Stresemann and Weimar
Prophet of European unity or pre-Hitler nationalist bent on wiping out Germany's Versailles humiliation? Sixty years after his death, Jonathan Wright reassesses the career and motives of Germany's leading statesman of the 1920s.
Gustav Stresemann, who became foreign minister of the Weimar Republic in 1923 and remained in that office until his death in October 1929, is one of the most controversial of the German political leaders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He ranks, with Bismarck, Hitler, Adenauer and Brandt, as a figure who exerted a profound influence on Europe. From being a violent nationalist in the First World War, he became the leading statesman of the Weimar Republic. Together with the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand, and the British foreign secretary, Austen Chamberlain, he negotiated the Locarno Pact in 1925. This held out the promise of peace after the ravages of war and the turmoil of the immediate post-war period. Yet, over this achievement hangs a question mark. Was Stresemann's goal a peaceful Europe in which Germany was a reliable partner, or was his aim rather the step by step revival of Germany as a great power until it had regained a position of dominance?