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The German Revolution

Collapse of Imperial Germany and the abdication of the Kaiser

  • Allied troops approached Germanys borders October 1918, it was clear to many of Germanys leading generals that it had lost the war. In Sept. General Ludedorff advised the governemnt to seek peace terms with the Allies. A new government led by prince Max of Baden opened negotiations with the allies.
  • German sailors refused  to go to sea to fight the British. In Berlin there were calls in the Reichstag for the Kaiser Willhelm II to abdicate.
  • The SPD were partners in the coalition led by Prince Max, threatened to withdraw their support from the government unless the kaiser abdicated. On the 9th November, Prince Max announced Willhelm abdication having persuaded him that it was the only way to prevent civil war in Germany. The Kaiser fled immediately to Holland.
  • The most powerful political group in Germany was now the SPD. After the abdication they withdrew from Prince Max government causing it to fall, and replaced it with one of their own. These events had made it impossible for Germany to resist the armistice terms offered by the Allies. On 11th November German Delegates met with representatives of the allies and signed the agreement that ended 4 years of war.
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The German Revolution

The establishment of the democratic republic and the failure of the Spartacist revolt.

  • On 25th November 1918 a conference of representative from different states which makes up Germany met up Berlin and agreed to set up national assembly. However extreme left wing groups in Germany rejected any form of democratic parliament and pressed for a revolution. At the end of 1918 the greater threat came from a group led by Karl Liebknect and Rosa Luxembourg.
  • The Spartacist Threaten-  In December 1918 the First Congress of Workers and soldiers councils in Berlin refused to allow Liebknect and Luxembourg to address it's meeting.Of the 500 delegates to the Congress only around 10 were Spartacist. Without popular support the Spartacist took to the street in demonstrations. Their policies and tactics frightened the SPD-ledgovernment, who looked to the army to keep order.
  • The Spartacist Revolt-1st January 1919, members of the Spartacist Union held their first congress in Berlin. With the support of other extreme left wingers they formed the KPD. This was followed by a revolt in Berlin that began on 5th January. Newspaper offices were taken over and a revolutionary committee formed. However, the uprising was poorly organised and crushed by the government using the Friekorps.
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The German Revolution

The Establishment of the National constituent Assembly

  • The First National Assembly- The election to the National Assembly took place on 19th January 1919
  • The new National Assembly and continuing unrest- On 6th February the new national assembly met at the town of Weimar, well away from the revolutionary atmosphere of Berlin. It chose Friedrich  Ebert to be the new President of the German republic. As a result of the election no party had a clear majority. The main pro-republic parties such as SPD, Centre and DDP formed the first "Weimar Coalition." Phillip Scheidmann of the SPD led the first government which immediately faced significant challenges. Although the Spartacists had been defeated there were many uprisings in the first months
  • In Feb and Mar forces directed by Defence Minister Gustav Noske crushed uprisings in Berlin and Munich. A more serious challenge ot the state came from the establishment of a soviet republic in Bavaria in April 1919. The Army and the Friekorps also crushed this rebellion. The threat from the left in 1919 was real. 
  • Discontent in the army and unrest on the left threatened the new republic. However it survived because few in the army were prepared to support open revolt against a government which stood against the communists.
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The German Revolution

The Major Parties in the Weimar Republic

  • Left- People who want sweeping change (Want more power for ordinary people) includes – KPD, USPD and SPD
  • Right- People who want little or no change  (Generally they prefer greater power for the existing elite)
  • KPD/ Spartacists- Communist party of Germany-  Wanted a Russian style revolution
  • USPD- Independent Social-democratic Party of Germany- Remove enemies of democracy and create conditions for a secure socialist society.
  • SPD- Social Democratic Party of Germany- Wanted to dominate the Weimar.
  • DDP- German Democratic Party- committed to maintaining a democratic republican form of government
  • Centre Party- One area was it commitment to protect the interests of Germany’s Catholics; about 34% of the population.
  • DVP- Conservative- German’s people Party- The party was generally thought to represent the interests of the German industrialists.
  • DNVP- Conservatives- German National People’s Party- They wanted to retain the system as it was supported restoration off the monarch.
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The German Revolution

The main elements of the Weimar Constitution: federal structure, the electorate, proportional representation, Reichstag, Chancellor, President and Article 48, Bill of Rights, Supreme Court.

