Gustav Stresemann

German politician, statesman, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1878-1929)

Gustav Ernst Stresemann (10 May 18783 October 1929) was a German politician and statesman who served as chancellor in 1923 for only 102 days and as foreign minister from 1923 to 1929 during the Weimar Republic. He was a co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.

Gustav Stresemann. 1925.




  • The world is listening with bated breath to the struggle which to-day is rending the peoples of Europe to pieces. The knowledge that England is our chief enemy in this struggle is altogether good. 'On thine island, envious England, thou art the fundamental enemy.' The present world war may, in future, be described as the most gigantic economic struggle of all time. Economic in its origin, through British jealousy of the amazing development of German national and world economy, it has essentially also become a struggle waged with economic weapons and will be continued in the economic field even when the military weapons are silenced.
    • Das deutsche Wirtschaftsleben im Krieg (Leipzig, 1915), p. 3, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), pp. 174-175
  • Despite all the obscuration of history and all the incomplete diplomatic documents... and despite all the recent systematic endeavours to represent Russia as the incendiary of the world war, those who have carefully followed the economic struggle between Britain and Germany for a long time will not in the least depart from the view that this war is in the first place an economic war between Germany and Britain and that—even though the external cause of the outbreak of war may have lain in St. Petersburg—the inward cause was Britain's jealousy of Germany's world economy.
    • Das deutsche Wirtschaftsleben im Krieg (Leipzig, 1915), p. 40, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 175
  • From Antwerp to Baghdad there lies before us a large economic field in which German enterprise can develop. If we succeed in translating into reality the idea of a Central European customs agreement, which is in the air, and to which at one time Friedrich List in Germany and a man like Schäffle in Vienna devoted their energies, then the way to an understanding may be left open—and a large economic area opposed to Chamberlain's Greater Britain and the power of the United States, which would afford sufficient space for the co-existence and co-operation of the German and Austro-Hungarian national economies through the exchange of goods and through an advance towards Asia Minor, which the policy of Emperor William II has indicated and upon which German enterprise has already started through the grandiose project of the Baghdad Railway.
    • Das deutsche Wirtschaftsleben im Krieg (Leipzig, 1915), pp. 58-59, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 274
  • We must become so strong and must so ruthlessly weaken our opponents that no enemy will ever dare to attack us again. To achieve this a modification of frontiers in the west as in the east is essential.
    • Speech at a joint meeting of the National Liberal Party and the National Liberal Central Committee (15 July 1915), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 274
  • We see the strongest guarantee of peace for Europe in a policy of expansion. When have we exploited the embarrassments of other peoples? When Russia was at war with Japan, the Tsar was able to take his last regiment away from our frontier. We did not regard Morocco as an object of war, we looked on while East Africa was divided, while France was creating a great colonial empire of Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, while Italy occupied Tripolis, while Persia was divided between Britain and Russia into two spheres of interest—the world could always rely on the German Kaisers and the German people's love of peace. And what thanks have we had? A world of enemies.... When one awakens in this way from a beautiful dream one must not follow that dream again, must not in future believe that renunciation of a world policy will be a guarantee of permanent freedom. They grudged us the right to economic development. We thank the Chancellor for what he said yesterday concerning our security in the East and West.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (6 April 1916), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 75
  • We also concur with the Reich Chancellor's program as regards the Flemish people. However, the Belgian question also has an important political aspect. If Belgium is not to become a glacis for our enemies again, then not only must the status quo ante be precluded, but Germany's military, political and economic supremacy must be guaranteed.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (6 April 1916), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), pp. 274-275
  • Napoleon once compared England with Carthage. Carthage sank down from her height. England also can sink and will sink. For on our side is the true right and on our side the might to strike the blow at her heart, if we understand how to exploit the hour.
