Weimar, 1918 - 1923
- Abdication and the ‘Stab in the Back’
- The German Revolution
- The Treaty of Versailles
- The Kapp Putsch, 1920
- Formation of the Nazi Party
- Economics and the Ruhr
- The NSDAP, 1921-23
- Internal Disorder
- The Munich Putsch
- The Trial
- Essay Questions
1. Abdication and the ‘Stab in the Back’
a. War situation and the generals
In the summer of 1918, WW I began to develop into open. After the initial success of Operation Michael, the Germans were on the retreat. The generals decided that Germany should sign an armistice.
“General Ludendorff, the actual leader of the High Command, had insisted on September 28, 1918, on an armistice ‘at once’ and his nominal superior, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, had supported him.”
“With news of unrest at home, even rumours of revolution, it was the nerve of the German generals, especially of Ludendorff, which broke first.”
On October 2nd, Hindenburg reiterated the need for a truce to the Kaiser, stating that “The army cannot wait forty-eight hours.”
b. Civilian Government
At the end of September 1918, the conduct of the war passed into civilian hands. Prince Max of Baden became Chancellor, responsible to the Reichstag rather than the Kaiser. Germany had effectively become a constitutional monarchy. This government wanted to continue the war in spite of the generals’ objections.
c. Civil Unrest
On 4th November a Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council (a Soviet) was set up in defiance of the central authorities. Sailors began to mutiny, but this was limited.
“During the first few days after the Kiel disturbances power had changed hands in only a few north-western cities and only on a local level.”
A by-election campaign was changed into agitation for a republic. Faced with growing violence King Ludwig III (the last Wittelsbach monarch) left Bavaria on the 7th November. On the 8th November a Bavarian republic was proclaimed. The new premier was Kurt Eisner, an Independent Social Democrat.
“In Bavaria trade unionists and socialists of Munich set up a republic under Kurt Eisner, a Jewish socialist journalist recently released from prison.”
In the capital and its surrounding towns, Soviets were being set up throughout early November. The authorities discovered a plan for revolution, set for November 11th.
d. Abdication and Armistice
On November 8th the cabinet received an ultimatum from the SPD (members of the coalition government) which stated that they would leave the coalition unless the Kaiser and the Crown Prince were to abdicate. On November 9th, Wilhelm II abdicated (Prince Max of Baden announced this in cabinet) and fled to Holland. Prince Max also resigned as Chancellor, and handed office to Ebert (the leader of the SPD), who formed a provisional government. An armistice commission was formed and sent to negotiate with the western allies. On November 10th, they reported back, giving the details and the conditions which the allies intended to impose. On November 11th, the armistice was signed in Marshall Foch’s railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne.
e. The ‘November Criminals’
Amongst Germans, the popular image was that the country had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the SPD with the signing of the armistice. The ‘November Criminals’ seemed to have allowed Germany’s defeat and subsequent harsh punishment when the army was still fighting bravely at the front, in no danger of defeat.
“It mattered not at all that the German Army, shrewdly and cowardly, had manoeuvred the… government into signing the armistice which the military leaders had insisted upon … But millions of Germans refused to concede this. They had to find scapegoats for the defeat and for their humiliation and misery.”
2. The German Revolution
The period 1918-20 is often termed the period of ‘German Revolution’. This tern applies to both:
- the period of political turmoil and unrest; and
- the change from a monarchy to a republic (therefore, the abdication was part of the revolution).
Why was this a period of political unrest?
- Economics: Unemployment and unrest due to the war’s end.
“War production naturally fell away with the end of hostilities.”
- Social Movement: Soldiers returning from the war were demanding change.
“Soldiers and sailors usually made up the most radical element in these activities.”
- Leaders: Political authority was weak, while the revolutionary leaders were appealing and exciting, especially Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht of the Spartakist Union.
“Between January 1919 and April 1920, however, there was a whole series of strikes and demonstrations in Berlin and the industrial districts of Germany, which frequently led to fighting. In the Ruhr, in the spring of 1920, this assumed the proportions of civil war.”
a. The Spartakists
During December 1918, there were frequent clashes between Spartakists and soldiers. The Spartakus League (or Spartakist Union) was a revolutionary, Marxist organisation. By the end of December 1918, it had formed the German Communist Party (KPD), but its members were always known as ‘the Spartakists’. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (see above) led it. They demanded that the country be run by Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils in line with Lenin’s slogan “All power to the Soviets!” In January 1919 they organised a general strike and attempted revolution in Berlin; which the army and Freikorps crushed.
b. National Assembly
In January 1919, elections were held to elect an assembly that would draft a constitution to replace the imperial system. The majority of representatives supported the republic proclaimed in November. The National Assembly met in Weimar in February 1919 to draw up the constitution, Berlin was beset by problems with radicals and agitation by revolutionaries. Drafts for a new constitution were being drawn up before the Assembly met; Hugo Preuss (SPD) was charged with this task by Ebert on November 14th, 1918.
“Most of the Social Democrats, wedded to the idea of a democratic republic based on representative institutions, supported the new assembly.”
c. ‘Revolution’ in Bavaria
“The meeting of the Weimar Assembly in February was accompanied by a period of civil war in Bavaria.”
In February 1919, elections were held for a new local government in Bavaria. The socialists were defeated overwhelmingly and their leader, Kurt Eisner, was assassinated. The reaction was an eruption of political unrest, fomented by agitators. Local soviets assumed power in the towns, supported by workers. On April 7th, 1919, Bavaria was declared to be a Soviet Republic. It took until May 1st for the army (with the Freikorps’ support) to enter Munich and put down the Soviets. Afterwards, summary justice was evident.
d. The Weimar Constitution
The National Assembly approved the new constitution on July 31st 1919 to come into effect on August 14th
Head of state, elected for a seven-year term of office, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
Powers included the power to: appoint and dismiss the Chancellor (Prime Minister);
dissolve the Reichstag; veto legislation while waiting for a referendum;
declare a, and govern by decree in a, national emergency;
- The Reichstag (lower house), elected every 4 years, using PR (universal suffrage over the age of 20).
The Chancellor had to be chosen from the Reichstag, and was responsible to it.
“The country was divided into 38 large districts and parties put up lists of candidates in each of these. The number of votes cast for a party in any electoral district decided how many candidates from its list would be sent to the assembly … for every 60,000 votes a party received it could count one Reichstag member.”
- The Reichsrat (upper house) consisted of representatives of the regional (Länder) governments.