  • The Weimar Constitution was written by Hugo Preuss and was adopted on 31st July 1919. He attempted to build on the traditions of German politics as well as balamce power between the different  institutions of the state.
  • The new constitution created the Reich as a parliamentary democracy with the Chancellor and cabinet needing majority support in the Reichstag.
  • The Reich was to be a federation of 17 states (Lander)
  • The head of state was the President, to be elected every seven years. He appointed the chancellor who would head the government. Article 48 the President in emergencies could rule by decree and side-line the Reichstag. The President not only had the power to appoint a Chancellor but could also dismiss him. The President could also dissolve the Reichstag and arrange for new elections. The President also commanded the army.
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The German Revolution

  • There were to be elections every four years using a system of proportional representation. PR is when seats are given in proportion to the votes cast
  • The Reich Chancellor led the German government, accountable to the Reichstag
  • The new Parliament was to be made up of two houses:

--- The Reichsrat- Which had the power to delay laws. Its members were chosen by the parliaments of he Lander.

--- The Reichstag- for which elections were to be held every four years. The constitution introduced PR. All men and women over the age of 20 could vote.

  • The Bill Of Rights guaranteed individual rights such as freedom of speech and the right to belong to a union.
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The German Revolution

The main terms of the Treaty of Versailles

Territory

  • Germany lost ALL of her overseas colonies and Alsace-Lorraine was given to France.
  • Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium and North-Schleswig was given to Denmark and Hultschin (given to Czechoslovakia)
  • Posen was given to Poland so that she would have access to the Baltic Sea. This area became known as the Polish Corridor. It meant that East Prussia was cut off from the rest of Germany.
  • The Rhineland was made into a demilitarised zone (DMZ). No German soldier or weapon was allowed into this zone and Germany was forbidden to unite with Austria.
  • The Saar coalfields were given to France for fifteen years. This had major economic consequences.
  • The port of Danzig was made a Free City under the control of the League of Nations. This was a huge economic loss. Memel was put under the control of the League of Nation who also took control of Germany's overseas colonies.
  • Germany had to return to land to Russia. Some of this land was made into new states: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

 

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The German Revolution

Military

  • Germany’s army was reduced to 100,000 men and the army was not allowed tanks or an air force. 
  • Germany was allowed only 6 capital naval ships and no submarines.
  • The Allies were to keep an army of occupation on the west bank of the Rhine for 15 years.

Economic

  • Germany was responsible for all the war damage; therefore, she had to pay reparations (most go to France & Belgium). Amount eventually put at £6,600 million (132 billion marks) - a sum well beyond Germany’s ability to pay.  

Guilt

  • Germany had to admit full responsibility for the war. This was the infamous "War Guilt Clause” (231)
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The German Revolution

Reactions

  • The Germans were angry about their tiny army. They said they were helpless against other countries. At first they refused to reduce the army, and the sailors sank the fleet, rather than hand it over.  
  • The Germans also thought the loss of territory was unfair.  Germany lost a tenth of its land. Other nations were given self-determination – but the Treaty forced Germans to live in other countries.  
  • Germans were also angry that they could not unite with the Austrian Germans.
  • When the Germans heard about the Treaty of Versailles, they felt ‘pain and anger’.  They felt it was unfair. They had not been allowed to take part in the talks – they had just been told to sign. Many branded it a diktat. (It was dictated to them.)
  • At first they refused to sign the Treaty. Some Germans wanted to start the war again.
  • The Germans were angry at Clause 231; they said they were not to blame for the war.  Whereas this clause placed all blame on the German people.
  • They believed the German economy would be crippled by having to pay reparations and were angry it was not based on Wilson’s Fourteen Points.

 

Problems arising from World War One

-In 1919 the Weimar economy faced fundamental problems such as a decline in world trade which affected its exports and an increasing national debt as a result of the First World War.

- In 1919 Germany was already on the brink of financial collapse. Its debt amounted to 144 million marks and its huge trade deficit was made worse by the loss of the Saarland and Silesia under the terms of the Versailles Treaty.

-The Weimar Republic was tainted from the outset by the “stab in the back” legend which claimed that its political leaders had betrayed the undefeated German army by surrendering unconditionally to the Allies.

