The Weimar Republic, 1919-29

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  • The Weimar Republic, 1919-29
    • Republic's first challenges
      • Socialist divisions, 1918
        • Late 1918, Socialists in control but divided: MSPD= democratic republic; USPD= radical economic, social and political change, but Spartacus League wanted soviet republic
        • After Congress, USPD left Provisional Govt. and Spartacus League broke away from USPD to form KPD.
      • Spartacist Uprising, Jan 1919
        • Seized control of public buildings in Berlin, declaring that the govt. had been overthrown
          • In 'Spartacus Week' (5th-12th Jan, 1919), Freikorps crushed KPD forces in Berlin. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were murdered.
          • Ebert's govt. set up Freikorps to crush KPD putsch, realising the unreliability of the army.
            • 'Battle for Berlin' won = Freikorps ordered to crush other revolutionary socialists: Bremen and Hamburg fell to Freikorps (Feb); KPD-inspired strike in the Ruhr (Feb) broken; KPD-led Bavarian Soviet Republic overthrown (May).
              • Against: KPD didn't have well-developed organisational base, numerically KPD was weak, no serious preparations were made, Liebnecht and Luxemburg had limited organisational experience, MSPD had alliance with German army through Ebert-Groener Pact.
      • National Assembly Elections, 1919
        • Sweeping victory for parties in favour of a democratic republic: MSPD, Centre Party, Democrats= almost 80% of vote. Wanted to be treated kindly by Allies at forthcoming peace conference.
        • National Assembly met at Wiemar, Feb 1919. New constitution in June.
          • Weaknesses: proportional representation encouraged multi-party politics and thus ensured that govts. were weak and unstable coalitions= 16 diff coalitions 1919-30 (some continuity= Centre Party in all 16); extremist parties could win seats.
            • Strengths: proportional representation and frequent elections meant it was responsive to people's will; guarantees of basic rights encouraged popular participation; referendums could be held,
    • The Far Right
      • Well placed to seize power: support of most officer corps in army, back by right-wing paramilitary groups e.g. Steel Helmets, Hugenberg= film and newspaper tycoon so could influence public through media.
      • Resented the loss of power an status enjoyed pre-1918, saw the Republic as the handiwork of those regarded as the worst elements in society and called it a Sozi-republik and Judenrepublik.
      • Army wasn't defeated by stabbed in the back. This view please many. Language of defiant nationalism appeased many.
      • Weimar politicians to blame for defeat in 1918 and the 'shameful peace'.
      • Kapp Putsch, 1920
        • Noske had to disband most of Freikorps due to Versailles army limit= couldn't keep promise of incorporating them into regular army.
        • Ehrhardt (commander of a Freikorps) planned to topple govt. and got Kapp  and Luttwitz involved. 'Troops do not fire on troops' = army didn't respond.
        • Failure to gain support and SPD-led strike in support of Republic = failure.
        • Organisation Consul set up after failure. Assassinations: Erzberger (1921), Rathenau (1922) [led to security crackdown], attempted Scheidemann (1922).
    • Versailles
      • Wilson's 14 points disregarded and Germany not involved in peace talks= Diktat
      • Polish Corridor= 1 million Germans under polish rule with no say- no national self-determination
      • 'War guilt lie' = reparations demands were illegitimate and unpayable- aim was to wreck Germany economy = shouldn't sign- discredited the Republicans who signed= boosted anti-Republican right.
      • Undermined republic- political moderates who thought Allies would be lenient looked naive.
      • Army restricted to 100,000 men, no submarines, no air force, 6 battleships, Article 231= 'war guilt'.
    • Economic Crisis, 1923
      • Before 1923: paid for war by borrowing and printing money = inflation; reparations dented international confidence in the mark; the mark fell in value= cost of imports rose= increased cost of living.
      • Right-wing putsch attempt: increased mood of intense nationalism, fears of a communist putsch, abandonment of passive resistance= Republic capitulated to the French. Munich Putsch happened but failed.
      • Unrest broke out in poorer districts. KPD used this to their advantage: in 1923, it made plans to seize Saxony, before turning its attention to the whole country.
      • Failure to make reparations payment= French invade Ruhr. Passive resistance (strike and compensate wages) = ballooning deficit in public finances. Printed more money = hyperinflation
    • Stresemann
    • Golden Years
      • Positives
        • Businessmen took advantage of low interest rates and easy credit to upgrade their plants and machinery.
          • Cheap loans= house-building schemes
        • Exports rose by 50% between 1925 and 1929.
          • No major putsch attempts in late 1920s. 1924, nationalists = 21% vote but 1928 = only 14% vote.
      • Negtives
        • Mass production techniques= work force cut so unemployment
        • Short-lived govts. Hindenburg was an enemy of parliamentary democracy.
          • Increase in street violence- SA, Stahlhelm
            • Farmers went into debt with lower world food prices- resented lack of help from Republic.
        • Middle classes became alienated: workers were favoured, blamed republic for losses, 'cultural pessimism', angered by Barmat scandal.
    • Culture
      • Development centred in Berlin. Only 3 nightclubs in Frankfurt.
      • 1926= Law for the Protection of Youth against Trash and Filth = successful attempt by right and churches to outlaw displays that could corrupt the young- opposed by communists, social democrats and democrats who saw it as a restriction on freedom of expression.
      • Modernists vs. Traditionalists who found avant-garde work bewildering and upsetting.
        • Social tensions: middle-class suffered from hyperinflation, felt benefits were disproportionate to the working class, threatened by cheap mass-production and department stores.
          • Abstract works of Klee and Kandinsky = puzzling; Jazz-influenced compositions of Weill and Hindemith = jarring; simple, clean lines of Bauhaus architecture = disconcerting.
  • Significance: opened return for prosperity, attracted foreign investors, led Germany 'from devastation to recovery'. Right= 'enslavement', Stresemann = national traitor
    • Stresemann
    • As Chancellor Aug-Nov, 1923: called off passive resistance, introduced Rentenmark= stable currency, no more bartering, ordered the army to Saxony= overcame KPD, waited for Beer Hall Putsch to self-destruct= overcame right.

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