It had the power to veto legislation passed by the Reichstag.
iii) Referenda (aka - plebiscites)
These were votes by all electors to decide policy on a single issue. They could come about by two means:
- The President could call one when conflict existed between the houses, or if he objected to legislation.
- The people could demand a referendum if 10% of the population were to petition for it.
e. Real ‘Revolution’?
“The revolution had provided Germany with an armistice and a Republic. It was clear that her new political institutions would be genuinely democratic in a sense they had never been before.”
Evidently there was revolutionary change e.g. the end of monarchy and the imposition of a Republic; the replacement of autocracy by democracy. However, the more common view is that very little was achieved.
“For those who shared the Marxist view that no revolution was worthy of the name unless, like the 1917 revolution in Russia, it led to a permanent alteration in the relationship between classes, the German revolution of 1918-20 was not a revolution at all … To borrow a phrase [from AJP Taylor] … German history reached a turning point – and failed to turn.”
This is why the Spartakists denounced the new Republic, according to AJ Nicholls: “Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht argued that the November Revolution was a sham and that the proletariat must be mobilised.”
Why, then, was this not a real ‘revolution’?
- The civil service remained unreformed; its numbers swelled after 1919. Ministers who had not held office before were dependent on old guard, conservative civil servants.
The judiciary was unaltered; it remained upper class and conservative, as AJ Nicholls purports:“Cases of a political nature were judged according to standards which had changed little since the time of Bismarck.”
- Local government remained unchanged; the Länder kept their influence
3. The Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was a Diktat imposed upon Germany without her input. It was designed to insult her: the venue was where the first Kaiser had been proclaimed after the Franco-Prussian War.
a. Territorial Losses
- Posen and Upper Silesia were given to Poland;
- Danzig was made a free city under League of Nations control;
- Memel was given to Lithuania;
- After a referendum, Schleswig was given to Denmark;
- Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium;
- Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France;
- Germany’s overseas colonies and holdings were given to Britain, France, Japan and South Africa;
- The Saarland was given to France for 15 years, when a plebiscite would determine the region’s future;
- The Rhineland was demilitarised. No military forces were permitted within 50 km of the right bank.
Loss of heavy industry and raw materials included:
- Alsace-Lorraine: iron and steel;
- The Saarland: coal;
- Upper Silesia: coal and steel;
- Danzig: shipbuilding.
Reparations were set at:
- £6,600 million OR 132,000 million Gold Marks and 10% of all profits made by German industry.
- 100,000 men;
- No conscription – all soldiers to be volunteers and professionals;
- Light infantry and cavalry only (seven divisions of infantry, three of cavalry);
- No tanks or armoured vehicles; no heavy artillery; no chemical weapons.
- Air Force
- 150,000 men;
- No conscription – all sailors to be volunteers and professionals;
- No submarines;
- No ships of displacement greater than 10,000 tonnes.
- Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria (Anschluß);
- Germany was not allowed to be in the League of Nations, as a permanent or temporary member;
- Article 231 – War Guilt Clause, included to justify reparations, which were laid out in Article 232.
Article 231: “The Allied governments affirm, and Germany accepts, the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied governments and their peoples have been subjected as a result of the war.”
4. The Kapp Putsch, 1920
According to the Versailles Treaty, the German army was to be reduced to 100,000 men by 31st March 1920. This was obviously not popular within the army: the leaders feared a loss of power and prestige; the soldiers feared the loss of their jobs! The High Command prepared to comply with the Treaty and reduce the army’s numbers. On March 9th, 1920, the order was issued for General von Lüttwitz to be relieved of his command of Ehrhardt’s Naval Brigade, preparatory to demobilisation. Lüttwitz was not happy about this, and laid plans to march Captain Ehrhardt’s brigade on Berlin and join up with political malcontents, led by Dr. Wolfgang Kapp. This, at least, was the popular image of events; namely that it was a spontaneous act. In fact, this was an attempt on power planned well in advance.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Sir John Wheeler-Bennett
“The conspiracy had been nine months coming to birth.”
The aim was to overthrow the Weimar government and constitution and institute a military dictatorship, with Kapp at its head. On March 11th, Noske, the Minister of Defence, issued orders for the arrest of Lüttwitz and other leaders of this possible Putsch.
Who was involved?
- General von Lüttwitz, Captain Ehrhardt and Captain Baltikum – all of the army;
- Count Westarp – former leader of the Reichstag Conservative Party;
- Pastor Traub – former Court Chaplain to Wilhelm II;
- Traugott von Jagow – former Police President of Berlin;
- Colonel Walter Bauer – former Chief of Operations, 1916-18;
- General Ludendorff – former Chief of Staff;
- Dr. Wolfgang Kapp.
The last six of these formed a political group called Nationale Vereinigung (National Unification).
Kapp himself was born July 24th, 1868, in New York (his grandparents had emigrated in 1848). He had served as a minor civil servant (head of the district agricultural finance office) in East Prussia.
The orders for the arrests were not carried out because the police had warned the conspirators. On the night of the 12th-13th March 1920, the troops marched on Berlin. Ludendorff, Lüttwitz and Kapp met the soldiers at the Brandenburger Tor, whence they marched to Wilhelmstrasse and occupied the Chancellor’s Palace.
“They proclaimed the National Assembly dissolved, the Weimar constitution void, and the government deposed in favour of one headed by Kapp and General von Lüttwitz.”
“The Ehrhardt Brigade had the ‘Hakenkreuz’ [i.e. the swastika] painted on their steel helmets when they entered Berlin.”
There was no opposition to the arrival of the rebel troops as the regular army (the Reichswehr) was not willing to fire upon fellow soldiers.
General von Seeckt (Chief of Staff)
“There can be no question of setting the Reichswehr to fight these people. Would you force a battle at the Brandenburger Tor between troops who a year and a half ago were fighting shoulder to shoulder against the enemy?”
Noske (Minister of Defence)
“This night has shown the bankruptcy of all my policy. My faith in the officer corps is shattered. You have all deserted me.”
Although the army was not willing to stop the Putsch, only a few elements were willing to support it; these were the military in Berlin, Silesia and Pomerania. Major support came from the Navy.
At 5:00 a.m. on March 13th, the government left Berlin, finally setting up a seat of government in Stuttgart. The National Assembly convened on March 13th and 14th. The government denounced Kapp and Lüttwitz as national traitors.
