Gustav Stresemann

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Gustav Stresemann (1925)
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Gustav Ernst Stresemann (born May 10, 1878 in Berlin ; † October 3, 1929 there ) was a German politician and statesman of the Weimar Republic , who was Chancellor in 1923 and then Minister of Foreign Affairs until his death . He helped improve relations with France. In 1926 he received the Nobel Peace Prize together with his French counterpart Aristide Briand .

Stresemann began as an industrial lobbyist , was party and parliamentary group leader of the National Liberal Party from 1917 and, after the November Revolution and the founding of the DVP, its party leader. His short time as Chancellor in the crisis year of 1923 saw the end of the occupation of the Ruhr , attempts to overthrow the extreme right and left, and the stabilization of the German currency. As Foreign Minister in various cabinets, he made a particular contribution to normalizing relations with France. Stresemann's goal was to end Germany's isolation from foreign policy and to achieve a peaceful revision of the Versailles Treaty . His involvement in 1924, among other things, in the creation of the Dawes Plan or in the contracts concluded during the Locarno Conference in 1925 was decisive . This contributed to the admission of the German Reich into the League of Nations in 1926.


Early years

As the only one of eight children of the Berlin beer merchant and innkeeper Ernst Emil August Stresemann and his wife Mathilde Stresemann born. Gustav Stresemann was able to attend the high school “Am Weißen Turm” in Berlin-Friedrichshain . There he was particularly interested in the subject of history and the biographies of personalities such as Napoleon and Goethe . In his Abitur curriculum vitae, he specified journalist or private lecturer as his career aspirations . In fact, he published a number of articles under the title “Berliner Briefe” and a few more in the free-spirited Dresdner Volkszeitung while still in school . He did not tell the newspaper his real age and passed himself off as a long-time member of the Free People's Party . In the then still left-liberal sense, he criticized various political phenomena such as naval armament, which he later advocated himself.

He was exempt from military service because of health problems. After passing the Abitur in 1897, Stresemann studied from 1898 to 1901, initially in Berlin and then in Leipzig, initially literature and history, and then switched to economics . He was mainly influenced by the political scientist Karl Theodor Reinhold .

Stresemann was a member of the reform fraternities Neogermania Berlin (1897), Suevia Leipzig (1898) and later an honorary member of the fraternities Normannia Heidelberg , Arminia Dresden, Rhenomarchia Münster, Alemannia Cologne, Palatia Tübingen and Cheruscia Königsberg in the Allgemeine Deutschen Burschenbund (ADB). During his active time as a fraternity member, he rejected both the anti-Semitism that was widespread there and the scale , but acknowledged the liberal ideas of 1848. Nonetheless, he fought two lengths and suffered from it. Stresemann worked for the Allgemeine Deutsche Universitäts-Zeitung . In 1898 he organized the Bundestag of the ADB in Frankenhausen. He opposed attempts, especially by Paul Lensch , to bring the fraternities closer to the Social Democrats. As a result, he took over editorial responsibility for the Allgemeine Deutsche Universitäts-Zeitung .

In 1901 he finished his studies with Karl Bücher with a doctorate on the subject of "The development of the Berlin bottled beer business ". Stresemann's father owned a small Berlin pub, a “ Budike ”, and a bottled beer filling plant . The parents' business was located in Berlin's Luisenstadt in what is now the Mitte district on Köpenicker Strasse. In addition to studying relevant literature, Stresemann empirically investigated the situation of beer publishers through a survey .

Association representative

From 1901 to 1904 Stresemann worked as an assistant, i.e. a kind of manager and lobbyist, at the Association of German Chocolate Manufacturers , where he demonstrated considerable skill. The chocolate industry played an important role in Dresden, where he now lived. As a luxury industry, however, it was largely cyclical. In his new job he was particularly confronted with the socio-political demands of the workers. He succeeded in bringing about a balance of interests among the differently structured member companies. At his initiative, an agreement was reached on a minimum price for the products. This agreement only ended after Stresemann left and in 1906 led to a long price war. In order to limit the dependency on suppliers, he successfully proposed the construction of his own sugar factory outside the sugar cartel. It is remarkable that Stresemann was one of the first association representatives to conduct systematic press work .

Stresemann shortly before his death with his wife Kate and son Wolfgang

On October 20, 1903, Stresemann and Käte Kleefeld (1883–1970) married in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. The couple had two sons: Wolfgang (1904–1998) and Joachim Stresemann (1908–1999). Käte was the sister of his federal brother Kurt Kleefeld from the Suevia fraternity in Leipzig. It played a major role in Berlin's social life in the 1920s. The Jewish origin of his Protestant wife repeatedly brought hostility to Stresemann during the Weimar Republic.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in addition to agriculture with the Federation of Farmers, heavy industry with the Central Association of German Industrialists dominated the public perception . The finished goods and export industries, on the other hand, were less well organized. Their association was the Federation of Industrialists (BdI). Stresemann soon gained influence there. In 1902 he became managing director of the Dresden / Bautzen district association of the BdI. In the same year, at Stresemann's suggestion, the Association of Saxon Industrialists was founded. In this he entered as a syndic . He held this position full-time until 1919. When it was founded, the association only comprised 180 companies. Only ten years later there were 5,000 companies that together employed more than half a million workers and employees. Stresemann was the spokesman for one of the most important regionally organized business associations in Germany.

Experience with the textile workers ' strike in 1903/1904 in Crimmitschau led Stresemann to advocate reconciliation between business partners and the establishment of a central employers' association in 1904 .