    • 'Napoleon und Wir' (29 January 1917), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 175
  • The restoration of German vitality is not guaranteed by the status quo ante. It will also be necessary to make territorial changes; don't let us hamper our statesmen with assertions to the effect that the German people do not want this.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (1 March 1917), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 135
  • The conquest of Riga is of the greatest importance not only from the military, but also form the political point of view.... Our military situation was never more glorious than it is at present. Meanwhile, there is also the U-boat war, which is taking its course. The destruction of enemy tonnage that was expected of it on the basis of official predictions, has not only been achieved, but partly exceeded by more than half.... Time is working for us. Britain to-day is fighting the war with a watch in her hand, and it is in this that I see the fundamentally decisive effect of the U-boat weapon for us and the approach of peace.... If we are to achieve anything through compromise and understanding, then the Government must not be forced to make any statements renouncing something from the outset. For this reason the tactics by which it has been and is still being tried to make the Government declare its disinterestedness in Belgium, are wrong. Even those who share the attitude of Herr Scheidemann ought to fight for the last stone in Belgium, in order to exploit to the utmost that which possession has made into a dead pledge.... However, the fact that we are going to have peace—and, we hope, soon—will in my conviction be due, apart from our military achievements, to the effects of unrestricted U-boat warfare, of which I have repeatedly said before the Main Committee that while I reject the formula that it will force Britain to her knees, I believe as firmly in the formula that it will force Britain to the conference table.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (October 1917), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 121
  • There is much sentimentality in the Fourteen Points of Wilson's peace program. As far as we are concerned the question of Alsace-Lorraine is one that we cannot discuss and it cannot even be raised at any international conference. The territorial integrity of Turkey must be maintained. The Reich Chancellor has declared that we do not seek the annexation of Belgium. However, the Flemish movement is working for independence. The Reich Government should make it its task to support this movement. With regard to the question of self-determination... it must be remembered that there is no political education in Lithuania and that from seventy to eighty per cent of the population there is illiterate.... [Poland does] not need freedom.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (24 January 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 138.
  • In the West our hand of peace has reached out into empty air. The responsibility there falls on our enemies. If we have to continue the struggle, then the hearts of the people will be where the flags of the country are flying, and we hope and pray for a German victory that will bring us the peace that has been denied to us.... We thank Secretary of State von Kuehlmann and his collaborators for the tenacity and diplomatic skill with which they represented our German interests at the negotiations in Brest.... I now come to the question of the strategic demarcation of frontiers, the possible allocation of Polish territories to Germany and Prussia. My political friends are of the opinion that in the question of the strategic safeguarding of frontiers decisive importance should be attached to the voice of the Supreme Command. From our own national point of view we are not at all interested in having Polish territory added to Germany in any way.... It will be a matter for our military leaders to examine the question to what extent strategic security of our frontiers is a vital necessity to Germany. If so, we shall accept it because there is a national need for it.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (19 February 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), pp. 149-150.
  • The question poses itself whether we should look on with folded arms while those Germans of the Baltic countries who, despite all the persecution, all the misery and all the difficulties have stuck to the German language and German culture, are being slaughtered.... It would be incomprehensible if we, who have exerted ourselves for the freedom of ethnically foreign nations, failed to let our hearts beat first of all for the Balts, who are our own flesh and blood.... If to-day you go to Riga or Mitau, you will be confronted by such a pure, unadulterated Germanism that sometimes you would wish it could be united with Germany.... When, in addition to Courland, we have also occupied Latvia and Estonia, then I hope that the day will also come when this old German soil will lie under the protection of the great Reich.... This does not mean annexation of these territories. But it does mean a free Baltic in close dependence on Germany, under our military, moral, political, and cultural protection. I think it would be one of the finest aims of this world war if we could merge this piece of loyal Germanism with ourselves as intimately as it desires to be merged.... The Baltic Germans have completely preserved their German culture: a shining example for the Americanized grandchildren of German grandfathers.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (19 February 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), pp. 149-150.
  • We... would nevertheless make it clear that entirely independent political structures are impossible here [in the Baltic].... They cannot lead an isolated existence between the colossi of West and East. We hope that they will seek and find this support with us. The German occupation will have to continue for a long time, lest the anarchy we have just been combating should arise again. We shall have to safeguard the position of the Germans, a position consistent with their economic and cultural achievements.... Herr Scheiddemann, said that we have made ourselves new enemies in the world through our push in the East.... Had we continued the negotiations, we should still be sitting with Herr Trotski in Brest-Litovsk. As it is, the advance has brought us peace in a few days and I think we should recognise this and not delude ourselves, particularly as regards the East, that if by resolutions made here in the Reichstag or through our Government's acceptance of the entirely welcome initiative of His Holiness the Pope, we had agreed to a peace without indemnities and annexations, we should have had peace in the East. In view of our situation as a whole, I should regard a fresh peace offer as an evil. My chief objection is against the detachment of the Belgian question from the whole complex of the question of peace. It is precisely if Belgium is not to be annexed that Belgium is the best dead pledge we hold, notably as regards England. The restoration of Belgium before we conclude peace with England seems to me an utter political and diplomatic impossibility.... There is a great difference between the first set of terms at Brest-Litovsk and the ultimatum that we have now presented, and the blame for this change rests with those who refused to come to an agreement with Germany and who, consequently, must now feel her power. We are just as free to choose between understanding and the exploitation of victory in the case of the West, and I hope that these eight or fourteen days that have elapsed between the first set of peace terms in Brest-Litovsk and the second set, may also have an educational effect in that direction.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (25 February 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), pp. 159-160
  • The question of Belgium must not be detached from the complex of the Western questions as a whole. Belgium is a most valuable pledge in our hands.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (27 February 1918), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 210
  • Nearly the entire Reichstag, including the Social Democrats, agrees that we must not allow ourselves to be deprived of the weapon of the U-boat war.
