International relations

After losing World War One, being forced to take the blame for the conflict and the subsequent issues surrounding payment of reparations, Germany was an international outcast. Germans were still incredibly bitter about their treatment in the Treaty of Versailles, where they also lost territory on all sides. As Foreign Minister Stresemann oversaw a dramatic improvement in Germany’s relationship with the rest of Europe between 1925 and 1928. This is best illustrated by three agreements:

The three events leading Germany back to acceptance within the international community: Locarno Treaties 1925, League of Nations 1926, and Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928
  • Locarno Treaties 1925. In October 1925 Germany, France and Belgium agreed to respect their post-Versailles borders. Germany had previously complained bitterly about their loss of territory, but now the Germans were accepting the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to France. France also had to respect their frontier with Germany, which meant no more ‘invasions of the Ruhr’ like the one in 1923. However, the Locarno guarantee of frontiers only applied to Western Europe. Germany’s frontiers in the east were regarded as negotiable, and this gave Stresemann the opportunity in future to negotiate the frontiers with Poland and Czechoslovakia in particular.
  • Germany’s entry into the League of Nations 1926. When the League of Nations was set up as part of the Versailles agreement Germany was initially excluded. By signing the Locarno Treaties, Germany showed that it was accepting the Versailles settlement and so a year later was accepted as a permanent member of the Council of League, making it one of the most powerful countries in the League.
  • Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928. Germany was one of 62 countries that signed up to this agreement, which committed its signatories to settling disputes between them peacefully.

These developments meant that Germany was accepted into the emerging ‘international community’ that sought to work together during the 1920s to avoid another destructive war. This ethos of collaboration and peaceful cooperation only lasted, however, until the onset of the Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash of October 1929.

Stresemann had also established the principle of future revision of the Versailles settlement for the German nation, in the ‘open frontiers’ approach in Eastern Europe. He also continued to maintain good relations with the Soviet Union, and signed the Treaty of Berlin in 1926. This Soviet-German agreement renewed the Treaty of Rapallo that they had signed back in 1922. As well as promoting economic co-operation this treaty set up the opportunity for Germany to secretly build up its armed forces on Soviet territory, so the Allies couldn’t find out about this breach of the Versailles treaty. This included the training of German pilots at a Soviet air base.