German People's Party

The German People's Party (German: Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP) was a liberal party during the Weimar Republic that was the successor to the National Liberal Party of the German Empire. A right-liberal, or conservative-liberal political party, it represented political liberalism in Germany between 1918 and 1933 along with the left-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP).

German People's Party
Deutsche Volkspartei
LeaderGustav Stresemann
Founded15 December 1918; 103 years ago (15 December 1918)
Dissolved4 July 1933; 89 years ago (4 July 1933)
Preceded byNational Liberal Party
Free Conservative Party (Moderate Elements)
Merged intoFree Democratic Party
(not legal successor)
HeadquartersBerlin
Membership (1920)800,000[1]
IdeologyNational liberalism[2][3][4]
Civic nationalism[5]
Conservative liberalism[6]
Constitutional monarchism[7]
Economic liberalism[8][5]
Political positionBefore 1929 :
Centre[9] to centre-right[10]
After 1929 :
Centre-right[11] to right-wing[12]
Colors  Black   White   Red (imperial colors)

The party's best known politician was its founding chairman and later Reich Chancellor and Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann. With the exception of two short-lived cabinets in 1921 and 1922, the DVP was represented in all Weimar governments from 1920 to 1931.

HistoryEdit

FoundationEdit

Following the end of World War I and the collapse of the German Empire, the party system in Germany remained largely in place. This was because the groups with common religion, social status, culture, etc. for the most part survived.[13] In the political center, there were strong efforts in both the Progressive People's Party(FVP) and the National Liberal Party (NLP) to overcome the historical split between "democrats" (more left-liberal, as the FVP) and "liberals" (more to the right, as the NLP) and form a large middle class democratic party. Economist and banker Hjalmar Schacht, economist and sociologist Alfred Weber and journalist and editor Theodor Wolff were the driving forces.

At the beginning of the 1918 November Revolution that brought down the German Empire, party leaders Gustav Stresemann (National Liberals) and Otto Fischbeck (Progressive Liberals) also discussed such possibilities. Negotiations between the two parties began on November 15, 1918, and on the same day they agreed on a program that required significant concessions from the National Liberals, including a commitment to the Republic as the future form of government. On November 16, representatives of both parties issued an Appeal for the Formation of a German Democratic Party. For the first time it seemed possible to unite the middle class non-sectarian forces in Germany. When Stresemann asked Alfred Weber whether he could be admitted to the executive committee of the new party, the latter expressed reservations because during World War I had become known as an annexationist, i.e., someone who favored increasing Germany's power by annexing land either in Europe or as overseas colonies. Weber did not, however, object to collaboration with Stresemann or to his candidacy for the Weimar National Assembly.

Further negotiations on the merger on November 18 and 19 ultimately failed because the majority of National Liberal board members were not prepared to lose their political head and most gifted speaker. As a result, on November 20 Stresemann and three other leading National Liberals drew up an appeal for the formation of the German People's Party, which was founded provisionally on November 22, 1918, and permanently on December 15, 1918, by a resolution of the central executive committee of the former National Liberal Party. They stressed the importance of members viewing the action not as the foundation of a new party but rather as a reorganization of the old National Liberal Party. The executive committee's resolution was approved only narrowly, by a vote of 33 to 28.

Most of the National Liberal Party’s centre and right wing joined the DVP. Between November 22 and December 15 there were additional attempts to reach an agreement with the new German Democratic Party (DDP), which had been formed out of the Progressive Liberal Party and the more left-leaning members of the National Liberal Party, but these failed. Stresemann remained chairman of the DVP until his death in 1929.

