So, History Revision eh? What a Draag.
Naaaa. History's alright really.
Map of Germany in 1914
Germany was Obviously Large and Powerful...
Which can be dangerous in such a patriotic nation, especially when nationalists come to power like the Nazis. You can see from the map of the original Germany before world war one that it was a large european power, with great military strength.
It is important to understand the background of world war one and why Germany lost to see what state the German nation was in at the end of the war. Looking at this and the Terms of the Treaty of Versailles helps us to pinpoint why the German people felt stabbed in the back by their government and in turn, voted the Nazis into power, one of the greatest tragedies in human history.
Understanding the Problems that occured in Germany's Weimar years is vital to seeing how Hitler and the Nazis became so popular throughout many of the German people, condeming ethnic minorities and Nazi opposition to suffer greatly.
The First World War
- As you already know, World War one was sparked by the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in Bosnia in 1914
- The Allies (Britain, France and Russia) were fighting against the Central Powers (Germany, Turkey and Austria - Hungary)
- The main campaigns took place in eastern Europe (the Eastern Front) and in France and Belgium (the Western Front)
- By 1917, the USA and Italy had joined on the Allied side
- The main focus of the war was on the Western Front, to which both sides poured millions on troops, many of whom died in the great battles such as:
- The Somme
1917 - A Turning Point of WW1
- In this year, the USA declared war on Germany meaning that the Allies would get tonnes of supplies, equipment and troops
- Germany would have to win the war quickly before they were too outnumbered
- But, at the end of 1917, it looked like they still had a good chance - Russia had backed out of the war after a communist uprising
- So Germany could now concentrate on the Western front...
The End of The War
- In March 1918, the Germans launched a final major attack on the Western front
- They gained much land after years of stale mate but the Allies managed to stop the advance and launched a counter attack in July
- By now there were many Yanks on the Western Front to aid the counter attack, giving Allied troops a boost in morale
- At the same time, in Germany, there was starvation due to an Allied naval blockade, as well as thousands dying of an influenza outbreak.
- To add even more problems for Germany, Revolutionaries were trying to bring down the government and there was a mutiny by the navy and many troops refused to fight
- Also, Germany's allies (Turkey, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria) had surrendered by early November
- The German Kaiser stepped down (abdicated) to allow the government to surrender
- The Armistice was signed on the 11th of November 1918
The Treaty of Versialles
The Kaiser fled to Holland and a new German government was established (the Weimar Republic), which surrendered, leaving the German people feeling stabbed in the back by their new leaders, who were termed by some as the November Criminals. Many Germans could not accept that they had lost the war and felt that the Weimar Republic was weak.
After the Armistice was sighned, the victors would need to negiciate terms of a peace treaty with each of the losers. The Treaty of Versailles was specifically for Germany. Other treaties were signed with the other Central Powers.
Many Germans beleived that the Treat of Versailles would be based on Wilsons 14 points but when they were presented with the terms, they were much harsher than expected, leaving the Germans feeling resentful at the Treaty and the Weimar Republic which was seemingly associated with it.
There were many problems in this Weimar age, leaving Germany vulnerable to extremest parties such as the Communists and the Nationalists. Indeed, In times of hardship, it is not uncommon for people to turn to extremism in search of political and economic stability. Also, In such times, it is easier to place a blame on groups of people, for example, the Nazis made scapegoats of the Jews and blamed them for the Hard times.
Terms of the Treaty (Land Restrictions)
- Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France
- Eupen and Malmedy were Given to Belgium
- North Schleswig was given to Denmark
- Germany lost land to Poland
- Memel was taken over by the League of Nations
- The League was also in control of the Saar for 15 years but France was to control the coal feilds
- Danzig was made a free city under the League
- Germany lost land that it had taken from Russia in 1917
- Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria
- Germany lost all its colonies
Terms of the Treaty (Military Restrictions)
- German army limeted to 100 000 men
- Conscription was banned
- Germany was not allowed tanks, subs or planes
- The navy could only have 6 boats
- The Rhineland became a demiliterised zone
Terms of the Treaty (The War Guilt and Reperations
- Germany was forced to sight Clause 231 forced to Germany to accept responsibility for the damage of the war
- Germany had to pay reperations to pay for the damage of the war which was later set at £6600 million. Germany never managed to pay it off.
