1920 in Germany
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|See also:||Other events of 1920|
History of Germany • Timeline • Years
Events in the year 1920 in Germany.
- 1 Incumbents
- 2 Overview
- 3 Events
- 3.1 Internal territorial changes in Germany
- 3.2 Political situation at the beginning of the year
- 3.3 Anti-government agitation
- 3.4 Coup in Berlin
- 3.5 Return of government
- 3.6 Ruhr Uprising
- 3.7 International intervention
- 3.8 San Remo meeting
- 3.9 General election
- 3.10 New cabinet
- 3.11 Spa conference
- 3.12 Rest of 1920
- 4 Births
- 5 Deaths
- Gustav Bauer (Social Democrats) to 27 March, then Hermann Müller (1st term) (Social Democrats) to 25 June, then Constantin Fehrenbach (Centre)
Consider first the territorial changes which had been brought about by the Treaty of Versailles (and also certain internal territorial rearrangements which had taken place as the result of the revolution). By the Treaty of Versailles provinces had been severed from Germany in almost all directions.
The two most important cessions of territory were the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to France and of a large stretch of territory in West Prussia, Posen, and Upper Silesia to Poland. Of these, the territory ceded to Poland amounted to nearly 20,000 square miles (50,000 km2), and, coupled with the establishment of Danzig as an independent state, which was also imposed upon Germany, this loss had the effect of cutting off East Prussia from the main territory of Germany.
Danzig and Memel were to be ceded to the Allies, their fate to be subsequently decided. A portion of Silesia was to be ceded to Czechoslovakia. Also, apart from the actual cessions of territory, the treaty arranged that plebiscites should be held in certain areas to decide the destinies of the districts concerned. Certain districts of East Prussia and West Prussia were to poll to decide whether they should belong to Germany or to Poland. A third portion of Silesia, which was in dispute between Germany and Poland, was to exercise the right of self-determination. The small districts of Eupen and Malmedy were to decide whether they would belong to Belgium or to Germany. The middle and southern districts of the province of Schleswig, which had been annexed to Prussia in 1866, were to decide their own destinies. Finally, the coal-producing valley of the Saarland, which had been provisionally separated from Germany, was to be the subject of a referendum after the lapse of fifteen years.
The Allied and Associated governments had assumed the task of revising territorial changes and arrangements dating back to the latter half of the 18th century. The conference cancelled completely the expansion of Germany over the past 150 years; but did not cancel the schism in Germany - the exclusion of Austria - which had been incidental to that expansion.
Internal territorial changes in Germany
The following describes the internal territorial rearrangements which were made after the establishment of the German republic. During the period of the Hohenzollern empire there had been twenty-six states within the German federation. During the war the number had been reduced by one by the fusion of the principalities of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. After the revolution there was a rapid reduction in the number of smaller states. Alsace-Lorraine was, of course, returned to France, and the two principalities of Reuss - the so-called Elder and Younger lines - united into a single state. The Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha split into two halves; Coburg voluntarily united itself with Bavaria, and Gotha later in the year 1919 entered into negotiations with a number of the other small states of central Germany to bring about a general union of the little republics concerned. Six states took part in these negotiations, which were brought to a successful conclusion at the end of December 1919. The states which thus agreed to unite were: (1) Schwarzburg, (2) Reuss, (3) Gotha, (4) Saxe-Weimar, (5) Saxe-Meiningen, and (6) Saxe-Altenburg. The total population of the United States was just over 1,500,000, and their joint area was just over 4,500 square miles (11,700 km2). The states took the name of Thuringia (Einheitsstaat Thüringen). The town of Weimar was made the capital of the new state.
It will be seen that owing to these various fusions and changes the twenty-six states of the German federation were reduced to eighteen.