Establishment and consolidationEdit

Although the DVP initially rejected the Weimar Constitution, it participated in almost all Reich governments from 1920 to 1931. This was primarily due to Stresemann. Although he was at heart a monarchist, he recognized that a return to monarchy could only be achieved through a coup followed by civil war, a path he firmly rejected. At the party congress in Jena on April 13, 1919, he said: "We must not proceed from one bloodbath to another. (...) The path to domestic peace can only be on the basis of a republican form of government. That is why we are working for it."[14]

 
1924 DVP election campaign for the Reichstag election of December 1924.

Initially, this balancing act – cooperation in forming the new state despite rejection of the Republic – was successful. The People's Party criticized the Treaty of Versailles and the enormous burdens associated with it as well as the tax policy of Finance Minister Matthias Erzberger of the Centre Party, which especially affected the middle class. Unlike the nationalist-conservative German National People's Party (DNVP), it was not directed destructively against the Republic, but combined its criticisms with proposals for reform that stayed within to the system. During the 1920 Kapp Putsch, however, the party, like its chairman Stresemann, played a role that was less than friendly to the Republic. At first they openly tolerated the putsch, which attempted to overthrow the Republic and set up an autocratic state in its place, although they opposed the use of violence. Only when the failure of the putsch was obvious did they attempt to mediate between the putschists and the Reich government.

In the 1920 German federal election, the DVP was able to improve its percentage of the vote by almost ten points, to 13.9%. The Weimar coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Centre Party and DDP lost the overwhelming majority it had from the 1919 election, falling from 78% to 56%. At the time of the election, the DVP had about 800,000 members.[15]

In June 1920 the People's Party for the first time participated in a Reich government, the Fehrenbach cabinet. The SPD, the leading party in founding the Republic, had suffered significant losses in the election and withdrew into opposition even though it was still the strongest force in the Reichstag at 22% (down from 38%). Its previous coalition partners, the Catholic Centre Party and the left-liberal DDP, which had also lost a considerable number of votes to right-wing parties, formed a minority government with the DVP. The SPD decided to accept it on the condition that the DVP protect the Republic. There were three DVP members in the new cabinet: Rudolf Heinze as Justice Minister and Vice Chancellor, Ernst Scholz as Economics Minister, and Hans von Raumer as Treasury Minister. In May 1921 the DVP left the Reich government when the Fehrenbach cabinet fell, but in the Reichstag it supported on a case-by-case basis the government of the Centre Party politician Joseph Wirth, under whom the Weimar coalition had been revived. When the "Cabinet of the Economy" was formed under the nonpartisan Wilhelm Cuno in November 1922, the DVP again participated in the government, with Rudolf Heinze as Minister of Justice and Johann Becker Economics Minister.

 
Gustav Stresemann

The minority government – the parties represented in the government held only 172 of the 459 Reichstag seats – was from the outset under strong pressure from the right and the left, especially since the political situation – the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium in January 1923 and the hyperinflation which peaked in November 1923 – made it difficult for it to govern. After Cuno's government broke up under the strain of the Ruhr occupation, Stresemann and the DVP, together with the SPD, Centre Party and DDP, formed their first grand coalition on August 13, 1923. It was the only Reich government led by the German People's Party. This basic constellation of the four parties made up the majority of the governments during the short-lived republic. Although Stresemann was only able to lead the government for three months, since he also was voted out of office due to the Ruhr crisis, the first steps toward consolidating the Weimar Republic were taken during this short period. In spite of fierce attacks from the opposition DNVP, passive resistance to the Ruhr occupation was abandoned and the German inflation of 1914 to 1923 was fought in a sustained manner with the introduction of the Rentenmark on November 15, 1923.

Although the DVP was unable to maintain its 1920 results of 13.9% of the total votes, it received between 8.7 and 10.1 percent in the three Reichstag elections between 1924 and 1928. Despite Stresemann's

Brief time in office, the People's Party had become fully a part of the Weimar Republic and went on to be one of it mainstays. Stresemann was foreign minister in all subsequent cabinets until his death in October 1929. He made a sustained effort to end Germany's foreign policy isolation and to revise the Treaty of Versailles by peaceful means. His involvement was central to the realization of both the 1924 Dawes Plan, which resolved the issue of German payment of war reparations, and the Locarno Treaties of 1925 which contributed to the German Reich's admission to the League of Nations in 1926. Stresemann, along with his French counterpart Aristide Briand, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 for their work on the Locarno Treaties.

