Germany 1918-1945

  • Created by: Stacy
  • Created on: 29-05-13 15:25

Changes in Germany

Right up to 1918, the Kaiser led Germany to believe they were winning the war, but really Germany was in a desperate state, and on the verge of defeat and revolution.

The Kaiser knew Germany could not win, and so, in November 1918, an armistice was signed. This shocked many Germans as they thought Germany was on the verge of winning the war.                                                                                   


In 1918, revolutions broke out all across Germany.

By the 9th November, Berlin was in the hands of the revolutionaries, and on the 10th November, the Kaiser abdicated. 

The new governement then arranged for elections in January 1919.

However, in Berlin, the socialists of the Spartacist League tried to start a workers revolution. 

The government used right-winged nationalist soliders called the Freikorps to put down the rising.

Thousands of workers were killed during the surpression, including the leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. 

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Weimar Germany 1919-1923

The Spartacist Revolt and suppression forced the provisional government to move to Weimar.

The new Weimar Constitution gave the vote to all people over 20 and it used a system of proportional representation (PR) for elections to the Reichstag.

Elections were to take place every four years. Governments, headed by a chancellor, were to be chosen from, and responsible to, the Reichstag.

Germany became a feberal system, with a central government and 18 new state goverments.

Article 48 of the constitution gave the president emergency powers to rule without the Reichstag, and to even suspend the consitution. The President was elected every 7 years. 

Due to the system of PR, there were many small parties in the Reichstag. This meant there were often short-lived coalitions.

From 1919-1923, Germany had 9 coalition governments. 

Many Germans were angry at the Treaty of Versailles and they blamed the new government for signing it. 

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Terms of the Treaty of Versailles


T - territory = France took Alsace Lorraine, Poland took West Prussia, League of Nations took                         other places.                                                                                                                                                                                      

R - reparations = Germany was held responsible for the war, had to pay 6,600 million in                                         reparations.                                                                                                                                                                                  

A - armaments = Germanys air force disbanded, army limited to 100,000 men, navy limited to                                 15,000 men, 6 ships and no submarines, and no troops were allowed in the                                  Rhineland.                                                                                       

W - war guilt = Article 231 said Germany was to blame for the war.                                                                                                                                  

L - League of Nations = The organisation set up to prevent future wars, all disputes were to be                                          settled there instead. Germany was not allowed to join. 

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Problems with Weimar Germany

Many Germans hated the new government for singing the treaty and they were opposed to democracy. 

Opposition to the Weimar Rebublic:

Right - Extreme nationalist groups carried out numerous left-wing politician murders.
         - Government made no attempt to stop the Kapp's Putsch - an attempted Freikorps coup                 agaisnt the government. 

Left - The new Communist Party organised strikes and another attempt at a revolution. 
       - Communist uprisings.

There were also serious economic problems after the war, which brought Germany near collapse by 1920:

  • 1922 - Germany could not afford it's second reparations instalment.  
  • 1923 - So French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr.
  • Germany replied with 'passive resistance' (strikes and non-co-operation)
  • The German economy collapsed, leading to hyper-inflation.
  • A new German government, led by Stresemann, ended passive resistance, and the French withdrew from the Ruhr.
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Founding of the Nazi Party

In 1920, the NSDAP (Nazi Party) was founded, and in 1921, Adolf Hitler became leader.

In 1919, Hitler worked for the German army, and was sent by the army to Munich to spy on the small German Worker's Party (DAP), which they thought was a left-wing party.

However, the party was actually right-wing and highly anti-communist and anti-jewish.

Reasured, the army decided the DAP would be useful for spreading nationalist ideas and so it gave the party money.

Hitler decided to join the party.

In 1920, he persuaded them to change the name to the Nationalist Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP). It soon became know as the Nazi Party.

Hitler helped design a logo based on the Swastika. It was black (for the 'ayran' struggle agaisnt Jews), on a white circle (for nationalism), on a red background (for the workers).

In 1920, Hitler persuaded the party to adopt a 25-point plan he had created.

The programme contained mainly nationalist and anti-semitic policies, with some vague socialist elements.

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Nazi Party actions

In 1921, Hitler became leader of the party. 

Sets in the rise of the Nazis:

  • Hitler set up the Stormtroopers (SA). These 'brownshirts' were ex-soldiers who attack left-wing meetings and demonstrations. 
  • The SA came under the leadership of Ernst Rohm.
  • 1923 - the Nazi Party had over 50,000 members in southern Germany.                                                                                                  

When the German Government called off passive resistance, German nationalists were furious.

In November, Hitler marched from Munich to Berlin to overthrown the Weimar government in a 'National Revolution' (Munich Putsch or Beer Hall Putsch).

