Osthilfe

   a government program used chiefly to cover the high-interest debts of the Junkers'* East Elbian estates. By the mid-1920s the global economy was entrenched in agricultural recession. Because of failure to modernize, Prussia's* landed estates were singularly sensitive to the crisis. To rescue the social structure, the national and Prussian state governments instituted Ostpreussenhilfe (East Prussian Aid) in 1926. But when recession deepened in 1928 into agricultural depression,* the program was renamed Osthilfe and ex-panded under Agriculture Minister Martin Schiele* to include all provinces east of the Elbe River. In October 1930 a Reich Commissioner (Gottfried Trevi-ranus*) was appointed to manage the program, and from March 1931 the entire venture was subsumed under Reich leadership (President Hindenburg* deemed the Prussian government insensitive to Junker needs). In November 1931 Tre-viranus was succeeded by Hans Schlange-Schöningen,* who remained Com-missioner until Heinrich Briining's* cabinet fell in May 1932; Magnus von Braun* was Franz von Papen's* Commissioner, while Günther Gereke followed under Kurt von Schleicher.*
   Osthilfe, which totaled about 2.5 billion marks, was the Republic's largest intervention in private debt. Although it was theoretically open to middle-level farms comprised of 20-100 hectares (about 50-250 acres), estate owners amassed 806 million marks during 1931-1933, while small farmers* collected only 43 million. Such inequality weakened agrarian unity and provoked dire political repercussions. Osthilfe also eased debt and mortgage payments by re-laxing credit, but because it was based too often on high-interest foreign loans, it resulted in higher national debt and decreased profitability.
   That a major subsidy was earmarked for Osthilfe amidst the depression* il-lustrates the influence of Hindenburg. An estate owner, the President was wounded by Junker attacks on his defense of the League of Nations and the Young Plan.* To retain leftist patronage while recovering his popularity with conservatives, he made his support of the Young Plan contingent on Hermann Müller's* allocation of 300 million additional marks for Osthilfe.Müller's con-sent to this bargain seriously damaged his own position and helped induce his cabinet's collapse in March 1930. It gradually became apparent that Osthilfe was simply a massive stipend to hopelessly indebted estates. There were no demands for structural changes that might have fundamentally altered the situ-ation; indeed, the Junkers were unwilling to sanction agricultural reform. When Schlange-Schoningen urged securing the land from Polish encroachment by re-settling west German peasants on bankrupt estates, the Reichslandbund* ma-ligned the idea as "agrarian Bolshevism." Ultimately, the money allotted to Osthilfe (a program retained until 1937) neither saved the troubled estates nor satisfied the Junkers.
   REFERENCES:David Abraham, Collapse ofthe Weimar Republic; Bessel, Eastern Ger-many"; Buchta, Junker; Orlow, Weimar Prussia, 1925-1933.

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

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