While the initial cabinets the DVP was in were middle class cabinets in which, in addition to the DVP, the Centre, DDP and Bavarian People's Party, the DNVP was also sometimes represented, the People's Party also participated in the second cabinet of the Social Democrat Hermann Müller from 1928 to 1930. In foreign policy, the DVP was in favor of an understanding with the Western powers and thus of a typically republican foreign policy.[16] After Stresemann's death in October 1929, Julius Curtius, the previous economics minister, succeeded him in the foreign office and took a more demanding stance. Stresemann's approach, which had been directed towards rapprochement, gave way, according to historian Andreas Rödder, to one of negotiation that nevertheless still pursued its goals peacefully.[16]

Governments with DVP Participation
Chancellor Parties Start Date End Date
Constantin Fehrenbach C–DDP–DVP 25 June 1920 4 May 1921
Wilhelm Cuno (Ind) Ind.–DVP–DDP–C–BVP 22 November 1922 12 August 1923
Gustav Stresemann DVP–SPD–C–DDP 13 August 1923 30 November 1923
Wilhelm Marx C–DVP–BVP–DDP

C–DVP–DDP

30 November 1923 15 January 1925
Hans Luther (Ind) Ind.–DVP–DNVP–C–DDP–BVP

Ind.–DVP–C–DDP–BVP

15 January 1925 12 May 1926
Wilhelm Marx C–DVP–DDP–BVP

C–DNVP–DVP–BVP

17 May 1926 12 June 1928
Hermann Müller SPD–DVP–DDP–C–BVP 28 June 1928 27 March 1930
Heinrich Brüning C–DDP–DVP–WF–BVP–KVP

C–DSP–BVP–KVP–CLV

30 March 1930 30 May 1932

C=Centre Party BVP=Bavarian People's Party WF=Economic Party KVP=Conservative People's Party

Downturn and endEdit

 
Hugo Stinnes

The DVP’s more conservative members never really trusted Stresemann, especially when he became more supportive of the republic. Even in the early 1920s there was internal opposition to Stresemann, centered especially around the industrial magnate and DVP member Hugo Stinnes. This element sought much closer cooperation with the DNVP but was initially unable to achieve it because of the close ties between the DVP and the Republic. In 1924 the former Reich Minister of Economics Johann Becker, together with other representatives of the right wing such as the entrepreneur Albert Vögler, left the DVP and founded the National Liberal Reich Party, which joined the DNVP in 1925. After Stresemann's death in October 1929, Ernst Scholz became party chairman, and the DVP tended more to the right. In Thuringia, for example, it participated in the Baum-Frick government, the first state government with Nazi Party (NSDAP) participation. Although the DVP was represented in Brüning's first cabinet, its downturn had begun. The Reichstag election of September 14, 1930 sent the DVP back to the low level of 1919, with just 4.5% of the votes and a loss of 15 seats. The moderate party leader Scholz, who was in poor health, had to resign, making way in November 1930 for Eduard Dingeldey. As a representative of the younger generation, he tried to mediate between the party's wings in order to make a political comeback with a united DVP.

The elections of 1932 showed that the DVP was unable to compete with the DNVP and the NSDAP when it came to the national consciousness they emphasized. It sank to insignificance, with just 1.2% of the vote and 7 seats in the Reichstag. It joined lists with the DNVP for the Reichstag elections in November, and it gained four seats. But many representatives of the liberal wing left the party, as did a large number of the members of the German National Association of Commercial Employees (Deutschnationaler Handlungsgehilfen-Verband) who had chosen the DVP because of their dislike of Alfred Hugenberg of the DNVP.

In the spring of 1933 Otto Hugo, the deputy chairman of the DVP, demanded that the party be completely merged into the NSDAP, but Dingeldey refused. It was only after the National Socialists threatened him with personal consequences that he announced on July 4, 1933, the decision taken by the Reich Executive (Reichsvorstand) on June 27 to voluntarily disband the party.

Ideological foundations and programEdit

The party was generally thought to represent the interests of German industrialists. Its platform stressed Christian family values, secular education, lower tariffs, opposition to welfare spending and agrarian subsidies and hostility to socialism (that is, the Communists and also the Social Democrats).