    • Speech in the Reichstag (11 May 1918), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 315
  • We are not continuing the war for the sake of theoretical plans of conquest. It will and must bring the necessary guarantees for Germany's future, which cannot consist in a League of Nations by the grace of Wilson, but only in real guarantees. I close with the words of Hindenburg: "The times are hard, but victory is certain."
    • Speech in the Reichstag (25 June 1918), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 328
  • I hope that you will be in agreement with me when I beg you to do everything possible to prevent Hindenburg's retirement. We must under no circumstances bear the responsibility before the bar of history for having overthrown Hindenburg. I feel that even the abdication of the Kaiser would be easier to bear than the retirement of Hindenburg.
    • Letter to the Chief of the National Liberal Party in Prussia, quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 208, n. 2
  • We ask you to be convinced that millions of Germans with us, even under the new conditions... will adhere to the monarchic idea and will stand against any undignified estrangement (Abkehr) from the august ideals of the German Emperordom and Prussian Kingdom.
    • Birthday telegram to the ex-Kaiser Wilhelm (27 January 1919), Deutsche Tageszeitung (28 January 1919), quoted in Walter H. Kaufmann, Monarchism in the Weimar Republic (1953), p. 56
  • Great Germany can only be created on a republican basis.
    • Speech (13 April 1919), quoted in Jonathan Wright, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman (2004), p. 135
  • This Alsace and vast tracts of Lorraine are German regions, and their inhabitants are of German blood. The tricolour may float above Strasbourg cathedral, but that imposing edifice was born of the German spirit, it has nothing in common with the French spirit; it was there that one of the greatest geniuses Germany has given the world first felt the great breath of German architecture. It all bears the impress of the German character and is animated by the German spirit. That is why we shall never forget that Alsace-Lorraine is German, that it will always belong to us in spirit and that our task will be to preserve for Germany this spiritual patrimony.
    • Speech to the Congress of the People's Party in Jena (17 April 1919), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 331
  • For the old great, mighty Germany, which was the epitome of the yearning of our ancestors and our pride when one could still hold one's head high at being a German, is going under. One cannot say: it is long gone because it is not long at all but already it sounds to our ears like a fairy tale from a distant time.
    • Letter to his sons (21 June 1919), quoted in Jonathan Wright, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman (2004), pp. 135-136
  • The Government must not insist too much on the fact that Germany will integrally fulfil the conditions of the peace treaty. For all parties have been unanimous in considering that the treaty is unfulfillable.
    • Speech to the National Assembly (8 October 1919), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 331

Speech in the Reichstag, 18 March 1918


Speech in the Reichstag (18 March 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1945), pp. 165-167.

  • Our whole policy since August 1, 1914, has been directed with a view to sparing the neutrals during the world war.... I cannot yet put it down as a fact or as a result of this world war that our policy of sparing neutrals has extended the circle of our friends. Nor is it right to present it as a dogma that annexation or the detachment of territories creates hostility and hatred, while understanding and solicitude results in friendship.
  • We agree to recognise Lithuanian independence on condition that the desire of the Lithuanians for a military convention and a customs, monetary and postal union with Germany, communicated to us some time ago by a Lithuanian delegation, still remains. For to be candid, the idea of full independence for these peripheral countries seems to me to be purely theoretical and impracticable.... The whole development of world politics shows that we have not only great and powerful individual countries like Germany on the one hand and Britain and France on the other, but associations of States fighting against each other.... I do not believe in Wilson's universal League of Nations, I think that after the peace it will burst like a soap bubble. Great and powerful complexes of nations with hundreds of millions of inhabitants, armies of millions of men and exports amounting to thousands of millions, will be confronting each other. In the circumstances such small fractional nationalities will not be able to exist in complete independence, without seeking to lean on one side or the other. Just as there is no independent Belgium in the sense that it gravitates towards one side or the other, so it is not possible to conceive of a completely independent Lithuania, Balticum or Poland without that provisio.
  • The renunciation of war indemnities, which has been greatly lauded in some quarters here, does not appear to me only in the shining light of the conciliation it will lead to, but, as a citizen, I also see it in the light of the colossal burdens to which Germany will be exposed if this struggle ends without war indemnities.
