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Gustav Stresemann


Gustav Stresemann, the son of a innkeeper, was born in Berlin on 10th May, 1878. Stresemann attended universities in Berlin and Leipzig where he studied history, literature and economics.

After completing his studies he worked for the German Chocolate Makers's Association. In 1902 he founded the Saxon Manufacturers' Association and the following year joined the National Liberal Party. A right-wing party, Stresemann emerged as one of the leaders of the more moderate wing who favoured an improvement in social welfare provision.

In 1908 Stresemann was elected to the Reichstag. He soon came into conflict with his more conservative colleagues and he was ousted from the party's executive committee in 1912. Later that year he lost his seat in Parliament.

Stresemann returned to business life and was the founder of the German-American Economic Association. A strong advocate of German imperialism, he aliened himself with the political views of Alfred von Tirpitz and Bernhard von Bulow.

He returned to the Reichstag in 1914. Exempted from military service during the First World War because of poor health, Stresemann was a passionate supporter of the war effort and advocated that Germany should take possession of land in Russia, Poland, France and Belgium.

During the war Stresemann became increasing right-wing in his views and his opponents claimed he was the parliamentary spokesman for military figures such as Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. He became increasingly critical of Bethmann Hollweg and advocated unrestricted submarine warfare against the Royal Navy.

In 1918 Stresemann formed the German People's Party. After Germany's defeat Stresemann was sympathetic to the Freikorps and welcomed the defeat of the socialists and communists in the German Revolution. However, he became increasingly concerned by the use of violence of the right-wing groups and after the murders of Matthias Erzberger and Walther Rathenau, Stresemann decided to argue in favour of the Weimar Republic.

With the support of the Social Democratic Party Stresemann became chancellor of Germany in 1923. He managed to bring an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed payment of reparations. He also tackled the problem of inflation by establishing the Rentenbank.

Stresemann was severely criticized by members of the Social Democratic Party and Communist Party over his unwillingness to deal firmly with Adolf Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch. Later that month the socialists withdrew from Stresemann's government and he was forced to resign as chancellor.

In the new government led by Wilhelm Marx, Stresemann was appointed as foreign minister. He accepted the Dawes Plan (1924) as it resulted in the French Army withdrawing from the Ruhr. Under Hans Luther Stresemann's skilled statesmanship led to the Locarno Treaty (1925) and Germany joining the League of Nations (1926). Later that year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gustav Stresemann negotiated the Young Plan but soon after that he suffered two strokes and on 3rd October, 1929 he died of a heart attack.

John Simkin


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