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Prosperity and Prospect for Peace

Germany benefited from Britain's coal strike in 1926 by moving into coal markets that had belonged to the British. And trade improved for Germany with the spread of Locarno conciliation. The Great Depression was not far away. Loans and investments were entering Germany, much of it from the United States. Foreign investors bought German securities and deposited much money in German banks, helping supply Germany with capital for industrial expansion and local construction.

German industries were consolidating. Eight of the principal chemical and dye firms merged into the famous I G Farben Corporation, which monopolized the chemical business in Germany, Central Europe and elsewhere. Iron, coal and steel companies merged into the great steel combine, United Steel Works. German industry's modernization of equipment was the envy of the world – a modernization that was to serve Germany in the thirties under Hitler.

The German mark became one of Europe's more stable currencies. Industrial output increased along with exports, and wages rose for the average German. The German public began buying radios, electronic household goods, automobiles and tickets to movies. Germany began building municipal swimming pools, stadiums, public squares, dance halls, convention centers, hotels, airports, theaters and museums. Germany was a nation "on the go," functioning well enough to earn the respect that it had not had since the time of Bismarck. Germans were seen from abroad not so much as "the Huns" of the Great War but more as hardworking, dependable people and as leaders of the world in art, the theater, cinema, literature and science. Abroad, historians and others were revising their opinions about the World War. Germans were recognized for their scholarship in the social and natural sciences, with Max Weber in sociology, Friedrich Meinecke in history and Max Planck in mathematics. And there was the German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

A new law was passed in Germany, with help from conservatives, that set up a system of unemployment insurance. It was to be drawn from funds amassed by employers and employees – a program that would protect a person for six months after losing his job. A system of labor boards was created for the mediation of labor disputes.

And with the good times came hedonism, especially in Berlin. As in Britain and the United States there were flappers, women smoking and wearing shorter skirts. American jazz drove the waltz from the ballrooms. The Charleston and Black Bottom were danced. In the cabarets, comedians ridiculed everyone. There were transvestite balls, boy prostitutes and some women who were described as engaging in "every form of perversion." Again, conservatives and rural folks were appalled by the big city. They called Berlin a cesspool.

Nazis referred to what was happening in Berlin as the Bolshevization of culture, while the Communists described it as capitalist decadence. Hitler was also appalled. He spoke against suggestive advertising and anything else that stimulated unclean thoughts and unhealthful living.

Meanwhile, Germany's middle class was making only limited recovery from its financial devastation by the hyperinflation of 1923.

The Prospect for Peace

The rise in prosperity had not diminished Germany's dislike for reparation payments. In 1928, Stresemann requested a revision of the Dawes Plan. And in 1929, a new plan would be laid, called the Young Plan, named after Owen D. Young of the United States who led the committee established to create the plan. In the Young Plan a date was set for the withdrawal of Allied forces from Germany, to begin in September 1929 and to be completed no later than June 30, 1930. Reparation payments were to be spread to 1988. However reasonable this may have seemed to those other than the Germans, any reminder or agreement concerning the reparations payments still angered most Germans, and this was a propaganda opportunity for rightwing nationalists. Germany's wealthy Nationalist party politician and newspaper publisher, Alfred Hugenburg, formed a national committee to fight the plan. Among those he asked to join was Adolf Hitler, and this gave Hitler an opportunity for nationwide publicity.

With German industry modernizing and Hitler waiting in the wings, hope for peace in Europe depended upon the continuation of a reasonably adequate well-being in Germany. And peace would be served too by power in Germany in the hands of moderates. But the presidency in Germany remained in the hands of Hindenburg, who was 80 in 1928 and even less creative in mind than he had been in 1918. Hindenburg still hated those moderate socialists who might have served in maintaining the republic. Elections in 1928 reduced the number of National Socialists in parliament to twelve, and the Social Democrats held 153 seats in Parliament, making them the largest party. But not wanting to create a government with Socialists, Hindenburg would side with those who looked for leadership elsewhere among Germany's politicians.


Hitler, by Joachim C. Fest, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992

Hitler in Vienna, 1907 to 1913: Clues to the Future, by J. Syndey Jones, 2002

The German Catastrophe: Reflections and Recollections, by Friedrich Meinecke, Harvard University Press, 1971

Alfred von Tirpitz and German Right-Wing Politics, 1914-1930, by Raffel Scheck, 1998

Tormented Warrior (A biography on Ludendorf), by Robert Parkison, 1979

The Hidden Hitler, by Lothar Machtan, 2001

The Nazi Impact on a German Village, by Walter Rinderle and Bernard Norling, 1993

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, by Nicholson Baker, 2008

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power, by Andrew Nagorski, 2012

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.