  • The more clearly we express it that the whole weight of our future victories will lie on our enemies, the more, in my opinion, will it tend to shorten the war. We have covered a considerable distance towards peace. The Entente no longer has any possibility of beating us economically. Do they think they can beat us militarily, now that our position in the West has become better that it ever was? If the statesmen of the Entente wanted understanding, they ought to have taken advantage of the situation now, when the Reich Chancellor has offered them the hand of understanding. They are playing a wanton game with their misguided peoples. Let the example of Russia be a warning to them. Russia, which offered us the hand of understanding, could have obtained a good peace of understanding if she had not risked this peace through the arrogance of Trotsky. May this struggle bring us victory, but may it also bring the benefits of this victory for Germany's future.

Speech in the Reichstag, 21 June 1918


Speech in the Reichstag (21 June 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1945), p. 175, p. 179

  • We welcome the peace with the militarily and politically entirely collapsed Rumania as a world judgment in world history.... Is there anyone to-day who, after the overthrow of the whole of the East, would still doubt a German victory?... Anyone who visualises the collapse of Rumania, this military collapse in three months, this complete political crash of the State that saw itself compelled to sue for peace, must feel that something like a world judgment in world history is taking place.... Then there is the question of the war indemnity. In the debate on the Treaty of Brest Litovsk I said that, surely it could not be contradicted from any part of this House that a war indemnity must be demanded from Rumania If Germany receives an indemnity, then it is a matter of indifference to me what it is called, either in the case of the present Treaty or any further ones.
    • p. 175
  • I must say a few words here concerning the solution of the Polish problem.... Groeber has posed the question: Do I not overestimate the value of the military guarantees? Are not political guarantees in connection with good relations between Poland and Germany far better and more durable than it is possible fo military guarantees to be?... The past conduct of the Polish fraction in the Reichstag and the House of Deputies, and the attempts to have the German Ostmark question discussed as a question of international importance at world peace congresses, do not give my political friends a sufficient guarantee to think that future relations between Poland and Germany can be based solely on a formal paper friendship.
    • p. 175
  • We very deeply deplore that sentence should have been pronounced that allows of the interpretation as though our military successes were not of a kind which alone present the possibility of attained peace.... What was it that brought peace in the East? Not the talk of statesmen, not diplomatic negotiations, not diplomatic notes, not Reichstag resolutions, but "Ludendorff's Hammer," as Lloyd George has called it. The force of our army, the force of our power.
    • p. 179.
  • It was with deep emotion that we read the announcement issued by the Council of Flanders at its plenary meeting of June 20, 1918, because it give expression to the fact that considerable and important sections of the Belgian people are advocating Germany's right to figure in the Belgian question, and that the voice of agitation over that which they have suffered is overtopped by the voice of consanguinity with the Teutonic race.
    • p. 179.


  • If the monarchy should return, and we hope it will, then it must be called by the will of the people.
    • Speech to a party convention in Nuernberg (late 1920), quoted in Walter H. Kaufmann, Monarchism in the Weimar Republic (1953), p. 68
  • There are few families in the history of nations which have... produced as many outstanding personalities as the House of Hohenzollern.... And though the last bearer of the crown is gauged by doubtful and contradictory party judgments, there is one factor which will always speak in his favor: there can't be any doubt about his honest desire to serve only the fatherland.
    • Speech to a party convention in Nuernberg (late 1920), quoted in Walter H. Kaufmann, Monarchism in the Weimar Republic (1953), p. 68
  • It is absolutely necessary to strengthen the Government. We must have a Government that in case of necessity will shoot. Germany cannot stand Bolshevism fomenting mischief. There must be shooting. Perhaps we shall bring Noske back—he was a good man, and shot in case of necessity. Even the Majority Socialists agree that order has go to be maintained with vigour.... The truth is the German people cannot stand a President in a high hat. They think he looks peculiar at a review. They must have a military uniform with plenty of orders.
    • Remarks to Lord D'Abernon (17 October 1922), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 327
  • I am gladly willing to use my connections to the party and the government to assure for your Imperial Highness the permission to return to Germany.
    • Letter to the ex-Crown Prince two weeks before his appointment as Chancellor (c. 30 July 1923), quoted in Walter H. Kaufmann, Monarchism in the Weimar Republic (1953), p. 123
  • I am delighted to inform you that in yesterday's sitting of the Cabinet it was unanimously agreed that your application of last August for authority to return to Germany should be sanctioned in principle.... While acquainting Your Imperial Highness of the Cabinet's decision, I cannot forbear expressing my own personal pleasure that this decision was given by the Cabinet on my proposal, and, as I may permit myself to add, as reached unanimously and without objection or criticism, after my statement had been heard.