 

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The German Revolution

Major Economic Consequences of Treaty of Versailles

  • As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, there was a loss of resources such as coal, iron ore and arable agricultural land from the loss of territories such as the Saar, Alsace-Lorraine and Silesia.
  • The cost of paying reparations was an additional burden. Prices had already started to increase by 1919 but inflation dominated the first phase of the Weimar economy up to 1923. The figure of 132 billion marks was recommended by the Reparations Commission in April 1921.
  • From 1919 Weimar governments did not attempt to balance their budgets and adopted policies of deficit financing, both of which allowed inflation to continue. The need to pay reparations contributed to even greater inflation.
  • Generally annoyed right-wing nationalists and identified the new Republic from the outset with a dictated peace. TheWeimar constitution introduced proportional representation which ensured that a polarised divided society would be reflected in a multiparty Reichstag. All governments would therefore be unstable, short-lived coalitions. There were six chancellors between 1919-1923.
  • By 1923 the Weimar economy was suffering from hyperinflation and, when the government defaulted on its reparations payments, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr. This meant that the value of the mark continued to decline. It was only in August 1923 when the German economy was on the verge of complete collapse that the formation of a new coalition government under Stresemann found the will to introduce economic policies which were aimed at controlling the amount of money in circulation.
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The German Revolution

What were the strengths of the Weimar Constitution?

  • All Germans had equal rights, including the right to vote
  • Proportional representation made sure parties had the same percentage of seats in parliament as they did in the election
  • Provided a strong President to keep control over the country in an emergency
  • Each state had its own assembly to represent local interests

 

 

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The German Revolution

What were the weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution?

  • It was too radical an experiment given the dangerous nature of German society after the war. Freedom of speech would lead to a rise in opposition.
  • The Weimar Republic had many enemies and it was not sensible to give equal rights to those who wanted to destroy it.
  • Proportional Representation encouraged lots of small parties so no one party ever had enough seats to form a majority government. This made it hard to reach decisions and mean there could not be a strong government.
  • The president could use Article 48 to become a dictator in an emergency
  • Local states could resist the authority of central government
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

The threat from the extreme right: the DNVP, the Freikorps, the Nazis.  The right wing risings:  Kapp putsch of March 1920 and the Munich Beer Hall putsch of November 1923; reasons for the failure of each.

The Kapp Putsch 1920

  • The Kapp Putsch in 1920 was the first attempt by the extreme right wing to seize power from the constitutional government. The extreme right favoured the restoration of some sort of authoritarian, dictatorial regime.
  • As a result of the demobilisation of the armed forces there were nearly 200 paramilitary units in Germany by 1919. In 1920 about 12,000 members of the Freikorps marched on Berlin and seized the main buildings of the capital virtually unopposed, where they installed a new government.
  • The German army did not provide any resistance to this putsch. In spite of requests from Ebert to put down the rebellious forces, the army was not prepared to become involved with either side.
  • The putsch collapsed primarily because, before fleeing Berlin, SPD members of the government had called for a general strike which soon paralysed the capital and quickly spread to the rest of the country. The rebels had little support in Berlin and even less elsewhere.
  • After four days, it was clear that Kapp and his government exerted no real authority and they fled the city. 
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

The Munich Putsch, November 1923

  • The Nazis’ Munich Putsch took place from 8–9 November 1923. The developing crisis in Germany in 1923 due to the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr, passive resistance, hyperinflation and “The German October,” had convinced Hitler that the opportunity to seize power had arrived.
  • The Nazis were far too weak on their own to stage any kind of political takeover. It was the need for allies which led Hitler into negotiations with Kahr and the Bavarian State Government and the Bavarian section of the German army under Lossow.
  • Kahr and Lossow blamed most of Germany’s problems on the national government in Berlin and wanted to destroy the republican regime with a “March on Berlin” from Munich. Fearing failure, they decided to abandon the plan but Hitler wanted to press on. The Nazis took control of a large rally which Kahr was addressing in one of Munich’s beer halls and declared a “national revolution.”
  • Under pressure, Kahr and Lossow appeared to co-operate, but General Seeckt, the chief of the Army Command who was suspicious of Hitler, used his powers to command the armed forces to resist the putsch. When the Nazis attempted to take Munich, the Bavarian police easily crushed the putsch.
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

The German October

  • The continuous revolutionary disturbances by the extreme left in the period 1919–1923 culminated in the “German October” in Saxony which had a SPD/KPD state government in 1923.
  • Mass protests actually started in the summer of 1923 at the height of the Ruhr crisis, although the uprising did not actually come to a head until October 1923.
  • A major wave of strikes and popular protests had encouraged the Comintern to organise a German October inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. Reich troops overthrew the state government and suppressed the strikers.