The Nazis took over a beer hall meeting being adressed by important Bavarian officials. At first, Hitler persuaded them to support his 'March on Berlin'. Although they later withdrew, Hitler continued his plans, supported by Hermann Goring and General Ludendorff.

The march by 3000 SA was stopped by armed police and Hitler was arrested.

He was accused of treason, but as he was allowed to give long speeches at his trials and so was looked sympathetically on and given the lightest possible sentence of 5 years. 

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Stresemann and the 'Golden Years'

Stresemann became chancellor in 1923, during which time Germany was suffering from the effects of hyper-inflation.

Stresemanns end to hyper-inflation:

1. Money had become so worthless that workers had to be paid twice a day.
2. Stresemann called off passive resistance and promised to pay reparations.
3. In November 1923, Stresemann introduced a new currency - the Rentenmark - to end inflation.
4. The German industry began to revive and unemployment fell. 
5. In 1924, Stresemann negotiated the Dawes Plan with the USA which reduced the size of reparations payments and provided Germany with US loans.
6. In 1929, the Young Plan brought more loans, whilst reparations were reduced and spread over 60 years.
7. From 1924-1929, Germany received over 25 billion gold marks in loans - 3 times more than reparations payments.            

He also improved Germany's diplomatic position:

  • Locarno Treaty, 1925 - accepted Germany's 1919 western frontiers.
  • 1926 - Germany joins Leagure of Nations.
  • Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928 - Germany, along with 44 other countries, renounced war.
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The Nazis 'Lean Years'

As Stresemanns policies became more successful, support for extremist parties declined.

Although Hitler had been sentenced for 5 years, he was released after serving only 9 months.

Whilst in prison, he wrote 'Mein Kampf' (my struggle). 

When he was released he found Germany much improved and the Nazi Party banned and with much less members.

As a result, the Nazis did badly in elections between 1924-1930 - this period is known as the Nazis 'lean years'.

Hitler reorganised the party and it relaunched in 1925.

In 1926, Joseph Goebbels took control of Nazi propaganda.

The experience of the beer hall taught Hitler that he needed to win over the army and wealthy industrialists.

However, he had no intention of abandoning violence and in 1925, he set up the black-shirted **.

Officially, this was he personal bodyguard, but it soon increased in size and attacked opponents. In 1929, Heinrich Himmler became its head. 

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The impact of the Depression

In 1929, the German economy appeared to be doing well, but all was not as it seemed.

The weakness of the German economy:

  • Although many new industries had been created since 1923, many were based on foreign loans and investments, especially from the USA. 
  • There had been a balance of trade deficit since 1924, but german governments had ignored this and continued to borrow money.                                                                                                                                                  

In 1929, Stresemann died, and then the Wall Street Crash in the USA ended US loans.

Effects of the Wall Street Crash on Germany:

  • The weaknesses of the German economy were revealed when the USA stopped giving loans and the old ones had to be repaid.
  • German Industry was plunged into a depression once world trade declined.
  • Unemployment rose from just under 2 million in 1929, to over 6 million in 1932.
  • Working people faced reduced hours and wage cuts
  • Millions were hungry and homeless. 
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Rise of the Nazis 1930-1932

The Wall Street Crash and the subsequent Depression gave the Nazis the chance to gain power. 

Growing unemployment and poverty meant the coalition government found it hard to agree on policies, and in March 1930, the coalition government collapsed.

President Hindenburg (elected in 1925) appointed Heinrich Bruning as Chancellor.

Due to the political crisis, many people turned to extremist parties, and in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased their number of seats from 12 to 107. 

The growth of the Communists began to worry wealthy industrialists and so they gave money to the Nazis. This money funded more propaganda in the 1932 elections, overseen by Goebells. 

In the April presidential election, Hitler won 13 million votes, compared to Hindenburgs 19 million, and in the July elections, the Nazi Party won 230 seats, becomming the biggest party.

In the November elections, they lost 34 seats and the Communists rose again to 100 seats. 

In December, Hindenburg replaced Franz von Papen as Chancellor with General Kurt von Schleicher. But political rivalries soon led to the collapse of this government.

In January 1933, von Papen pursuaded Hinderburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor with him as vice-chancellor. 

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The Nazi dictatorship

Although Hitler was only allowed by Hindenburg to have 3 ministers in government, he still planned to take complete power, so he called for a new election in March 1933.

In the Feburary before the elections, the Reichstag Fire took place - the Nazis blamed the communists, whose leaders were then arrested.

In Prussia, the Minister of the Interior was Goring - a Nazi who enrolled SA members into the police. Due to this, over 4000 Communists and Socialists were arrested. 

The Nazis failed to get an overall majority in the Reichstag, despite banning the Communists who had been elected. The Nationalists then agreed to support the Nazis, giving Hitler more control.