The liberal concept of the people which shaped political thinking in the DVP was fed off impulses from Romanticism and Idealism (see Bildungsbürgertum). Like the National Liberal Party of the German Empire, it saw itself primarily as a liberal rather than a democratic party. This was expressed in the fact that in its politics the freedom of the individual from state intervention was more important than the enforcement of majority decisions against the interests of individuals. Its concept of man was shaped by the view that the individual who justifies himself through self-acquired education and property knows better what is important for himself and thus for society as a sum of all its individuals than do the purely quantitative masses. On the other hand, it called on the intellectual and economic elites to have their actions measured against moral standards and to place themselves at the service of society out of a sense of responsibility for it.

Only from these principles can it be understood why the DVP, which as a supporter of an enlightened constitutional monarchy had rejected the Weimar Constitution, sided completely with the Republic after the failure of the Kapp Putsch. Stresemann made this clear in a speech on October 25, 1923, in which, as Reich Chancellor, he explained in the face of hyperinflation and the Ruhr struggle: "In the distress of the present, I call 'national' the man who, when the cart is in the mud, lends a hand to pull it out, but not the man who stands by and says, 'After all, it won't help, and you are not the right men to do it.'"

Members and representativesEdit

The members and representatives of the DVP, who were primarily committed, principled scholars and civil servants, belonged to the middle and upper classes. They represented the wealthy educated middle class which had come together in the National Liberal Party during the Empire. After1922, there was a party-affiliated student association, the Reich Committee of University Groups of the German People's Party (Reichsausschuss der Hochschulgruppen der Deutschen Volkspartei), whose influence in the predominantly right-wing student body remained comparatively small.

Voter base and election resultsEdit

The DVP had its voter base predominantly in large and mid-sized cities: in the 1920 Reichstag elections, for example, it won an average of 13.2% of the vote in cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, while it received only 7.2% of the vote in small communities with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants.

The DVP was also a predominantly Protestant party. In areas with a very high proportion of Roman Catholic voters, the DVP's share of the vote always fell far short of its Reich average. In contrast, the lower the proportion of Catholics, the greater the percentage of DVP votes.

The DVP's voter structure thus resembled that of the former National Liberal Party in its distribution by denomination and urban versus rural.

The DVP achieved the following results in the Reichstag elections:

Weimar National Assembly
Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
No. of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1919 1,345,638 (6th) 4.4
19 / 423
New party
Reichstag
1920 3,919,446 (4th) 13.9
65 / 459
  46
May 1924 2,694,381 (5th) 9.2
45 / 472
  20
Gustav Stresemann
December 1924 3,049,064 (4th) 10.1
51 / 493
  6
Gustav Stresemann
1928 2,679,703 (5th) 8.7
45 / 491
  6
Gustav Stresemann
1930 1,577,365 (6th) 4.5
30 / 577
  15
July 1932 436,002 (7th) 1.2
7 / 608
  23
November 1932 660,889 (7th) 1.9
11 / 584
  4
Eduard Dingeldey
March 1933 432,312 (7th) 1.10
2 / 647
  9
Eduard Dingeldey

Note: In the 1925 Reich presidential election, DVP candidate Karl Jarres received 38.8 percent on the first ballot, representing the DVP, DNVP, and Economic Party. In the second ballot, the DVP supported Paul von Hindenburg against the Centre representative Wilhelm Marx.[17]

Support in the pressEdit

In contrast to the German Democratic Party, which was openly sponsored by the major liberal papers in Berlin (including the Vossische Zeitung (Voss's Newspaper) and Berliner Tageblatt), the DVP received support only from the Cologne Zeitung, the Magdeburg Zeitung,[18] the Tägliche Rundschau from Berlin, and the Königsberger Allgemeine Zeitung (Königsberg General Newspaper).[19] The other major parties of the Weimar Republic were also better positioned in terms of the media: The SPD had its own newspapers, the ideas of the Centre Party were promoted by the Catholic papers, and the DNVP had Hugenberg's opinion empire behind it.

FinancesEdit

 
Albert Vögler

Even though the DVP was considered the party of big industrial capital, it always struggled with financial problems. The DDP was able to rely primarily on Berlin and Hamburg businesses, especially in the early days of the Weimar Republic, while the DNVP was mainly supported by Rhenish-Westphalian heavy industry. Hugo Stinnes and Albert Vögler were the only two business barons who were on the side of the German People's Party. Stinnes' death and Vögler's resignation from the party, both in 1924, considerably reduced the DVP's base of donations. Smaller amounts were contributed by the Kali-Society and the companies of the Hansabund, an anti-monopolistic economic-political interest group led by the DVP politician Rießer.