If the army did not oppose the Putsch, and the government was ineffectual, why did the Putsch fail?
a. General Strike
The popular image is that the workers of Berlin brought down this right-wing coup.
“The Putsch was defeated by the Berlin workers, who declared a general strike and paralysed the city.”
“The trade unions called a general strike. In Berlin Kapp and Lüttwitz found themselves controlling a dead city.”
It is true that there was a general strike, but it is important to note that it was called by the National Assembly in Stuttgart, not by the trade unions themselves; union power was the weapon of the government!
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“The wheels of government ceased to turn; industry and commerce were at a standstill; all public services – water, light and transport – were cut off. The power of the trade unions … manifested itself in silent hostility.”
Without industry, commerce or public services, Kapp was controlling virtually nothing other than Lüttwitz’s troops. Was there any point in continuing?
b. Internal Weakness (often neglected as a reason for failure, but Kapp was cr*p)
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“The Kapp Putsch was a triumph of ineptitude, infirmity of purpose, and lack of preparedness … within 24 hours the political incapacity of Wolfgang Kapp was glaringly apparent.”
- He proclaimed himself Chancellor, but stated he would step down if anyone else commanded popular support. These are not the actions of a strong leader who believes in his own strengths.
- He dissolved the Prussian Parliament (Diet) on 14th March, then cancelled the dissolution on the 16th in order to negotiate with its leaders, showing indecisiveness, and a need to obtain legitimacy.
- He had the Prussian Cabinet members arrested, then released them in the hope of securing their co- operation. Again, this is indecisive, showing lack of any real power to do anything.
AJ Nicholls: “The Kapp-Lüttwitz régime, called to power by the mutinous marine forces, was quite incapable of any constructive policy. Collaboration between the military and civilian elements in the coup was notable for its absence.”
c. Other Reasons
i) No International Support
On March 16th, the British Ambassador, Neill Malcolm, stated that Britain would not accept the régime.
These joined the workers to condemn Kapp, notably the National Association of German Industries.
iii) Security Police
On March 17th, this organisation demanded Kapp’s resignation
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“Without the tacit support of this body it would be impossible to preserve order in the capital.”
On 17th March 1920, Kapp issued a final manifesto, announcing his resignation, “having completed all my aims”! Kapp seemed to be deluding himself over the effectiveness of his coup. He handed over authority to Lüttwitz, then fled to Sweden, his ‘reign’ having lasted all of 100 hours. Lüttwitz was told that he had lost the confidence of the army on the same day. In the evening, he resigned and fled to Hungary. Both men later returned to Germany after the announcement of a general amnesty: Kapp returned in 1922 and died later that year; Lüttwitz returned in 1925, dying in 1942.
What happened to the Putsch members?
“Most of the politicians and officials who might have feared reprisals managed to wriggle off the hook on which they had apparently impaled themselves.”
“The government charged 705 persons with high treason; only one, the police president of Berlin, received a sentence – five years of ‘honorary confinement’. When the state of Prussia withdrew his pension the Supreme Court ordered it restored. A German court in December 1926 awarded General von Lüttwitz, the military leader of the Kapp Putsch, back payment of his pension to cover the period when he was a rebel against the government.”
Compare this with the ‘justice’ given to the left-wing insurgents earlier in Munich.
5. Formation of the Nazi Party
On March 7th, 1918, Anton Drexler set up a ‘Committee of Independent Workmen’ to combat Marxist trade unions and to imbue the working classes with a sense of nationalism. Drexler was unfit for military service and had therefore remained a locksmith in the Munich railway factory.
In January 1919 the Committee, which had never managed to recruit more than 40 members, merged with a similar group led by Karl Harrer, a sports journalist, and formed the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei). Drexler’s aim was put thus:
“To build a political party which would be based on the masses of the working classes but which … would be strongly nationalist.”
After the end of World War I, in which he had been wounded and awarded the Iron Cross (an unusually high decoration for a mere corporal), Adolf Hitler remained in the army, working in intelligence units. He was posted to the Press & News Bureau of the Political Department of the Munich District Command. As a part of his job he was assigned to investigate political groups which, to the army, appeared subversive and left-wing.
On September 12th, 1919, Hitler attended a meeting of the DAP on the orders of the army; the military was suspicious of the DAP as most “workers’ parties” were socialist, or even communist. The meeting, of only 25 people, was at the Sterneckerbräu beer cellar in Munich. Hitler found it tedious, but at the end found himself embroiled in an argument over whether or not Bavaria should split from Germany and unite with Austria. Hitler’s denunciation of such ideas brought him to the attention of others. Before he left, Drexler gave him a booklet outlining the ideas of the DAP. The next day Hitler received a postcard stating that he had been accepted into the DAP. Although Hitler wanted to become involved in politics, he later wrote in Mein Kampf (My Struggle): “I had no intention of joining a ready-made party, but wanted to found one of my own.” Yet, here was a party small enough for him to take over and mould into what he wanted.
“After two days of agonised pondering and reflection, I finally came to the conviction that I had to take this step. It was the most decisive resolve of my life. From here there was and could be no turning back.”
Hitler joined the party, later claiming that he was its seventh member. This was in fact untrue: he was invited to join the executive committee as its seventh member; there were already around a hundred in total membership. Hitler’s first role on the committee was as the officer responsible for recruitment and propaganda. He displayed the necessary skills for this; he even typed invitations to party meetings himself. The first public meeting he organised showed his skills:
- He placed an advert in the paper beforehand, thus attracting over a hundred people;
- At the event, he displayed his oratorical skills.
“Hitler, in the narrow circle of this small party, developed organisational and speaking talents which within a short span of time carved out a special place for his party among the radical Right sectarians of Munich.”
His first public speech (on 16th October 1919)…
“… electrified those present by his passionate outpouring.”
Hitler came to dominate the DAP, much more so than Harrer (the nominal chairman, who left the party in early 1920) and Drexler.
“Drexler, the party’s founder … held an outside job and therefore could not devote as much time to the party as … Hitler, who, as a jobless politician, had nothing to lose and much to gain.”
Hitler attended all of the important meetings, turned up at the Kapp Putsch in Berlin, went to conferences of right-wing groups in Austria and in May 1920 addressed a rally of the German Völkish Defence and Offence League in Stuttgart.
Hitler’s forceful nature ensured that the party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (National-Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei, or Nazi for short) on 24th February 1920. On the same day he insisted on presenting the 25 points of the party’s programme*. Drexler, in the main, drew these up.
