“The foreign policy which the government has pursued since the end of the war rejects the idea of revenge. Its purpose is rather the achievement of a mutual understanding.”
Chancellor Wilhelm Marx, February 1927
Despite the depths of both economic and political depression experienced by Germany in the ‘annus horribilis‘ of 1923, a combination of political pragmatism, skilled diplomacy and foreign investment into the battered and floundering German economic system saw the Weimar Republic stage a dramatic and sudden rebirth.
Orchestrated by Gustav Stresemann – primary role being that of Foreign Minister but generally accepted by Historians as the brains behind the operation – Germany re-aligned its position on the international stage through agreements made whereby Germany agreed to the new political and legal boundaries of post-war Europe and regaining some of its former standing as a member of the international community again.
Stresemann was also pivotal in negotiating the end to Germany’s financial crisis through agreements made with the USA in the form of financial and material support as well as scrapping the worthless Reichsmark and forging a new currency representative of what was increasingly a ‘new Germany.’
Its place within the international community of nations restored (not to the liking of all Germans of course!) Germany experienced a renaissance within its own artistic and cultural scene which placed Berlin as perhaps the focal point globally of progressive and critical thought in the 1920s. New styles and ideas flourished alongside a liberated ‘anything goes’ spirit which left a cultural legacy seen by many as the Weimar Republic’s ‘Golden Age.’
However the rebellious and iconoclastic message which underpinned the scene in the cabaret clubs and coffee houses of Berlin and Hamburg wasn’t the lingua franca of all Germans, many of whom yearned for the bygone days of absolutist rule and conservative traditional Germanic rural values. They saw Weimar society as morally decadent and ethically corrupt to their vision of Germany. Their voices faded to relative insignificance when the times were good, but events on Wall Street in 1929 gave new credence to their previously derided and maligned ramblings ….
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“Berlin transformed itself into the Babel of the world… Germans brought to perversion all their vehemence and love of system. Made-up boys with artificial waistlines promenaded along the Kurfustendamm… Even [ancient Rome] had not known orgies like the Berlin transvestite balls, where hundreds of men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes, danced under the benevolent eyes of the police.”
Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer