Early years of Weimar key dates


1918: End of the First World War

On October 3rd 1918, Prince Max of Baden, appointed chancellor by the Kaiser and in charge of the Reichstag, wrote to President Wilson asking for an armistice to the end of the war. Wilson replied, agreeing on the condition that Germany would be reformed into a full democracy. The thought of an armistice was a blow to German morale, the people had been under the impression that they were winning the war. Mutiny spread from naval ships to the land until the politicians had no choice but to sign the armistice.

On the 9th of November, the SPD declared a General Strike to force the abdication of the Kaiser. Max knew he needed the SPD on his side and announced the abdication before the Kaiser agreed. He resigned as chancellor and was replaced by Ebert. Scheideman stood on the balcony of the Reichstag and declared the German Republic in light of the abdication. 

On the 10th of November, the Ebert-Groener Pact was signed, in which Groener agreed the army would no longer show support for the monachy; their loyalty was with the democracy. The Kaiser had no choice but to officially resign

On the 11th of November, the armistice with the Allies was signed and the war ended

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1919: Spartacist Uprising and the Treaty of Versai

On the 5th of January 1919, The commuinist KPD staged an uprising in Berlin and other major cities across Germany. They aimed to overthrow Ebert and form a communist state similar to that of Russia. Newspaper offices and public buildings were occupied however, it failed due the poor organisation and lack of support. The Spartacists had said they had the support of the working class but they did not have this; people were not interested in formed a different regime when a new one had just been implemented. When Ebert found the army to be unreliable, he had to utilise the Freikorps, the irregular offshoot of the army. By the 13th of January, the revolt had been crushed and the leaders had been executed. A few days later, Ebert was elected president of the Reichstag in a coalition government formed of the SPD, DDP and Centre parties

The Treaty of Versailles was drafted to the Germans following a Peace Summit they had not been present at in May of 1919. By June 16th, they were given just 7 days to sign it, or face invasion from the Allies. The barely new coalition collapsed on the 20th after they could not coome to an agreement about the terms of the treay. However, on the 22nd of June, the Reichstag voted to sign and the treay went through on the 28th. Many Germans were angered at the Treaty, as they had been expecting it to be more along the lines of Wilsons Fourteen Points, but it ended up being a lot harsher and directed more at Germany than an aim for general peace. It was considered a Dicktat, imposed without popular consent because Germany had not been allowed to participate in negotiations 

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1920: Kapp Putsch

Due to the terms of the Treaty, Germany was required to disband 2 Freikorps groups, comprised of 12000 men. Von Luttwiz refused and marched his troops to Berlin in March 1920. H e gained support from Wolfgang Kapp. When Ebert drafted in the army to defeat them, the generals refused, saying that since the Freikorps was made up of ex soldiers, they would not fire. Ebert had to flee and for four days, the group held power. However, there was little widespread support, and Ebert had to rely on the ordinary people to support him. When the trade unions called for a general strike, Berlin was brought to a standstill and the right wing rebels were forced to stand down. This showed the army could not be trusted, civil servants could be disloyal and displayed how powerful the workers could be. 

March 1920 also saw the fall of another coalition government, although this was because of an election result, rather than the more problematic causes of collapse, such as the inability to agree on certain things like the reparations, or the terms of the TOV. Overall, between 1919 and 1923, there were 10 coalitions. This was mainy due to proportional representation meaning that there were many different parties and preventing the larger parties getting the majority

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1921: Reparations bill confirmed

The terms of the TOV stated that due to Article 231, Germany had to accept war guilt, that the war was their fault and this made them open to having to pay reparations for the damage caused. When the treaty was signed in June 1919, there was no amount set, in theory the politicians were signing a blank cheque. In 1921, the Allies finally agreed on an amount for the reparations bill, £6.6 billion. As a result, the cabinet of Fehrenbach resigned in protest and was replaced by Joseph Wirth. They held the view that by cooperating, sympathy could be received. However, reparations made paying back debt even harder and there was little resources to actually pay the money.

