- On 10 April 1922 delegates from thirty-four nations gathered for the European Economic Conference at Genoa's Palazzo San Giorgio. A bid to promote reconstruction by eliminating barriers between winners and losers, the conference was the first postwar assembly to which Germany and Soviet Russia were invited as equals. Aiming to reintegrate Russia economically while addressing Europe's burgeoning financial problems, espe-cially in relation to German inflation* and reparations,* the meeting was con-ceived by French Premier Aristide Briand (who had lost office to Raymond Poincare three months before) and Britain's David Lloyd George. Germany at-tached great importance to the meeting; its delegation was led by Joseph Wirth* and Walther Rathenau,* accompanied by, among others, the Foreign Office's Ago von Maltzan* and Moritz Julius Bonn,* a special economic advisor. Lloyd George represented England, and Luigi Facta, the last Italian Premier before Mussolini's triumph, hosted the event. Poincare was represented by his Justice Minister, Louis Barthou. The United States did not attend.Genoa's official conversations were paralleled by confidential talks between the Allies and the Russians. The Germans attempted in vain to arrange their own meetings with the Allies. Tradition has it that Rathenau, fearing that a Russo-Allied accord might leave Germany isolated, met secretly with the Rus-sians on 16 April in Rapallo. The ensuing Rapallo Treaty* came as a bombshell to the Genoa assembly. One can credit Lloyd George, who needed Genoa to salvage his political career, for saving a summit that, while it failed to procure economic security, did not adjourn until 19 May.For decades Rapallo was the excuse for Genoa's failure. Recent evidence suggests that while it generated high drama, the Rapallo disturbance was short-lived. Lloyd George and the Italians probably knew of an impending Soviet-German accord before the opening of the conference. Although Rapallo startled both the press and Barthou, poor preparation, indecisiveness, domestic politics, Russia's refusal to accept Allied conditions for normalized economic relations (including recognition of tsarist debts), and Franco-British competition for su-premacy in European affairs were no less damaging to Genoa's outcome. Fi-nally, any effort to mend Europe's economy without American participation was doomed.REFERENCES:Bonn, Wandering Scholar; Felix, Walther Rathenau; Fink, Genoa Con-ference; Fink, Frohn, and Heideking, Genoa; McDougall, France's Rhineland Diplo-macy; Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe; Pogge von Strandmann, "Rapallo"; Schuker, American "Reparations."
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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