Political situation at the beginning of the year
In considering the general political situation in the country at the beginning of 1920, it is notable that from the time of the revolution until the end of 1919, the Liberal and Radical parties in combination with the so-called Majority Social Democratic Party had held power continuously, and had been strikingly confirmed in their position by the general election held in January 1919. The chief point of interest in the general election had been the close correspondence of the results with those that used to be obtained in the elections for the old Reichstag in the time of the Empire. On February 11, 1919, the new parliament elected Friedrich Ebert as president of the German republic. Philipp Scheidemann acted as minister-president during the first half of 1919, but at the time of the signing of the treaty of peace in June he was succeeded by Gustav Bauer, one of the best-known leaders of the Majority Social Democratic Party, who had not been a member of Scheidemann's government. The government persevered but the ministry and the parties which supported them were placed in an unstable and very difficult position. On one side, the government had to face the extreme hostility of the conservative party, who had been opposed from the beginning to the new republican institutions. On the other side, they faced the extreme revolutionaries, who, for entirely different reasons, had been opposed to the submission to the Entente, and desired an alliance with the Bolshevik forces of the Soviet Union. During 1919 the government had been faced greater difficulties from the parties of the left than the parties of the right, and the extreme Socialists had made several unsuccessful attempts at armed insurrection. The reactionary groups were also capable of making serious trouble for the government.
During January and February there were no events of first-class importance, but in March there were kaleidoscopic changes in Berlin, which illustrated dramatically the difficulty of the position of the moderate German government, placed as it was, between the extremists of the right and of the left. During the early weeks of the year certain people in the conservative party were agitating actively against the government, and were endeavouring to find some pretext - preferably a democratic pretext - for taking action against them. One of the most prominent persons in this movement was Dr. Wolfgang Kapp, who had once held office as president of East Prussia, and had been a founder of the Fatherland Party and an associate of the Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. During January and February Kapp entered into correspondence with the prime minister, Bauer, and brought complaints against the government. The chief of these complaints were that Ebert had remained in power too long, since according to the constitution the president ought to be elected by the whole nation, and not merely (as Ebert had been) by the National Assembly; that the ministry itself had likewise retained power too long, since it and the parliament which supported it were elected and established only for the purpose of concluding peace; that the government's administration had been inefficient and had failed to restore the economic position in the country, which had remained deplorable since the conclusion of the armistice. There was but little substance in any of these charges, except, perhaps, the first; and there is every reason to suspect that they were only put forward as a cover for different, and possibly sinister, designs. Ebert and Bauer naturally paid no attention to Dr. Kapp's demands; and in the middle of March the reactionaries seem to have thought that the time had arrived for them to come out into the open and declare opposition.
On March 12 Bauer appears to have obtained information regarding the plot, and possibly it was this which induced the conspirators to act earlier than they had intended and certainly prematurely. Kapp had obtained an important accomplice in the person of General Baron Walther von Lüttwitz, who was the commander of the 1st Division of the Reichswehr. Another commander of the Reichswehr, General Georg Maerker, also appears to have been very doubtful in his loyalty to the government. During the past twelve months both these soldiers had served well under the able, but ruthless, cruel, and traitorous war minister, Gustav Noske, in the work of suppressing the insurrections of the Spartacists, a group of anti-war German radicals. Repression of the German pacifists and internationalists, it would turn out, was an activity in which reactionaries and moderates could easily cooperate without friction.
Coup in Berlin
Finding that his plot was discovered, Dr. Kapp attempted a sudden coup d'état in Berlin, which met with fleeting success. Supported by the Marine Brigade Erhardt (the first paramilitary group to use the swastika as its emblem), by the irregular "Baltic" troops (the German troops who had occasioned trouble in Courland in the previous year by fighting independently of any government), who were now stationed at Döberitz, by the former guard cavalry division, and by the Reichswehr troops whom General von Lüttwitz had led, Kapp advanced upon Berlin in the early hours of March 13. Realizing that the generals in command of the Reichswehr had betrayed their trust, Ebert and Bauer fled from Berlin to Dresden, and were fortunate in being able to escape before the Baltic troops arrived. Immediately after he reached Berlin, at 10 am, Dr. Kapp issued a proclamation declaring that the Ebert-Bauer administration had ceased to exist and that he was himself acting as imperial chancellor, and that General von Lüttwitz had been appointed minister of defense. The proclamation also stated that Dr. Kapp only regarded his administration as provisional, and that he would "restore constitutional conditions" by holding new elections. The new government disclaimed any intention of restoring the monarchy, but all Kapp's chief supporters were monarchists, and he had the old imperial colours - black, white, and red - hoisted in the capital. It was also perhaps significant that immediately after the coup d'état much coming and going was reported from ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II's Dutch home at Amerongen.