Reparations were viewed as too high in Germany and there were fears that the bill would cripple Germany's recovering economy. The attitude in France was much more severe; the french prime minister wanted to make sure Germany could not recover enough to threaten them, they had suffered the most. In Britain, they wished  to make sure Germany could recover enough so as not to fall to communism and for them to eventually be a strong trading partner. America believed the reparations and the treaty were too high and made their own peace in 1921

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1922: Political assassinations

In 1922, Walter Rathenau was shot on the steps of the Reichstag. He was foreign minister and had contributed to the signing of the armistice and the negotiations of the TOV. Following his death 700000 people protested.

This was just one of  many political assassinations committed by the left and the right between 1919 and 1923. Overall, 376 assassinations took place, 22 carried out by the left, and 354 by the right. However, of that number, 326 right wing murders were ignored, only one person was conviced and severely punished. In contrast, 10 of the 22 left wing murderers were sentenced to death. This clearly displays the still present right wing leanings of a past autocratic country that was supposed to be democratic

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January 1923: Invasion of the Ruhr

By the end of 1922, the Germans had fallen so behind in their reparations that France had had enough. In January 1923, 60000 men from France and Belgium invaded the industrial area of the Ruhr. This number would eventually rise to 100,000. They aimed to seize the coal, steel and manufactured goods owed to them. They took control of mines, railways and factories, demanding food and setting up gun posts in the street. 

The Chancellor Cuno ordered a policy of passive resistance. The reparations payments stopped completely and no one was to coperate with the French. Workers were promised their wages would still continue if they striked and paramilitary groups worked to sabotage the French effort by blowing up bridges and other transport networks. People were punished for this, and over the 8 months, 32 Germans were shot. 

Despite bringing in their own workers and machinery, by May 1923, deliveries were only 1/3 of that they had been previously in 1922 and output had fallen by around 1/5th. Eventually, due to the Dawes Plan, the French were forced out of the Ruhr in 1925

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1923: Hyperinflation crisis

While unemployment had virtually disappeared by 1921, at a 1.8%, the impact of the reparations was hitting hard. The reparations added to the debt already owed by the government, since they had used borrowing and believed they could win the war. The gold reserves were inadequate for payement and the offer of manufactured goods was unsuitable as it would affect the Europeans own economies. The international trade had been scuppered by the confiscation of merchant fleets and the imposition of high tarrifs. By January 1922 Germany was in great economic difficulty and was granted a postponement of the reparations for January and February, and a further postponement in July. Finally, in November 1922, a loan of 500 million marks was given and the obligation was released for 3-4 years until Germany was in a position to repay. 

The occupation of the Ruhr led to a worsening of the economic situation. The government was having to pay the wages of workers and provide resources while receiving no output, further draining resources. In order to pay for this as well as importing coal and other resources, the government resorted to printing more money to make up for their lack of it, triggering hyperinflation. By 1923, prices had soared and the large amounts of bills dropped in value until the notes were practically worthless. Wages had to be collected in wheelbarrows and money had to be spent as soon as it was received as it could be worthless by that same afternoon. Food ran short as people hoared supplies and living standards fell, a breakdown in law and order ensued and the number of theft convictions rose dramatically

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November 1923: Munich Beer Hall

The Munich Putsh was held by the NSDAP in November 1923 with the aim of revolutionising the republic. They believed the November Criminals who has signed the TOV should be removed and a dictatorship should be formed. Hitler had been apppointed leader of the Nazi party in 1921, but the party had limited success in the elections. 

Hitler secured the support of Ludendorff and set out to win the support of Kahr and Lossow. On November 8th, he burst into the Munich Beer Hall where the two men were holding a meeting attended by 2000. He announced the revolution had begun. Kahr and Lossow were held at gunpoint until they agreed to march to Berlin and make Ludendorff the Commander in Chief. 

Support evaported overnight and the storm troopers were unable to gain control of the Munich army barracks. Despite this, Hitler went ahead with the march anyway but the police shot at them and Hitler was arrested. The Nazis were banned and Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison, of which he served 9 months. The response of the army showed its political importance to the survival of the regime.

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