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The Fall of the Second Reich

World War One

  • Turnip Winter 1916-17
  • Inflation - $38 billion war debt
  • Low morale - 1.7 dead
  • 4.3 million wounded - 7 million casualties
  • Bread rationing from 1915
  • Allied campaign broke Hindenburg line

External Influence

  • October 1917 Communists seize Russia and Russia pulls out of the war
  • Communist ideas spread in Germany - soviets formed and support for SPD grows
  • President Wilson offers peace based on 14 points - dismiss generals, Kaiser abdicates, Germany becomes democratic
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The Fall of the Second Reich cont.

Revolution from Above

  • 29th September Army High Command admit to Kaiser war is lost
  • 1st October Kaiser asks Prince Max to form a new goverment
  • 3rd October Prince Max approaches President Wilson for armistice based on his 14 points.
  • 9th November Prince Max announces the Kaiser's abdication

Revolution from Below

  • January 1918 400,000 Berlin workers go on strike - demand democracy
  • 29th October sailors mutiny at Kiel
  • 8th November 1918 Bavaria declares itself an independent Socialist Republic
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Weimar Constitution


  • Universal suffrage for anyone over 20
  • All Germans had right to assemble peacefully
  • Secret ballot introduced
  • Proportional Representation - fairer
  • Meant to have a system of checks and balances to prevent one-person power
  • A wide range of civil rights


  • Democracy was a new idea in Germany
  • Proportional representation meant no party could get majority - weak coalition governments
  • Article 48 gave the president power to pass emergency decrees
  • Article 53 - power to appoint and dismiss chancellor
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The Treaty of Versailles - June 1919

  • Reparations £6.6 billion - added to $38 billion war debt + puhed Germany into depression. The government printed more money, leading to hyperinflation. Missing a payment led to the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923.
  • Army limited to 100,000 men, no submarines, 6 ships, no air force - Angered the army and many went to join the Freikorps and later the SA. Led to increase support for Dolchstosstheorie - blaming the government, pacifists, left-wing, and Jews for signing the armistice.
  • War Guilt Clause - Germany forced to accept full responsibility, increased belief in Dolchstosstheorie, and added to humiliation.
  • Loss of key areas like Sarr under League of Nations and Rhineland demilitarised zone - made Germany feel vulnerable to attack. Added to Dolchstosstheorie, meant Germany lost key industrial areas and made economic recovery more difficult.
  • 12% of population under foreign rule - added to anger and humiliation and later formed part of Hitler's foreign policy - unite all German speakers.
  • Polish corridor - Split Germans making it harder to govern - helped influence Hitler's foreign policy
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Political Challenges to Weimar

Spartacist Uprising 1919

  • Revolt held by Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknecht, wanted communist government like Russia, took over offices.
  • Weimar used Freikorps to crush the revolt under the Ebert-Groener pact. Three days of street fighting, both killed.

Kapp Putsch 1920

  • Inspired by Dolchstosstheorie - wanted to overthrow Weimar by force. Government buildings were seized in Berlin and Weimar fled.
  • Trade unions and the civil service refused to work under Kapp and Berlin ground to a halt. The revolt showed the faults of the Ebert-Groener pact and was the most serious challenge between 1919-23

Munich Putsch 1923

  • Attempt by the Nazis to seize power in Munich on the 8th and 9th November.
  • Not a real threat but gave Hitler public standing
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Inflation started in Germany during WW1, due to government printing more money in order to pay for the war. After failing to pay reparations the French occupied the Ruhr in January 1923. Weimar called for passive resistance and the workers went on strike - Weimar paid them by printing more money causing hyperinflation. By 1923 there were 663 billion notes in circulation.

Positively affected - people with mortgages could pay them off quickly, most wage earners were protected as their wage rose with inflation, and anyone with goods/property (farmers, landowners)

Negatively affected - people with savings, people on pensions, benefits or fixed incomes couldn't afford food, the unemployed.

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Golden Era - Evidence to show there was

  • 1928 production levels exceeded those of 1913 - recovery
  • Berlin became the pleasure capital of Europe
  • Improvements in social welfare - e.g disability benefits
  • 1927 compulsary unemployment insurance was introduced
  • Increase in number of cars
  • Increase in cinema attendance
  • Increase in popular music e.g. Jazz, swing
  • Increase in equality for women
  • Support for extremist parties declined and support for moderate parties increased
  • State subsidaries for local amenities
  • Investment in culture, film industry
  • Hourly wages rose in real terms 1924-30
  • Exports rose by 40% 1925-9
  • Foreign relations improved due to Locarno Pact 1925, Treaty of Berlin 1926, and Germany joining League of Nations 1926
  • Currency was stabilised - introduction of Rentenmark 1923
  • Passive Resistance ended 1923
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Golden Era - Evidence to show there wasn't