Ebert and his associates were not slow to decide upon the measures to be taken against the reactionaries. They issued an appeal to the working classes to engage in a drastic general strike. The appeal, which was signed by Ebert, Bauer, and Noske, read as follows:
- "The military revolt has come. Ehrhardt's naval brigade is advancing on Berlin to overthrow the government. These servants of the state, who fear the dissolution of the army, desire to put reactionaries in the seat of the government. We refuse to bend before military compulsion. We did not make the revolution in order to have again to recognize militarism. We will not cooperate with the criminals of the Baltic states. We should be ashamed of ourselves, did we act otherwise.
- A thousand times, No! Cease work! Stifle the opportunity of this military dictatorship! Fight with all the means at your command to retain the republic. Put all differences of opinion aside.
- Only one means exists against the return of Wilhelm II. That is the cessation of all means of communication. No hand may be moved. No proletarian may assist the dictator. Strike along the whole line."
The response to this appeal by the working classes was enthusiastic and almost universal. Except in East Prussia and to some extent in Pomerania and Silesia, the Kapp "government" obtained scarcely any support in the country; and the Saxon, Bavarian, Württemberg, and Baden governments all rallied to the support of President Ebert - though notwithstanding the loyalty of the Saxons, the president and the prime minister thought it advisable to remove from Dresden to Stuttgart. Kapp and von Lüttwitz met with the bitter hostility of the working classes in Berlin, who succeeded in bringing to a standstill the whole life of the capital.
It was, indeed, apparent after forty-eight hours that the extraordinary success of the general strike would make the new Kapp regime impossible. During the first two days there were rumours that in order to avoid civil war Ebert and Bauer were willing to compromise with the conspirators; but it soon became obvious that any such course would be unnecessary.
The feature which hampered Kapp fatally was the complete success of the strike in Berlin itself; and since his writ did not even run in the capital, the usurping chancellor felt compelled to resign on March 17. He endeavoured to cover up his failure, by alleging that his mission had been fulfilled, in that the government had now proclaimed that they would hold a general election within a few weeks, but his protestations notwithstanding, it was obvious to all the onlookers that his real designs had been to displace the old government altogether, and very probably to upset the entire republican regime. A meeting of the National Assembly was held at Stuttgart on March 18, and the prime minister made a long speech dealing with Kapp's escapade, but before then, the crisis had already passed - and had in fact given place to a crisis of a totally different kind. On March 18 some of the members of the government returned to Berlin, and on that day also Kapp's troops - who were known as the "Baltic" troops, although the name properly applied only to a section of them - left the capital. Their departure was unfortunately marked by a most disagreeable incident. As they marched through the streets towards the Brandenburg Gate, the populace which had always been entirely hostile to them, collected in great numbers and followed the soldiers, jeering vociferously. The legionaries were in an ill-humour at the failure of their coup, and being further aggravated by the behaviour of the crowds, when the last detachment reached the Brandenburg Gate they wheeled about, and fired several volleys into the mass of civilians who had followed them. A panic ensued, and a considerable number of persons were killed and wounded. Kapp himself fled to Sweden.
See also Kapp Putsch.
