2c: Life In Nazi Germany - Weimar Republic 1918-1923

Notes on the Weimar Republic.

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Aims of the leaders at Versailles

President Woodrow Wilson (USA) - He wanted countries to have less weapons. President Wilson also believed that national groups needed to have their own countries. He wanted a new organisation that ended arguments between countries where enemies talked through their problems with one another.

Prime Minister Lloyd George (Great Britain) - He wanted Britain to be proud and well defended. He agreed Germany should pay but not too much. Also wanted Britain to trade with other countries.

Prime Minister Feorges Clemenceau (France) - He wanted Germany to pay France for all the damage that Germany had caused. He also wanted them to be weak and humiliated, and to admit that they alone caused the war. Prime Minister Clemenceau was determined to humiliate Germany at every opportunity possible.

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Terms of the Treaty of Versailles (Card 1)

Part One: Land - 

  • Germany lost 13% of its land and 6 million people
  • Lost land had important raw materials such as coal etc.
  • Germany was split in two, giving Poland access to the sea
  • German troops were not allowed in the Rhineland to make the French feel safe from a German attack
  • All of Germany's overseas colonies were taken away

Part Two: Army - 

  • The German army was reduced to 100,000 troops
  • The German Navy was cut to 15,000 sailors and 6 battleships
  • Germany was not allowed to have submarines, tanks or an airforce
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Terms of the Treaty of Versailles (Card 2)

Part Three: Blame - 

  • Germany was blamed for the war in "war guilt" clause
  • This enabled the Allies to demand compensation from Germany for all the damage caused from the war.

Part Four: Money - 

  • Germany had to pay reparations. Most of the money would be paid to France and Belgium
  • No sum was fixed at Versailles. In 1921, the Allies fixed the total amount Germany had to pay. The total came to £6000 million.
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Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles and "Stab in

Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles

The German people felt humiliated by the treaty of Versailles. They hated the Treaty and the people who made it. The German government hated the Treaty but were forced to accept it otherwise the Allies would restart the war. Opponents of the Weimar Republic blamed the new government for signing the Treaty since they believed that signing the Treaty showed that Germany was weak. This reinforced the view that the government had stabbed Germany in the back.

"Stab in the Back"

During the war, the German people had believed that they were winning and not been told they were losing instead. The defeat came as a shock and the German people were very bitter and looking for a scapegoat. A simple explanation was that the German army were "stabbed in the back" by the new government. This explanation spread quickly. However, the defeat was not the fault of the leaders of the new Weimar Republic. This did not matter as many people in Germany felt that they had been stabbed in the back. They blamed the leaders of the Weimar Republic and not the army generals instead.

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Spartacist Revolt 1919

A Communist (left-wing) group set up by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknect. They did not trust the new government and thought that the new president Ebert would not improve the lives of working people. They wanted a full scale Communist revolution like the Russian Revolution of 1917.

January 1919, workers were protesting throughout Germany, which the Spartacists tried to turn into a revolution. They took over the government newspapers and telegraph HQ in Berlin, hoping that protesters would join them and take over the buildings. This did not happen. The government ordered the army to stop the uprising, which was helped by units of the Freikorps (made up of ex soldiers - anti-Communists). 100 workers were killed in the fighting.

The uprising was badly planned. The Spartacists were not supported by other left-wing groups. Luxemburg was captured and shot by the Freikorps. Her body was dumped in a canal. Liebknect was also murdered. The Spartacists struggled without their leaders.

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Kapp Putsch

The Freikorps units led by Wolfgang Kapp. In 1920, the government ordered the Freikoprs units to be disbanded as they were no longer of any use for them since the left-wing groups had been defeated. 12,000 Freikorps marched to Berlin and the government was forced to flee. The Freikorps put Kapp forward as the new leader of Germany.

However, Kapp and the Freikorps had no support. Berlin workers went on strike at the Putsch. This made it impossible for Kapp to rule. Kapp fled after 4 days. Ebert's government returned.

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Invasion of the Ruhr

Germany could not keep up with reparations to the Allies. In 1922, Germany announced that it could not afford to pay reparations for the next 5 years. France was determined to make Germany pay. In 1923, 50,000 French and Belgian troops took over the Ruhr - which was an important industrial area of Germany. They took supplies from shops and set up machine gun posts in streets.

The German government ordered workers to not co-operate with the French. The workers went on strike. This became known as the Passive Resistance, which was a non-violent protest again invasion. 140 Germans were killed in clashes with German and Belgian troops.

The workers on strike received money from the government to support their families. This cost the government money. No money came in from the Ruhr and the government ran short of money. The government printed more money which only lead to bigger problems.

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Hyperinflation (Card 1)

The government was short of money and printed more to pay workers and debts. However, the more the money was printed, the less value it had. People lost confidence in the German mark. Prices rose as an incredible rate. January 1919, 1 US dollar was worth nearly 9 marks. November 1925, 1 US dollar worth 200 billion marks. The German mark became worthless.

In 1923, life became very difficult for most people. But there were some advantages and disadvantages.


  • People in debt found it easier to pay off loans
  • Businessmen found it easier to pay back borrowed money that they had used to build up their businesses
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Hyperinflation (Card 2)


  • The value of savings fell. Pensioners were badly hit. 1919, 6,000 marks was a small fortune. 1923, a stamp couldn't be bought for a letter with 6,000 marks
  • Workers found that wage increases did not keep up with rising prices

Hyperinflation caused major food shortages. Farmers did not want to sell their products for worthless money and there were some deaths from starvation. Some people turned to crime as life was very hard.

The Weimar Republic was weakened by hyperinflation. Millions lost their savings and found it difficult to have confidence and trust in the government. Some of the government's problems were outside of their control. However, the inflation was caused by the government's own actions and made many moderate people turn against the Weimar Republic.

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Munich Putsch - The Nazi Party

A right-wing party led by Adolf Hitler and Genderal Ludendorff, a popular First World War hero who had been involved in the Kapp Putsch. The Nazi Party had 50,000 members and its own private army called the SA. The Nazi Party believed that democracy only led to a weak government and that there should be 1 political party with 1 leader. The Nazis planned to take over the government and set up General Ludendorff as the leader of Germany. 

The Munich Putsch started in Munich where the leader of Bavaria was speaking in a meeting when the Nazis burst in. The Nazis forced the state commissioner, Kahr, to support their plan.

However, the putsch was not planned properly. Kahr was allowed to leave the beer hall and withdrew his support the next day. The German government ordered troops to crush the revolt. Armed Nazis marched to a military base in Munich where they were met by police and soldiers. 14 Nazis were killed and the leaders of the putsch were arrested. Hitler was sent to prison for 5 years but was released after only 9 months. During this time, the Nazi Party nearly fell apart without their leader.

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