Democracy and Dictatorship - Topic 1


Weimar Government

Established in 1918 - after abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm

First main policy: Treaty of Versallies- labelled as November Criminals, concensus in public thta they had been stabbed in the back by the government signing this treaty(still thought they were going to win)

New constitution:

  • Proportinal representation (all votes represented, allowed for small radical groups to grow and hard to get a majority, led to many coalition govts)
  • Article 48 in cases of great emergency the President could create laws without consulting the Reichstag (parliment)
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Impact of WW1

Millions of German people died, left many widows and children, few able bodied men at home.

Publiv upset and angry over loss of life for failure (thought they could win) and overall feelings of greif.

British blockade on German coast, limited trade and import of important supplies- led to food shortages in 1918

Public angry. Show class divide with richer citizens having little fear apart from over investments where as working classes worried over lack of funds

Govt spent billions on war

People were angry over tax increases and disappointment in the wars outcome

Not great state after WW1 with shortages, killing and poverty

Unrest and Major political divides (nationalists, democrats, communists, constitutional monarchists)

People angry, fed up and unhappy with those incharge

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Impact of the Treaty of Versallies

  • Reperations (136,000 million marks)
  • Lost land - lost 13% European land
  • Lost all colonies
  • Military forces cut, limited to 100,000 men in the army and Navy reduced to 6 battleships, 6 crusers, and 12 destroyers, and banned from having submarines. (fear Germany could nolonger protect itself)
  • Lost 50% iron reserves and 15% coal reserves
  • Rhineland demilitarised (boardered France)
  • Plebisites to decide if certain areas should remain under Germany, areas lost to Poland and Denmark
  • Had to accept all blame for the war (War Guilt Clause)
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Impact of WW1

To maintain production they had to call women into the factories which was argued to be a breakdown of social values

600,000 widows

War pensions consumed 1/3 of governments budget

National income fell 1/3, and industrial production fell 2/3 from pre war levels

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Threats to Weimar

Sparticists revolt - Jan 1919

  • Wanted Communist revolution like what happened in Russia 1917
  • Lasted 7 days, led by Rosa Luxenburg and Karl Linbknecht who were murdered after the revolt
  • Took over newspaper headquaters
  • Supressed by the Freikorps
  • Lacked order, support by other left wing groups and was easily supressed

Serise of strikes after, but all put down by Freikorps 

1920 KDP took control of large portion of the Ruhr, which was crushed by army and Freikorps

Kapp Putsch - March 1920

  • Lead by army commander Wolfgang Kapp . 
  • Army refused to supress - government forced to flee
  • Trade unions called for general strike. Brought to a stand still, paralysing nessesary supplies. March on Berlin
  • Success- Bavaria where they installed a new right-wing government
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Threats to Weimar

1920 ellection, loss of support for democraticparties, growing support for Nazi's

Munish Pustch - Nov 1923

  • Before hand Nazis joined an assosiation for right wing groups in Bavaria
  • Seazed state governer, and beer hall (also known as Beer Hall Pustch) planned to march on Berlin
  • Police called, 16 Nazis killed and Hitler arrested (given minimum sentence - this is where he wrote Mein Kampf)
  • Hitler used trial to generate publicity for NSDAP and make long speeches.

Inflation as printed money for reperation payments


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Invasion of the Ruhr

Invasion of the Ruhr - 1923

  • Germany fell behind on payments, France and Belgium stent troops to the Ruhr
  • Stopped paying reperations and workers went on strike (caused temporary rallying behind the government)
  • In response France and Belgium brought their own workers
  • Inflation as Government continued to pay their workers
  • Hyperinflation - mark became almost worthless 
  • Starvation as food became unabtainable
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Became chancellor 1923 - establishment of the Great Coalition

Because of the hyperinflation the mark fell from 8.9 marks per dollar to 493.2 marks per dollar, and by Jan 1923 it was 4200 billion marks per dollar

Black market and gambling flurished during this period

Introduced the Rentenmark, and cooperated with the allies which destroyed the old currency

The rentenmark was only the temporary solution to the issue

Reichsmark introduced - new preminent currency introduced in 1924 - restoring confidence in the economy, (however upperclasses were still annoyed as their savings had been distroyed by the hyperinflation) 

In 1927 - industry returned to levels in 1913, pre-war economy

Stabalisation did cause issues as cost of imports grew, and workers were made redundant.