Return of government
When the government returned to the capital, they found that the strike which they had utilized to overcome Kapp had now got beyond control; and indeed in the east end of Berlin, Soviets were being declared, and Daunig had declared himself president of a new German Communist republic. The government called off the strike, but a large number of the strikers refused to return to work. On March 19 Spartacist risings occurred in many different places, especially in western Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg, and Leipzig. In Leipzig the rising was extremely serious, and in suppressing this local insurrection the government had to use aeroplanes over the streets of the city in order to intimidate the Communists. The Communist leaders decided to direct the strike, the power of which had been proved against Kapp, against the government itself. In Berlin, with the active assistance of the prime minister of Prussia, Paul Hirsch, the federal government were soon able to gain control of affairs; and in Saxony, Bavaria, and Württemberg the troops were also able to overcome speedily the insurrection. But in the west, in Westphalia and the Rhineland, the situation became extremely serious. The position was in this part of Germany complicated by the existence of the neutral zone lying between the territory occupied by the Entente, and the main part of Germany, where the government were of course free to move their forces as they pleased. Apart from a small force for police purposes, the German government were not allowed to send troops into the neutral zone. The military police in the zone were quite incapable of dealing with the Spartacist insurrection; and the insurgents speedily took possession of Essen, after a treacherous attack on the rear of the small government force. The revolutionists also seized Wesel. The union of "Red" Germany with Bolshevik Russia was proclaimed. The government took alarm at the development of the Spartacist peril, and on March 23 it was even rumoured that a purely Socialist government - containing several members of the Independent Social Democratic Party - was to be formed. This rumour proved to be untrue, but two of the ablest members of the cabinet, Noske and Matthias Erzberger, who were especially obnoxious to the Communists, were asked by Bauer to resign. The resignation of these two ministers was in some sense a concession to the extremists, but the latter refused to consider compromise. Feeling overwhelmed with the difficulty of the situation, Bauer himself resigned on March 26. Fortunately Ebert had no difficulty in finding a statesman willing to undertake the burden of the chancellorship. The president asked Hermann Müller, who had previously held the office of minister for foreign affairs, to form an administration. Within forty-eight hours it was announced that Müller had succeeded in forming a cabinet, which included (as did the previous administration) members of all the three moderate parties, the Clericals, the Democrats, and the Majority Social Democrats. The new cabinet was composed as follows:
|Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs||Hermann Müller|
|Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs||von Haniel|
|Minister of the Interior and Vice-Chancellor||Erich Koch-Weser|
|Minister of Posts||Johannes Giesberts|
|Minister of Finance||Joseph Wirth|
|Minister of Transport||Johannes Bell|
|Minister of Justice||Andreas Blunck|
|Minister of Labour||Alexander Schlicke|
|Minister of Economics||Robert Schmidt|
|Minister of Defense||Otto Gessler|
|Minister of Food||Andreas Hermes|
|Minister without Portfolio||Eduard David|
|President of the Treasury||Gustav Bauer|
Müller's tenure of the Foreign Office was only temporary, and before the middle of April he relinquished that position to Dr. Adolf Köster. At the same time there was a reconstruction of the government of Prussia, Otto Braun becoming premier. The new ministry was constituted on much the same lines as that of Germany, and including members of all the three moderate parties.
As soon as he assumed office Müller had to deal with the pressing problem of the insurrection in the Ruhr valley, and the neutral zone generally. The German government applied to the Allies for permission to send troops into the disturbed districts in excess of the numbers allowed by the Treaty of Versailles. It appears that in view of the situation which had arisen the British and Italian governments made various suggestions for a temporary modification of these particular provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (Articles 42 to 44). It was proposed, for instance, that German forces might be allowed to occupy the Ruhr valley under whatever guarantees Marshal Foch might think necessary; or that the German troops should be accompanied by Allied officers; or that the matter should be left in the hands of the German government with a warning that if the neutral zone were not re-evacuated as soon as practicable, a further district of Germany would be occupied by the Entente. The French government, however, raised difficulties; and declared that if the Germans were allowed to send forces into the Ruhr District, they (the French) should be allowed to occupy Frankfurt, Homburg, and other neighbouring German towns, with the sanction of the Allies, during the period that the German troops were in the neutral zone. Owing to these differences of opinion between the Allied governments no quick decision was reached; in the meantime, the insurrection in the Ruhr Valley was becoming daily more serious. Moreover, the German government themselves hindered a settlement by indicating that they could not accept the French suggestion of a parallel occupation of Frankfurt by French troops. It was obvious that matters would soon reach a crisis, notwithstanding the conciliatory efforts of the British government It came as no great surprise, when, on April 3, German regular troops, of the Reichswehr, entered the neutral zone in force, although no permission for them to do so had been granted by the Entente. The troops were under the command of General von Watter, and they experienced no serious difficulty in dealing with the Spartacists, although the latter possessed some artillery. The revolutionary headquarters at Mülheim were taken on April 4.
