German People's Party

(Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP)
   Prompted by a nationwide appeal from Gustav Stresemann* dated 18 November 1918, a meet-ing of the National Liberal Party (NLP) executive occurred on 2 December to establish the DVP. Shaken by the monarchy's collapse and faced by perceived social revolution, many National Liberals were inclined to unite with the new DDP on a platform of liberal republicanism. But the DDP's leaders were un-willing to give the more conservative National Liberals, in many cases tied to the war's pan-German movement, equal status in their Party, and Stresemann, the charismatic leader of the NLP's Reichstag* faction, was particularly unpal-atable to the DDP because of his ardent nationalism and annexationism—pas-sions he retained in the immediate postwar period. The inability to politically unite the middle class is deemed the first grave defect in Weimar's party system.
   In the Party program of 19 October 1919, the DVP stressed its continuity with NLP traditions, advocated a legal restoration of the monarchy, and pro-moted unencumbered private enterprise. Yet the program served also as a pro-totype for compromise by emphasizing the necessity to work within the republican system for national recovery and by underscoring the need for an overhaul of Germany's existing system of labor-management relations. None-theless, roughly 60 percent of the Party's leadership—wealthy men such as Hugo Stinnes* and Albert Vogler*—were prominent individuals within German industry. The DVP opposed the Versailles Treaty,* was guardedly sympathetic to the Kapp* Putsch, and, upon Konstantin Fehrenbach's* June 1920 appoint-ment as Chancellor, began serving in cabinet coalitions. Its key press organs were the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, the Kolnische Zeitung, and the Hanno-versche Kurier.
   From the outset the DVP was a fragile and ambivalent structure. That some of its candidates adopted republican positions while others seemed predisposed to monarchism* only reinforced the DDP in maintaining a separate existence. Stresemann—later the consummate Vernunftrepublikaner*—and a majority of his colleagues were emotionally tied to the monarchy. As a sense of normality reasserted itself, the DVP proved increasingly averse to the Republic and to legislation that worked against the propertied classes. But while the passage of time revealed the chimera of social revolution, it also underscored how implau-sible was a return to monarchism. Stresemann came to represent a middle po-sition, by no means universally held, that the most beneficial course was acceptance of the Republic and its Constitution.* To the chagrin of old sup-porters, he inclined more to alliances with the Left—including the SPD—than with the Right. After Walther Rathenau's* assassination,* Stresemann, who ad-vocated a foreign policy of fulfillment,* found himself increasingly out of step with the DVP's conservative wing; a rightist revolt in 1924, never entirely sup-pressed, marked the start of an internecine quarrel that survived Stresemann.
   By 1930 ten DVP Reichstag deputies held between them seventy-seven com-pany directorships. Yet the Party failed to gain consistent middle-class support. Its best electoral showing, in June 1920 (when it claimed approximately 800,000 members), brought 14 percent of the votes and sixty-five seats. But the elections of 1924 witnessed large desertions to the DNVP. Although the Party's 1924 plateau was maintained in 1928 (8.7 percent and forty-five seats), the pivotal elections of September 1930, in which the Economic Party* attracted many DVP voters, brought only 4.5 percent of the vote and thirty seats. The DVP's eclipse was linked with Stresemann's death in 1929. From December 1929 it was poorly led, first by Ernst Scholz* and then by Eduard Dingeldey.* In November 1932 it received a vote of 1.9 percent and eleven deputies; in March 1933, 1.1 percent and two deputies. It dissolved voluntarily on 4 July 1933.
   REFERENCES:Larry Jones, German Liberalism; Ratliff, Faithful to the Fatherland; Struve, Elites against Democracy; Turner, Stresemann.

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

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