- Foreign Policy
- Aiming in the long term at the retrieval of full sover-eignty, the prevailing objective of German foreign policy between the formation of the Weimar Republic in 1919 and the Republic s demise in 1933 was the recapture of great-power status through revision of the Versailles Treaty.* Al-though the objective was constant, the Foreign Office (Auswartiges Amt) pursued it through three successive stages. In the Republic s early years, 1919-1923, revision was rarely more than the emotional response of a state internationally isolated. During the Stresemann* era, 1924-1929, a consistently pursued strat-egy of patience and forbearance, generally termed fulfillment,* ended German isolation and chipped away at Versailles. In the final stage, 1930-1933, the objective was radicalized by economic depression,* by a lack of diplomatic leadership following Stresemann s death, and by a budding perception that mere revision might be inadequate.Although Germans condemned Versailles in toto, those elements deemed es-pecially onerous are easily identified: foreign occupation, disarmament,* repa-rations* and war guilt, and border issues (see Poland). Joseph Wirth,* Chancellor in 1921-1922, correctly reasoned that any hope of revision must be linked to a promise of fulfilling the economic clauses. His government's foreign policy, guided by Walther Rathenau,* was at least pledged to fulfill Allied rep-arations demands. With the addition of American financial aid, Stresemann launched a more tenacious fulfillment policy in 1924, expanding it within reason to include areas not envisioned by his predecessors. Because of his diplomatic skill, Stresemann gleaned two reparation agreements (the Dawes Plan* and the Young Plan*), the multifaceted Locarno Treaties,* and German admission to the League of Nations in 1926. In concrete terms, reparations were reduced and rationalized, the evacuation of occupied areas was accelerated, the Allies ac-knowledged that Germany could not be disarmed indefinitely, and a compromise was arranged whereby Germany s western boundaries were guaranteed in exchange for a possible future revision in the East.Within two years of Stresemann s death, and in the wake of the customs union fiasco with Austria,* the Foreign Office largely resolved that there was more reward in discontinuing forbearance than in maintaining it. Radical op-ponents of Locarno and the Young Plan aroused nascent anti-Allied sentiment and denounced the League as a mere tool for imposing the Versailles Diktat. Even Heinrich Brüning,* when he acted as his own Foreign Minister, blamed the Allies for the ruinous elections of September 1930; the West, he argued, had been slow to fulfill the promise of Locarno. Thus, even before Hitler* revolutionized German foreign policy by quitting the League, there was an emerging if ill-defined impression that mere revision was insufficient.REFERENCES:Bennett, Germany and the Diplomacy of the Financial Crisis; Martin Gilbert, Roots of Appeasement; Holborn, "Diplomats and Diplomacy"; Jacobson, Lo-carno Diplomacy; Kimmich, Germany and the League ofNations; Lee and Michalka, German Foreign Policy; Post, Civil-Military Fabric; Turner, Stresemann.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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