In March 1933, Hitler got the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act. Hindenburg suspended the consitution, giving Hitler power to rule by degree for 4 years. Hitler destroyed Weimar democracy.

Hitler then banned all trade unions and all opposition parties - Germany became a one-party dictatorship. Most Communist and Socialist leaders were put in concentration camps.

However, the military side of the SA, and their leader, Ernst Rohm, wanted to become the army and had other demands, but the army and other industrialists opposed Rohm's plans. 

In June 1934, the ** murdered Rohm and SA leaders in the Night of the Long Knives. This caused army generals to support Hitler becomming Fuhrer of Germany when Hindenburg died. 

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Nazi Terror and Propaganda

The terror campaign was carried out by the Gestapo (secret police) and the **. Both were controlled by Himmler. 

Methods of Nazi terror:

  • Informers
  • About 400,000 'Block Leaders'
  • Mass arrests to intimidate potential opponents
  • Concentration camps - the ** took over them in 1934, and by 1939, there were 6.                                                                            

The Nazis also skillfully used censorship and propaganda to isolate opponents and build support. This was run by Goebbels as minister of Propaganda and Culture.

Nazi censorship and propaganda:

  • Cheap radios were produced.
  • Loudspeakers were placed in public areas so everyone could hear Nazi views.
  • Newspapers were banned or censored.
  • Works of literature or art that conflicted Nazi views were destroyed.
  • The Nazis huge Nurembery rallies were filmed and shown in cinemas. 
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Nazi economic policy

In order to achieve his forgein policy aims, Hitler knew he had to reduce unemployment and strengthen the German economy.

The Nazis dealt with unemployment by:

  • The National Labour service - In 1935, the Reich Labour Law made it compulosry for all men aged 18-25 to do six months.
  • Public works - building houses, hospitals, schools and roads.                                                                                                            

In 1939, unemployment had fallen to 100,000. Communists, Jews, women, and those in concentration camps were not counted as unemployed. 

Although this pleased workers, other policies weren't so popular as wages were lower than in 1929.

When trade unions were abolished in 1933, all workers had to join the German Labour Front (DAF). Strikes were made illegal, wages kept low and working hours raised. 

To counteract this, the DAF created the 'Beauty of Labour' scheme, to improve working conditions, and the 'Strength Through Joy' scheme to provide cheap holidays and leisure.

However, the Volkswagen (peoples car) scheme tricked workers into paying five marks a week into a fund to buy one, but the few produced only went to Nazi officials.

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Nazi economic policy (2)

Arigcultural production was increased, imports were reduced, and attempts made to find substitutes for foreign goods so Germany could become self-sufficient.

Self-sufficiency would cut import bills and give Germany the raw materials needed for rearmament. It was closely connected to Hitlers war aims. The search for substitute products also reduced unemployment. 

As well as increasing agricultural production, the Nazis tried to keep food prices below those of 1928-29. 

This dissapointed small farmers who had supported the Nazis. Although the Reich Entailed Farm Law, 1933,  gave farmers protection from eviction because of debt, it also prevented small farmers from splitting up their farms between their sons.

Rearmament began secretly in 1933, but was done openly by 1935.

Rearmament help with unemployment and did the re-introduction of conscription, increasing the army to 1.4 million. 

In 1936, Goring was told to get Germany ready for war by preparing a four-year plan.

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Women in Nazi Germany

The Nazis tried to control women and their role. Nazi policies for women were based on the '3 Ks', Kinder (children), Kirche (church) and Kuche (kitchen).

Nazis believed the the 'natural' division between the genders. They believed men were born to work and women to be housewives and mothers. If women did work outside the home, they believed their jobs should be related to their 'roles', such as cleaning, cooking, nursing or social work.

Nazi policies to promote housewifery and motherhood:

  • Laws forced women out of professional jobs.
  • Loans were given to women who gave up work to have children.
  • Employers were encouraged to give all jobs to men.
  • There were marriage loans and maternity benefits. 
  • The motherhood cross system gave medals to women for the number of babies they had.                                                                       

Negative steps agaisnt women:

  • Equal rights for women under the Weimar Republic were removed.
  • Abortion was made illegal and contraceptive and family planning clinics were reduced.
  • Women classified as 'unfit' were sterilised.
  • The Nazis made sure no women held important party posts.
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Young People in Nazi Germany

The Nazis wanted to control young people as they would be the future. 

Nazi control in schools:

  • All politically and racially 'unreliable' teachers were sacked.
  • All teachers had to swear loyalty to Hitler and join the Nazis' Teachers' League.
  • A new national curriculum was drawn up.
  • More time was dedicated to PE to get boys fit for the army and girls fit to be mothers.
  • In history, textbooks were replaced with an official one, showing the Nazis as saving Germany.                                                                                                                 

As a result of these changes, there was a decline in educational standards.