KPD/Spartacists

The Berlin and Bavaria Communist Revolts (1919)

  • The new Weimar government faced further uprisings by Communists.
  • In March 1919 the Communists organised strikes in Berlin but were crushed by the Freikorps (Free Corps).
  • In April 1919 the German province of Bavaria declared itself an independent Communist Republic but again was crushed by the Freikorps.
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

    The causes and consequences of inflation: economic problems caused by the First World War eg, loss of land, national debt, increasing prices; reparations, French occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923 and passive resistance

  • In 1919 the Weimar economy faced fundamental problems such as a decline in world trade which affected its exports and an increasing national debt as a result of the First World War. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles there was a loss of resources such as coal, iron ore and arable agricultural land from the loss of territories such as the Saar, Alsace-Lorraine and Silesia plus the cost of paying reparations from 1921.
  • Prices had already started to increase by 1919 but inflation dominated the first phase of the Weimar economy up to 1923. From 1919 Weimar governments did not attempt to balance their budgets and adopted policies of deficit financing, both of which allowed inflation to continue.

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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

  • The need to pay reparations then contributed to even greater inflation. They found the £6,600 million (132 billion marks) too steep to cope with. In 1922 the German government announced it could not pay reparations any longer. The French invaded the Ruhr industrial region to get reparations by force,
  • The French took control of the Ruhr’s factories, steelworks, mines and railways. The Weimar Government could not defend itself because Versailles had limited the size of the German armed forces. The French shot 132 Germans and expelled 150,000 Germans from the region for refusing to obey the orders of the French military controlling the Ruhr. As a result of the occupation of the Ruhr and the resistance against it industrial production in Germany ground to a halt

  • By, 1923 the Weimar economy was suffering from hyperinflation and the value of the mark continued to decline. The dire economic situation badly damaged the reputation of the Weimar Republic. 
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

  • The need to pay reparations then contributed to even greater inflation. They found the £6,600 million (132 billion marks) too steep to cope with. In 1922 the German government announced it could not pay reparations any longer. The French invaded the Ruhr industrial region to get reparations by force,
  • The French took control of the Ruhr’s factories, steelworks, mines and railways. The Weimar Government could not defend itself because Versailles had limited the size of the German armed forces. The French shot 132 Germans and expelled 150,000 Germans from the region for refusing to obey the orders of the French military controlling the Ruhr. As a result of the occupation of the Ruhr and the resistance against it industrial production in Germany ground to a halt

  • By, 1923 the Weimar economy was suffering from hyperinflation and the value of the mark continued to decline. The dire economic situation badly damaged the reputation of the Weimar Republic. 
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

The economic policies of Stresemann during 1923, effect of these.

  • It was only in August 1923 when the German economy was on the verge of complete collapse that the formation of a new coalition government under Stresemann (Germany’s Foreign Minister between 1923 to 1929) found the will to introduce economic policies which were aimed at controlling the amount of money in circulation.
  • These included: the resumption of reparations payments, reduction of government expenditure and the introduction of a new currency (the Rentenmark.)
  • He ordered striking workers in the Ruhr to go back to work and agreed to start repaying reparations to the allies leading to the French withdrawal in 1925.
  • By April 1924 the Dawes Plan had fixed reparations payments for the next five years in accordance with Germany’s ability to pay. The Dawes Plan restored confidence in the German economy and investments poured into Germany from abroad. The Young Plan of 1929 extended the deadline for the payment of German reparations further 59 years.
  • Stresemann’s policies brought about economic recovery in Germany. He brought improved international relations for Germany. The USA lent Germany 800 gold million marks to build new factories to increase German prosperity to raise the standard of living and ability to pay back reparations.
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

German International Relations (1923-1929)

  • The international community accepted Germany back on the world stage.
  • In 1925 French troops ended their occupation of the Ruhr.
  • In 1925 Germany and France sign the Locarno Pact in which they agreed never to change the border between them again.
  • In 1926 Germany was allowed to join the League of Nations.
  • In 1928 Germany signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact with over 60 countries promising never to go to war against one another.
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

Stresemann’s Success

The Weimar Republic was its most stable and prosperous between 1923 to 1929.