    • Letter to Crown Prince (24 October 1923), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), pp. 328-329
  • A few days ago in a Berlin theatre the audience burst into spontaneous applause merely because the orchestra began to play an old military march—not a German march, either, but an Austrian one, the Radetzky march. Do not think that this meant a demonstration in favour of a war of revenge—not a bit of it. But the army and all that goes with it has been in the tradition of the German people for a hundred years and it would betray a very poor knowledge of men to believe that such a tradition could be uprooted when people is bidden by the terms of a treaty to give up compulsory military service.
    • Remarks to representatives of the foreign press in Berlin (23 November 1923), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 341
  • Even General Ludendorff would know that on all occasions when an appeal is made to the people, an appeal that concerns the vital interests of this land, the "Socialist Marxists" feel and vote as Germans.
    • Article (2 March 1924), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 318
  • If one wants to avoid war in Europe for a long time, then one must remove the things which are unsettling to a certain extent, and they include the separation of Germany from East Prussia which in my opinion is unpolitical and is seen as oppressive. But it is not at all an immediate question and certainly not a question of war.
    • Letter to Rauscher (8 March 1924), quoted in Jonathan Wright, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 269
  • The spirit of the National Assembly was not our spirit.... On that account we stood for and still stand for the old flag of the Reich. On that account we hold fast to the memory of our glorious army and our fleet that we have now passed away, and of the pioneers of German colonisation, whose civilising influence was greater than that of other nations that now dispute our right to any colonial activity.
    • Speech to the Congress of the People's Party in Hanover (March 1924), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), pp. 346-347
  • We regard the ultimate aim of our efforts as the establishment of a German popular monarchy.
    • Interview with The New York Times (4 April 1924), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 347
  • Ah, gentlemen, if we had only been a little more dependent on this capital during the war, perhaps the world would have had different ideas as to how the war must end!
    • Speech in the Reichstag (6 June 1924) on foreign loans to Germany, quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 348
  • When it is a matter of deciding what amount of work might be demanded of the individual, this question concerns not only the people affected, but must be settled for the benefit of the State and on the basis of moral considerations. The admirable thing about the old Germany was that she considered herself as a mediator and held it to be her duty to take into account the interest of the State first of all. The new Germany must have no other task!... We are stripped of power and we must try to regain, little by little and by means of compromises, our rank as a Great Power.
    • Speech to the People's Party Congress (11 October 1924), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 352
  • It is the policy of force which finally will always triumph. But when one has not got the force, one can also combat by the idea.
    • Speech in Berlin (29 November 1924), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 330
  • The most important thing... is the liberation of German territory from foreign occupation. We must first get the strangler from our neck. Therefore German policy, as Metternich said of Austria—it must be after 1809—must in this respect consist first in showing finesse [finassieren] and avoiding fundamental decisions.
    • Letter to the Crown Prince (7 September 1925), quoted in Jonathan Wright, Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman (2004), p. 327
  • I refused at Thoiry to discuss the question of our Eastern frontier and that of our colonies. One can only advance step by step. When the day arrives when, in one way or another, the question of our Eastern frontier will come up for discussion, the atmosphere between us and France must already be such that we can broach this new problem.
    • Remarks to the Reichstag Committee of Foreign Affairs (7 October 1926), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 389
  • There are States with which we are at odds, and which could not be in any case our natural allies.... It is thus my opinion that the interests of Germany do not coincide with those of the small Powers.
    • Diary entry (October 1927), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 412
  • Let us celebrate Bismarck's memory by making the great idea of his life, devotion to the Fatherland, the guiding star of our own lives. Each of us in the place where he can do his best work. Each of us is responsible for helping the country rise again to that greatness for which Bismarck, who also knew an Olmuetz, prepared the way.
    • Speech (1 April 1928), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1945), p. 417
  • If the allies had obliged me just one single time, I would have brought the German people behind me, yes; even today, I could still get them to support me. However, they (the allies) gave me nothing and the minor concessions they made, always came too late. Thus, nothing else remains for us but brutal force. The future lies in the hands of the new generation. Moreover, they, the German youth, who we could have won for peace and reconstruction, we have lost. Herein lies my tragedy and there, the allies' crime.
    • Stresemann to the diplomat Sir Albert Bruce Lockhart in 1928
  • Do you think (leaning towards the German Nationals) that any member of the Reich Government regards the Young Plan as something ideal? Do you think that anyone in the whole world expects a guarantee from us in relation to it? It was even said among the experts that it was only possible to look ahead for the next decade. (Interruption from the right: "Yet you signed for fifty-one years".)