Political beginnings

Stresemann began his political career first in Friedrich Naumann's National Social Association , in which he had been deputy chairman of the Dresden local association from July 1901 . In the course of the dissolution of the association, he joined the National Liberal Party in 1903 , for which he was elected to the Dresden City Council in 1906 . At first he appeared, for example at the 1906 party convention in Goslar, as a critic of the previous party line. Still influenced by Naumann's ideas, he criticized the party's politics, which were subservient to the government, and spoke out in favor of opening up the party of dignitaries towards the craftsmen and workers.

In 1907 he ran for the constituency of Annaberg . He profited from the nationalist excitement in the so-called Hottentot election and fueled it in election speeches in which he appeared as a staunch representative of naval and colonial policy. He also received votes from supporters of the liberal and conservative. Against this background, he managed to win the constituency from the previous member of the Social Democrats Ernst Grenz . He was the youngest member of the German Reichstag .

Stresemann was considered the Crown Prince of his political mentor, Ernst Bassermann . The families were also close privately and, despite the age difference, spent several vacations together. In his first speeches, he spoke out in favor of the free organization of trade unions and collective bargaining autonomy , given continued opposition to Social Democrats . In terms of social policy, Stresemann was intensely committed to the interests of employees, not least because he saw this growing group as an important potential voter. At the same time he remained an economic and political representative of the middle class and the manufacturing industry. He took an aggressive foreign policy line in the style of Wilhelm II.

As an enthusiastic supporter of naval politics, he belonged to the German Fleet Association and was a member of the organization's Saxon state committee. He was also a member of the German Colonial Association .

In 1908 there were internal party conflicts. In particular, the representatives of heavy industry and those of the manufacturing sector faced each other. Stresemann planned to create a central office for German industry against the Central Association of German Industrialists. This plan failed, but Stresemann played a leading role in founding the Hansabund as a representative of the Saxon Federation of Industrialists . Stresemann was also involved in the establishment of the German Farmers 'Union as a counter-organization to the conservative farmers' union.

His support for social measures often brought him into conflict with the right wing of his party, which was dominated by members of the heavy industry. This wing prevented his re-election to the party executive committee in 1912. However, a representative assembly reversed this a short time later. In the same year he also lost his seat in the Reichstag. He then concentrated on the association work. He became chairman of the staff committee of the Hansabund and a member of the executive committee of the BdI . At the invitation of the International Chamber of Commerce Congress in Boston, Stresemann went on a study trip to the United States and Canada together with other economists in 1912 .

In 1913 he ran in a by-election in the constituency Reuss older line against the Social Democrat Max Cohen and the anti-Semite Wilhelm Lattmann in vain . Gustav Stresemann was re-elected to the Reichstag in 1914 in a by-election in the East Frisian constituency of Wittmund - Aurich , to which he belonged with a brief interruption in 1918/1919 until his death.

Together with the shipowner Albert Ballin , Stresemann sat on the German organizing committee for the 1913 World Exhibition in San Francisco . Together they both planned to found a German Society for World Trade, but encountered resistance from Alfred Hugenberg, for example . Ultimately, what remained of the plans was the establishment of a German-American trading company. Stresemann received the well-paid post of executive board member.

First World War

During the First World War , Stresemann was one of the “annexationists” who wanted to increase Germany's power by acquiring territories in the east, west and in the colonies , including Calais as the “German Gibraltar ”. He saw Great Britain as the main enemy, which had forged an alliance against Germany. The acquisitions of territory should increase Germany's security. Stresemann's support of the army command under Ludendorff alienated him from the center-left parties and was still accused after the war. Matthias Erzberger from the left wing of the center had gone from being an annexationist in 1916/17 to a supporter of peace by mutual agreement. Stresemann, however, remained in his position until the end of the war, if only to maintain the people's will to fight. He also campaigned for unrestricted submarine warfare to persuade Britain to make a peace favorable to Germany. A similar attitude was evident on his trip to the Balkans in 1916 with regard to the genocide of the Armenians . Wolfgang G. Schwanitz points out that Stresemann noted in his diary after a conversation with Enver Pascha a “Armenian reduction of 1–1½ million”.

While Stresemann's attitude towards foreign policy drove him towards the conservatives, he leaned towards the parties that later made up the Weimar coalition ( SPD , Catholic Center, left-wing liberals). With a reform of the constitution, Germany was to become a parliamentary monarchy. At first, for tactical reasons, he followed his party chairman Bassermann, who did not want to see major constitutional changes until after the end of the war.

In March 1917, under the influence of the February Revolution in Russia , the SPD pushed for reforms - otherwise it would no longer approve the war loans. Stresemann now advocated early reforms in the divided National Liberal Party before the end of the war. He tried to make the swing palatable to his group colleagues by pointing out that this was probably the last chance to avert universal suffrage in Prussia and only abolish the three-class suffrage through a census suffrage .

In the Reichstag he said that Germany's political lag in the past decades had to do with a flaw in the political system. All public posts should be awarded solely according to performance, and a reform of the Prussian electoral law should improve future relations with the SPD. When the sick Bassermann said that Stresemann had gone too far, he replied in a long letter that Germany and Austria were the last countries in the world that allowed their monarch to have such a great influence. It could not be that the emperor was allowed to appoint a chancellor at his own discretion. One does not need to think about a fully parliamentary system of government, but the Reichstag must have the power to force a chancellor to resign.

Stresemann managed to bring angry right-wing members of his party through talks to a unified party line. But the sick Bassermann was temporarily replaced by Prince Heinrich zu Schoenaich-Carolath , with Stresemann as one of three deputies. Stresemann, who was strong in debate, was already seen as a natural successor in leadership. Bassermann died in July. In September, when the Reichstag met again, Stresemann became parliamentary group chairman. The party chairmanship was taken over by the right-wing, 66-year-old chairman of the Prussian parliamentary group, Robert Friedberg , and 39-year-old Stresemann became his deputy.