  • There was a fall in the support for left-wing and right-wing extremists.
  • The German economy stabilised and hyperinflation was brought under control.
  • Germany was welcomed back on to the world stage.
  • Germany experienced a huge cultural revival.

Stresemann’s Failures

  • Germany was now dependent on US loans that would prove disastrous in 1929.
  • The weaknesses of the Weimar constitution remained.
  • There continued to be resentment against the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Right-wing movements attacked decadent and unpatriotic new culture that spread across Germany.
  • Finally the stability and prosperity of the Stresemann Era collapsed following the 1929 Wall Street Crash and start of the Depression.
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The Weimar Republic 1919-1923

Economic Stability: Golden Twenties?

  •  The 1924–1929 phase of the Weimar economy appears to be one of greater stability when compared to the economic chaos that preceded it especially in 1922–1923 and the Great Depression of 1929–1933 which followed.
  • Evidence for an economic recovery could include: production levels increased, greater foreign investment, rising exports and rising wages.
  • However, the recovery was not as sound as was once thought. Economic growth was uneven while the value of imports always exceeded that of exports. Unemployment never fell below 1.3 million and by 1928 there was a rural recession.
  • Such evidence suggests that before the start of the depression in 1929 the problems of the German economy were hidden by a flood of foreign capital. The German economy’s dependence on foreign loans made it liable to suffer from any problems that arose in the world economy.
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

Significance of the change of tactics after the failure of the Munich putsch: rejection of armed coup and adoption of legal tactics necessitating the creation of a national party structure to gain success in election.

Hitler's beliefs- bedrock of ideology 

  • Anti- Semitism and racial supremacy- believed in Aryan Racial supremacy. Believed that the root of all evil and Germanys problems were the Jews. 
  • Lebensraum and Versailles- Believed Aryan people should expand to the East of Germany in what is known as Lebensraum. This had been thwarted by the removal and redistribution of land at the TOV, which Hitler promised to destroy.
  • Anti-Democracy- Hitler hated democracy and saw the leaders of the Weimar Republic and the system of parliamentary government as responsible for the weakening of Germany. HE promised to destroy the republic.
  • Fuhrership- insisted Nazi party and Germany be dominated by one powerful leader, Fuhrer.
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

  • After the failure of the 1923 Munich Putsch, Hitler changed the strategy of the party. An armed coup was no longer an appropriate tactic and the only way to succeed was to work within the Weimar Constitution and gain power by legal means. The adoption of parliamentary, legal tactics was the new Nazi strategy for attempting to get into power.
  • Hitler used his trial to gain maximum publicity to portray himself as a national hero. He used his time in prison to right his book “Mein Kampf” that outlined his ideas. 
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

Importance of special party conference at Bamberg in February 1926: supremacy of Hitler re-established

  • The adoption of a legal strategy necessitated the creation of a national party structure geared to gaining success in elections. At the Bamberg Party Conference in 1926 Hitler re-established a degree of unity within the Party and mobilised sufficient support to re-establish his supremacy.
  • The refounded party was based around the ‘leadership principle’ (Führerprinzip) which emphasised absolute obedience to Hitler. 
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

 Reorganisation of party structure: party organised into 35 regions from 1926 reflecting the electoral geography of Weimar’s system of proportional representation with a Gauleiter in each region

  • A reorganisation of the party structure followed. The whole of Germany was divided into 35 regions which reflected the electoral geography of Weimar’s system of proportional representation.
  • The control of each region was placed in the hands of a Gauleiter, who then had responsibility for creating district and branch groups.
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

The contribution of Gregor Strasser who built up the Nazis as a mass movement by 1928 with 108,000 members

