Europe Between the Wars: 1919-1939
The Failures of Versailles • The creation of new nations through the policy of nationalism had created more problems than it solved. • Border disputes between the new nations of Eastern Europe led to increasing tensions in the area.
The United States refused to ratify the treaty and America’s absence from the League of Nations weakened the organization from the outset.
The French sought to strengthen the organization through the creation of an international military force, but fears of the loss of sovereignty led to a rejection of the proposal.
The US and Great Britain refused to honor its agreements to form a mutual defense alliance with France. • With Russia in the hands of the Communists, this left France alone and embittered.
French Alliances • To compensate France built a series of alliances with the newly formed Eastern European nations.
Poland and the so-called “Little Entente” (Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) were no substitution for the once mighty Russia.
The French Policy of Coercion (1919-1924) • France decided to follow a course of strict enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Allied Reparations Commission settled on a sum of 132 billion marks (33 billion dollars) to be paid in yearly installments of 2.5 billion marks.
Allied threats to occupy the industrial Ruhr Valley led Germany to agree to the payments.
After making its first payment in 1921, Germany announced it was unable to make any further payments.
France declared Germany to be in violation of the treaty and sent troops to occupy the Ruhr Valley.
Germany adopted a policy of passive resistance to the French occupation and began printing increasingly worthless paper money.
German Inflation • Inflation quickly made the German mark worthless.
In 1914, 4.2 marks equaled a dollar. • On Nov. 1, 1923 the ratio was 130 billion marks to the dollar.
By the end of November the rate was 1.3 trillion to one! • 4,200,000,000,000 : 1 in December
Exchange rates, US Dollar to Mark, 1918-1923Source : Gerald D. Feldman, The Great Disorder, Oxford : UP 1997, p.5 Jan. 1918 Jan. 1919 Jan. 1920 Jan. 1921 Jan. 1922 April 1922 July 1922 Oct. 1922 Jan. 1923 Feb. 1923 5.21 8.20 64.80 64.91 191.81 291.00 493.22 3,180.96 17,972.00 27,918.00 Mar. 1923 Apr. 1923 May 1923 June 1923 July 1923 Aug. 1923 Sep. 1923 Oct. 1923 Nov. 1923 Dec. 1923 21,190.00 24,475.00 47,670.00 109,966.00 353,412.00 4,620,455.00 98,860,000.00 25,260,000,000.00 2,193,600,000,000.00 4,200,000,000,000.00
From The London Daily Express - 1923 • “A Berlin couple who were about to celebrate their golden wedding received an official letter advising them that the mayor, in accordance with Prussian custom, would call and present them with a donation of money. Next morning the mayor, accompanied by several aldermen in picturesque robes, arrived at the aged couple's house, and solemnly handed over in the name of the Prussian State, 1,000,000,000,000 marks or one halfpenny.”
Revolution in Germany • The economic crisis led to uprisings by both communists and ultra-nationalists.
The 1920 Kapp Putsch. "There is terrible misery and hunger in the city," wrote Einstein. "The infant mortality is horrendous...The government has become totally powerless, while the true powers fight each other: the Army, money, and groups of socialist extremists.“
By 1924, pressure from Britain and the US led the French to seek a more conciliatory tone with Germany.
The Hopeful Years (1924-1929) • Election of Liberal-Socialist governments in France and Great Britain led to a more conciliatory approach to the reparations problem.
A new German government led by Gustav Stresemann ended the passive resistance and committed Germany to carry out the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Dawes Plan • An international committee led by American banker Charles Dawes developed a plan to loan money to Germany to allow that country to repay its debts.
Debt restructuring and American investment led to a new era of European prosperity.
The Treaty of Locarno - 1925 • German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann and French minister Aristide Briand concluded a treaty that formalized the borders between Germany and France. • The agreement was hailed as a major step to ending war forever.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact • The “Spirit of Locarno” carried over into a multi-national agreement negotiated by French minister Briand and American Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg that outlawed war “as an instrument of national policy.”
The Kellogg-Briand Pact, like the League of Nations, lacked any mechanism to deal with violations of the agreement.
Disarmament Conferences • A series of Disarmament Conferences were called in the 20s to deal with the issue of arms reduction.
From 1921 to 1922 the Washington Naval Conference was held to establish stable relationships among the naval forces of the various powers.
Three treaties were enacted at the conference: the Four-Power Treaty, the Five-Power Treaty, and the Nine-Power Treaty.
The Geneva Conference • In 1925 a convention in Geneva, Switzerland, banned the use of toxic gas in warfare. • By the time World War II began in 1939, most of the Great Powers, except Japan and the United States, were signatories.
Soviet Recognition • By 1924, the Soviets had relaxed in their push for global communist revolutions in favor of economic development at home.
The western nations had also realized that the USSR was not going to disappear and most of Europe had established full diplomatic relations with the Soviets.
The Comintern • The USSR still funded the propaganda activities of the Communist International, a worldwide organization of pro-Soviet Marxist organizations.
The issue of encouraging world communist revolutions kept the nations of western Europe fearful and distrustful of the new Soviet Union.
The Great Depression • After World War I most of the nations of Europe abandoned the wartime government control of their economies and returned to the pre-war liberal ideal of laissez-faire.
Causes of the Great Depression • War debt and reparations made the economic recovery of 1924-1929 a fragile one. • Overproduction of farm products, especially in the United States, led to a dramatic decrease in farm prices.
Eastern European nations began to close their markets to outside goods by raising tariffs • An increase in the use of hydroelectricity and oil led to a slump in the coal market.