Curtius, Julius

(1877-1948)
   politician; as Foreign Minister, initiated conversations with Austria* in late 1930 aimed at forming a customs union. Born to a wealthy industrial family in Duisburg, he studied law and economics and earned his doctorate at Berlin.* He practiced corporate law from 1905 in Duisburg, but he quit his post in 1910 to study political science at Heidelberg. A blind patriot, he joined the National Liberal Party and promoted Germany's imperialistic Weltpolitik before World War I. Promoted to captain in the war, he served as an artillery officer and was awarded two Iron Crosses for bravery. After the war he returned to Heidelberg to teach international law; he served as a city councilor until 1921 and helped found the local branch of the DVP (he sat on the Party's Hauptvorstand during 1919-1932). Curtius was vehemently opposed to the Versailles Treaty,* especially its boundary stipulations. Elected to the Reichstag* in June 1920, he remained in the chamber until 1932, culti-vating a reputation as a proponent for big business and an opponent of socialism. After establishing a Berlin residence in 1921, he built a successful law practice and was active as an attorney with the superior court. He also served as both legal counsel and board member for several large corporations.
   Curtius, who vainly tried to form a cabinet in January 1927, served as Eco-nomics Minister from January 1926 until October 1929. Upon Gustav Strese-mann's* death he moved to the Foreign Office. In both capacities he tried to modify Stresemann's pro-Western policies (he misunderstood the long-term ben-efits of the Locarno Treaties*) by improving relations with the Soviet Union.* His adherence to laissez-faire economics earned him the distrust of heavy in-dustry and the Junkers,* but he had noteworthy success, both with Stresemann and as his successor, in regularizing reparation* payments and achieving Allied withdrawal from the Rhineland.*
   Although Curtius always aspired to the Foreign Office, he lacked Strese-mann's skill and disposition. Yet years of responsibility had tempered his na-tionalism by 1929. As the "Young Plan* Minister," he became a focal point for attacks from the DNVP, the Stahlhelm,* and the NSDAP. The elections of September 1930, by dramatically increasing the Nazis' public profile, sharpened the attacks and led him to embark on policies that might placate the right wing. His undoing resulted from ill-considered efforts to form a customs union with Austria. Brainchild of Bernhard von Bulow,* the scheme foundered in Septem-ber 1931 when the Hague Tribunal voted 8-7 to reject it, claiming that it violated a 1922 League of Nations protocol requiring Austria to avoid commitments that might compromise its independence. With his reputation attached to the customs union, Curtius resigned on 3 October 1931.
   Curtius remained briefly in the Reichstag (he moved his Party membership to the DStP); thereafter he avoided the spotlight, traveled extensively, and main-tained his legal practice. Owner from 1938 of a Mecklenburg estate, he was momentarily arrested in 1944 due to the connection of family members with the Kreisauer Circle resistance group. After World War II he returned to Heidelberg.
   REFERENCES:David Abraham, Collapse ofthe Weimar Republic; Benz and Graml, Bio-graphisches Lexikon; Bracher, Auflösung; Kimmich, Germany and the League of Nations; NDB, vol. 3; Ratliff, Faithful to the Fatherland.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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