The change of Chancellor from civil servant Georg Michaelis to right-wing center man Georg von Hertling in November 1917 brought the National Liberal Party closer to the center-left parties. Stresemann persuaded Friedberg to become Deputy Prime Minister of Prussia so that he would be responsible for reforming the Prussian electoral law and that the right wing of the National Liberals would also give the reform a majority. Stresemann's vehement campaign for equal suffrage in Prussia brought about a majority in the National Liberals, but not a majority in the state parliament as a whole. Admittedly, at the more decisive Reich level, with a coalition of parties that formed the majority, he succeeded in applying for the same suffrage that also implied women's suffrage. Because of the outbreak of the revolution, the application could no longer be dealt with.

November Revolution and founding of a republic

Stresemann had been in the opposition since November 1918 and felt pushed to the right. When democrats accused him of the illusions of a “victory peace” and of annexations , he replied that every party had politicians during the war who had demanded one or the other annexation, and that the illusions of a favorable Wilson peace by breaking with tradition had developed proved to be the bigger ones. He believed that if there had been no November Revolution, the army would not have won a victory, but could have won a more favorable peace. Before 1918, the Stresemann family had adorned their summery sand castles on beach holidays with the colors of the 1848 revolution (i.e. black, red and gold ) and so they have taken black, white and red with them ever since .

After the war, efforts were made to merge both liberal parties ( Progressive People's Party and National Liberal Party ) as a counterweight to socialism in a large liberal party. Stresemann was skeptical; he believed in a national liberal party which, together with the center, would strike a balance between social democrats and progressives on the one hand and conservatives on the other. He particularly rejected the newly emerging group under Theodor Wolff , the Democrats.

An electoral alliance with the progressives and a later merger was agreed on November 15th. The progressives wanted to see the Democrats in the merger so as not to create competition on the left, and Stresemann had to accept this too. On November 18, however, at a joint meeting, Alfred Weber demanded on behalf of the Democrats that at least the right wing of the National Liberals must remain outside. When the German Democratic Party (DDP) was founded on November 20th, most progressives and four national liberal MPs were there. Two days later, Stresemann and Friedberg confronted this with a new German People's Party (DVP), although most of the national liberal organizations wanted unity. Donations from the business world were also made dependent on the unit. Over the course of a few weeks, however, support for Stresemann was found after the Democrats forced the right-wing national liberal Friedberg to a kind of surrender. The DVP was officially founded on December 15th. Stresemann was unanimously elected chairman.

For the division of liberalism, the Democrats subsequently blamed Stresemann, who did not want to renounce his leadership role. Stresemann, in turn, saw fundamental political differences between the tradition-conscious National Liberals and the left wing of the Democrats, and he saw the elections of 1920, when the DVP became stronger than the DDP, as confirmation of his position. He also said that a unity party would have disintegrated in the course of time anyway, and that many National Liberals would have migrated further to the right.

Early years of the Weimar Republic

In Versailles agreed peace settlement declined Stresemann. He saw Germany's dishonor in this treaty. But the moral component of the treaty weighed less for him than the economic and territorial consequences. With regard to the new German eastern borders, it was doubts about the historical accuracy and security considerations towards Poland that made him an opponent of the regulations. Although Stresemann rejected the Versailles Treaty, he was unwilling to accept responsibility for a rejection of this treaty, which would undoubtedly have led to military intervention by the Allies . He came to the conclusion that the preservation and enforcement of German interests could not be achieved against, but only on the basis of the new peace order. As a member of the Weimar National Assembly and the Reichstag , he operated the so-called “ Realpolitik ” and, as he later said himself, advocated the republic for reasons of reason.

Even in Wilhelmine Germany, Stresemann's insights into economic policy served as the starting point for foreign policy considerations. He saw the remaining German economic power after 1918 as the only source of power still available to Germany. Reparation problems , eastern borders and the Rhineland issue , in his opinion all of this was interdependent . He wanted to seek an improvement in the German situation through an understanding with the Western powers, especially with France.

Stresemann cannot be assumed to have any concrete knowledge of the plans for the Kapp Putsch in March 1920. He benefited from this coup politically, among other things through his mediation efforts. His behavior during the crisis was later criticized as opportunistic by the Republican left.

After the parliamentary elections in 1920 in which the DVP managed a jump of 22 seats in the National Assembly to 65 seats in the Reichstag, the date republic-skeptic opposition party involved in the center listed minority government Fehrenbach , the SPD than just tolerable force no longer belonged . There was no ministerial post left for Stresemann himself, but in addition to the party chair, he also chaired the parliamentary group and chaired the important Reichstag committee for foreign affairs. After the DVP left the government in April 1921 because of the reparations issue, which resulted in the overthrow of the entire government, Stresemann was considered a serious candidate for chancellor for the first time. However, it failed because of the internal resistance of the group around Hugo Stinnes against the acceptance of the Allied reparations ultimatum . The DVP remained in the opposition from 1921 to 1922 despite several attempts at government participation, but supported Joseph Wirth's governments, which were again formed by the Weimar coalition , in individual decisions, for example when the Republic Protection Act was passed after the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in June 1922.

