On this day in 1925, the German parliament ratified (signed into law) the Treaty of Locarno. Signed by France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and England, the treaty had three main goals: solidify Europe’s post-WWI borders, get Germany into the League of Nations (the failed predecessor to the United Nations) and fully demilitarize the Rhineland – Germany’s industrial region. Organized by German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann, the treaty was designed to restore Germany’s reputation as a European power and reassure the other European nations. The treaty was seen as a victory for all involved – it improved the standing of Germany’s Weimar government, guaranteed France’s safety and bound all participants into a mutual protection pact.
Stresemann won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 for his efforts, but the success of Locarno infuriated the growing Nazi (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) at home in Germany. Nazis felt that Locarno emasculated their country and unfairly punished Germans for WWI – an effort that had begun with the unpopular Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The Treaty of Locarno was viewed as a resounding success for the new international order and ushered in a new era of European cooperation. But the hatred it inspired in Nazis and other nationalist groups shows the deep, hidden divide that was growing under the surface of European society during the 1920s and 30s. The clash between globalist cooperation and nationalist fury defined that era – and it may come to define our present.