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Why did the Weimar Republic collapse in 1933?

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Why did the Weimar Republic collapse in 1933?

I am going to write about economic state of Germany after World War I and about the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933.

After the abdication of the Kaiser, there was no government. Eventually a government was established at the town of Weimar, quite far away from the political problems of Berlin. It was called the Weimar constitution.

Weimar Germany was the name given to the period of German history from 1919 until 1933.

Lots of Germany’s problems began in 1919, the year after the war ended. The Treaty of Versailles was signed, and this caused many problems. As a result of this treaty, Germany lost large amounts of land, especially the large piece of land to the left of Germany, and the Rhineland was demilitarised, meaning Germany wasn’t allowed troops there since it was close enough to invade Belgium and France from.

The results of the treaty were very severe. Germany had to take the blame for the War, the War Guilt Clause. The German army was to be reduced to only 100,000 men which had to be volunteers. German troops were not allowed into the Rhineland. Germany was forced to pay £6.6 billion in reparations. Finally, Germany lost its empire.

The Germans resented the treaty and it was suffering from a serious economic crisis. Problems were building up for the future. Europe couldn’t recover properly while countries like Germany were poor. German resentment would lead to trouble in the future, and without Germany, Russia or the USA in the League of Nations.

A series of revolts occurred between 1919 and 1923. In 1919 there was the Spartacus revolt, which was led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. It was a communist inspired rebellion to create soviets to rule Germany. The revolt failed and they were both shot. The government used ex soldiers to crush the revolt called the Freikorps. The government later wanted to disband the Freikorps who they saw as a threat.

In 1920 there was a revolt called the Kapp Potsch. Dr Wolfgang Kapp and his nationalists wanted to overrule Weimar, so they rose up and the Freikorps supported them. It failed when the workers of Berlin went on strike.

Both sides and communists hated each other and so the Weimar survived not because everyone wanted it but because it was the least objectionable alternative.

It was described as ‘’a republic without republicans’’.

In November 1923 there was the Munich Putsch. Gustave Stresemann, the chancellor of Germany 1923 – 1924. It ended in refusal to pay reparations in an attempt to force the French and Belgian troops out of the Ruhr which they had invaded in January 1923. the Bavarian government disagreed with this and Hitler thought they would support his putsch. At the Burger Brau Keller, Von Kahr, Von Seisser and General Von Lossow were meeting with 3000 business men.

Hitler and the brownshirts stormed the building and forced 3 men into a side room. They refused to support Hitler, who had lied to his supporters. General Ludendorff was left in charge and he let the three men go – it was a terrible mistake. They organised the army and police to arrest Hitler. The Nazis were cornered and in the residenzstrausse. 16 men were killed and Hitler fled. He was later captured and arrested.

Problems in Germany arose such as unemployment, and the fact thousands of soldiers had no work. Germany had no money to invest in industry. They were bankrupt and had to pay reparations. Poverty was rife in Germany as there was no social welfare system and no money. In a bid to stop the desperate poverty, they used soup kitchens in the street. Due to all these problems Germany was humiliated and angry. It wanted revenge. It blamed Britain and France, because of the Treaty of Versailles.

1923 had been a year of improvement for Germany, and people were feeling richer. However, this could only continue with investment, and this money was needed for the reparations. Unfortunately for Germany, the money could only go to one place; investment or the reparations.

The Ruhr changed all this. This led to resentments and riots. German people united against this invasion. The government told, workers to go on strike and they paid them. The government simply printed money. At the height of the crisis it bought the total input of 300 paper mills and printed money at 2000 printing works. The money became worthless and you get inflation, but in this case it became hyper-inflation.

In 1923 Stresemann became the leader of the Germans people party. He became the chancellor in 1923.

Stressemann did many things such as creating a new Reichbank and a new currency. The most important thing he did was negotiating a loan from the USA called the Dawes Plan. This reduced reparations and extended the payment until 1988. The problem arose though if the Americans ever wanted the money back. Stresemann described this as ‘’dancing on a volcano’’.

The USA was the most prosperous country in the world, with cheap labour, high wages and mass production of goods. But not all Americans were well off, and many were very low paid. It was usually the rich and middle classes who brought these goods – nearly 50% of Americans were living below the poverty line before the Wall Street Crash.  Not all countries could afford American goods and they started to protect their own goods from USA imports by putting duties on them and making the prices higher. A lot of Americans were borrowing money and buying shares. All these were bad signs.

If the US economy had problems then European countries relying on US loans would also have problems – there would be a chain reaction.

Germany in particular had borrowed billions of US dollars in order to rebuild after the war. Germany relied heavily on the USA as did the recovery of many other European countries.

Many US producers had over produced. There was too much supply and not enough demand. US farmers now couldn’t afford to buy because they couldn’t sell their own produce. People in the US ether had most consumer goods already or couldn’t afford them anyway.

People rushes to sell shares because they realised they companies were doing badly. Wall street is the trade centre for the USA – by October 1929 the selling was frantic, and prices dropped because people didn’t want to buy shares at high prices now. Businesses collapsed and thousands of people were ruined – by the end of the month they were selling shares for whatever they could get for them. People hoped that banks would keep the value of shares up artificially, but they couldn’t because they were short of money – it had been loaned and not repaid.

The Weimar Government had no answer to the problems which the German people had; many people hated the Government because it signed Versailles and held it responsible for the 1923 inflation which affected everybody. There was also the fear of communism, land owners and factory owners hated the idea of losing everything

The Nazis used these problems to their advantage they promised work and bread and they were opposed to communism. This was what many people wanted and started to listen to Hitler more. Hitler was a captivating speaker he really reached out to his audience making everyone in the room feel special, he also went to a lot of places using aeroplanes so he could speak to people in the flesh as most other politicians use cinema clips to spread their message. They felt he made an effort to know each and every individual.

In 1933 there was a power struggle between Von Schleicher and Von Papen; Von Schleicher had been appointed a year earlier as Chancellor by Hindenburg then Von Papen also became Chancellor but the two of them never got on they would not accept each other as Chancellor. Then Von Papen told President Hindenburg that he would work with Hitler; he argued that they’re should only be three Nazis in the Cabinet and that he would become Vice-Chancellor if Hitler became Chancellor. Von Papen also argued that they could use Hitler; if things went wrong they could blame it on him, if things went right they could get rid of him and take the glory himself. So, on the 30th of January 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany

Hitler used emergency decrees to pass measures against terrorists-communists. People were arrested so that people wouldn’t vote for them. Then Hitler changed the law to keep control, the Nazis won 288 seats but the communists still won by 81, so Hitler declared the communist party illegal, this gave him support in the parliament. Germany was now under strong leaders Hitler was at the top he was in complete control. Many Germans didn’t know what was really going on, they were afraid to speak out, because the Nazis encouraged people to inform them of anybody who didn’t support them and these people were arrested. Hitler wasn’t all bad but he gained more support when he gave work to 6 million unemployed people. He started a huge programme of public works, which gave jobs to thousands of people.

All of the above reasons were the main contributing factors that made the Weimar Republic collapse, and saw the emergence of a new party, the Nazi’s. The Nazi party became extremely powerful and before long was in complete control of the country. There was something for everyone in the Nazi programme. Basically Hitler promised to make Germany a great country again.

By David Hodgson

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