The Cuno government , which was formed in November 1922, included two DVP members as ministers for the first time without the party having committed itself to support the government. He saw the occupation of the Ruhr, begun by the Franco-Belgian invasion in January 1923, and the passive resistance proclaimed by the Cuno government as an opportunity to forge a new alliance between the bourgeoisie and the working class, which would ultimately be reflected in a grand coalition that was different from today it was called this way not because of the size of the parties, but because of the number of four parties from various parts of the political spectrum. When the SPD canceled its support for the Cuno government in August 1923 and announced its willingness to form a grand coalition, Stresemann was the natural candidate for Chancellor. He himself had previously described taking office as “almost political suicide” in a letter to his wife, but could not refuse. In addition to the office of Reich Chancellor , Stresemann also took over the management of the Foreign Office at the head of a coalition made up of the SPD, DDP , Zentrum , DVP and BVP . He passed the chairmanship of the parliamentary group to Ernst Scholz .

Stresemann in 1923 with journalists

In the crisis year of 1923, Stresemann joined the Freemasons . The Berlin pastor Karl Habicht played an important role in this. Habicht was National Grand Master of the Great National Mother Lodge "To the Three World Balls" and Master of the Chair of the Lodge "Frederick the Great". Stresemann also joined this. As a motive he stated: “For a long time it has been my wish to come into a closer relationship with a circle of like-minded people who, in our time grueling in materialism, haste and unrest, to maintain the realm of general humanity, inner reflection and spirituality search. I hope to find such a community in German Freemasonry. ”On October 1, 1924, Kurt Tucholsky wrote : Édouard Herriot , a sympathizer of the Paneuropean Union , and Stresemann“ recognized each other at the first handshake. Mr. Gustav Stresemann became a Freemason in that year, and that has not remained unknown in France. ”In his speech on Germany's accession to the League of Nations, he used Masonic terms such as that of the divine architect of the earth .

Imperial Chancellorship

Government formation

During the French occupation of the Ruhr , Stresemann initially supported the passive resistance of the Cuno government . But this and his government soon came under pressure from various sides. The communists tried to persuade him to resign with the help of the so-called Cuno strikes . Influential social democrats such as Rudolf Hilferding or Eduard Bernstein spoke out in favor of a grand coalition under Reich Chancellor Stresemann. Likewise, the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung , which was controlled by Hugo Stinnes (DVP), called for a grand coalition under Stresemann. The center and the DDP made similar statements. Only the Bavarian People's Party was skeptical of an alliance with the SPD. Within the DVP, it was clear to the business wing that the passive resistance had failed and had to be ended. Stinnes also wanted the alliance with the SPD because it would then be jointly responsible for the unpopular decision to break off the resistance. While big industry had definitely benefited from the inflation trend in recent years, this was no longer the case during high inflation . The industrial circles also wanted the SPD in government to stabilize the currency with unavoidable burdens. Although the SPD was by far the largest party in the coalition, it was unwilling to appoint the Chancellor out of concern for internal cohesion. So the assumption of the office by Stresemann was clear for all involved.

When he took over the office of Reich Chancellor on August 13, 1923, it had long been evident that the passive resistance against the occupation of the Ruhr had no prospect of success. Closely connected with this were the complete collapse of the German currency and the phase of high inflation. In addition, there was domestic political radicalization. The attitude of the Reichswehr towards uprising movements from the right was also unclear. Overall, at this point in time the republic was in the worst crisis in its history. Even the connection between the unity of the state was threatened.

Although Stresemann presided over a grand coalition with naturally conflicting interests, the formation of a government took place more quickly than any other Weimar government before the presidential cabinet at the end of the republic. The Social Democrats provided four ministers (Interior Minister Wilhelm Sollmann , Finance Minister Rudolf Hilferding , Justice Minister Gustav Radbruch , Reconstruction Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Schmidt ). Three ministers emerged from the center (Labor Minister Heinrich Brauns , Post Minister Anton Höfle , Minister for the Occupied Territories Johannes Fuchs ). The DDP provided two ministers (Reichswehr Minister Otto Geßler , Transport Minister Rudolf Oeser ). Stresemann himself took over the foreign ministry. Economics Minister Hans von Raumer was also from the DVP . The non-party Hans Luther remained Minister of Food.

In his government declaration of August 14, 1923, Stresemann pleaded for the "union of all forces that support the constitutional concept of the state". In the subsequent vote, 239 of the 342 Reichstag members present spoke out in favor of the new government. 76 voted no and 24 abstained. But from the start there were opposing forces even in the governing parties. In the SPD, the representatives from Saxony and most of the former members of the USPD stayed away from the vote. Some of the DVP MPs around Reinhold Quaatz also left the room before the vote.

End of the Ruhr struggle

Civilian and French soldier during the occupation of the Ruhr

The prerequisite for solving the currency stabilization was the end of the Ruhr struggle, since the costs for it had played a large part in the collapse of the mark. Stresemann himself left the planning for the currency reform largely to Hilferding and his experts in the ministry. He himself was primarily concerned with solving the Ruhr question . So he tried to initiate talks with the occupying powers France and Belgium by accommodating them on the question of reparations. He offered part of the German economy as a productive pledge to carry out the reparations. Apart from a few more symbolic conditions, he was ready to forego the resistance, but the French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré strictly refused to accept any conditions. When hopes for British support were dashed, Stresemann saw no way around an unconditional end to the resistance. On September 26, 1923, the Ruhrkampf was officially given up. The decision to end the war in the Ruhr was largely calmly accepted by the public.

Bavarian crisis

As early as September 26, 1923, the Bavarian state government under Eugen von Knilling gave in to pressure from the right and declared a state of emergency. The executive power was transferred to Gustav von Kahr as "General State Commissioner ". Right-wing associations were behind this, including the NSDAP . Their goal was the overthrow of the Stresemann government and ultimately the end of the republic. The Reich government reacted by declaring a state of emergency for the entire Reich. The executive power was transferred to Reichswehr Minister Gessler. However, the government did not seek a direct confrontation with Bavaria. Instead, an ongoing conflict developed between Bavaria and the Reich. Without the risk of being prosecuted in Bavaria, the NSDAP incited against the "dictators Stresemann-Seeckt" and combined this with anti-Semitic attacks, since both were married to women with a Jewish background. Reich Minister Gessler's instructions to Kahr to forbid the dissemination of these accusations were not followed by Kahr. General Otto von Lossow , commander of the Reichswehr in Bavaria, also refused. This was a clear case of insubordination. Later Kahr even appointed Lossow to the Bavarian state commander and subordinated the Reich defense units to the command of Bavaria.