“Hitler himself was almost certainly not the author of the party programme, and in the years which followed he did not always seem very concerned about its fulfilment.”
Hitler did not take them seriously, other than in the way he could use the separate points to gain support.
“Ideologically speaking, it was a woolly, eclectic mixture of political, social, racist, national-imperialist wishful thinking … To him [Hitler], it was little more than an effective, persuasive propaganda weapon for mobilising and manipulating the masses. Once it had brought him to power it became pure decoration.”
6. Economics and the Ruhr
The Allies did not agree on a final sum for the Germans to pay in 1919. Therefore, this task was given to the Allied Reparations Commission. On April 27th 1921, the Commission set the total to be paid at:
- 132,000 million Gold Marks OR £6,600 million (at £100 million per annum);
- A payment equal to the value of a quarter of all German exports.
On May 5th, 1921, the Allies delivered an ultimatum: Germany must agree to the final sum within six days, or the Allies would occupy the Ruhr. Her government collapsed and Joseph Wirth formed a new coalition.
“Joseph Wirth, a left-wing Centrist and former finance minister, formed a Weimar coalition government (Centre, Democrats, Socialists).”
“Joseph Wirth … In some ways he was the most attractive leader the Republic had produced since its foundation … His attractive personality, parliamentary skill and direct but effective technique as a platform speaker.”
Wirth’s period in office saw the start of the policy known as ‘fulfilment’. Wirth believed that if the German government agreed to the Allies’ demands, Germany would be treated more leniently and the terms imposed might be modified in her favour. His first action as chancellor, therefore, was to accept the Allies’ ultimatum (after gaining the Reichstag’s support), a mere 20 hours before the deadline. Despite Wirth’s acceptance of the ultimatum, Germany was unable to fulfil the demands. This was not solely due to Wirth; the problems were caused by:
- the economic problems of World War I;
- the economic losses imposed by the Treaty of Versailles;
- the failure of previous governments to introduce sound policies;
- the difficulty of obtaining foreign credit.
“Faced with the problem of monetary inflation and a falling mark successive governments shied away from the drastic remedies of currency stabilisation and balanced budgets for several reasons.”
- Governments did not want to increase taxation as this might have increased resentment against the Weimar Republic and their own political parties;
- As the mark fell in value, Germany’s export trade increased dramatically;
- The state benefited as it could repay its debts in marks worth less than the amount borrowed;
- Governments thought that if Germany were seen to be strong, the Allies would demand more of her. There seem to be no point in attempting …
“… to put Germany’s economic house in order as long as the dark cloud of reparations hung over her.”
The government was spending more money than it received in taxation. As it could not borrow money, there was only one way to finance government expenditure:
“There remained a deficit which could only be met by printing more money.”
By 1918, the Mark = 2/3 of its pre-war value. By 1921, 1 Mark = $75; by 1922, = $400, 1/10 of the 1920 exchange rate.
“German currency was losing its value all the time … even Wirth’s efforts over reparations failed. Germany had to declare that she would be unable to make the payments due at the beginning of 1922. ‘Fulfilment’ seemed to be leading Germany into a blind alley.”
The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George, persuaded the other Allies to call a conference on reparations, inviting Germany and Russia. The meeting (the European Economic Conference) was held at Genoa in April 1922. On Easter Sunday, 16th April 1922, while in session, the foreign ministers of Germany (Rathenau) and the Soviet Union (Chicherin) signed the Rapallo Treaty, startling the Allies. The treaty reopened diplomatic relations between the two countries, but, more importantly, Russia waived all claims to reparations from Germany, while Germany waived all claims to compensation for expropriated German property.
“Rapallo was the first real attempt by the Germans to take the initiative in foreign affairs … the Russo-German contacts forged by the treaty continued and were the basis for more important economic co-operation later on.”
On 24th June 1922, nationalist extremists assassinated Rathenau. This had two major immediate effects:
- The Mark fell even further in value on the exchange markets;
- The government introduced the Law to Defend the Republic. This gave the government wide powers and encouraged the DVP to support the government.
The DVP (German People’s Party) was led by Gustav Stresemann. In November, the Centre Party (Zentrum Partei) demanded that the DVP be admitted to the Cabinet. Wirth was not willing to accept this, and so resigned. A new coalition was formed, led by Wilhelm Cuno, who soon had to face major problems.
In December 1922, the Reparations Commission announced that Germany was in default of payments (she had failed to deliver 100,000 telegraph poles to France). In January 1923, a Reparations Conference was held in Paris. Cuno asked for a four-year moratorium on reparations payments (Britain wanted a compromise). Poincaré (the French Premier) insisted that Germany pay up or face military action (the British representatives withdrew). On January 9th, 1923, the Reparations Commission stated that Germany had failed to deliver coal. On January 11th, French and Belgian troops entered the Ruhr. Britain and the USA protested, and the USA withdrew her troops from the Rhineland.
d. Ruhr Occupation
The German government was not willing to accept foreign troops on its territory. Cuno announced that Germany would not pay until the French and Belgian troops were removed. The Reparations Commission stated that this was a breach of agreement, and the troops remained in place.
“This paralysing blow to Germany’s economy united the people … The workers of the Ruhr declared a general strike and received financial support from the government in Berlin, which called for a campaign of passive resistance.”
“Businessmen, officials and workers were not to co-operate with the occupying powers. The Reich government met the financial losses involved in this resistance. Acts of sabotage were also organised by clandestine paramilitary groups under the authority of the Reichswehr.”
In France, the population supported Poincaré’s actions. The French government met sabotage with repression of workers, industrialists and civil servants, bringing French workers into the Ruhr to replace the Germans. Sabotage continued; one saboteur, Albert Schlageter, was shot and became a national hero.
“The occupation itself proved highly uneconomical; it was unprofitable for the French economy and at the same time brought the passively resisting German economy to the brink of bankruptcy. The German currency fell disastrously … The inflation brought impoverishment to large segments of the population.”
“The government printed paper money recklessly until by November  the mark had completely collapsed in value.”
The government printed more and more money to pay for the passive resistance in the Ruhr and to keep the economy running. Naturally, this caused rampant inflation and a drastic reduction in the mark’s value.
- January 1923: $1 = 18,000 Marks
- July 1st, 1923: $1 = 160,000 Marks
- August 1923: $1 = 1,000,000 Marks
- November 1923: $1 = 4,000 million Marks
“On 15th November 1923, it took a million, million marks to equal the purchasing power of one 1914 mark.”
