What was the leadership within Germany like after World War 1?

German political leadership, 1919-33

The quality of leadership wasn't particularly good, except perhaps for the period 1924-1929.

However, one needs to bear in mind the following:

  • Democratic traditions in Germany were weak. Democracy in 1918 (October) was first of all imposed from above - yes, by the Kaiser's government, in the hope of securing a more favourable ceasefire and peace treaty. Then, early in November came the much dreaded revolution from below. In fact this 'second revolution' - if that's the right word for it - was mainly moderate. The horror of Bolshevism at the time was exaggerated.
  • Much of the right wing denied that Germany had been defeated and believed instead that the country had been betrayed by subversives on the home front. For the most part these groups refused to recognize the German Republic, heaped derision on democracy, refused to participate in parliamentary government and was largely anti-Jewish, too.
  • The extreme right yearned for strong, undemocratic government. There were attempted right-wing putsches - the Kapp-Putsch (1920) and Hitler's notorious beer hall putsch (1923).
  • On the left, the Communists generally refused to co-operate, too.
  • The (inherited) refusal of the Kaiser's government to finance WW1 properly, combined with the harsh reparations in the Treaty of Versailles led to hyperinflation.
  • In 1923 the French occupied the Ruhr and tried to set up a puppet state in Germany's industrial heartland.

In view of all these difficulties it is much to the credit of the Gustav Stresemann and other leaders that they managed to get the country back on its feet by the mid 1920s. They stabilized the currency, got the reparations payments reduced; Germany once again achieved something approaching prosperity and its international isolation ended.

In 1930, howevever, Germany was hit by the full blast of the Great Depression and within about three years these achievements were destroyed.


salute the kittens!