    • Speech in the Reichstag (24 June 1929), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 438

Quotes about Stresemann

  • He presented the world with a living, a struggling but also a friendly Germany; and when he enthusiastically quoted Goethe everyone felt that he was thinking of Bismarck, and felt the courage and ambition to become the Bismarck of a defeated nation.... He was Germany at the moment at which she cast aside the confusion of defeat and invested herself with the pride of a great nation.
    • Max Beer, The League on Trial: A Journey to Geneva (1933). p. 381
  • The Pact of Locarno was concerned only with peace in the West, and it was hoped that what was called “An Eastern Locarno” might be its successor. We should have been very glad if the danger of some future war between Germany and Russia could have been controlled in the same spirit and by similar measures as the possibility of war between Germany and France. Even the Germany of Stresemann was, however, disinclined to close the door on German claims in the East, or to accept the territorial treaty position about Poland, Danzig, the Corridor, and Upper Silesia. Soviet Russia brooded in her isolation behind the cordon sanitaire of anti-Bolshevik states. Although our efforts were continued, no progress was made in the East. I did not at any time close my mind to an attempt to give Germany greater satisfaction on her eastern frontier. But no opportunity arose during these brief years of hope.
  • It is not necessary in this account to follow year by year this complex and formidable development with all its passions and villainies, and all its ups and downs. The pale sunlight of Locarno shone for a while upon the scene. The spending of the profuse American loans induced a sense of returning prosperity. Marshal Hindenburg presided over the German State; and Stresemann was his Foreign Minister. The stable, decent majority of the German people, responding to their ingrained love of massive and majestic authority, clung to him till his dying gasp. But other powerful factors were also active in the distracted nation to which the Weimar Republic could offer no sense of security and no satisfactions of national glory or revenge.
  • The German Government succeeded by a dead-lift effort in procuring the assent of the Reichstag to the “Young Plan” by no more than 224 votes to 206. Stresemann, the Foreign Minister, who was now a dying man, gained his last success in the agreement for the complete evacuation of the Rhineland by the Allied armies, long before the Treaty required. But the German masses were largely indifferent to the remarkable concessions of the victors. Earlier, or in happier circumstances, these would have been acclaimed as long steps upon the path of reconciliation and a return to true peace. But now the ever-present overshadowing fear of the German masses was unemployment. The middle classes had already been ruined and driven into violent courses by the flight from the mark. Stresemann’s internal political position was undermined by the international economic stresses, and the vehement assaults of Hitler’s Nazis and Hugenberg’s capitalist magnates led to his overthrow. On March 28, 1930, Bruening, the leader of the Catholic Centre Party, became Chancellor.
  • Many people believed that the Treaty of Locarno was of importance, and Austen Chamberlain received the Order of the Garter in recognition of his services in concluding it. People believed that it had brought Germany back into the comity of nations and that it would serve as the basis of her future relations with France and England. But the Germans saw it merely as a step towards recovering the strength they needed to wage a war of revenge, and they broke its terms as soon as it suited them to do so. Their true intentions were made perfectly plain to the ex-Crown Prince of Germany at the time by Stresemann, who had signed the treaty on behalf of Germany.
    Later, when I came to know Grandi while he was Italian Ambassador in London and before we had driven Italy into the arms of Germany, he told me that during the Hague Conference he had seen a great deal of Stresemann and would often go back with him to his hotel after the day's work was over. Stresemann would always drink a bottle of champagne before going to bed, and in the course of one of their late conversations he said to Grandi with unusual solemnity: "I am an old man, and I am dying, but you are young and you will live to see the second Punic War." This was told to me long before the formation of the Axis or the advent of Hitler to power, and should be remembered by those who are inclined to attribute all the crimes of Germany to the Nazis.
  • During this session [in 1927], Stresemann also came to luncheon, when I sat next to him. I recall chiefly his quick, clear brain, forceful character and formidable appetite. Throughout the meal he laughed often and spoke his part in a harsh voice. His bonhomie gave no inkling of the fixed purpose to restore Germany's power. Had he lived, his ambitions might have been dangerous, but he would have disclosed them carefully.
    • Anthony Eden, The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 10
  • There were, of course, alternatives to Hitler. It was just that none of them was viable. Gustav Stresemann of the People's Party had offered compromise with the Western powers - symbolized by the 1925 Treaty of Locarno - and the hope of revanche in the East. But he had died of a heart attack on October 3, 1929, at the age of just fifty-one.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 237
  • He was well aware both of the Reichswehr's secret arrangements with Russia and its rearmament efforts at home. And it was largely due to his patient labors that the military fetters of Versailles, which Seeckt one day hoped to burst by force, were gradually loosened and finally slipped off altogether. Stresemann conveniently supplied the diplomatic front, behind which "Seeckt perfected his military foundation for the Greater Germany of the future." More specifically, Stresemann freed the Reichswehr from the annoying supervision of the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission, which had been set up to check on Germany's fulfillment of the military provisions of Versailles.