  • Gregor Strasser was mainly responsible for building up an efficient Party structure and this was  reflected in an increasing Party membership of 108,000 by 1928, partly due to the creation of associated Nazi organisations that were geared to appeal to the specific interests of particular groups. 
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

The contribution of Joseph Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin and to propaganda with the creation of the Nazi newspaper Der Angriff in 1927

  • Joseph Goebbels increased support for the party in Berlin and showed a real interest in propaganda and created the newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack). They used posters, leaflets, radio and film, and organised rallies to portray Nazis in positive light. The Nazi Party had been revitalised. It was no longer a small provincial party in Bavaria but had become a national party with an effective political machine. Despite the disappointing performance in the 1928 Reichstag election, significant gains were made in regional state elections in 1929.
  • He cultivated the support of wealthy businessmen promising them that, if he came to power, he would destroy Communism and the Trade Unions. This gave him the finance to run his campaigns. He set up the Hitler Youth to indoctrinate young people in Nazi ideas and the SS as an elite bodyguard. They also continued to use SA violence in the background to break up meetings of political opponents.
  • While the electoral breakthrough after the 1929 depression was crucial in the Nazis’ rise to power, these important developments in the 1924–28 phase help enable the Nazi Party to achieve its electoral take-off from 1930.
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

Additional Points 

Finance

  • Mein Kampf- By 1929 the 1st Volume had sold 23,000 copies and the 2nd volume had sold 13,000. The figures rose rapidly (1.5 million sold in 1933) 
  • Goebbels cultivated support of wealthy businessmen also helped financially
  • Many industrialists bankrolled the Nazis including Fritz Von Thyssen, The German Steel businesses.

Success at Regional level 

  • Such a poor overall result masks the fact that when campaigning on specific regional issues, the Nazis were able to attract a significantly higher proportion of the vote e.g. in 1928 in the agriculture North West.

October 1928

  • Saw the creation of the first Nazi professional body, the association of the National Jurists. Followed by similar bodies, for doctors, teachers and Students.
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The Development of the Nazi Party 1924-1929

Campaign Against the Young Plan.

  • Formed by the leader of the DNVP. The Reich committee for a referendum included respected national political figures of the right, including Franz Seldte of the Stahelm movement. Hugenburg also invited the NSDAP to join the coalition, which Hitler accepted.

The Subsequent referendum in December 1929

  • The so-called freedom law resulted in humiliation for the coalition, only 13.8% voting in favour. The campaign, though, had given considerable national exposure  to both Hitler and the spectacular Nazi rallies such as that of 200,000 party members and supporters at Nuremberg in August 

Impact of the Ballot Box 

  • Was immediate, local elections in November 1929 saw a significant rise in the Nazi vote and in the state elections in Thungria in December they polled 11.3%

Great Depression 1929 and change in party fortunes 

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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

  • The onset of the depression coincided with a sharp rise in support not just for the Nazi Party (NSDAP) but also the German Communist Party (KPD). In the towns and cities, poor housing, severe food shortages and, above all, high unemployment led to increased support for parties seeking to destroy the Weimar Republic, and the NSDAP also benefited electorally from the acute economic distress.
  • The economic depression undermined the Weimar Republic. Some 50,000 businesses went bankrupt between 1930 and 1932, while five major banks closed down. American loans and investments were withdrawn, while there was a general decline in world trade.
  • The depression brought instability to the Weimar Republic and was one of the main reasons why the Nazis grew to be the largest political party by the summer of 1932, the year in which unemployment peaked at 6 million. They had 37% of the popular vote and 230 seats in the Reichstag.
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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

The breakdown of parliamentary government: collapse of Muller’s Grand Coalition in March 1930 over welfare payments, rejection of Bruning’s budget in the Reichstag in July 1930, dissolution of Reichstag by President Hindenburg

  • In March 1930 the SPD-led coalition government under Müller collapsed. The depression brought instability to the Weimar Republic and was one of the main reasons the Nazis grew to be the largest political party by the summer of 1932, the year in which unemployment peaked at 6 million.
  • The acute economic distress resulting from the onset of the depression after October 1929 coincided with a sharp rise in support for the Nazi Party, both in urban and rural areas.
  • Muller’s SPD-led coalition government was divided over measures to deal with the impact of the depression, particularly over whether to increase unemployment contributions to fund the increasing numbers needing relief.
  • In March 1930 Muller resigned when President Hindenburg refused to use Article 48 to support his government. Muller’s Government was to be the last coalition government with a working majority in the Reichstag, and it marks the effective end of parliamentary government.
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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