The effects were dramatic: the savings of the middle classes were wiped out; these people blamed the government – the Weimar Republic that had accepted the burden of reparations. The working classes, too, became embittered; the KPD began to experience increased membership.
“Inflation … was like a plague, affecting all classes whatever their political persuasion or social status.”
Who was to blame for the situation?
“The collapse of the mark was to some extent due to the circumstances of war and defeat, but there is little doubt that the German government was fundamentally responsible.”
“The government deliberately let the mark tumble in order to free the State of its public debts, to escape from paying reparations and to sabotage the French in the Ruhr.”
By the beginning of August, it was obvious that Cuno’s government could not survive. On August 13th, 1923, Cuno resigned, unable to solve any problems; Gustav Stresemann of the DVP formed a new coalition. Many different parties were included in the coalition.
“All parties accepting the Republican Constitution were represented.”
Stresemann attempted to gain concessions from Poincaré, but the French were totally unwilling to give any ground. When Stresemann was told that the British, despite disliking the occupation, supported the French aim, he realised that passive resistance had to stop. On September 26th, 1923, Stresemann announced that the workers of the Ruhr must return to work, and that passive resistance was to come to an unconditional halt. The French and Belgian troops were withdrawn, and Germany undertook to recommence the payment of reparations.
7. NSDAP, 1921-23
“In the summer of 1921 the rising young agitator who had shown such surprising talents not only as an orator but as an organiser and a propagandist took over the undisputed leadership of the party.”
In the summer of 1921 Hitler visited Berlin to contact nationalist groups. While there, some committee members proposed to ally with southern nationalist groups. This angered Hitler as he wanted alliances only if the other parties were subordinate to the Nazis. He returned to Munich and offered his resignation.
“Hitler’s local prestige had become so great that they dared not lose him.”
The committee refused to accept it. So he demanded to have dictatorial powers. This was too much for some of its members, who wrote a pamphlet about him and circulated it to party members. Hitler brought a libel suit against the committee. Drexler repudiated the pamphlet and the others capitulated. The committee was abolished; Hitler received dictatorial powers as ‘President’; and Drexler became Honorary President.
“Then and there, in July 1921, was established the ‘leadership principle’ which was to be the law first of the Nazi Party and then of the Third Reich. The Führer had arrived on the German scene.”
“According to one report the Munich branch of the party alone could boast of 2500 paying registered members in the early months of 1921.”
“In early 1922, the party had only about 6,600 members … its membership multiplied almost tenfold (c. 55,000) before the party was outlawed altogether in November 1923.”
Why such a great increase?
- Appeals to all sectors of society
“Its main objective was an all embracing organisation … appealing to all layers of the population.”
ii) Conversion of other groups
Hitler succeeded in encouraging other groups to submit to the NSDAP. The most important of these was the German Socialist Party, based in Nuremberg, and led by Julius Streicher. Such submissions spread the base of NSDAP membership as the other groups were geographically spread out.
iii) Concentration of efforts
The Party stand in elections in its early days. Instead, it concentrated on increasing its membership.
“There was a sizeable influx of new members after each member was exhorted to recruit three new ones and one subscriber to the Völkischer Beobachter every three months.”
NB - the party only really experienced major growth and neared ‘mass movement’ status in 1923.
- Mass Meetings
“The most effective tool was the elaborate rite of the mass-meeting, with all its emotional trappings, into which the major speech was cleverly incorporated: high point and release from tension … mass demonstrations and flags, radical slogans and the belated arrival of the ‘leader’.”
At these meetings, Hitler always made the major speech, usually concerning the struggle against the unfair peace and humiliating treaties; the ‘Jewish conspiracy’; the profiteers of the last war; the ‘November Criminals’ and the injustice of Weimar.
“It was he who moved large audiences with his oratory … he who attracted new membership in the provinces and in Munich itself.”
6,500 people attended the Nazi Party meeting at the Krone Circus on 3rd February 1921 to hear Hitler castigate the reparations conference. The first ‘national’ congress of the NSDAP (held in Munich, 27th-29th January 1923) was the high point of the mass-meeting method in the early phase of development.
ii) The Press
In December 1920, the NSDAP bought the Völkischer Beobachter, a twice weekly (daily by early 1923) anti-Semitic gossip sheet, allowing Hitler to get his propaganda into print. With the absorption of the DSP (German Socialist Party), led by Julius Streicher, the Nazis gained another newspaper, Der Stürmer, of which Streicher was the editor. Der Stürmer “ thrived on lurid tales of Jewish sexual crimes and Jewish ‘ritual murders’.”(WL Shirer)
The Nazis also attempted to get into other newspapers by any means.
“Hitler consciously tried to get into the papers day after day through aggressive, provocative tactics.”
iii) Organisation and Organisations
“The main strength of the NSDAP, unlike the other parties – except those of the left – lay in its organisational structure, which had grown more elaborate and concentrated.”
The party created various ‘arms’ of its organisation that appealed to different groups of people.
- In February 1921, Hess founded a National Socialist student organisation at the University of Munich;
- In May 1922, Hitler officially launched the ‘Youth League of the NSDAP’.
These were very important in gaining the support of young people.
“Young people in particular found it seductively adventurous to court danger by plastering stickers and painting slogans on buildings … to experience the intoxication of attending conspiratorial secret meetings and planning attack.”
The most important organisation, however, was the SA (Sturmabteilung – Storm Detachments). Its origins lay in groups of men (most frequently ex-soldiers), employed to stop the disruption of meetings. In the summer of 1921, they had been organised into the ‘Gymnastic and Sports Section’ of the NSDAP; in October that year they were renamed the SA. Large numbers of ex-soldiers and ex-Freikorps joined the SA. Hitler justified its existence and extreme tactics thus: “Terror can be broken only by terror.”
Members were used to guard meetings, intimidate opponents and as personal bodyguards for Nazi leaders.
“By 1923[it] had developed into a paramilitary force of some considerable size. This SA … staged provocative demonstrations and was sometimes involved in street fights with opponents.”
“Initially, the movement suffered from a chronique shortage of funds … its membership was so small and the resources of its leaders were so puny.”
There were two major sources of revenue for the party: the army and industrialists.
- The Army
The money used for the acquisition of the Völkischer Beobachter came from Major General Ritter von Epp, Ernst Röhm’s commanding officer. Finance also came from the disbanded Freikorps. The problem was that large amounts of the money coming into the party could not be accounted for.
