany and Russia resumed trade and economic cooperation 
    • Diplomatic relations were restored 
    • All claims for war compensation were dropped 
    • Germany could develop new weapons and train pilots in Russia 
  • The treaty didn’t specify cooperation between Germany and Russia against Poland but this was implied. 
  • For Germany, the Treaty of Rapallo was an important symbolic step away from its post-war isolation. 
  • The treaty angered the Allies, particularly France – it showed Germany’s intention to get around the Treaty of Versailles’ disarmament terms and its refusal to accept the eastern frontier with Poland.
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Relations with the USSR

The Treaty of Berlin, April 1926

  • The renewal of their earlier treaty with the USSR.  
  • This added very little to the original treaty apart from that Germany would remain neutral if the USSR became involved in a war, if the USSR was not the aggressor. 
  • Was signed a year after the Locarno Pact and showed that despite Stresemann’s agreement to guarantee Germany’s western borders, he still wanted a revision of Germany’s eastern borders. The USSR would resist any border changes it didn’t agree with so a good relationship with the USSR was important. 
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The extent of disarmament

  • Disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles meant that Germany’s army was limited to 100,000 men, it couldn’t have an air force and its navy couldn’t have submarines or battleships.  
  • Germany tried to find ways to get around these clauses: 
    • The Treaty of Rapallo with the USSR 
    • Germany had similar arrangements with other countries e.g. Germany could build submarines in Spain and tanks and artillery in Sweden 
  • This secret rearmament didn’t provide Germany with a fully operational air force or the army with lots of modern weapons, but it ensured that Germany didn’t fall behind other powers in technological developments. 
  • The Chief of the Army General von Seeckt found other ways of getting around the size of the army. 
    • Most recruits to the army were only enlisted for short periods and would receive intensive military training, so there was a reserve of highly trained men.  
    • The army sponsored some paramilitary groups which could be a potential military reserve. 
  • General von Seeckt worked towards a military alliance with the USSR (with the aim of destroying Poland). Many of these agreements were kept secret from politicians, but Rathenau and Stresemann negotiated the treaties of Rapallo and Berlin which formalised Germany and the USSR’s relationship – they chose to turn a blind eye to their military cooperation. Secret rearmament was driven by army commanders but approved by politicians. 
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The extent of disarmament

Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928

  • France and the USA drew up this international agreement in which states who signed would be renouncing the use of wars to resolve disputes. 
  • Germany was one of the first states to sign. 
  • The Pact was symbolically important as an international agreement to avoid war but it was not really enforced. 
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The end of allied occupation

  • Stresemann’s policy of fulfilment secured this by 1930. 
  • France were the most reluctant of all the allied powers to remove occupying forces. 
  • Therefore, the withdrawal of forces was a step-by-step process. 
  • The Dawes Plan and Locarno Pact showed that Germany was willing to compromise – forces were withdrawn from Zone 1 of the Rhineland and the Inter-Allied Control Commission (IMCC) was withdrawn in 1926. 
  • Further progress depended on settling the reparations issue. 
  • Once the Young Plan was agreed in 1929, remaining allied forces could be withdrawn – they were withdrawn from Zone 2 in 1929 and Zone 3 in 1930.  
  • This was five years ahead of what the Treaty of Versailles had set out and was largely due to Stresemann’s policies. 
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  • Stresemann was an able politician and skilful and influential diplomat. 
  • His long-term aim was a revision of the Treaty of Versailles. He had been an outspoken nationalist during the war and he wanted to make Germany a great power once more. It could be argued that his policy of fulfilment was just a devious policy. His policies provided Germany with more than it gave up – it gained American money, protection from a French invasion and hopes of revising its eastern borders. He had secret military arrangements with the USSR.
  • But, this judgement may be too harsh. Stresemann chose to negotiate and compromise with the western powers. He never saw the Russian alliance as a substitute for good relations with the western powers. The historian William Carr describes Stresemann as one of the ‘few really outstanding political figures of the Weimar period’.  
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