How was German foreign policy conducted during the Weimar Republic era during 1919-1923?

1 Answer | Add Yours

kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The Weimar Republic was in a no-win situation from its beginnings with the signing of the post-World War One Treaty of Versaille.  The treaty, of course, imposed a series of conditions on Germany with which the German population found it increasingly difficult to comply, including financially-burdensome reparations payments to the war's victors, loss of control of economically-vital territory, and restrictions on Germany's ability to rebuild its armed forces.  Of particular psychological importance was the treaty's requirement that Germany accept responsibility for a war the causes of which were multifaceted and involved British and French mistakes as much as German ones.  Confronted with serious economic problems resulting from a four-year war, problems now compounded by the requirement to pay reparations and French seizure of the industrial region of Ruhr, the Weimar Republic was ill-prepared to advance German interests either domestically or internationally.

The Weimar Republic was established as a social democratic government.  As such, and with ongoing political turmoil involving communist revolution to the east in Russia and its own radical-left element active in German politics, the newly-established republic was naturally inclined towards the west.  The problem, however, was that the enormously unpopular conditions imposed under the Treaty of Versaille, conditions to which republic leaders were forced to consent, created continuing resentment towards the very governments with which German leaders should have been aligned.  Instead, the German government looked east.  German Foreign Minister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, personally inclined towards to facilitating relations with the west, focused much of his efforts on relations with Russia because of Britain, France and Belgium's positions on Versaille.  While staunchly opposed to the communists, he nevertheless oversaw Germany's tilt towards Russia, establishing the conditions under which his successor, Walter Rathenau, would complete an agreement, the Treaty of Rapallo, with the newly-established Soviet Union.  The Treaty of Rapallo (the 1922 treaty, not an earlier one signed in 1920 by Italy and Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia) normalized relations between Germany and the Soviet Union and declared a cessation of all financial and territorial claims by each against the other.  The Soviet Union, resentful of French insistence that the new revolutionary regime assume the financial debts of the now-deposed czarist regime, saw the treaty with Germany as a way of preventing its total isolation while insulating itself from pressures from France.  Brockdorff-Rantzau's appointment as German ambassador to the Soviet Union was both symbolically and substantively important, as it further cemented the relationship between the two governments -- much to the consternation of an Austrian war veteran and budding revolutionary named Adolf Hitler.  

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,932 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question