The Reich execution against Bavaria, advocated by Stresemann, had no prospect of success because the Reichswehr was not ready. In Berlin, too, there were occasional efforts from industry circles, especially from Hugo Stinnes, the large-scale agriculture and the Pan-German Association , to overthrow the government and set up a regime similar to that in Bavaria. Stresemann, Ebert and the government were also considering a solution to the crisis using dictatorial means. Even leading social democrats like Carl Severing and Rudolf Hilferding were ready to temporarily suspend some of the rules of the game of parliamentary democracy in order to protect the people and the Reich.

German October

Blocking off a street by the Reichswehr with a felled bayonet in Freiberg in Saxony

In addition to the danger from the right, there was a real threat from the left. In Saxony, the communist paramilitary proletarian hundreds appeared more and more openly. In Thuringia, too, the proletarian hundreds were able to operate largely unmolested. The decision to attempt a communist revolution as a German October came from the Executive Committee of the Communist International . A first step in this direction was the entry of the KPD into the governments of Thuringia and Saxony, without, however, acting unconstitutionally like the right wing in Bavaria. For the Stresemann government, however, it seemed clear that this was only a first step towards an overthrow. The proletarian hundreds were banned and the Saxon police were placed under the Reichswehr. The KPD was thus deprived of its potentially most important means of power. The uprising plans were abandoned on October 21, 1923. Only in Hamburg was there a limited uprising ( Hamburg uprising ). In Saxony there was a formal execution of the Reich.

Government crisis and enabling law

At the beginning of October, the Stresemann cabinet had already entered into a deep internal crisis. The background to this was that Ministers Hilferding and Braun had called for an enabling law that would allow the government to do everything politically and financially necessary. In particular, in agreement with employers and in contrast to employees, they felt that working hours should be extended. The SPD parliamentary group was not ready for this. Sharper criticism of the Stresemann government came from the chairman of the DVP parliamentary group, Ernst Scholz , who also represented Hugo Stinnes' goals. Scholz called for an end to the eight-hour day , a "break with France" and the entry of the DNVP into government. After a compromise on working hours had failed, Stresemann resigned.

Friedrich Ebert entrusted Stresemann again with the formation of the government (which he also succeeded in: Stresemann II cabinet from October 6, 1923). A compromise was found on the issue of working hours. The eight-hour day was not abolished, but it should be possible to exceed it. The SPD approved an enabling law that omitted the question of working hours and was to remain in force until the end of the coalition. Various ordinances were issued on this basis. These included the highly controversial staff reduction ordinance and the introduction of compulsory state arbitration in collective bargaining disputes.

Stresemann minority cabinet

Hitler's shock troop (with swastika armbands ), arrested socialist city councilors during the Hitler putsch

There was great indignation among the Social Democrats over the unequal treatment of conditions in Saxony and Bavaria. The SPD parliamentary group demanded energetic action against Bavaria. The ministers from the bourgeois parties rejected this. The SPD then left the coalition. Stresemann was now in front of a bourgeois minority government . A short time later the Reichswehr also moved into Thuringia and disarmed the proletarian hundreds. The situation escalated again with the Hitler putsch on November 9, 1923. The Reich President transferred from Seeckt the supreme command of the Reichswehr and the executive power in the Reich. The coup had already collapsed earlier.

A week after the Hitler putsch, the Stresemann cabinet introduced the Rentenmark . With the help of this provisional solution, it was possible to stop the decline in the German currency against the US dollar. The Reichsbank set an exchange rate of 1 trillion paper marks for 1 Rentenmark. This restored the exchange rate of 4.2 marks to one dollar, as it had existed in the pre-war period.

As early as October 25th, the French attitude towards the reparations question was changing. Poincaré's proposals resulted in the later Dawes Plan . Stresemann had made significant progress with this. In this situation, on November 22nd, the SPD introduced a motion of no confidence in the Stresemann minority cabinet based on the unequal treatment of Saxony and Bavaria. Although Stresemann had a good chance of surviving the application, he in turn replied with a question of confidence. This went out against him. Stresemann commented on this to the foreign press that for the first time in the history of German parliamentarism a government had "fallen in open battle".

Foreign politician


With the assumption of the Foreign Ministry in 1923, Stresemann tied in with the beginning of the compliance policy of 1921. However, the foreign policy conditions were more favorable than then. Central elements of Stresemann's foreign policy were the understanding with the victorious powers of the First World War on the one hand and the recognition of Germany as an equal actor on the international stage on the other. A prerequisite for a desired change to the Versailles Treaty was its recognition. Of considerable importance for Stresemann's policy was that after the end of the Ruhr War the USA played an important role in integrating Germany internationally and limiting France's anti-German policy. Against this background, the German-American trade agreement of December 1923 gained considerable importance. This assured the contracting parties of unconditional reciprocity and emphasized Germany's equal rights in the international system.

For Stresemann it was clear that after the end of the war the economy was Germany's only remaining source of strength internationally. It was necessary to make use of this in foreign policy. For him, international cooperation and the defense of national interests in the economic field were not a contradiction in terms. To assert German interests, especially with the aim of equality for Germany, he considered forms of international cooperation to be more effective than national threatening gestures or even war. Whether his ultimate goal was to make Germany a reliable partner in a peaceful Europe or to give it a dominant position as a great power is disputed in historical research.