  • Hindenburg then appointed Brüning as Chancellor. He formed a centre-right government but one without a majority. When the Reichstag rejected the government’s finance bill, Brüning had the bill issued by Article 48. Faced with opposition within the Reichstag, Brüning then persuaded Hindenburg to dissolve it.
  • As a result of the September 1930 elections, when extremist parties made substantial gains, any government would have found it hard to get a majority in the Reichstag. The Brüning Government survived by relying on Presidential decrees.
  • The Chancellor took little action to reduce the impact of the depression that was causing a massive increase in unemployment. Partially due to his unimaginative policies, Nazi support increased as was illustrated by Hitler’s support in the Presidential election in early 1932 which Hindenburg won
  • In May 1932 Brüning was dismissed as Hindenburg turned against him. He was christened the “Hunger Chancellor” due to a number of his policies. Hindenburg asked von Papen to form a non-party Presidential Government. It did not contain any members of the Reichstag.
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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

Nazi electoral breakthrough: emergence of Nazis as second largest party in Reichstag in September 1930, decline of pro-democratic parties and rise of right and left extremes

  • Through his excellent oratory and charisma, Hitler was able to exploit the dissatisfaction of the masses with the Weimar Republic. His attacks on the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and denunciation of the “November Criminals” who had signed it,enjoyed widespread support among the German electorate, as did his promise of strong government and a restoration of Germany’s national pride.
  • Hitler’s attacks on “race enemies” such as the Jews also appealed to significant sections of the German people, as did his tirades against Marxists and Bolsheviks. The Nazis were able to project their slogans at mass rallies through an effective propaganda machine established by Goebbels. The “Hitler over Germany”
  • The Nazis had a broad cross-section of the electorate: predominantly Protestant, rural and lower middle class, but also including elements of the professional middle class and even a minority of the working class.
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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

 The advent of Presidential government under Bruning 1930-32: use of Article 48; economic policies: balance the budget, prevent inflation, remove reparations, cut spending, raise taxes; results of economic policies: slump got worse with increasing unemployment, a decline in welfare provision and unpopularity

  • The system of proportional representation encouraged the growth of a large number of political parties. The voting system, based on pure proportional representation, encouraged the representation of a large number of political parties in the Reichstag which were often unwilling to work together at times of national crisis.
  • As a result, Weimar Germany was ruled by a succession of unstable coalition governments and the fall of Müller’s Government in March 1930 was due to disagreements among the coalition partners over measures to combat the economic crisis.
  • President Hindenburg also played a key role in the decline of the Weimar Republic. By allowing successive chancellors to dissolve parliament and rule by emergency decrees under Article 48 of the constitution, Hindenburg accustomed the German people to “authoritarian” government and thus paved the way for the rise of the Nazis.
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The Decline of the Weimar Republic & Nazi Rise to

Political intrigue and the emergence of the Nazis as the largest party May 1932-January 1933: 

  • In May 1932 Brüning was dismissed. Hindenburg asked von Papen to form a non-party Presidential Government. With deadlock in the Reichstag, Hindenburg dissolved it and held an election in July 1932. Papen tried to struggle on, but after a vote of no confidence in his government was passed by the Reichstag, Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag and allowed new elections.
  • After the November 1932 election the new Reichstag was still unworkable. In December 1932, General Schleicher, who had been advising Hindenburg, persuaded Hindenburg to dismiss Papen and appoint himself as Chancellor.
  •  Papen then took the initiative and intrigued against Schleicher to get revenge for his own dismissal. Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor, with Papen as his deputy, in January.
  • There was a growing move by the right-wing elite to change the Weimar system. Eventually this elite was prepared to co-operate with Hitler to bring about the collapse of the parliamentary system. In January 1933 right-wing politicians believed they could use the Nazis’ popular support to channel the political system in a more authoritarian direction and that Hitler could be controlled by President Hindenburg and Vice-Chancellor von Papen. Ultimately, Hitler was brought to power due to the political intrigue of Papen and Hindenburg.
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