Childhood & Early Life
He was born on May 10, 1878, in Berlin, Germany, into a lower middle class family. His father Ernst Stresemann was a beer distributor, a small bar owner and also rented rooms for extra income.
He was an excellent student and received good quality education attending high school and university. He excelled in German literature and poetry and showed inclination in modern history. He was inspired by the likes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Napoleon.
In 1897, he enrolled in the ‘University of Berlin’ and studied political economy which gave him exposure in nationalistic and liberal ideas including the principles and ideologies of socialism.
He actively participated in the German student’s movement, the ‘Burschenschaften’, during his university days. In April 1898, he became the editor of the newspaper ‘Allgemeine Deutsche Universitäts-Zeitung’ where his editorials often criticized other contemporary political parties. He used to pen down his composite views on liberalism and nationalism.
In 1898, he took transfer from the ‘University of Berlin’ to the ‘University of Leipzig’ in order to pursue doctorate. In January 1901, he submitted his thesis, which was based on Berlin’s bottled beer industry.
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His career started in a trade association and his swift progress in commerce initiated his first step into politics. From 1901 to 1904 he served the ‘German Chocolate Makers’ Association’ as its administrative assistant establishing himself as an effective and diligent coordinator and negotiator.
In 1902, he established the ‘Saxon Manufacturers’ Association’ and represented the association legally till 1911.
In 1903, he joined the ‘National Liberal Party’ and represented the party effectively in Saxony.
Stresemann was elected in 1906 as the Dresden city councillor and served in the position till 1912, mastering skills on municipal affairs. During that period he also remained editor of ‘Sächsische Industrie’, a Dresden magazine, and gained acclaim for his writings on economics. Eventually he led the ‘National Liberal Party’ in Saxony.
In 1907, he set foot in national politics after being elected to the Reichstag that is the parliament, representing the Annaberg district. Stresemann became the youngest deputy in the parliament.
He became close to the chairman of the party, Ernst Bassermann who aided him to progress in his political career. However, in 1912 he had to give up his position as an executive committee member of the party following conflict with the more conservative wing of the party for supporting extended social-welfare legislations.
In 1912, he lost in the elections of Reichstag as well as in the town council following which he made a trip to the US along with few business leaders to study the economic conditions there. Later he founded the ‘German-American Economic Association’.
In December 1914, he was again elected to the Reichstag through a special election. This time he became the de facto leader of the faction of National Liberal members in the Reichstag because of Bassermann’s absence there, either due to poor health or for military service.
As the World War I broke out in Europe, Stresemann like most Germans viewed that the nation was simply carrying out a defensive war. He slowly shifted from the left to the right wing of the party and defended the monarchy and expansionist objectives of the nation.
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He worked in close association with General Erich Ludendorff and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg from 1916 and often voiced their opinion in the parliament. He opposed Chancellor Hollweg’s policy and supported unlimited submarine warfare.
In 1917, he became the leader of the ‘National Liberal Party’ following the death of Bassermann.
In 1918, after the war that witnessed the defeat and subsequent crumbling of the monarchy on November 9, he gradually moulded himself as a more realistic republican. He became a member of the ‘German Democratic Party’ which was led by the likes of Naumann and Max Weber but was dismissed by the party due to his link with the right wing.
He later founded the ‘German People’s Party’ in 1918 along with majority of National Liberal Party’s centre and right wings and became its chairman. The party advocated lower tariffs and secular education.
After being elected in the Reichstag in 1920 he remained in the opposition for the next three years.
In 1922, Germany signed the ‘Treaty of Rapallo’ with Russia.
Later he joined hands with the left and centre parties although he and his party initially opposed the ‘Weimar Republic’ - which was formed in 1919 to replace monarchy and establish democracy in Germany.
A coalition government was formed that included the members from the Centre, the Social Democrats, the German Democrats and also his party. He was appointed as Chancellor and Foreign Minister on August 13, 1923. While he remained the Chancellor till November 23, he held the post of Foreign Minister till his death.
In his short tenure as the Chancellor he put to an end to resistance of the Germans against the Belgian and French ‘Occupation of the Ruhr’ and made efforts to stabilize German currency. He strongly handled insurgency in Saxony and re-established system in Bavaria following failure of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Beer Hall Putsch’.
He remained the unchallenged Foreign Minister till his death in different coalition governments of varying compositions starting from centre to left. One of his notable accomplishments as Finance Minister was signing of the ‘Dawes Plan’ in 1924 that led to reduced reparation payments and financial stability for Germany.
In April 1926 the ‘Treaty of Berlin’ was signed. His vision of making Germany progress economically and regain its position back in the European community after the World War I led him to comply with the ‘Versailles Treaty’. His move became successful winning him allies from Western Europe especially France.
The ‘Kellogg-Briand Pact’ was signed by Germany in August 1928. The signatories of the pact agreed not to adopt war to resolve conflicts and disputes. This move taken by Germany changed perspective of people about Weimer Germany which led to the ‘Young Plan’ of February 1929, the negotiations of which were conducted by Stresemann.