  • The Right Wing called Weimar decadent
  • Industrial growth started to slow from 1927
  • There was an agricultural recession from 1927
  • People were reluctant to save
  • Young Plan and Dawes Plan made Germany reliant on American loans
  • Still deep regional, class, and religious division in Germany
  • Proportional representation made it difficult to elect strong governments
  • Rural areas didn't benefit from new technology - 10% in rural areas had radio compared to 46% in towns.
  • Conservatives argued that Weimar was undermining German culture
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As Chancellor

  • September 1923 called off passive resistance in the Ruhr
  • November 1923 introduction of the Rentenmark based on a mortgage of all land and industry

As Foreign Minister

  • Dawes Plan 1925 - provided international loans for Germany
  • Locarno Pact 1925 - Germany accepted borders with France
  • League of Nations 1926 - invited to join
  • Treaty of Berlin 1926 - established good relations with Russia
  • Kellog-Briand Pact 1928 - 70 countries denounced use of war
  • Young Plan 1929 - timescale for reparations set at 58yrs and reduced payments by 75%
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Hitler's Rise to Power

Wall Street Crash

  • 1929 American economy collapses. USA stop loans to Germany and recall loans made.
  • Led to: unemployment rising to 5.1 million in 1932, 50,000 businesses went bust and 18,000 farmers bankrupt.
  • People disillusioned with Weimar and started voting Nazis - Nazis got 37% votes July 1932 election - lrgest party in Reichstag.


  • Strong leader of Nazi Part unlike Socialists who had lots of leaders, oration skills, Hitler myth, charisma.
  • People wanted a strong leader, Hitler won support through emotive speeches, rallies. Promised people people what they wanted - relatable - war hero.
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Hitler's Rise to Power cont.


  • Distributing leaflets, protected Nazi meetings, disrupted Socialist meetings and intimidated opposition and voters. Increasingly used violence 1930-32. Uniforms, rallies
  • Made Hitler seem strong, rallies, uniforms appealed to people - boosted their confdence.
  • Made Weimar look weak - Hitler had military style support - reduced number of opposition through intimidation

Weimar Constitution

  • Proportional Representation meant weak coalition governments who kept collapsing and couldn't agree. Article 48 abused by Brunning government 1930-32. Article 53 was open to abuse. Liberal ideas not appealing to conservatives.
  • Set a precedent for Hitler to demand Enabling Act 1933 giving him total power for 4 years.
  • Made Weimar appear to be weak - governments kept failing.
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Hitler's Rise to Power cont.


  • Ford - provided funding.
  • Schliecher persuaded Hindenburg to dismiss Papen as Chancellor November 1932. Papen persuaded Hindenburg to make Hitler Chancellor and himsef vice chancellor January 1933.
  • Limited Nazis to only 3 jobs in cabinet.
  • Funding from industrialists paid for propaganda campaign, rallies, uniforms - gave Hitler an advantage over Socialist opposition.
  • Wanted to control Hitler but failed.

Weimar Mistakes

  • Signing Treaty of Versailles 1919, hyperinflation 1923. Dawes Plan 1924. Young Plan 1929. Not solving unemployment after Wall Street Crash. Used by Hitler in propaganda, mde him appear stronger.
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Hitler's Rise to Power cont.


  • Simple, clear slogans, appeal to all. Treaty of Versailles, fear of communism. Appeal to key groups - unemployed - promised jobs, farmers - Blood and Soil, Mittelstand - private ownership and anti-communism. Use of speeches/ rallies. Use of Geobbles.
  • Created Hitler myth, made Weimar a scapegoat for Germany's problems.

Weaknesses of the opposition

  • Socialists and left-wing were divided, lots of leaders and lacked funds.
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Who Supported Hitler?

  • Peasants - attracted by the promise of land reforms and propaganda - Blood and Soil - that would raise their status. Nazis promised higher prices for goods, to pay mortgages and prevent repossessions.
  • Mittelstand - attracted by anti-communist ideas and promises to protect private ownership and businesses.
  • Big business -attracted by anti-commusist ideas, promises to protect businesses.
  • White collar workers - small shop keepers, craftsmen, office workers. Largest group who supported the Nazis. Attracted by promises to protect small businesses from big department stores, anti-communist ideas, promises to make Germany strong again.
  • Blue collar workers - working class, factory workers - less than 30% voted for the Nazis - most voted left-wing - liked the idea of communism and sharing wealth. Hitler tried propaganda but failed.
  • Protestants - Attracted by traditional values.
  • Catholics - not really attracted - had Zentrum.
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