Nazi Germany Revision 1918-45

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Revision Notes -   Germany, 1918-45

The establishment of the Weimar Republic and its early problems, 1919-23

  • The German Revolution of 1918 – abdication of the Kaiser, 9 Nov 1918.  Armistice, 11 Nov 1918.  The role of the socialist parties (e.g. SPD).  New government under Ebert was set up to oversee the political changes and the introduction of the new constitution. (Ebert was declared the first President of the Weimar Republic in 1920.)  How had Germany emerged from the First World War? (economic, political and social weaknesses)
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the new Constitution.  The Weimar Constitution, Jan 1919.  Democratic aspects – universal suffrage (voting), role of President, role of Chancellor, role of Reichstag, Proportional Representation.  In what ways was the Constitution positive for Germany; in what ways was it prone to weakness?  How was it viewed by German people?
  • Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles in Germany.  Hatred of treaty, especially the imposed nature (‘diktat’) and the blame for the war (‘War Guilt Clause’ – Article 231).  Loss of territory, reduction of military forces, payment of reparations.  The treaty gave political fuel to the forces of nationalism in Germany.  Versailles blamed for Germany’s problems after 1919.
  • The Spartacist and Kapp Putsches; political instability.  Nature of the Spartacist Rising, Jan 1919.  Attempted Communist takeover in Berlin, used armed communist units to seize key buildings.  Why did it not succeed?  Freikorps units invited by the government to suppress the rising; ruthless action, communist leaders shot.  Government shown to be vulnerable and exposed – need to rely on ‘outside’ force (Freikorps).

Kapp Putsch, March 1920, attempted nationalist rising, led by Wolfgang Kapp, using the Freikorps units (which the government was trying to disband).  Attempted to seize control of Berlin (government fled to Dresden), but did not have enough strength.  Failed when socialist groups (e.g. trade unions) organized a general strike against the putsch.  Again, the government was shown to be weak.

Assassination of Walter Rathenau (Foreign Minister), 1922.

  • French occupation of the Ruhr and its effects, 1923.  Why did the Germans fall behind with reparations payments?  Non-payment in 1922.  French and Belgian troops entered Ruhr, Jan 1923.  Seizure of goods by France to pay for reparations.  German response of ‘passive resistance’.  French occupation and policing of Ruhr.  Violent clashes between French troops and German workers – some killed on both sides.  Government organized printing a money to pay the workers.  Complete stoppage of industrial production in the Ruhr – further worsened the already weak German economy.
  • Causes and effects of hyperinflation, 1923.  Inflation had been a problem in Germany during and after the war.  But in 1923 the situation became desperate.  Complete and rapid collapse of the currency (Price of a loaf of bread, 1923 – Jan 250 marks; July 1.5 million marks; Nov 200 billion marks).  Why did it happen?  - Already weak currency from the war, economic weakness following French occupation of the Ruhr, printing of banknotes without any financial backing.  Effects – value of savings and pensions simply disappeared (particularly affected the middle-class), further deterioration of the economy, development of a barter economy for some, benefits for those who were rich and could take advantage of the imbalanced economy.  Once more the government was blamed by many for the problems.  1923 saw a rise in political instability (e.g. right-wing political challenges in Bavaria, communist challenges in Saxony and Thuringia)
  • Munich Putsch, November 1923.  Attempted nationalist takeover by the Nazi Party.  Hitler believed he could march on Munich (and then Berlin) backed a wave of nationalist feeling.  Prompted by the promise by the government to re-start reparations payments to the Allies.  Hitler tried to use his party supporters and other right-wing support (e.g. Ludendorff, Kahr [Bavarian leader], police and army) to take control of Munich.  9th Nov 1923 march on Munich, but shot down by police which had remained loyal to the state government.  Hitler arrested and tried, sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, served 9 months.
  • Government response to problems of 1923.  ‘Passive resistance’ to the occupation of the Ruhr was the only political option if some sort of resistance was to be shown, but it did not help solve the problems Germany faced.  Chancellor Stresemann (Aug-Nov 1923) promised to re-start reparations, he removed the old, worthless currency and introduced a new, temporary one – the ‘Rentenmark’ – to restore confidence.  Stresemann agreed to talks about reparations and the outcome was the Dawes Plan (signed 1924).  Germany’s reparations would be altered to spread out the payments over more years, thus making it easier to pay; payment was also assisted by American loans; the USA also promised to encourage investment in the German economy to rebuild strength.  Thus, reparations were re-started, as a consequence the French withdrew from the Ruhr in 1924.   Stresemann also used ‘Article 48’ to declare a state of emergency and to use this to depose the communist political threats, which showed he was prepared to take action.  In turn the police and army were more prepared to remain loyal to the Weimar government when faced with the Munich Putsch.

The Recovery of Germany, 1924-29

  • The work of Stresemann (as Chancellor, 1923; Foreign Minister 1924-29).  Stresemann has been seen by many as a key figure in Germany’s recovery after 1918.  Responsible in 1923 for restoring financial stability, dealing with political challenges and helping negotiate the Dawes Plan (for all these see above).  He was Foreign Minister from 1924-29 and seen as a key figure in helping revive Germany’s international position.

  • Rentenmark, Dawes Plan and Young Plan, recovery of the German economy.  After 1923 Germany’s economy did revive somewhat (assisted by the Dawes Plan), there was sustained economic growth between1924-29.  For Rentenmark and Dawes Plan – see above.  Further success for Germany over the issue of reparations was achieved in 1929 when Stresemann successfully negotiated the Young Plan which reduced the total payment of reparations and spread them out even further.  As part of this agreement the French withdrew their military presence from the Rhineland.

  • Successes in foreign policy – Locarno Treaties, League of Nations, Kellogg-Briand Pact.  Stresemann is most well-known for his work to improve Germany’s international position; he helped transform Germany from an outcast, defeated power into a more respected state.  Locarno Treaties (1925) showed Germany as an important state in Europe; Locarno also strengthened Germany’s position and guaranteed its western frontiers.  This paved the way for entry into the League of Nations (1926) as a permanent member of the Council.  Stresemann was also part of the negotiations for the Kellogg-Briand Pact which was a further move towards international co-operation.
  • Germany also saw development in its cultural scene.  New aspects of art, music, nightlife, etc.; were seen.  These can be seen as a reflection of a changing Germany after the war and also, after 1923, as an effect of the improved economy.  But there were also those who saw the new culture as decadent and un-German, they wanted a return to ‘traditional’ values.
  • How far was there improvement in Germany’s situation in the period 1924-29?  The positive pattern was not always present.  There were critics of Stresemann’s foreign policy who saw him as selling out to the Allies.  The economy, although improved, was not completely restored – unemployment still remained high.  The economy was always vulnerable to become weak again, especially if the American loans were stopped (see impact of the Depression on Germany).  Although there was not the violence of the period 1919-23 political instability was still present, coalition governments were still fragile.  Nationalism was very much present – see Hindenburg’s election as President in 1925.
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The Rise of Hitler and the Nazis

  • Hitler and the origins of the German Workers’ Party. Small, Bavarian party with radical nationalist and ‘socialist’ policies, one of many small political parties in the chaotic political scene after 1918.  Hitler joined in 1919, appointed head of propaganda.  Hitler was a very effective public speaker.  Main themes of speeches were – Germany’s weak government and the ineffectiveness of the Weimar political system; hatred of the Allies and Versailles; opposition to communists and socialists; opposition to Jewish influence in society and politics.
  • Changes and developments ...

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