Fulfillment Policy

(Erfullungspolitik)
   a German response to the Al-lied demand, conceived at the Spa Conference* of July 1920, that Germany "fulflll" the terms of the Versailles Treaty.* In reality, the policy awaited the London Ultimatum of 5 May 1921. Finding Germany "in default in the fulfill-ment of the [treaty] obligations" with respect to disarmament, the reparations* payment due on 1 May, and "the trial of war criminals," the Allies focused on reparations and introduced the London Payments Plan, whereby compliance was ordered under threat of Ruhr occupation.*
   The government of Joseph Wirth,* formed on 10 May 1921, made fulfillment its raison d'etre. Having served as Finance Minister under Konstantin Fehren-bach,* Wirth had no illusions about the difficulties inherent in meeting the Lon-don Payments Plan: three billion marks annually for an as yet unspecified period. But he surmised that endless protests were damaging Germany's reputation, whereas a pledge of fulfillment, underscoring German goodwill, would be of greater value than actual payments. This opinion was bolstered by the Finance Ministry's State Secretary, Carl Bergmann,* and by Walther Rathenau.* Thus was born the concept that via fulfillment the need for revision might be dem-onstrated.
   Wirth's logic was not imparted to the political Right. Nationalistic dema-gogues soon attacked the policy as the fruit of a seditious mind; Karl Helffer-ich,* blaming fulfillment for the devaluation of the mark, labeled it "suicidal mania." In the case of Foreign Minister Rathenau, it probably advanced his June 1922 assassination.* But Wirth and Rathenau were only the first to face obstruction over fulfillment. Although the policy was discarded under Wilhelm Cuno,* it was renewed and expanded during Gustav Stresemann's* six years (1923-1929) at the Foreign Office. Bolstering the merits of Stresemann's work were the Dawes Plan* of 1924, the Locarno Treaties* of 1925, German admis-sion to the League of Nations in 1926, and the Young Plan* of 1929. Whereas each of these milestones corroborated Wirth's original judgment, they further enraged the DNVP.
   Debate persists over the inherent nature of fulfillment: was it an expedient to be employed until Germany had the power to press for treaty revision, or was it simply an acceptance of Allied demands and thus a recognition of German defeat? Not only was Wirth clear from the start that revision was his goal, but Stresemann's foreign policy achieved that goal. The greater problem for histo-rians, it seems, is disengaging the revisionism of the 1920s from Hitler's* rev-olutionary foreign policy of the 1930s.
   REFERENCES:Eyck, History ofthe Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Felix, Walther Rathenau; Grathwol, Stresemann and the DNVP; Jacobson, Locarno Diplomacy; Post, Civil-Military Fabric.

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

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