Was the work of Gustav Stresemann the main reason for the Weimar government’s ability to overcome the challenges it faced during 1919 to 1929?
Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor of Germany during a period of widespread instability within the country. Described as ‘Weimar Germany’s Greatest Statesman’ by British historian Jonathan Wright, Stresemann’s diplomatic leadership amongst his effective management of the German economy have undoubtedly had a profound influence in the state of the country. In October 1926 he was awarded the highly prestigious Nobel peace prize – illustrating that his influence had reverberated throughout the entire world. It is therefore of no surprise that many will perceive him as a savior of Germany; a vital factor to the country’s growth and success in the 1920s. Many will also view him as a significant contributor to the country’s ability to overcome the major challenges it had been confronted with at the time. But to determine whether Stresemann’s efforts to improve the status of Weimar Germany were the main reason for the government’s ability to subdue the many obstacles they faced, one must explore three principal questions:
. What challenges were faced by the government?
2. Which of these challenges were overcome and in what ways?
3. To what extent had Germany recovered from these challenges?
A fundamental challenge faced by the Weimar government was the highly conservative nature of the German political culture. Following the establishment of the Weimar Republic, there was a prevailing sentiment of suspicion towards democracy. People were accustomed to the traditional forms of government – this new system was based on discussion and elections, which in a way made it appear more weak and indecisive to many. This negative outlook towards democracy was definitely exacerbated by the imposition of the Treaty of Versailles. From the very outset, the Weimar government had been undermined through its acceptance of The Treaty of Versailles. The Republic therefore became associated with this widely abhorred treaty – something Germans perceived as outright betrayal. Unsurprisingly so, there was a lot of bitter resentment towards the Weimar government and the politicians whom had signed the Versailles treaty, dubbed the ‘November criminals’ by the vast majority of the German population.
The challenges faced by the government grew as time went by. The introduction of press freedom with the ability to form political parties developed a breeding ground for political extremism in Weimar Germany. Between the years of 1919 and 1924, there was widespread political violence taking place in Germany. One feature of this was a wave of assassinations that had been carried out, namely that of Walther Rathenau. Such brought about considerable instability into the country, consequently making the duty more difficult for the government. Indeed the threat of political extremism (from both ends of the political spectrum) increased even further through the emergence and growth of extremist groups, such as the far left ‘sparticists’ and far right ‘Freikorps’. Action was needed by the government so as to eliminate these radical elements within the Republic.