    • Hans W. Gatzke, Stresemann and the Rearmament of Germany (1954), p. 15
  • From the evidence that has been presented it should be abundantly clear that Stesemann supported, at times actively and always in his heart, any move on the army's part that tended to remedy Germany's military impotence. He did so partly because of all the army had meant to Germany in the past—in other words, Stresemann was a nationalist and there is ample evidence that he remained one to the end of his life; although his nationalism became more moderate and tolerant as he grew in stature. But more decisive than such personal admiration for things military in shaping Stesemann's attitude were reasons of state. Among all the various elements which determine a country's international rank, from size and geographic location to natural resources and industrial potential, the possession of a powerful army has always proved the most immediately effective. As Stresemann once put it: "The main asset [of a strong foreign policy] is material power—army and navy."
    • Hans W. Gatzke, Stresemann and the Rearmament of Germany (1954), p. 109
  • The picture of Stresemann that emerges from all we have said, then, is that of a great German statesman, the greater perhaps for the two-faced policy which devotion to his country and the belief in its future made him pursue, and which at the same time was so at variance with his upright character as an individual. Yet he was not the "good European," the "honest dreamer of peace and apostle of reconciliation," as he appeared to many of his contemporaries and most of his biographers. We might call him a "good European" if we thought of Europe as ending on the Vistula. Or we might say he was as good a European as Bismarck had been, the one among his predecessors to whom he has often been compared, whose concept of Realpolitik he admired, and with whom he shared the realization that politics is the art of the possible. But when all is said and done, truly good Europeans are extremely rare, and one should least expect to find them among politicians of a defeated country in an age where nationalism is still a potent force.
    • Hans W. Gatzke, Stresemann and the Rearmament of Germany (1954), p. 115
  • [T]he disarmament clauses of the Treaty had never been effectively enforced... The full story of General von Seeckt's secret plans, by which, in spite of the Allied Control Commission, all the preparations were made for the moment when a new German Army, and a new German General Staff, could arise, like a new phoenix from the ashes of the old, with new arms ready to be poured out from the factories, is truly astonishing... How far all the democratic Ministers of the Weimar Republic were party to these deceptions is perhaps uncertain. It is clear, however, from his papers, that Stresemann actively abetted this process of rearmament and was guilty of making Briand his dupe. During the Locarno negotiations he knew and approved the wholesale breach of their treaty obligations by the German military authorities.
  • At this time [January 1925] Stresemann and his colleagues were governing Germany with an iron hand, exercising dictatorial powers which, as Vorwärts observed, involved the "total suspension of freedom of opinion" (Meinungsfreiheit). At the same time Stresemann was declaring in the Reichstag and to audiences of foreign journalists that the disarmament of Germany was "complete", protesting to the Allied Governments against any further exercise of control, repeatedly demanding the withdrawal of the Control Commission, and even declaring that there had never been any obstruction to the work of the Control Commission... The whole of his statements on the subject of Disarmament were untrue.
    • J. H. Morgan, Assize of Arms: Being the Story of the Disarmament of Germany and Her Rearmament (1919–1939) (1945), p. 266 + note 4
  • His political enemies maintained, and still maintain, that his achievements were not worth the efforts involved, but it is clear that this view is inspired by violent Party dissension, and is not an impartial and measured judgment. The name of Stresemann will be indissolubly connected with the most intensive and fruitful period in German reconstruction.
    • Benito Mussolini, quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany from Defeat to Conquest, 1913–1933 (1945), pp. 440–441
  • Dr. Stresemann was generally regarded as a representative of the 'good' Germany, and Sir Austen Chamberlain and M. Briand certainly did their best to give him every chance. After Dr. Stresemann's death, however, his memoirs showed that his apparent moderation was a mere cloak under which to prepare an eventual policy of force.
    • Eric Phipps, speech (15 December 1939), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 326
  • The most famous and significant conference of the 1920s took place at Locarno, on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, in October 1925. The principals were the foreign ministers of Britain, France and GermanyAusten Chamberlain, Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann. Their great achievements were to guarantee the Rhineland borders of France and Germany and to bring Germany into the League of Nations. The so-called spirit of Locarno became a benchmark for diplomacy. In retrospect, however, Locarno looks more ambiguous. Stresemann had succeeded in bringing Germany in from the cold without abandoning any of its demands for lost territory in the east. These demands, particularly over Poland, were to prove the fuel for the next war.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), pp. 31-32
  • For him the only thing that mattered was the interest of the Reich.