These incidents led to somewhat sensational developments between the French, British, and German governments. Immediately after the German troops crossed the line, the French government itself gave orders to its own troops to advance, and Frankfurt was occupied on April 6 and Homburg on the following day. The French government proclaimed the necessity of this move on the ground that Articles 42 to 44 of the Treaty of Versailles had been broken by the Germans. The French advance occasioned extreme bitterness of feeling in Germany, more particularly as some of the occupying troops were black; and the attitude of the crowds in Frankfurt became so hostile, that on one occasion the French troops brought a machine-gun into action, and a number of civilians were killed and wounded. The British government also disapproved of the French action, partly because they regarded the advance as an extreme measure which should only have been adopted in the last resort, and still more so because the French move had been made independently, and without the sanction of the other Allied governments. The British held that the enforcement of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was an affair for the Allies collectively, and not for any single Allied government.
The Franco-British difference of opinion was, however, of short duration (see 1920 in France); and it was soon made clear that whilst the British government were disposed to think that there had been a genuine necessity to send the German troops into the Ruhr valley, they were equally as determined as the French to see that the terms of the treaty were observed. And the extreme rapidity with which the German troops overcame the revolutionaries tended to bring the whole crisis to an end.
On April 12 Müller made a statement on the situation in the National Assembly at Berlin. He complained of French militarism, and in particular that Senegalese negroes should have been quartered in Frankfurt University. He laid the blame for the developments largely upon Kapp and his associates; and said that it was owing to the undermining of the loyalty of the Reichswehr by the reactionaries, that the working classes had now lost confidence in the republican army. The latest casualty list which had been received from the disturbed area proved the severity of the actions which had taken place; 160 officers and men had been killed and nearly 400 had been wounded. The advance of the German troops into the Ruhr had been necessary in order to protect the lives and property of peaceable citizens living in that district. It was true, said the speaker, that according to Articles 42 and 43 of the treaty of peace, the German government were not allowed to assemble armed forces in the neutral zone, because to do so would constitute a hostile act against the signatory powers; but, he asked, was this prescription laid down in order to prevent the reestablishment of public order? By an agreement of August 1919, the Entente had sanctioned the maintenance in the neutral zone of a military police force, and therefore the Entente, including France, had recognized that measures necessary for the preservation of order in the neutral zone did not constitute a violation of the treaty.
San Remo meeting
A meeting of the Supreme Council, consisting of the British, French, and Italian prime ministers, was opened at San Remo on April 19; and the Council had to deal, among other questions, with the German invasion of the Ruhr Valley, and with the problem of disarmament generally. David Lloyd George, with the support of Francesco Saverio Nitti, proposed that the German government should be invited to attend the conference; but this was strongly opposed by Alexandre Millerand, and the proposal therefore lapsed. The result of the discussions at San Remo on the German question was that a note dealing with the question of disarmament was sent to the German government at the end of April. The note declared that so long as the German government was not taking serious steps to carry out the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, it was impossible for the Allied governments even to consider the German request that the permanent force of 100,000 men, allowed by the treaty, should be increased. Germany was not fulfilling her engagements either in the destruction of the materials of war, or in the reduction of the number of troops, or in the provision of coal, or with regard to reparation. The Allied governments intended to insist upon the carrying out of the terms of the treaty, though in cases where the German government were faced with unavoidable difficulties, the Allied governments would not necessarily insist upon a literal interpretation of the terms. It was not their intention to annex any portion of German territory.
So far as the occupation of the Ruhr valley was concerned the above note came almost after the event as the rapidity with which the Reichswehr overcame the insurgents made it possible for the German government to withdraw the troops within a few weeks. At the end of April the foreign minister, Dr. Köster, declared that the French ought now to evacuate Frankfurt, Darmstadt, and Homburg, because the German troops had been reduced to 17,500 which was permitted by the agreement of August 1919. On the Allied side, however, it was stated that the force must be reduced forthwith to twenty battalions, six squadrons, and two batteries; and that even this force would have to be replaced entirely by a body of 10,000 police by July 10. The German government made the necessary reductions, and on May 17 the French evacuated Frankfurt and the other occupied towns.