These were many in number, even at the start. Major contributors included Fritz Thyssen, Daimler, Borsig-Berlin and the Bavarian Industrial League. Hitler also visited the National Club of Berlin and addressed it in 1922. The National Club’s members were generally industrialists, landowners, bankers and university professors. The NSDAP probably received money from the club, though no records exist to prove this.
iii) Miscellaneous Sources
Some sources of finance were somewhat unusual, for example Frau Bruckmann (wife of a publisher) and Frau Bechstein (wife of a piano builder). These influential women introduced Hitler to local Bavarian ‘high society’, thus giving him useful contacts and probable financial sources.
“Hitler did not confine his activities to Bavaria. He travelled widely in Germany and other German-speaking regions to address meetings and contact sympathisers.”
d. Other Nazi Leaders
“Most of this progress [in the early years] can be fairly attributed to Hitler, for it was his personality and contacts which drew into the party men who were prepared to devote time and sometimes money to the Nazi cause.”
- Rudolf Hess (joined in 1919)
He was the son of a German wholesale merchant in Egypt, where he lived until the age of 14. During World War I, he served in the List Regiment, the same one that Hitler served in. He was a student at Munich University after 1918, where he spent much time distributing racist papers. He became a close friend and follower of Hitler, acting as his secretary.
- Alfred Rosenberg (joined in 1919)
The son of a ‘Germanic’ shoemaker, he was born in Estonia in 1893. In 1917, he received a degree in architecture from Moscow University. The German Army turned him down for service because he was a ‘Russian’. In 1923, he became the editor of the Völkischer Beobachter, and was seen as ‘the intellectual leader’ of the NSDAP.
- Julius Streicher (joined in 1922)
Before its merger with the Nazi Party, Streicher had led the German Socialist Party. He was editor of Der Stürmer, an anti-Semitic scandal sheet.
“[An] extraordinarily vulgar anti-Semitic agitator.”
“[A] depraved sadist … famous fornicator … who blackmailed even the husbands of the women who were his mistresses.”
He was usually photographed with a whip in his hand.
- Hermann Göring (joined in 1921)
Göring was the last commander of the famous Richthofen Fighter Squadron in World War I. He was awarded the ‘Pour Le Mérite’, the highest decoration in the German military. He was from a wealthy family, and contributed substantially to the party. He introduced Hitler to many influential families.
8. Internal Disorder
Stresemann, the new Chancellor, knew that ending passive resistance in the Ruhr would not be popular with the public. On the day he announced the new policy of co-operation, 26th September 1923, he also had a state of emergency declared, which gave him strong powers.
“Stresemann was faced with serious revolt from both extreme Right and extreme Left. He had anticipated it by having President Ebert declare a state of emergency on the very day he announced the change of policy on the Ruhr.”
a. The Black Reichswehr
This was an organisation formed by the government in order to get around the Treaty of Versailles’ restrictions on the size of the army. Its rôle was to defend Germany from the East. Elements within the Black Reichswehr were disgruntled with the acts of the socialist-dominated government in capitulating to foreigners once again. Major Buchrucker, a participant in the Kapp Putsch, therefore planned a military coup; on the night of 29th-30th September, the civilian government was to be overthrown by the military.
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“He [Buchrucker] occupied the forts of Gorgast, Säpzig and Tschernow, and raised the Imperial colours … hoping perhaps thereby to force the hand of the [regular] Reichswehr into declaring for a national dictatorship.”
However, Buchrucker had grossly misjudged the situation:
- His force consisted of a mere 550 men;
- The regular Reichswehr was not interested in any coup.
The Chief of the Army, von Seeckt, ordered the arrest of Major Buchrucker. After two days’ siege of the forts he had occupied, Buchrucker surrendered. The leader of the abortive Putsch was the only one imprisoned: he was given 10 years ‘lackse’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Marks.
The Weimar system of proportional representation meant that there were often major problems in forming stable coalition governments in the Reichstag. This problem also applied to the Land (local) governments. In Saxony and Thuringia social democrats and socialists dominated the Land governments. These groups decided to enlist the support of the communists for two major reasons:
- To maintain their position in power;
- To form a common front against ‘fascism’ and the possibility of an armed Putsch from the right.
“To defend the Reich against fascism these left-wing socialists were prepared to co- operate with the (still) putschist-minded Communist party and gave Communists seats in the newly-formed Land governments.”
The price the moderates paid for Communist support was allowing the Communists to form ‘Red Militias’ which were effectively private Communist armies. Zeigner, the Social Democrat premier of Saxony, denounced Stresemann as a reactionary. Communist ministers in the Saxony Land government called for a ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’. The industrialists of the two areas in question were concerned, and demanded that the central government do something. Stresemann was personally unhappy with the situation, and sent an ultimatum to Saxony and Thuringia demanding the dissolution of the Red Militias and the ousting of all Communist ministers from the Land governments. The ultimatum was not met. At the end of October 1923, the Reichswehr moved in. The Land governments were crushed and the central government appointed Reich Commissioners to govern in their place. The actions of the army are of some importance:
“The Reichswehr acted with unmistakable firmness and effectiveness, and certainly with far more severity than against the putschists of the radical Right.”
On September 26th, 1923, Eugen von Knilling, Prime Minister of the Bavarian Land government, announced a state of emergency in Bavaria, claiming there was a threat to internal order. The cabinet appointed Gustav von Kahr as Commissioner, giving him dictatorial powers. Kahr had resigned as Prime Minister in1921, and was totally opposed to the Weimar Republic.
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“Von Kahr announced that Ebert’s proclamation of a state of emergency had no application to Bavaria whose sovereignty and authority was from thenceforward vested solely in the Bavarian State Government.”
Kahr was supported by General Otto von Lossow (commander of the Reichswehr in Bavaria) and Colonel Hans von Seisser (chief of the state police). The three men formed the ‘Bavarian Triumvirate’. At the start of October 1923, the Völkischer Beobachter unleashed a violent series of articles aimed at Stresemann and von Seeckt. Von Seeckt ordered the Bavarian government to suppress the paper and stop its publication; the triumvirate refused. Von Seeckt then directly ordered his subordinate, von Lossow, to stop the paper; von Lossow refused to obey. Von Seeckt then ordered von Lossow to arrest three notorious nationalist agitators: Captain Heiss, Captain Ehrhardt and Lieutenant Rossbach; again, von Lossow refused to comply.