Stresemann together with Karl von Schubert (State Secretary AA / Ambassador to Italy), Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff (Ambassador to the USA), Rudolf Breitscheid (Member of the Reichstag SPD) and probably Friedrich Gaus , 1924

However, Stresemann first had to grow from a party politician into the role of diplomat. This led to resentment when, following critical remarks by Stresemann about Woodrow Wilson, following the death of the former president, an instruction to the German ambassador to the USA was announced that no official condolences should be given. Stresemann immediately denied it, but America was still irritated. The contradiction between the party politician and the foreign politician also met with criticism in the German public. He tried to counter this by restricting the number of his speeches to party meetings.

Stresemann was also viewed critically within the Foreign Office. He lacked the cosmopolitanism and the fluency of language, such as Walter Rathenau had had. For the State Secretaries in the Foreign Office Adolf Georg von Maltzan and Carl von Schubert , Stresemann was a diplomatic outsider. In addition, Maltzan stood for an eastward policy. The appointment of Maltzan as ambassador to Washington, ordered by Stresemann, was not intended as a punitive transfer, but was intended to underline the particularly important relationship with the USA. The new State Secretary von Schubert served Stresemann well through his loyalty and conscientiousness. Friedrich Gaus had been the head of the legal department of the Foreign Office from 1923 and formulated the various German draft treaties. Alongside Stresemann, Schubert and Gaus were the two constructors of German foreign policy in the Stresemann era. Ulrich Rauscher was Stresemann's liaison with Reich President Ebert. Stresemann's death prevented Rauscher from being appointed State Secretary in 1929. Stresemann's personnel policy within the company differed from the usual. In addition to the career diplomats, who often came from the old nobility, more and more middle-class newcomers appeared. Qualifications became central to the appointment of a diplomat.

It had a positive effect that Stresemann had long personally maintained good relationships with the French ambassador in Berlin Pierre de Margerie . His relations with the British Ambassador Edgar Vincent Lord D'Abernon and the American Ambassador Alanson B. Houghton were almost friendly . It was particularly important that, after the change of government in France on May 24, 1924, Stresemann got a partner as Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, who also pursued a policy of détente.

Dawes plan

Central to overcoming the confrontation between Germany and the victorious powers was the Dawes Plan, which reorganized the procedure for reparation payments. Although Germany had to grant international control of the Reichsbank and Reichsbahn, among other things, France promised to withdraw its troops from the Rhineland within a year. It also had to waive its right to sanction. In addition, Germany received an international loan of 800 million marks, which attracted further international capital and thus contributed to the economic upswing. The plan was adopted at the London Conference of August 1924 with Stresemann's participation. In Germany, however, the plan was controversial. It was only accepted by the Reichstag after long negotiations.

Locarno Conference

Locarno Conference 1925: Gustav Stresemann with Austen Chamberlain (center) and Aristide Briand (right)

In February 1925, Stresemann sent a memorandum to France, which provided for a security pact between England, France, Germany and Italy with the USA as the guarantor. Briand responded immediately. The initiative also met with international support. This eventually led to the Locarno Conference. The Locarno treaty of October 1925 was a great success for Stresemann's policy too. In order to clear the last hurdles, Stresemann had a motor ship chartered for the final negotiations and instructed the captain to cruise on Lake Maggiore until all the questions requested by the German delegation had been dealt with. The treaty changed the post-war order significantly. The German, French and Belgian borders and a mutual renunciation of force as well as a demilitarization of the Rhineland were established. Great Britain and Italy acted as guarantee powers for this. Germany's accession to the League of Nations and a permanent seat on the League of Nations Council were also planned . A border regulation with Poland was unsuccessful. France concluded support alliances with Poland and Czechoslovakia to protect against a possible German attack.

Stresemann himself was later rather skeptical about the success of the conference. Shortly before his death, he said:

“If you had made only one concession to me, I would have convinced my people [...] I could still do it today. But you gave nothing, and the tiny concessions you made have always come too late [...] The future is in the hands of the younger generation. And the youth of Germany, whom we could have won for peace and for the new Europe, we have both lost. This is my tragedy and your fault. "

Admission to the League of Nations

Admission to the League of Nations appeared to be problem-free. Acquiring a seat in the League of Nations turned out to be difficult, however, because none of the previous members wanted to renounce and France had also promised Poland a seat. In the German delegation, nervousness and unrest spread. The Chancellor Hans Luther , who had traveled with him, wanted to leave under protest, while Stresemann remained calm. Ultimately, the delegation had to leave without the desired seat on the League of Nations, after Brazil won a seat on the council. Stresemann survived a heated debate in the Reichstag and, with 262 to 139, received a considerable leap of faith for further negotiations.

Stresemann before the General Assembly of the League of Nations, 1926

In April 1926, Stresemann signed a friendship treaty with Russia that supplemented the Rapallo Agreement . The Reichstag, from the Communists to the German Nationals, enthusiastically agreed. Stresemann was also pursuing the intention of removing possible opposition to joining the League of Nations on the part of the USSR.

At the autumn meeting of the League of Nations it was decided to increase the number of seats in the League of Nations. This removed the point of conflict from the spring, and Stresemann traveled to Geneva to give his first speech to the League of Nations. There he confessed on September 8, 1926: "Only on the basis of a community that spans all states without distinction in full equality can helpfulness and justice become the true guiding stars of human fate." Briand described the day as the day of peace between Germany and France and as the end of the bloody and painful clashes of the past. At the conference in Geneva, Stresemann had achieved that eight years after the end of the First World War, Germany once again became a full member of the international community.