The Treaty's Effect on Germany. (They Hated it)
- Couldnt afford reparations - had to borrow money from America
- Lost industrial areas and could not rebuild
- Lost pride without armed forces
- Saw other countries werent disarming
- Didnt accept defeat
- Many Germans lived under rule of other countries
- Lost colonies
- Suffered an economic crisis
- Didnt accept guilt for starting the war
- Was left weak and resentful
- German anger could lead to trouble in the future. The Germans called the treaty a Diktat because they had no choice but to accept it
State of Germany after the First World War (Recap)
At the end of the first world war in 1918, Germany was bankrupt. It has surrendered, sold its most valuable areas, it was humiliated and hated and this was all after a war in which 7 million Germans were killed or wounded. But Germans were divided about who to blame for the disasterous state of their country. To start with, the most powerful movement wasnt the Nazis, but a revolution that included mutinies across the navy and thousands of factories being taken over by factory workers in an uprising inspired by the Russian revolution. There were massive armed demonstrations in the capital. Berlin and the Kaiser fled. From this movement came the German Communist Party or the KPD that wanted power to pass to the countries working class. But against them was another section of German society which blamed the communists for the defeat in the war. They also blamed a weak government which they called November criminals because it had signed the surrender terms called the Armistice in November 1918. Many of these disgrunteled people were also soldiers who were armed and some of them formed an organisation called the Frei Korps. They faught the Communists and opposed an uprising in 1919 which was led by revolutionaries Karl Leibnicht and Rosa Luxembourg, who were murdered...
The Creation of the Weimar republic
After Germany lost the First World War, the Kaiser fled and a new democratic government of Germany was declared in February 1919 at the small town of Weimar. It was too dangerous to make a declaration in Berlin where there had just been a revolt by a Communist group called the Spartacists. The Weimar Republic was a genuine attempt to create a perfect democratic country.
Im very confuddled by all of this...
Time for a tea break methinks...
The Spartacist Uprising (Causes)
The Spartacus League, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibnecht, was made up of German communists who opposed everything that Ebert did. They wanted Germany to be ruled by the soviets that had been created in the November revolution. On the last day of 1918, they renamed themselves as the German Communist Party and made plans to seize power. Many Germans especially the middle and upper class, feared a communist takeover in which they would lose their property, businesses and land.
The Spartacist Uprising (Events)
The Spartacists tried to seize power on the 5th of January 1919. They occupied public buildings, organised a general strike and formed a revolutionary commitee.
Ebert did a deal with the army commanders that allowed the army to put down the spartacists. in return, the Social Democrats (Eberts Party) agreed not to set up a new army that was sympathetic to the republic. The old army of the Kaisers Germany remained in existance. Tousands of Spartacists were killed and Karl and Rosa were both Shot.
The Spartacist Uprising (Results)
Ebert's government had been saved, but at a cost. The army, which never fully supported the republic, remained unchanged. The communists never forgot the spartacist uprising, and throughout the history of the republic, they saw the Social Democrats as their deadliest enemies. This was later to be of vital importance.
So yer anyways, the Creation of Weimar (Recap)
On the 19th of January 1919, four days after the defeat of the Spartacists, a general election was held for a new parliament. The Social Democrats were elected as the largest party and Ebert was appionted the first president of the German Republic. However, it was felt that Berlin was too unsafe for the government to meet there. Instead, it moved to the safer town of Weimar.
