Issue 2/2015

Content Overview: English Titles and Abstracts:

  • Michael Epkenhans: The First World War – The Centenary Commemorations, New Research and Debates One Hundred Years After Its Beginning.
  • Isabelle Davion: The System of Collective Security in Practice: Poland and Czechoslovakia in the League of Nations.
  • Jens van Scherpenberg: Hjalmar Schacht, Enrico Mattei and Bavaria’s Entry into the Age of Oil.
  • Knut Borchardt: An Alternative to Brüning’s Austerity Policy? On Paul Köppen’s Invention of French Loan Offers.
  • Roman Köster: No Predicaments? Remarks on a New Debate on German Economic Policy during the Great Depression.
  • André Postert und Rainer Orth: Franz von Papen to Adolf Hitler. Letters in the Summer of 1934.

Abstracts

Michael Epkenhans: The First World War – The Centenary Commemorations, New Research and Debates One Hundred Years After Its Beginning

 

The year 2014 was dominated by the commemoration of the outbreak of the Great War. By analyzing both public ceremonies commemorating this event and the debates about the origins of the war among historians as well as selected new publications, this article tries to describe the different forms of commemoration and of the messages politicians and historians tried to convey as well as the current state of research. The article, however, focusses on the analysis of the most important books published in 2014, namely those written by Christopher Clark and Jörn Leonhard, Herfried Münkler and Oliver Janz. These books have greatly enlarged our knowledge about the origins, the course and the consequences of the Great War. Though the public took a great interest in these new publications, historians should be very reluctant to intervene in present day political debates utilizing the content of their books.

 


Isabelle Davion: The System of Collective Security in Practice: Poland and Czechoslovakia in the League of Nations

 

After the First World War, the successor states of the fallen empires were at first suspicious about the new world order which was referred to as “Collective Security”. Soon they learned to make use of it, and developed their own practice in this field. Searching for their status within European relations, Poland and Czechoslovakia happened to bring their mutual conflicts to Geneva, the very place where national interests were supposed to be set aside. Thus, following the paths of these two states inside the League of Nations allows us to highlight the ambiguities of this new international system, as well as its great flexibility.

 


Jens van Scherpenberg: Hjalmar Schacht, Enrico Mattei and Bavaria’s Entry into the Age of Oil

 

When the first Bavarian refineries started to operate in the Ingolstadt region some 50 years ago, Bavaria received decisive impulses for its transformation from an agrarian region into a centre of modern industry. As is well known, the catalysts of this process were the plans to expand into Bavaria by the president of the Italian oil conglomerate ENI, Enrico Mattei, who in this matter relied on Hjalmar Schacht as an important intermediary. Up to now, this story has mostly been told from a Bavarian perspective. Both Mattei and Schacht were driven by the lofty ambitions of achieving the emancipation of Italy and Germany (the losers of the Second World War) from the domination of the Western powers as notably expressed in the preponderance of the large Anglo-American oil companies on the oil markets. This “strategic perspective” of Mattei and Schacht was the basis for their close business friendship of several years. At the same time it was also one of the reasons for ENI’s economic disaster resulting from the foray into Bavaria, which Jens van Scherpenberg demonstrates using hitherto unprocessed files of Hjalmar Schacht’s from 1957-1964.

 


Knut Borchardt: An Alternative to Brüning’s Austerity Policy? On Paul Köppen’s Invention of French Loan Offers

 

In the July 2014 issue of the VfZ, Paul Köppen claimed that Heinrich Brüning had rejected French loan offers in 1930 despite (indeed even: because) this would have allowed him to pursue a less restrictive course in fiscal policy. In a wide ranging manner, Köppen deals with the (in his opinion) decisive motives of the Chancellor in his supposed rejection of loans. Actually, there never were any such offers. Köppen’s assertions are based on factual errors and surprising omissions in his account of his main source. Actually, the German government repeatedly expressed its interest in French loans for the Reich in 1930/31 – in all cases except one, without results. There is no proof that France was willing and able to enable Brüning to change his strategy in fiscal policy.
 


Roman Köster: No Predicaments? Remarks on a New Debate on German Economic Policy during the Great Depression

 

The article deals with the contributions by Paul Köppen and Tim B. Müller, which appeared in the last issues of the Vierteljahrshefte. They both deal critically with the economic policies of the Brüning government during the Great Depression. This period was already the subject of the so-called Borchardt Debate during the 1980s and 1990s, which dealt with the room for manoeuvre available to economic policy during the crisis. It is discussed, what new arguments the articles contribute to this debate and whether these seem viable. The results are, however, rather critical: The new contributions are not capable of rendering a revision of the theses of Knut Borchardt on the “predicaments” of economic policy.

 


André Postert/Rainer Orth: Franz von Papen to Adolf Hitler. Letters in the Summer of 1934

 

The documentation presents a number of letters, which the conservative politician and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen wrote to Adolf Hitler in June and July 1934. The first documents of the collection were composed by Papen after his famous “Marburg Speech” of 17 June 1934. Further letters stem from the time immediately after the murder actions in the context of the so-called Röhm Coup. Vice Chancellor Papen had in the meantime been temporarily arrested, his ministry had been dismantled, and his closest employee had been murdered. The authors were able to locate the drafts of these writings, which hitherto had only been published in excerpts, in the Military Archive (so-called Special Archive) in Moscow. Here, Papen’s letters to Hitler – which the dictator did not bother to answer – have been supplemented by other related documents. The presented collection of sources allows for direct insights into the dramatic events of the summer of 1934 and throws light on Papen’s self-perception.

 


 




© Institut für Zeitgeschichte