The Golden Age

In 1923, the Weimar Republic was on the verge of collapse, but, surprisingly, the crisis was the start of a period of stability and success. The period 1923-1929 was a time when the economy boomed and cultural life flourished in Germany. It is known as the Golden Age of Weimar.

This dramatic turnabout happened because Germany was saved by two people, Gustav Stresemann and Charles Dawes.

Social and political developments 1923-1929

Gustav Stresemann

Portrait of Gustav Stresemann.
Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann, a nationalist politician, realised that something needed to be done to save Germany. He was the most important politician between 1923 and 1929, however he only survived as Chancellor of a coalition government for a few months. He was a leading member of every government from 1923-1929 and his main role was as Foreign Minister.

His first action in 1923 was to organise the Great Coalition of moderate, pro-democracy parties in the Reichstag. At last, Germany had a government that could make laws. Under Stresemann's guidance, the government called off the strike, persuaded the French to leave the Ruhr and changed the currency to the Rentenmark which helped solve hyperinflation.

Stresemann also introduced reforms to help ordinary people such as job centres, unemployment pay and better housing.

Economic developments 1923-1929

Charles Dawes

Portrait of Charles Dawes.
Charles Dawes

Charles Dawes was the US budget director. In 1923, he was sent to Europe to sort out Germany's economy. Under his advice, the German Reichsbank was reformed and the old money was called in and burned. This ended the hyperinflation. Dawes also arranged the Dawes Plan with Stresemann, which gave Germany longer to pay reparations. Most importantly, Dawes agreed to America lending Germany 800 million gold marks, which kick-started the German economy.

Following a lowering of the war reparations after the Dawes Plan of 1924, further changes to the reparations came with the Young Plan in 1929.

Owen Young

The committee that looked at the reparations issue was led by Owen Young, an American industrialist. It was a committee that had been appointed by the Allied Reparations Committee. The final plan was an attempt to support German through her financial pain.

  • Payments were reduced by three-quarters.
  • The length of time Germany had to pay was extended to 59 years.
  • Reparations were reduced to 37,000 million marks. A part of the Young Plan designed to support Germany was the actual requirement of repayment per year.
  • Germany had to pay one-third of the amount required each year as part of a compulsory agreement – about $157 million.
  • However, the other two-thirds only had to be paid if Germany could afford to do so in a manner that would not harm her economic development.

Consequences of Stresemann’s leadership, Dawes and Young Plan

Successes

  • The economy improved with falling unemployment, rising factory production and more confidence.
  • There was a rise in number of votes for political parties supporting democracy and the Weimar Republic.
  • The Communists and Nazis did not do well in elections compared to the parties supporting the Weimar Republic. The Nazis had only 12 seats in the Reichstag in 1928.

Problems

  • Treaty of Versailles was still in place and very harsh on Germany.
  • The Locarno Pact made permanent the land that was lost under the Treaty of Versailles.
  • The number of troops were still limited, therefore Germany still felt weak and defenceless.
  • Germany continued to pay reparations.
  • Voters were still suspicious of democracy. The Communists were still a potential threat; the Nazis were rebuilding their party organisation.
  • Important organisations in Germany, like the army and judges, not totally convinced about supporting the Weimar Republic.
  • Germany's economic recovery depended on loans from the USA under the Dawes plan.
  • The politician responsible for Germany’s relative improvement, Gustav Stresemann, died in 1929.