The Weimar Constitution
- Many People Praised the new constitution - It was one of the most advanced democracies in Europe when it was established
- It allowed all men and Women over the age of 20 to Vote - this was even better than Britain, where only women over 30 could vote
- The people voted for members of the Reichstag (the lower house of parliament)
- They used a system known as proportional representation
- The Chancellor (Head of government) had to have the support of the majority of the Reichstag
- Germany was to be federation, which means that each German state such as Bavaria and Prussia was to have its own state Government
- Each State sent a reprasentative sent a representative to the Reichstrat (the upper house of parliament)
- The constitution gave people many other human and civil rights
- Germans had freedom of speech, travel freely, freedom of religious belief and hold political meetings
Seemed so perfect huh?
But, it had Two MAJOR Weaknesses
Proportional Representation and Article 48
Proportional representation - instead of voting for an MP, like we do in Britain, Weimar Germans voted for a party. Each party was then allocated seats in the Reichstag exactly reflecting (proportional' to) the number of people who had voted for it. This sounds fair, but in practice it was a disaster it resulted in dozens of tiny parties, with no party strong enough to get a majority, and, therefore, no government to get its laws passed in the Reichstag. This was a major weakness of the Republic.
Article 48 - this said that, in an emergency, the president did not need the agreement of the Reichstag, but could issue decrees . The problem with this was that it did not say what an emergency was, and in the end, it turned out to be a back door that Hitler used to take power legally.
But good good things dont last hey?
There were problems from the start...
The Weimar Republic was created at a time of confusion and chaos after Germany had lost the First World War. Many people felt that Germany had received a very harsh deal in the Treaty of Versailles and they resented the government for signing it and agreeing to its conditions.
The Weimar Republic faced violent uprisings from various groups, not to mention devastating economic problems.
Germany between 1918 and 1919 was in chaos. People were starving, the Kaiser had fled and people hated the government for signing the armistice in November 1918 - they called them the November criminals. Bands of soldiers called Freikorps refused to disband and formed private armies. It was not a good start for the Republic.
There was continuos violence and unrest...
- In March 1920, there was a rebellion - the Kapp Putsch - that aimed to set up a new government as the rebels were angry at them for signing the Treaty of Versailles.
- Nationalist terror groups assassinated 356 government politicians.
- Many of the people in Germany were communists, who wanted to bring in a Russian-style communist government. There were a number of communist uprisings. For instance, in 1919 the Spartacists rebelled in Berlin.
The Kapp Pusch 1920
The Kapp Putsch took place in Weimar Germany in March 1920. Wolfgang Kapp was a right-wing journalist who opposed all that he believed Friedrich Ebert stood for especially after what he believed was the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Kapp Putsch was a direct threat to Weimar’s new government. Kapp was assisted by General Luttwitz who lead a group of Freikorps men. On March 13th, 1920, Luttwitz seized Berlin and proclaimed that a new right of centre nationalist government was being established with Kapp as chancellor.
Ebert had no immediate response to this in the sense that he could not impose his will on the situation. For the second time, he had to leave his capital – once again undermining his status and to some emphasising his weak position within Germany. The government reconvened in Dresden and the only card Ebert could play was to call for a general strike to paralyse the movement of those who supported Kapp and Luttwitz.
The Kapp Pusch Continued...
Kapp received support from one of Germany’s foremost military officers – General Erich Luderndorff. But the main officer corps of the German Army failed to follow Luderndorff’s lead. It is possible that they felt some form of support for a president who had given them a free hand in dealing with the Communists/Spartacists in 1919. Certainly, Ebert could not have been seen as being anti-military. However, the military did nothing to stop the putsch and give active support to Ebert.
The general strike called for by Ebert ensured that those who supported Kapp could not move around and such paralysis doomed the putsch to failure. Kapp and Luttwitz fled to Sweden on March 17th.
More on the Kapp Pustsch
In March of 1920 a right wing group, led by Wolfgang Kapp rose in Berlin. This group consisted of members of the paramilitary Freikorps and had the support of many army officers.
Kapp was a right wing journalist who opposed the government on the grounds that he held it responsible for the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. This view was shared by many leading officers of the German Army, who Kapp turned to for support. Two significant officers chose to support Kapp, General Luddwitz and General Ludendorff. On 13th March, Luddwitz orchestrated an uprising in Berlin. Troops sympathetic to the uprising took control of Berlin and a Right Wing Government was proclaimed by Luddwitz.