The reactionary and Spartacist insurrections having been thus quelled, the German government proceeded, in accordance with their declarations, to make the necessary preparations for holding the general election. The elections were fixed for Sunday, June 6. All the parties undertook active campaigns, but the general public showed less interest in these elections for the new Reichstag than they had shown in the elections for the temporary National Assembly in January 1919. The total number of electors was about 32,000,000, approximately 15,000,000 men and 17,000,000 women; but only about 80% of the voters exercised their rights. In the elections of 1919, the results had been strikingly in accord with the last general election for the Reichstag before the war; and had therefore constituted a remarkable popular confirmation of the attitude of the Reichstag bloc during the war. The present elections yielded different results. The three moderate parties had been in an overwhelming majority both in the last imperial Reichstag and also in the new republican National Assembly. They were again returned with a majority over the right and left political wings combined, but the majority was now very small. The German political parties were now grouped, from right to left, as follows: the National Party (the old Conservatives), the German People's Party (the old National Liberals); the Democrats (the old Radicals); the Clericals (the old Centre, which now included Protestant as well as Catholic Clericals); the Majority Social Democrats; the Minority or Independent Social Democrats; and lastly the Communists or Spartacists, whose opinions were comparable with those of the Bolsheviks of Russia.
In January 1919, the Communists, presumably realizing their numerical insignificance, had refused to take part in the polling. On this occasion, however, they decided to enter the contest, and one of the remarkable features of the elections was the utter collapse of the Spartacists. The satisfaction which the rout of the Spartacists caused to most moderate Germans was, however, tempered by the success of the Independent Social Democrats, who had for months been growing increasingly more extreme in their views, and were now, indeed, one of the most extreme Socialist parties in all Europe, outside Russia. The total number of deputies in the new Reichstag was slightly greater than in the National Assembly, being about 470, the exact number being doubtful until the destinies of the plebiscite areas in West Prussia, East Prussia, and Silesia had been decided. The Spartacists won only two seats. The Independent Social Democrats, however, increased their membership of the house from twenty-two to eighty. The success of the Independent Social Democrats was gained, as might have been expected, chiefly at the expense of the Majority Social Democrats, who had been by far the largest party in the National Assembly. Indeed, the reduction in numbers of the Majority Social Democrats was almost exactly the same as the increase in numbers of the Minority Social Democrats. The total of the Majority Social Democrats fell from 165 to 110. The Clerical electorate, whose strength lay in the west and south, was as always a remarkably constant feature. The Clericals returned with eighty-eight deputies, as against ninety in the Assembly.
Passing to a consideration of the Liberal and Conservative parties, one finds that on the right wing of politics there had also been a remarkable change. The Democrats fared worse in the elections than any other party. The two parties of the right were returned in far greater strength than they had possessed in the National Assembly. The number of Democrats fell from 75 to 45, which was the more remarkable when the increased size of the house is considered. The German National Party, representing the old Conservatives, and still avowed monarchists, increased their strength from 43to 65. But the most remarkable gains were those of the German People's Party. This party - the old National Liberals - represented chiefly the great industrial interests and had been very influential, though not very numerous, under the Empire. In January 1919, they had been almost annihilated at the polls, and had won only twenty-two seats. Now, however, they returned with over sixty deputies.
It will be seen that the elections apparently revealed two diametrically opposite tendencies: a drift from the moderates to the extreme left, and a drift from the moderates to the extreme right. These two tendencies had affected adversely the Majority Social Democrats and Democrats respectively. To some extent this possibly reflected popular discontent with the existing government, with a tendency for the Democrats to vote for the German People's Party and the Majority Social Democrats to drift to the Independent Social Democrats. The exception in this drift to the political extremes was to be found, with the supporters of the Clerical Party, whose political fidelity was proverbial. It was not the most extreme parties, the German Nationals and the Communists, who profited by the ministerial discontent, but the German People's Party and the Independent Social Democrats.
The Majority Social Democrats were still the largest party in the country, as in the house, and secured about 5,500,000 votes - nearly 1,000,000 more than the respective totals of the Independent Social Democrats and the Clericals, whose strength was about equal. The Democrats secured a little over 2,000,000 votes; whilst the two parties of the right together secured over 7,000,000 votes, about equally divided between them.
