London Conferences


London Conferences
(1921, 1924, 1931)
   Of the several meetings held in London during the Weimar era, three were of special import to Germany. The first, held 1-8 March 1921, was, claimed Moritz Julius Bonn,* "a gigantic failure." The conferees aimed to formulate a means whereby Germany might fulfill the Versailles Treaty.* The four issues falling under the rubric of fulfill-ment* consisted of the trial and punishment of Germans charged with war crimes, the surrender of territory, the reduction of armaments, and the payment of reparations.* Although reasonable progress was achieved on the first two issues, disarmament* was untenable due to defiance from Bavaria.* Reparations, however, paralyzed the proceedings. Represented awkwardly by Foreign Min-ister Walter Simons,* Germany proposed to pay thirty billion marks—an offer that exasperated the Western conferees, who estimated a bill of damages at more than two hundred billion marks. Unable to gain satisfaction on reparations, the Allies, led by England's David Lloyd George and Aristide Briand of France, announced on 7 March that (1) Düsseldorf, Duisburg, and Ruhrort would be occupied; (2) a portion of the purchase price of German goods exported to the West would be confiscated; and (3) German customs receipts in the occupied areas would be seized. The Germans protested by abandoning London the next day.
   The London Conference of 1924, held 16 July through 15 August, aimed at formalizing the Dawes Plan.* Bolstered by American participation, it was hosted by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and was in session for more than two weeks before Germany was invited. Arriving on 5 August, the Germans were led by Chancellor Wilhelm Marx,* Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann,* and Finance Minister Hans Luther.* To the annoyance of France's Edouard Herriot, Stresemann came bent on linking any resumption of reparations to a promise of Ruhr evacuation. His stand deadlocked the meeting for several days. Although Herriot wished to avoid discussion of the Ruhr, Stresemann knew that Reichs-tag* passage of Dawes hinged on such linkage. MacDonald's sympathies fa-vored the Germans. Only after a whirlwind trip to consult his cabinet did Herriot agree to Stresemann's request: the French promised evacuation by 15 August 1925. Despite determined opposition from the DNVP, the Reichstag accepted the Dawes Plan on 29 August. The London Accord, formalizing both acceptance of Dawes and, in several annexes, Ruhr evacuation, was signed on 30 August.
   The London Conference of 1931 (the "Seven Powers Conference") met to remedy an acute credit crisis in Germany. Representing Berlin in conversations with France, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Japan, and the United States were Chan-cellor Heinrich Brüning,* Foreign Minister Julius Curtius,* State Secretary Bernhard von Bulow,* and financial advisor Carl Melchior.* In the thickening financial emergency, the steady withdrawal from Germany of gold and foreign credits had risen to between three and four billion marks; early in July 1931 Germany's Darmstadter Bank verged on collapse. Meeting on 20-23 July, the attendees labored to end the emergency. That they were largely unsuccessful— Brüning sought promise of a foreign loan as well as assurance that further withdrawal of credits would cease—derived from France's resolve to couple a loan with political issues. Because the Germans would neither scuttle their cus-toms-union project with Austria* nor accede to demands that warship construc-tion be curtailed, the talks deadlocked. But a partial resolution, the Stillhalte-Abkommen (Standstill Agreement) of 18 August, delayed the removal of credits for six months and invoked a committee to inquire into Germany's credit problems (see Lausanne Conference).
   REFERENCES:Bennett, Germany and the Diplomacy of the Financial Crisis; Felix, Walther Rathenau; Kent, Spoils of War; Maehl, "German Socialists"; Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe; Schuker, End of French Predominance.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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