More on the Kapp Putsch
Ebert, the president, was forced to leave Berlin. The government could not be sure of support from the army, though much of the officer corps had not joined the uprising, nor could he utilise the Freikorps as had been done with success against the Spartacist's. On this occasion ebert turned to the ordinary people and called for a General Strike. This, if successful, would make it impossible for the uprising to succeed as they would not have the means to manage the people. On 17th March Kapp and Luddwitz fled Berlin, the strike having been successful in making the uprising unfeasible. However, despite the relative short period of time that Kapp had control of Berlin, the uprising did make several things clear:
The support of the army could not be taken for granted There was not universal support for the Weimar Government The Government had limited means of dealing with uprisings of this nature Politicians were not necessarily safe in Berlin
Analysis of several factors is possible here. The army didn't openly support Kapp, nor did it rush to the aid of Ebert and the government. What does this mean? How could the Government ensure its survival? Why did the people of Berlin support the Government and go on Strike?
Last Little bit on the Kapp Pusch
The Treaty of Versailes had orederd the reduction of the German army. Many of the Soldiers who had been demobbed Joined the Free Corps. These had supported the Government in defeating Socialist and Communists uprisings, often with great violence. In the early 1920s the Allies put pressure on the Governmet to break up the Free Corps, who, led by Wolfgang Kapp, marched into Berlin in an attempt to seize power. Kapp was supported by the police and the Army in Berlin. By this time, the Weimar Government had relocated to Berlin but were now forced to flee to Dresden. From here, the Government appealed for support from the workers in Berlin. The workers supported the Government and organised a general strike. Within a day there was no water, gas, coal or transport in Berlin. The Pustch quikly collapsed and Kapp fled to Sweden.
Ebert and the government returned to Berlin. Order had been restored.
Picture of the Kapp Putsch
well, thats one thing out of the way...
More trouble for Weimar...
The Weimar government's main crisis occurred in 1923, when the Germans failed to make a reparations payment on time, which set off a train of events that included:
- a French invasion of the Ruhr
- a general strike
- runaway inflation - hyperinflation
- a number of communist rebellions
- an attempted Nazi putsch in Munich
I wish there was less problems so i didnt have to
The Weimar republic faced opposition from the outset. German politicians had signed the armistice to end the war and the Treaty of Versailles and many Germans hated them both. They accused the politicians of stabbing them in the back, called them the november criminals and said that the treaty of Versailles was a Diktat. Remember, Germany was not invited to discuss the terms of the treaty.
Not invited to the Paris peace conference : (
Financial impact of the treaty
The treaty of Versailles blamed Germany for the Fist world war. As a result of this Germany was also held accountable for the cost of the war and the treaty dictated that compensation would have to be paid to the Allies. These payments, called reperations would be paid monthly to the Allies. The economic might of Germany had streched to its limets throughout the war, and she would have to reconstuct her own economy at the same time as paying reperations. In addition to this, Germany had lost most of their precious recources like raw materials as her colonies had been given to other countries at the end of the war and they were rich scources of income. These factors would make it harder for the German econmy to cope. Also, Germany had suffered great casualties during the war. 1.7 million men had died and 4.2 men were wounded.
Invasion of the Rhur
Germany was completey unable to pay the set amount of reperations as they had spent an enormous amount of money on their war effort. At the end of 1922, Germany had failed to make a single reperation payment. The French and Belgium Governments were very angry about this as they felt that Germany was going against the Treat of Versailles. In January 1923, they sent troops to occupy the Rhur, Germany's largest industrial area.
The French had planned to take the reperation payments in goods such as coal, iron ore and factory goods. The German Government demanded that the German workers carry out passive resistance (Go on strike). As a result, no goods were made and the French were left empty handed. The French reacted harshly, killing over 100 workers and expelling 100,000 protesters from the region.