Unemployment 1928 - 2 million

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"Golden years" - foreign policies


  • Locarno Treates 1925 - guaranteed Germany's frounteers with France and Belgium
  • 1926 - League of Nations
  • 1927 - Allied Disarmament Commision withdrew from Germany
  • 1927 - Allied troops withdrew from the Rhineland
  • Young Plan  1929 - reduced reperations and Britain and France agreed to evacuate Rhineland by the end of June 1930


  • Architecture flourished
  • Film industry grew - films like All was Quiet on the Western Front produced (contraversial)
  • Jazz became popular in nightclubs and bars


  • Republic did not win the loyalty of either the left or the righ and Govts were shortlived due to coalition being unstable. Scandalised by culture. Economy still burdened by the wat
  • However great signs of recovery and stability
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Golden years


  • Young plan 1927 - 800 million mark loan USA, became dependant on the loans. 
  • Agriculture did not recover fully and faced a depression as more food imported


  • Coalitions unstable
  • Liberals lost support as special intrest parties grew
  • 1925 Hindenburg elected president


  • Workers wages rose ans 8 hour workdays were introduced. Welfare and benifits increased 
  • However, farmworkes still earned half the national average, and their were extremes in wealth.
  • Disputes and strikes and concern over the cost of welfare system and the level of taxation.
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The Great Depression


  • 1929, after Wall Street Crash in USA and effected the entire world however had a huge impact on Germany. USA took back loans at intrest and Germany was expected to pay - Germany had become dependant on the loans to survive. 
  • Unemployment rose to 2.5 million, demand for German goods collapsed and production was cut back
  • 1932 - nearly 1/3 of workers registered as unemployed while others took paycuts or shorter hours
  • Govt income fell and began to struggle to pay benefits or the loans


  • The young unemployed joined paramilitary goups like the SA which gave them a sense of belonging
  • Depression weakened the great coalition. Disagreements over cutting the wellfare state and the cabinet resigned
  • Bruning introduced - did not have majoritythreatened emergency decree - occured after attempt to increas tax and cut welfare
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Great depression continued

  • Historians argued that: Bruning worried about hyperinflation, or provoke a crisis so reperations would be cancelled 
  • Elections 1930 - Nazi party made considerable gains
  • Bruning increasingly rellied on rule by emergency decree, weakining democracy
  • People turned to more extreamist parties, also a growth in communism.

Banking crisis 1931:

  • Austrian bank collapsed customers in otherbanks began to withdraw money.
  • france blocked emergency loans for germany by one year
  • 1932 - agreed reperations and inter Allied bedts to be cancelled
  • May 1932 - Bruning dismissed leading to more political instability
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Rise in appeal of the Nazis

NSDAP/Nazi - National Socialist German Workers Party

  • 1920 - 25 point programme 
  • 1921 - Hitler became leader of the party
  • Munich Putsch 1923 - brought national publicity, and led to the Nazis changing tactics. Hitler given sentence of 5 years but only served 9 months
  • Mein Kampf - set out ideas for Germany. Won 32 seats in 1924 election but decreased to 14 at the end of that year and 12 in 1928
  • Set up Hitler Youth and Students league. 
  • 1929 - Gobbelds put incharge of propaganda
  • The Great Depression - Increased support for Nazis because: Weimar apperard weak, Unemployment rising, Fear of Communism.
  • Other factors for increased support: Support of industrialists, Promises to various parts of society (end unemployment), Propaganda, Technology (fly a plane to rallies), Well organised, Hitlers Image, and Opposition was weak.
  • 1932- largest single party but still did not have the majority
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Government after 1932

Von Papen

  • Appointed chancellor in 1932 even though Nazis got majority. 
  • Wanted an authoritarian state, ended ban on SA leading to increased street violence. Violence in Hamburg led to von Papen taking over Prussian stae government. Increased power to national government (centeralisation of the state)
  • Determined to dissolve the current Reichstag - opposition held a vote of no confidence. New vote 1932, nazis lacked funding, and aid in a strike scared middle class voters, lost 2 million votes.

Von Schleicher

  • As army iwere unwilling to support von Papen, gov.t dismissed. Von Schleicher appointed chancellor Dec 1932. 
  • Wanted some nazis to join government (Hitler blocked). Also tried to get support of SPD and trade unions. 
  • Industrialists wanted a von Papen-Hitler coalition
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Appointment of Hitler

Backstairs intrigue

  • Term by historians describing how Hitler came to power 
  • Von Paper began talks with Hitler, von Schleicher was unable to gain a majority, strengthening Hitlers position. Hindenbury instructed von Papen to talk with Hitler, beliving since the Nazi lost support they would be easier to be controlled.
  • Von Schleicher resigned Jan 1933
  • Hitler demaned position of chancellor and other positions to go to Nazis. Hindenburg agreed. Hitler apointed Chancellor 30 Jan 1933.

Could it be avoided?

Argued populatrity dependent of unemployment 

By Dec 1932 - Nazi party almost bankrupt, Economy was recovering, and Nazis were still unable to gain power

Hitlers appointment became more likely as von Papen formed a coalition with him,

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