  • Mr Asquith is recorded to have warned Sir Austen Chamberlain against him as a "typical Junker".
    • Eric Sutton, ‘Preface’ Gustav Stresemann: His Diaries Letters And Papers, Vol. I (1935), p. xviii
  • Stresemann was as determined as the most extreme nationalist to get rid of the whole treaty lock, stock, and barrel: reparations, German disarmament, the occupation of the Rhineland, and the frontier with Poland. But he intended to do this by the persistent pressure of events, not by threats, still less by war.... There was a great outcry in allied countries against Stresemann after his death when the publication of his papers revealed clearly his intention to destroy the existing treaty-settlement. The outcry was grotesquely unjustified. Given a great Germany—and the Allies had themselves given it by their actions at the end of the war—it was inconceivable that any German could accept the treaty of Versailles as a permanent settlement. The only question was whether the settlement would be revised, and Germany become again the greatest Power in Europe, peacefully or by war. Stresemann wanted to do it peacefully. He thought this the safer, the more certain, and the more lasting way to German predominance. He had been a bellicose nationalist during the war; and even now was no more inclined to peace from moral principle than Bismarck had been. But, like Bismarck, he believed that peace was in Germany's interest; and this belief entitles him to rank with Bismarck as a great German, even as a great European, statesman. Maybe even as a greater.
  • Stresemann, an ex-jingo annexationist, the best available German. He knew and denied German rearmament, would have Germany in the League chiefly for propaganda, wished East and West closer, but stiffened the Bolsheviks by assurance of protection from sanctions. Russia reciprocated by proposing the fourth partition of Poland. Yet, weighed between swings and roundabouts, Stresemann was an asset. He lasted a few months as Chancellor, endured as Foreign Minister and, despite subsequent revelations, deserved his Nobel Prize.
  • Nor was Stresemann the enthusiast for whom he passed. He changed his predatory instincts but not all his spots, and said sotto voce that he was playing for time... Germany kept a free hand eastward, and Stresemann wanted "the recovery of Danzig, the Polish Corridor and correction of the frontier in Upper Silesia"—makings of the second war... As late as May 11, 1953, Winston believed that "the Locarno Treaty was the highest point reached between the wars". Joy pealed louder than at the birth of the Entente. Righteousness and peace kissed each other for photographs. Bouquets, gold pens and Nobel Prizes all round. Stresemann got his just when his duplicity leaked out... Stresemann asked for evacuation of the Cologne sector and early withdrawal of the Control Commission. It reported that the Germans had never meant to disarm. The Allies suppressed the report. Their sin entailed connivance in German sins no longer secret but unavowed. Holding-companies for German weapons sprang up in Turkey and Finland, in Rotterdam, Barcelona, Bilbao, Cadiz. Krupp muscled into Swedish Bofors. German tanks came forth at Grusonwerk and an Economic General Staff for total war in Berlin. Stresemann knew... Germany's defence estimates went up with a bang. More outlay was concealed by budgetary juggling, but normally the British think no evil of neighbours unless they are allies.
  • Gustav Stresemann had come a long way since the war-time period when, as the spokesman of Hindenburg and Ludendorff in the Reichstag, he had thundered in support of annexationist claims and jingo policies... He was still at heart a monarchist and a Conservative, but, like von Seeckt, he had realized that, if Germany was to be restored to a position of greatness and power among the nations, it must be through the existing republican structure and in collaboration with the rest of Europe... Stresemann had at last realized the truth which, in the field of military policy, had been revealed to Gröner and to von Seeckt long before. If Germany was to be great again she must be strong, and to be strong she must have a period of peace and recuperation, and peace would not be forthcoming until the fears and suspicions of the Allies had been, at any rate to some extent, allayed. Both von Seeckt and Stresemann had turned their backs upon the glamorous but unattainable dreams of monarchist restoration and Conservative dictatorship. They had decided to use the democratic and republican form of government provided by the Weimer Constitution as a convincing weapon in their campaign of reassurance to the West. Though neither of them was a sincere Republican, they were both deeply sincere in their several efforts to rehabilitate and protect the Republic. What both believed in and laboured for was the future greatness and might of Germany, an aim which transcended all lesser cause and minor loyalties.
    • John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945 (1953; 2nd edn., 1964), pp. 105-106
  • At each step along this road Stresemann extracted material concessions for Germany from the Western Powers while giving very little of practical value in return. Yet so skilfully did he win his points that confidence and trust in Germany were completely re-established in the financial and political circles of Britain and the United States, from whom Stresemann successfully contrived to keep France isolated. And behind this diplomatic front von Seeckt perfected his military foundation for the Greater Germany of the future.
    • John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945 (1953; 2nd edn., 1964), p. 107
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