Following the conference, Stresemann and Briand met in Thoiry . Over good food and wine, the two got closer personally. Further agreements were made at the meeting. These included the offer to end the occupation of the Rhineland , return the Saar area to Germany and lift Allied military control. In return, Germany should meet France economically. These goals could not be realized until Stresemann's death, especially since bilateral agreements were viewed critically in the Foreign Office. Agreements with all victorious powers appeared to be more important.

For his reconciliation work, he and his French colleague Aristide Briand received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. In Germany, however, he was denied recognition for his foreign policy; he was insulted as a " fulfillment politician " for his understanding policy . Stresemann campaigned for understanding and the integration of Germany into the international community. That made him a mortal enemy of the National Socialists .

In 1928 Stresemann played an important role in the creation of the Briand-Kellogg Pact when he mediated between the USA and France.

Sickness and death

Gustav Stresemann's
death mask , made by Hugo Lederer
Funeral procession for Gustav Stresemann Unter den Linden

Even in his youth, Stresemann was in poor health. In June 1919 he suffered a first heart attack. He also suffered from a chronic metabolic disease. She had permanently damaged the kidneys and heart and was diagnosed as the real cause of death. Stresemann's disease was probably a particularly severe form of Graves' disease . Stresemann's hectic activity also had pathological causes. In the following years he had to interrupt his work time and again as a result of his illness for convalescence purposes or for health resorts. Since 1928 Gustav Stresemann was in bad health due to the hectic government business. Stresemann died on October 3, 1929 of complications from a stroke .

The Reich Cabinet decided to hold a state funeral in his honor. The funeral procession met with great sympathy among the population. Hundreds of thousands gave him the final escort . Since 1888 after the death of Wilhelm I , there had not been such a large event of this kind in Berlin. The funeral ceremony took place in the Reichstag in the presence of the Reich President and the Reich Government. From there the funeral procession passed through the Brandenburg Gate via Wilhelmstrasse to the Luisenstadt cemetery . The large grave in section G2 of the cemetery, designed by the sculptor Hugo Lederer , is maintained to this day as an honorary grave for the State of Berlin .

With Stresemann, the Weimar Republic lost its most important statesman for both domestic and foreign policy . His biographer Eberhard Kolb calls him “during his lifetime [...] the world's most famous and respected German politician”. Harry Graf Kessler , who had occasionally met Stresemann for political talks and who was in Paris when he died , described the press reactions in his diary: “All Paris morning newspapers bring the news of Stresemann's death in the largest format. It is almost as if the greatest French statesman has died. The grief is general and real. One feels that there is already a European fatherland. The French perceive Stresemann as a kind of European Bismarck. "

Stresemann's death and the beginning of the global economic crisis marked the beginning of the end of the Weimar Republic in October 1929. Six months later, the government of the grand coalition consisting of the SPD, DDP, DVP and the center resigned. The era of the presidential cabinet began , which culminated in Adolf Hitler's chancellorship . The Stresemann family had to leave Germany during the National Socialist era.



Monumental grave in the Luisenstadt cemetery
Memorial plaque for Stresemann in the entrance area of ​​the Europa Center on Tauentzienstrasse

In 1926 Stresemann received the Nobel Peace Prize together with the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand . In 1928 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Heidelberg .


In Berlin , the former Königgrätzer Strasse in Kreuzberg was renamed Stresemannstrasse . Streets in many other cities are also named after him, as well as the Stresemannufer in Bonn and Mainz and the Stresemannplatz in Dresden , Nuremberg , Recklinghausen and Düsseldorf .

Since 1959 exists under the name Gustav-Stresemann-Institut e. V. a European conference and educational center in Bonn , which in the following years founded conference centers in Bergisch Gladbach ( Haus Lerbach ), in Bad Bevensen-Medingen and Schloss Neuburg am Inn near Passau . Schools in Mainz, Wiesbaden, Bad Wildungen, Kaiserslautern and other cities are named after Stresemann.

The Stresemann , an elegant and comfortable suit for morning social appointments, is named after Gustav Stresemann. In the 1950s, Pelikan AG from Hanover introduced a fountain pen , which is also known as the Stresemann. It has a shaft with a green-transparent band, which is similar to the striped pattern of the Stresemann suit (Souverän 400 series).


The Stresemann memorial , inaugurated in Mainz in 1931 , was destroyed by Nazi iconoclasts in 1935 . A new memorial was only inaugurated in this city in 1960. There was another Stresemann memorial in the park of Schloss Freienfels .


"In this great age, it is not just about the relationship between one people and another, but about an idea that is more than just a phrase, an idea of ​​European culture, an idea of ​​human development."

- Stresemann : Inscription on a blackboard in the Stresemann Memorial in Mainz, which is used as the cabinet room of the State Chancellery of Rhineland-Palatinate .

Sources and writings

General sources

  • Files on Foreign Policy 1918–1945 (ADAP). Series A 1918–1924, Volume A Iff., Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982 ff .; Series B 1925–1933, Volume B Iff., Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1966 ff.
  • Files of the Reich Chancellery Weimar Republic. Edited by Karl Dietrich Erdmann on behalf of the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The Stresemann I and II cabinets, 2 volumes, Harald Boldt Verlag, Boppard am Rhein 1978.