Notable membersEdit

Involvement in founding parties in 1945Edit

Politicians from the DVP participated in the founding of the German Party (DP), Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after World War II.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Burkhard Asmuss (8 June 2011). "Die Deutsche Volkspartei (DVP)". LeMO Kapitel.
  2. ^ Dittberner, Jürgen (2008), Sozialer Liberalismus: Ein Plädoyer, Logos, pp. 55, 58.
  3. ^ Neugebauer, Wolfgang, ed. (2000), Handbuch der Preussischen Geschichte, vol. 3, de Gruyter, p. 221.
  4. ^ Van De Grift, Liesbeth (2012), Securing the Communist State: The Reconstruction of Coercive Institutions in the Soviet Zone of Germany and Romania, 1944-48, Lexington Books, p. 41.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Stephen J. (1998), The Weimar Republic, Routledge, p. 23.
  6. ^ Stanley G. Payne (1 January 1996). A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. University of Wisconsin Pres. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-299-14873-7.
  7. ^ Mommsen, Hans (1989), The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy, Propyläen Verlag, p. 51.
  8. ^ Gerstenberg, Frank. "27.6.1933: DVP und DNVP lösen sich auf". Kalenderblatt, Deutsche Welle.
  9. ^ Brendan Karch, ed. (2018). Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland: Upper Silesia, 1848–1960. Cambridge University Press. p. 179. ISBN 9781108487108. The German bourgeois centrist parties – the German Democratic Party (DDP) and German People's Party (DVP) – proved insignificant throughout the Weimar period. Upper Silesians abandoned these parties earlier than the rest of Germany.
  10. ^ Matthew Stibbe, ed. (2013). Germany, 1914-1933: Politics, Society and Culture. Routledge. p. 212. ISBN 9781317866541. Many members left to join the Nazis in 1927 Deutsche Volkspartei (German People's Party) — centre-right pro-business party, ...
  11. ^ Nadine Rossol; Nadine Rossol; Benjamin Ziemann, eds. (2022). The Oxford Handbook of the Weimar Republic. Oxford University Press. p. 462. ISBN 9780198845775. The centre- right German People's Party (Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP) and the conservative DNVP were able to benefit, for a while, from the decline of their leftliberal competitor. However, they were facing the risk of being seen as too ...
  12. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2003). The Coming of the Third Reich. New York City: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0141009759.
  13. ^ Lösche, Peter (1993). Kleine Geschichte der deutschen Parteien [Short History of German Parties]. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, p. 68.
  14. ^ Quoted from Schelm-Spangenberg, Ursula (1964). Die Deutsche Volkspartei im Lande Braunschweig [The German People's Party in Braunschweig]. Dissertation, Universität Hamburg, Braunschweig (= Braunschweiger Werkstücke, Vol. 30).
  15. ^ Deutsches Historisches Museum: DVP – Die Positionierung in der Parteienlandschaft , 2. Abschnitt [German Historical Museum: DVP – Positioning in the Party Landscape, Section 2]
  16. ^ a b Niedhart, Gottfried (2006). Die Außenpolitik der Weimarer Republik (= Enzyklopädie deutscher Geschichte, 53). 2. Auflage [Foreign Policy of the Weimar Republic (=Encyclopedia of German History, 53) 2nd ed.], Munich: Oldenbourg. p. 52.
  17. ^ Eyck, Erich (1962). Geschichte der Weimarer Republik, Vol 1 [History of the Weimar Republic, Vol. 1]. Erlenbach-Zürich: Rentsch. p. 412 f.
  18. ^ Handbuch des Wissens [Handbook of Knowledge]. Vol 3. Leipzig: Verlag F. A. Brockhaus 1929. New Edition with Appendix, Leipzig 1933, p. 138.
  19. ^ Tägliche Rundschau (zeno.org).
Preceded by German liberal parties
1918–1933
Succeeded by
Succeeded by