The two parties of the right had increased their total vote by some 3,500,000, and the democratic vote had sunk by about the same number. The total poll of the Majority Social Democrats had sunk by some 5,500,000, whilst the poll of the Minority Social Democrats had risen by more than 2,500,000. When allowance is made for the decrease in the total poll, there was virtually no difference in the Clerical poll, as compared with January 1919. It will be seen that as between the non-Socialists and the Socialists as a whole, the position of the non-Socialists had markedly improved, and they had, in fact, slightly increased their aggregate poll, notwithstanding the diminution of the total number of electors who exercised their rights.
Owing to the changes in the relative strength of parties, it was several weeks before a cabinet could be formed; and after several politicians had attempted in vain to form a new cabinet, Konstantin Fehrenbach, one of the most respected leaders of the Clerical Party, succeeded in doing so. What might have been an extremely unstable parliamentary position was avoided by the good sense shown by the German People's Party, who were led by Gustav Stresemann. The German People's Party decided to abandon their position of opposition and their association with the Conservatives, and agreed to unite with the Clericals and Democrats to form a government. The Majority Social Democrats would not actually join a ministry which included the German People's Party, but they agreed to lend the new government their general support in the Reichstag. Thus it came about that twenty months after the revolution an entirely non-Socialist government came into power in Germany, though it was true that the new government depended partly upon the support of the Majority Social Democrats, whose moderation, however, made them more comparable to the Radical-Socialists of France and to Radicals in other countries, than to the Socialist parties of most other countries in Europe. Fehrenbach was born in 1852 and entered the Bavarian parliament as a Catholic and a representative of Freiburg when he was about thirty years of age. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1903 and he became president of that house in 1918. And in 1919 he became president of the National Assembly.
Fehrenbach was able to form a strong cabinet from the personal point of view. Rudolf Heinze became vice-chancellor and minister for justice, Dr. Walter Simons became foreign minister, Joseph Wirth became minister of finance, Erich Koch-Weser was minister of the interior, and Johannes Giesberts was minister of posts. Noske was not a member of the new cabinet.
The new chancellor made his first declaration to the Reichstag on June 28, and declared that so long as the formerly hostile states refused to modify the Treaty of Versailles, the German government could have no other policy than to endeavour to the best of their ability to carry out the terms of that treaty.
At the meeting of the Supreme Council at San Remo in April it was decided to invite the German government to a conference at Spa, in Belgium, in order to settle the questions relating to disarmament and reparations which arose under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The Spa Conference was held during the first half of July, and Fehrenbach himself attended the conference at which Lloyd George and Millerand were also present. Before going into the conference with the Germans the Allies agreed amongst themselves as to the proportions of the total German reparation which should be allotted to each of the Allied countries. Thus France was to receive 52%, the British Empire 22%, Italy 10%, Belgium 8%, and Serbia 5%, the small remaining proportion to be divided amongst other claimants. Apart from her 8% Belgium was to have the privilege of transferring her entire war debt to Germany's shoulders, and she was also to have a prior claim upon the first £100,000,000 paid by Germany. These proportions were settled, but the total amount to be paid by Germany was not decided.
The conference was to have been opened on July 5, and a preliminary sitting was in fact held on that day, but owing to the non-arrival of Otto Gessler, the German minister of defense, it was not possible to proceed with the serious consideration of the first subject on the agenda, which was the question of German disarmament. The conference was held under the presidency of the Belgian prime minister, Léon Delacroix, and the Belgian foreign minister, Paul Hymans, also attended. The British representatives, in addition to Lloyd George himself, were Lord Curzon and Sir Laming Worthington-Evans. The chief Italian representative was Count Sforza, the distinguished and successful foreign minister. The German chancellor was accompanied by Simons and Wirth.