On October 20th, Ebert (as President, and therefore Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces) sacked von Lossow and appointed General Kress von Kressenstein as his replacement. Von Kahr refused to accept this order from Berlin. On October 22nd, he appointed von Lossow ‘Landeskommandant’ of the Bavarian Army, thus defying Berlin, Ebert, Stresemann and the Constitution; the Bavarian Army took an oath of loyalty to the Bavarian government.
9. The Munich Putsch
During the period in which the Ruhr was occupied by Belgian and French troops the Nazis were busy campaigning and building support.
“No – not down with France, but down with the traitors of the Fatherland, down with the November criminals! That must be our slogan.”
“The government calmly goes on printing these scraps of paper because, if it stopped, that would be the end of the government … If the horrified people notice that they can starve on billions, they must arrive at this conclusion: we will no longer submit to a state which is built on the swindling idea of the majority.”
Although the occupation, to some extent, had rallied support behind the central government which had declared the policy of ‘passive resistance’, the Nazis’ campaign did win support for the party. The party’s first national congress, held in January 1923, was very successful. Because of this, and Hitler’s growing importance on the nationalist scene, Hitler was invited to lead the Working Union of the Fatherland Fighting Leagues, a combination of various Bavarian nationalist groups. Then, in September 1923, Hitler came to lead a more important organisation: the Kampfbund. This had been founded by Ernst Röhm, and included the other nationalist groups and parts of the army.
“This included the most radical and impatient of the Nationalist Leagues. Hitler distrusted the official Bavarian leadership … He realised that von Lossow wanted to use the Kampfbund to further his own plans.”
Therefore, despite initially supporting the stance of the triumvirate in their fight against the Republic, Hitler realised that they would use him and the Nazis for their own purposes. He, therefore, started to lay his own plans. Some historians claim that Hitler was virtually forced into action because of the internal forces within the Nazi Party.
“In the spring of 1923, rumours of a putsch reached fever pitch; the expectations of the party faithful grew immeasurably.”
“For the Nazi leader it was too late to draw back. His rabid followers were demanding action. Lieutenant Wilhelm Brückner, one of his SA commanders, urged him to strike at once. ‘The day is coming,’ he warned, ‘when I won’t be able to hold the men back. If nothing happens now, they’ll run away from us.’”
These historians claim that the Nazi rank and file were influenced by two foreign aspects in addition to the situation in the Ruhr:
- the successful acquisition of power by Mussolini’s Fascist Party in Italy in 1922;
- the victory of the Young Turks under Kemal Ataturk in Turkey in 1922-23.
Whatever the level of internal pressure, Hitler realised that his message was becoming more popular, and that a combination of the economic situation and anti-government feeling might lead to success in an armed Putsch.
The Bürgerbräukeller Putsch
On November 8th, 1923, a meeting was held in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich in support of von Kahr and the triumvirate. High officials, military leaders and economists attended it. Hitler knew that the meeting was fervently nationalist and so decided to act.
“Shortly before 9:00 p.m., Hitler, accompanied by an armed group of men led by SA chief Göring, broke into this gathering of nationalist dignitaries. In a dramatic gesture he fired a shot into the ceiling to attract the attention of the assemblage.”
A machine gun was mounted at the entrance. The policemen who were at the meeting did nothing to interfere; the Deputy Chief of Police, Wilhelm Frick, was a Nazi and his issued orders that they should limit their actions to reporting incidents. Standing on a table, Hitler informed the stunned gathering that:
- the ‘national revolution’ had begun;
- the Bavarian government had been overthrown;
- a provisional central government was being formed.
Hitler then forced von Kahr, von Lossow and von Seisser into a back room. He informed them that
- Police President Pöhner was now the Minister President of Bavaria;
- von Kahr was now Regent of Bavaria;
- von Lossow was now Reich Defence Minister;
- von Seisser was now Reich Police Minister;
- General Ludendorff was now National Army Commander;
- Hitler himself was to head the new Reich government.
The obvious intention was to gain the support of the triumvirate. Historians argue as to whether or not the triumvirate were willing to accept Hitler’s ideas:
“To von Kahr and von Lossow the differences between Hitler’s objectives and their own were not very great in the short term … Hitler could always be restrained when the action was over."
“Not one of the three men who held the power of the Bavarian state in their hands had agreed to join him, even at pistol point. The putsch wasn’t going according to plan.”
Hitler, having achieved nothing in the small back room, returned to the main hall of the beer cellar. In front of the, by now, angry audience he announced that the triumvirate had agreed to his plans. As he finished speaking, General Ludendorff arrived to loud cheers; the mood of the audience was changing. Ludendorff and Hitler went into the back room. Ludendorff was furious: not only had he not been involved in planning the Putsch, but he also wanted to be the government leader, not just the National Army Commander. However, he changed his mind, and proceeded to persuade the triumvirate to support Hitler.
“Ludendorff’s timely arrival had saved Hitler.”
As part of the Putsch’s overall plan, Ernst Röhm and a detachment of SA seized the army HQ at the War Ministry. However, the Nazis occupied none of the other strategic centres of power. This was to turn out to be very important later on, especially concerning the telegraph office. The next mistake was in allowing the triumvirate to slip away:
“Once out of sight of Hitler, Kahr and Lossow quickly changed their minds.”
“The putschists failed to take advantage of their own superiority and instead left their rivals, whom they had caught unawares, free to gather their forces.”
Sir J Wheeler-Bennett
“Having been virtually kidnapped, von Kahr, von Lossow and von Seisser were inexplicably and ill-advisedly released … whereupon they promptly repudiated their association with Hitler and declared him guilty of high treason.”
At 3:00 a.m. the message that the triumvirate had been deceived and that it opposed Hitler was sent to all radio stations in Germany. The media were now against Hitler. Had the Nazis occupied the telegraph office, the message could not have been sent.
In Berlin, General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the General Staff of the Reichswehr, ordered the army to suppress the Putsch, which they did.
“The higher officers, led by General von Danner, commander of the Munich garrison, not only were prepared to carry out Seeckt’s command but … from headquarters at the 19th Infantry barracks … messages went out to rush reinforcements to the city.”
“The Putsch in Munich was short-lived. Its suppression was mainly due to the hostile attitude adopted by von Lossow’s immediate subordinates in the Bavarian Reichswehr.”
