Social and Cultural developments in Germany (1924-28)

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  • Social and Cultural developments in Germany (1924-28)
    • Social welfare reform
      • 1927 - national unemployment insurance system introduced to provide benefit for unemployed, financed by contributions from workers + employers.
      • 1925 - The state accident insurance system, introduced by Bismarck to help those injured at work, was extended to cover those with occupational diseases
      • In 1926, the state was supporting about 800,000 war veterans, 360,00 war widows and over 900,000 orphans.
        • This was in addition to old age pensions and from 1927, the unemployed. taxes were increased after 1924 but those administering the benefits resorted to measures to keep the costs down.
          • Means tests tightened + snoopers were used to check claimants. Those  supported felt humiliated by the welfare, undermining their WR support.
      • 1924 - The Public assistance system, which provided help to the poor and destitute, was modernised.
    • Women
      • The case for continuity
        • In many occupations women had to give up their jobs once they married and women often paid less than men for the equivalent job.
        • No woman became a cabinet member and no party had a female leader.
        • The popular women's group, the League of German Women, BDF, promoted traditional values and maternal responsibility. echoed by the conservative political parties and the churches.
        • The concept of the new woman was a myth for many.
        • The Civil Code of 1896 laid down that in marriage the husband had the right to decide on all matters including whether his wife would  work.
        • Abortion was a criminal offence and about 10,000 to 12,000 deaths occurred each year.
      • The case for change
        • By 1925, 36% of the G workforce as women, including 1000,000 teachers and 3000 doctors.
        • Due to the number of young men killed in the war, there was less chance  to take the traditional path of marriage + motherhood.
        • Birth control  more widely available, divorce rates increased and abortion rates went up to 1 million a year.
        • Constitution had given women equally regarding right to vote and access to education. It had also given women equal opportunities in civil service appointments and to equal pay rights.
        • In 1919, 41 women deputies were elected to the Reichstag and women ere very active in local government.
        • The new woman was seen as independent, sexually liberated and more visible in public life.
    • Living standards and lifestyles
      • Those who lost  savings during hyperinflation were unable to regain their comfortable lifestyles.
      • Farmers suffered from low prices.
      • Employed, particularly if represented by trade unions, able to maintain their living standards by negotiating higher wages.
      • Those dependent on welfare payments were less well off but did not fall into poverty.
    • Young people
      • Unemployment
        • In 1925-26, 17% of the unemployed were aged 14-21.
        • The benefits system provided some help for young people and day centres helped them t find work.
        • However, there were less apprenticeships and higher unemployment
        • However, young, working class Germans in big cities joined gangs.
        • Children, mostly working class, who did not attend the selective Gymnasium schools, were supposed to leave school at 14 and begin an apprenticeship or employment.
      • Education
        • Main reform was introduce elementary schools, which all children would attend for the first 4 yrs. Those who didn't pass entrance exam for a Gymnasium school could continue for another 4 yrs. The reformers didn't remove churches' influence.
        • Gymnasiums  aimed at university; Realschule provided 6 yrs education for those who intended to go into apprenticeships. The state system was divided along class lines, since majority  of those at Gymnasium schools were middle + upper class. The Protestant and Catholic churches had large influence.
      • Youth groups
        • Wandervogel: the first group was set up in 1896. They were made up of middle class boys. They were non-political but highly nationalist. They hated industrialisation and big cities and much time was spent in the outdoors.
        • Church youth groups:  Protestants + Catholics had groups.  Promoted religious observance + respect for the church, family and school.
        • Political youth groups: SPD founded in 1925. The Young Communist League was set up in 1925. The Bismarck Youth, linked to DNVP,  founded in 1922. The Hitler Youth founded 1924 but only  13,000 members in 1929.
    • Arts and Culture
      • Expressionism also influenced music .
      • Bauhaus architectural school founded  1919. Also a school of art, design + photography. Students  taught to make object's function or building into the key element, ********* away any superfluous ornamentation.
      • Predominant movement in art was expressionism (Kandinsky, Grosz). They believed that art should express emotions and not physical reality.
      • Much experimental theatre in Germany attacked capitalism, nationalism and war. They were attacked by the right as cultural Bolsheviks.
      • Berlin nigthclubs became renowned for their cabaret which nudity figured strongly. American jazz  popular. Many older Gs hated the USA influence + believed G culture becoming morally degenerate.
      • Berlin became an important centre for world cinema. The best-known of the era was ~The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich.
    • The Jews
      • Jews made up 16% of lawyers and 11% of doctors in Germany.
      • Jews owned almost 1/2 of the firms involved in the cloth trade.
      • Jews achieved  wealth + influence in industry. Ratheneau family controlled AEG,  electrical engineering firm, until 1927. Jewish banking families owned 50% of private banks. However, by the 1920s this was declining.
      • Between 1918 and 1924 there was a backlash against the perceived threat of Jewish-Bolshevism. Anti-Semitism was part of the violent nationalism behind right-wing movements such as the Freikorps and the Nazis. As Weimar stabilised this was pushed to the fringes of public and political life. however, there were still frequent accusations of corruption and exploitation by Jewish bankers and businessmen.
      • Jewish publishing firms had  powerful influence in media. Walter Ratheneau, Foreign Minister in 1922 - was a leading member of the DDP. Jews were prominent in the SPD and KPD.
      • Jews achieved an influence out of proportion to their numbers.
      • There were more than half a million Jews living in Germany under the Weimar government. 80% lived in cities and were well educated. Many believed in assimilation.
    • Overall
      • Weimar yrs witnessed  conflict between challenged traditional values + resistance of changes to preserve an older G way of life.
    • Rural areas + small towns, cultural change was  rumour. In are churches strong + tradit values held sway. However,  changes provoked a conservative backlash. In 1926 a Law for the Protection of Youth from trash and Filth Writings introduced  censorship of printed materials for youth welfare.  Governmental board set up to scrutinise newly published books. By spring 1932 only 114 books had been placed on the banned list.


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