On the following day Gessler arrived, and he proceeded at once to make a formal request that the 100,000 men, which was the limit of the German army allowed by the treaty, should continue to be exceeded, on the ground that it was impossible for the government to keep order with such a small force. Lloyd George then explained the reasons for the Allies' anxiety. He said that the treaty allowed Germany 100,000 men, 100,000 rifles, and 2,000 machine guns. Germany, however, still possessed a regular army of 200,000 men, and also possessed 50,000 machine guns, and 12,000 guns. Moreover, she had only surrendered 1,500,000 rifles, although it was obvious that there must be millions of rifles in the country. During the discussions on the following days it transpired from statements made by the chief of the General Staff himself, General von Seeckt, that in addition to the Reichswehr there were various other organized forces in Germany such as the Einwohnerwehr and the Sicherheitspolizei. The Einwohnerwehr alone appear to have numbered over 500,000 men. General von Seeckt proposed that the regular army should be reduced gradually to 100,000 men by October 1921. A discussion upon this matter took place between the Allies, and it was decided that Germany should be given until January 1, 1921, to reduce the strength of the Reichswehr to the treaty figure of 100,000 men. The exact conditions laid down were that Germany should reduce the Reichswehr to 150,000 men by October 1, withdraw the arms of the Einwohnerwehr and the Sicherheitspolizei, and issue a proclamation demanding the surrender of all arms in the hands of the civilian population, with effective penalties in the event of default. On July 9 the German delegates signed the agreement embodying these stipulations in regard to disarmament.
The later sittings of the conference were concerned with the question of the trial of the German "war criminals", the delivery of coal as a form of reparation, and various other financial matters. It was the question of coal which required the closest attention, largely owing to the extreme need of France for supplies of coal, and the agreement relating to this matter was signed on July 16. It was decided that for six months after August 1 the German government should deliver up 2,000,000 tons of coal per month.
The question of the war criminals referred to above had been under discussion since the beginning of the year. The Treaty of Versailles had required that certain persons with an especially evil record in the war should be handed over to the Allies. Lists of the chief persons coming under the heading of "war criminals" were published by the Allied governments at the end of January. The lists included a number of very well known persons, such as the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, Field Marshal August von Mackensen, General von Kluck, Admiral von Tirpitz, and Admiral von Capelle. However, the ex-Emperor Wilhelm had fled to the Netherlands, and since the Dutch government definitely declined to hand him over to the Allies, it was generally held, especially in Britain, that it was difficult to press forward very vigorously with the punishment of those who, however important their positions, had only been the emperor's servants. It was therefore subsequently decided that the German government itself should be instructed to proceed with the punishment of the war criminals concerned. But it transpired at Spa that the German government had been extremely dilatory in taking the necessary proceedings.
Rest of 1920
The last five months of the year were much less eventful in Germany. The country was still suffering from a shortage of food, though not in the acute degree which was so painfully characteristic of Austria and also of some of the other countries farther east. The German government appear to have made serious efforts to comply with their treaty obligations regarding disarmament and reparation. Thus, in the three weeks following the Spa Conference over 4,000 heavy guns and field guns were destroyed; and measures were taken to obtain the very large number of arms which existed all over the country in the hands of the civilian population. Great numbers of livestock were also handed over to the Allies. Thus France received from Germany (up to November 30) over 30,000 horses, over 65,000 cattle, and over 100,000 sheep. Belgium received, up to the same date, 6,000 horses, 67,000 cattle, and 35,000 sheep.
The financial position of the country remained extremely serious. The total national debt (funded debt and floating debt) amounted to 200,000,000,000 marks, that is, £10,000,000,000 sterling at the old prewar rate of exchange. The anticipated revenue for the year 1920-21 was 27,950,000,000 marks, and the anticipated ordinary expenditure was 23,800,000,000 marks. There was, however, also an anticipated extraordinary expenditure of no less than 11,600,000,000 marks. A heavy deficit on the railways was also expected. The exchange value of the mark had fallen disastrously since the armistice, and though it rose towards the end of the year, the mark was still reckoned at over 200 to the pound sterling in December.
Various statistics of population were published during the year. Among other significant features, it was stated that the number of children under five years of age, in the whole of the territories of the former Hohenzollern empire, had sunk from 8,000,000 in 1911 to 5,000,000 in 1919.
After resigning from the cabinet, Noske became president of the province of Hannover.
- February 20 - Karl Albrecht, German entrepreneur (died 2014)
- February 22 - Maria Hellwig, German yodeler, popular performer of volkstümliche Musik (Alpine folk music), and television presenter (died 2010)
- April 15 - Richard von Weizsäcker, German politician, former President of Germany (died 2015)
- June 2 - Marcel Reich-Ranicki, German literary critic (died 2013)
- June 18 - Utta Danella, German writer (died 2015)
- October 31 - Fritz Walter, German footballplayer (died 2002)