Pöhner (the former Munich police chief) and Frick (see above) were both Nazis, and were sent to occupy the police HQ with a band of SA troops. However, as soon as they arrived, von Lossow’s men arrested them. It was obvious to Hitler and Ludendorff that the Putsch was not going to plan. Therefore, Ludendorff proposed a plan to give ‘victory without bloodshed’!
“He and Hitler would march with their followers to the centre of the city and take it over. Not only would the police and the army not dare to oppose him, he was certain; they would join him and fight under his orders.”
It can be seen from this that the popular image of the Munich Putsch, the march through the city, was not part of the original plan.
On the next morning, 9th November, a column of around 3,000 storm troopers and other Nazis marched out of the Bürgerbräukeller gardens and into the centre of Munich. At the head of the column were Hitler, Göring and Ludendorff. Not far behind drove a truck with machine guns. At the Marienplatz, the column encountered a massive crowd listening to a speech by Julius Streicher. They immediately joined the marchers. Without a shot being fired the marchers overpowered the Reichswehr soldiers stationed at the Isar Bridge. The march continued towards the central government offices.
“The march … passed through a narrow street leading past the former royal palace. There a more resolute detachment of Bavarian State Police barred the way.”
A brief exchange of fire took place:
“The whole affair took less than one minute.”
Three policemen and 16 Nazis were killed, including Scheubner Richter, who had been marching next to Hitler. Nobody knows who fired the first shot, but when the shooting started, the crowds fled. Hitler fell to the ground with a dislocated shoulder. Göring received a bullet in his leg, and was given first aid by a Jewish bank manager.
“Ludendorff did not fling himself to the ground. Standing erect and proud in the best soldierly tradition, with his adjutant, Major Streck, at his side, he marched calmly on between the muzzles of the police rifles until he reached the Odeonsplatz … Not one Nazi followed him.”
Hitler escaped in an SA ‘ambulance’ and took refuge in Uffing, a nearby village. On November 11th he was arrested in his pyjamas, but still managed to find time to pin on his Iron Cross. Göring and Hess fled to Austria. Ludendorff was arrested at the Odeonsplatz. Röhm surrendered at the War Ministry, two hours after the shooting at the former royal palace.
“The Nazi Putsch had ended in a fiasco. The party was dissolved. National Socialism, to all appearances, was dead. Its dictatorial leader, who had run away at the first hail of bullets, seemed utterly discredited, his meteoric political career at an end.”
10. The Trial
The trial of Hitler and his fellow Putschists began on February 26th, 1924, lasting 24 days. At the start, the Nazis appeared a defeated force, but Hitler transformed the trial into a public vindication of his actions.
“Hitler was shrewd enough to see that his trial, far from finishing him, would provide a new platform from which he could not only discredit the compromised authorities, but … for the first time make his name known far beyond the confines of Bavaria.”
“Hitler’s chances to employ his oratorical gifts to win back the prestige he had dissipated in his abortive enterprise were now greater than ever … Hitler knew how to transform his defence into a public demonstration in support of his act.”
Hitler changed his defence into an attack upon the Weimar constitution governments; the November criminals and their acceptance of reparations; the Bavarian Triumvirate; and socialism in general.
“My aim from the first was a thousand times higher than becoming a minister. I wanted to become the destroyer of Marxism. I am going to achieve this task, and if I do, the title of Minister will be an absurdity as far as I am concerned.”
Hitler’s words went far and wide.
“Hitler … emblazoned his name on the front pages of the world.”
“The public forum he won was a vast one.”
The judge and court did not attempt to stop his blatant ‘publicity stunts’ and politicising: they allowed the ‘partisan’ audience to applaud at will; Hitler was allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and make speeches whenever he wanted (his opening speech was 4 hours long).
“The court actually declared its belief that all the accused had been inspired by the ‘pure spirit of nationalism’.”
The sentences given were extremely lenient.
“The sentencing by the court, in April 1924, turned into a social event … the accused men were bedecked with flowers and nationalist symbols, while officers in full dress uniforms demonstrated their sympathy.”
Ludendorff, Röhm and Frick were all acquitted. Hitler and three others were committed to 5 years imprisonment (the minimum for high treason), with a good chance of an early pardon.
Results of the Putsch and the Trial
“Hitler drew the lesson that state power could only be achieved from within. Putsches were unlikely to succeed.”
“The 9th November had taught him the great lesson that the powers that be could not be overthrown, only undermined. The result was the adoption of that ‘policy of legality’ which marked the second phase of the ‘fighting years’.”
“The putsch, even though it was a fiasco, made Hitler a national figure and, in the eyes of many, a patriot and a hero. Nazi propaganda soon transformed it into one of the great legends of the movement.”
11. Essay Questions
The following lists are only suggestions; none are complete. Use all possible sources to answer essay questions, especially Vol. 1 of ‘Nazism, 1919-1945’ by J Noakes and G Pridham and ‘Europe 1890-1990’ by J Traynor.
a. Why was there opposition to the Weimar Republic in the period 1919-23?
- November Criminals and the ‘Stab in the Back’
- The acceptance of the armistice and Treaty of Versailles
- Fear of Communism / extreme nationalism
- Economic problems
- Exciting leaders of opposition groups
- Foreign ‘encouragement’
b. From where did opposition to the Weimar Republic come in the period 1919-23?
- Extremes of politics, left and right:
- Ordinary soldiers returning from the war
- Organisations like the Freikorps
- The army officer class
- The working classes (economic discontent)
- Social idealists
- Nationalists, imperialists and monarchists
c. Why did the opposition to the Weimar Republic fail in the period 1920-23?
d. Why was the Weimar Republic able to survive the threats from inside Germany in the period 1919-23?
- Division of opposition
- Limited numbers of opposition
- The army was not willing to rebel en masse, strengthening the government
- Growing support for Weimar, especially in 1923
- The apathy of the majority of the population
- Major parties contained opponents, therefore, people id not look to the extremists
e. Why did the NSDAP attempt to gain power via a Putsch in 1923, and why did the attempt fail?
- Economic situation
- Hitler’s ideas
- Internal pressure
- Foreign examples and successes
- Lack of popular support
- Weaknesses in the plan
- The work of the triumvirate
- The opposition of the army
- Lack of force and strength in the Nazis
* Document 3 in Vol. 1 of ‘Nazism, 1919-1945’ by J Noakes and G Pridham
* p123, ‘Europe 1890-1990’ by John Traynor