Collections of writings and speeches

  • Napoleon and us . Berlin 1917 ( online  - Internet Archive ).
  • From the Revolution to the Peace of Versailles. Speeches and essays. Berlin 1919 ( online  - Internet Archive ).
  • Speeches and writings. Politics - History - Literature 1897 to 1926. Two volumes. Carl Reissner Verlag, Dresden 1926.
  • Reichstag speeches. Edited by Gerhard Zwoch. Publishing house AZ Studio Pfattheicher & Reichardt, Bonn 1972.
  • Fonts. Edited by Arnold Harttung. Berlin Verlag, Berlin 1976.
  • Legacy. The estate in three volumes. Edited by Henry Bernhard . Ullstein publishing house, Berlin 1932/33. (Digital version: Vol. 1 , Vol. 2 , Vol. 3 )
  • Wolfgang Elz: Gustav Stresemann. Speeches by the Chancellor and the Foreign Minister. ( Years 1923–1926 accessible online).

Single fonts (selection)

  • The development of the Berlin bottled beer business. An economic study. Berlin 1901 (Diss. Leipzig).
  • Economic issues of the time. Leipzig 1911 ( online  - Internet Archive ).
  • German wrestling, German hope. Berlin 1914.
  • England's economic war against Germany. Berlin 1915.
  • German economic life during the war . Leipzig 1915 ( online  - Internet Archive ).
  • Michel, listen, the sea breeze whistles ...!  : War considerations. Berlin 1916/1917.
  • Weimar and politics. Berlin 1919.
  • The March events and the German People's Party. Berlin 1920.
  • Protection of the Constitution. DVP leaflet, 1922.
  • The way of the new Germany. Carl Heymann, Berlin 1927.


Web links

Wikisource: Gustav Stresemann  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Gustav Stresemann  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Koszyk : Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 56 ff.
  2. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 67 ff.
  3. ^ Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Sub-Volume 5: R – S. Winter, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-8253-1256-9 , p. 547.
  4. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 71-75.
  5. ^ Gustav Stresemann: The development of the Berlin bottled beer business. Dissertation, Leipzig 1900.
  6. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 76 f.
  7. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 86-91.
  8. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 86 f.
  9. Dieter Düding: The National Social Association 1896-1903. The failed attempt at a party-political synthesis of nationalism, socialism and liberalism. Oldenbourg, Munich 1972, ISBN 3-486-43801-8 , p. 139 (note 27).
  10. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 93.
  11. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 93 f.
  12. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 94, 103 f.
  13. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 102.
  14. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 107 f.
  15. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 113.
  16. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 122 f.
  17. ^ Wright : Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 67-69.
  18. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 78-81.
  19. Wolfgang G. Schwanitz : Always in a good mood: Gutmann and the Deutsche Orientbank. In: Vivian J. Rheinheimer (Ed.): Herbert M. Gutmann . Banker in Berlin, client in Potsdam, art collector. Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 2007, pp. 61-77; see. Web version 01-2008 (PDF; 167 kB).
  20. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, p. 83.
  21. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 83-84.
  22. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 84-85.
  23. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, p. 86.
  24. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, p. 96.
  25. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 99-100.
  26. Application on the right to vote, No. 2002, p. 3153, printed matter, vol. 325, 1918, URL: (2.1.2017).
  27. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 126-127.
  28. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 117-118.
  29. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, pp. 120-123.
  30. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann. Weimar's Greatest Statesman. 2002, p. 124.
  31. ^ Wright: Gustav Stresemann 1878-1929. Weimar's greatest statesman. 2006, p. 158 f.
  32. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 251 f.
  33. ^ Kurt Tucholsky: Republic against Will, Texts 1911 to 1932; The first handshake . 1989, ISBN 3-498-06497-5 , pp. 10733 .
  34. See also Reinhard Markner: The Freemason Stresemann in the sights of the National Socialists. In: Quatuor-Coronati-Jahrbuch 42 (2005), pp. 67-75.
  35. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich 1993, p. 204 f.
  36. ^ Kolb : Gustav Stresemann. 2003, p. 76.
  37. ^ Kolb: Gustav Stresemann. 2003, p. 77.
  38. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich 1993, p. 205.
  39. ^ Kolb: Gustav Stresemann. 2003, p. 81.
  40. ^ Kolb: Gustav Stresemann. 2003, p. 82.
  41. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 439.
  42. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich 1993, pp. 221-223.
  43. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Munich 1993, pp. 213-227.
  44. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 440.
  45. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 441.
  46. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 444 f.
  47. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 446.
  48. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. Vol. 1, German history from the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2000, p. 446 f.
  49. Gottfried Niedhart: The foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2006, p. 18 f.
  50. Gottfried Niedhart : The foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2006, p. 20.
  51. ^ Wright: Stresemann and Weimar. In: History Today 39 (10), October 1989, p. 35.
  52. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 277.
  53. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 280.
  54. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 285-288.
  55. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 275, 288.
  56. Gottfried Niedhart: The foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2006, p. 23.
  57. Gottfried Niedhart: The foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2006, p. 19.
  58. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, pp. 299-301.
  59. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 302.
  60. Gottfried Niedhart: The foreign policy of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2006, p. 32.
  61. Klaus Hildebrand : The Past Reich: German Foreign Policy from Bismarck to Hitler 1871-1945. Oldenbourg, Munich, 2008, ISBN 978-3-486-58605-3 , pp. 478-479.
  62. ^ Theo Sommer : Foreign Policy as Fate , Die Zeit, February 13, 1959, updated November 21, 2012.
  63. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 308.
  64. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 308.
  65. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 309.
  66. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 310.
  67. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 311.
  68. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 212 f.
  69. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 350 f.
  70. ^ Eschenburg and Frank-Planitz : Gustav Stresemann. A picture biography. 1978, pp. 7, 156-166.
  71. ^ Kolb: Gustav Stresemann. 2003, p. 8.
  72. ^ Harry Graf Kessler: Diary , October 4, 1929.
  73. ^ Koszyk: Gustav Stresemann. 1989, p. 354.