Out of school, young people were encouraged to join the Nazis; Hitler Youth movements. There were separate ones for boys and girls and for different age groups. All members attended Hitler Youth camps.

There were special schools for those who got the best marks.

In 1936, the Hitler Youth Law made the Hitler Youth as important as school and family.

In 1939, membership of the Hitler Youth became compulsory. 

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The Jews

The Nazis were deeply racist and believed the 'Ayran' race was superior to all other races. The Nazis wanted to create a pure 'Ayran master race'.

All non-ayrans were inferior; Jews, Blacks, Slavs and Gypsies.

The main victims of Nazi racism were Jewish people, even though there were only about 550,000 Jewish people in Germany (1% of the population). 

Persecution of the Jews:

1. Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933 - the amount of propaganda agaisnt Jews increased.
2. In April 1933, the ** and the SA boycotted all Jewish shops.
3. Laws were passed to sack Jews from the civil service, the law and education. 
4. In 1934, Jews were banned from public facilities. 
5. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws removed German citizenship from all Jews. 

After 1936, more laws restricted the rights of Jews to work or own property and Jewish children were forced out of state schools.

In November 1936, Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) saw attacks on Jews by the ** and SA. About 100 Jews were killed and 200,000 put in concentration camps. Thousands of homes and shops were destroyed. By 1939, nearly all Jewish businesses had been forced to close down. 

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The Holocaust

After the second world war began in 1939, Nazi actions became more extreme:

1. All Jews in Poland and Northern and Western Europe were forced to live in ghettos in 1939-40.

2. The Jews in these ghettos were deprived of food and medical supplies, and were made to work in forced labour camps.

3. After the invasion of the U**R in June 1941, 5 million more Jews came under Nazi control.                                                                             

At first, the Nazi leaders considered various options for dealing with the Jews in Europe:

1. In July 1941, Goring sent an order to prepare the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question', and in the summer of 1941, Himmler order the ** to form 'Special Action' groups to kill the Jews.

2. At the Wannsee Conference, January 1941, leading Nazis decided to exterminate all the Jews in Europe.

3. Extermination camps using gas chambers were built in Eastern Europe. About 6 million Jews died in this Holocaust. 

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Opposition from Politicals and Young People

In March 1933, the Nazis had only won 43% of votes despit intimidation and violence. There were many 'politicals' who continued to oppose Hitlers regime after 1933. 

The Communists and the Social Democrats set up underground organisations and published anti-nazi leaflets and organised industrial sabotage and strikes.

A secret communist group who passed on military information to the Soviet Union were betrayed to the Gestapo.

The Nazis also faced opposition from thousands of young people. 

Some organised political opposition - the most famous was the White Rose Group.

The group was led by university students in Munich. They distributed leafets, wrote anti-nazi slogans on walls and organised demonstrations. They were eventually caught, and their leaders guillotined in 1944.

Many young people refused to join the Hitler Youth and joined rebel 'cultural' groups who listen to banned music and wore fashions condemned by the Nazis.

Some groups, like the 'Eidelweiss Pirates' and the 'Meuten' beat up members of the Hitler Youth.

The Swing Movement went to clubs for banned music (Jazz and Swing) and dancing.

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Opposition from Churches and the Elites

There was opposition from some religious groups, members of the elites who had supported the Nazis at first, and the army.

Religious Groups:

  • Hitler was forced to drop his euthanasia programme because of protests from the churches.
  • Von Galen, of the Catholic Church, was a huge critic of the Nazis.
  • Hitler tried to control the Protestant Churches by setting up a 'Reich Church', but this was countered by a Pastor setting up a 'Confessing Church'. He was sent to a concentration camp.                                                                                                                 

Members of the elites:

  • Some upper-class Germans didn't like the Nazi corruption and brutality.
  • One elite resistance group was the 'Kreisau Circle'. They were caught and executed in 1944.                                                                                                                  

The army:

  • The 'Beck-Goerdeler' group of army officials was a conservative resistance group.
  • The most famous example of resistance was the July Bomb Plot in 1944 to assassinate Hitler. Its leader wanted to return Germany to a democracy.
  • With heavy bombing, food rationing and hardships, support for the Nazis declined further. 
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Key Dates

1919 - Weimar Republic begins; Treaty of Versailles and Weimar constitution.                                                   

1923 - Hitler leads Munich Putsch and is imprisoned.                                                                                                   

1924 - Hitler is released from prision.                                                                                                                      

1929 - Young Plan proposed, Wall street Crash.                                                                                                 

1932 - Hitler runs for President, coming second with 35%.                                                                                           

1933 - Hitler appointed Chancellor.
        - Nazis become the only political party.                                                                                                               

1939 - The second world war begins.                                                                                                                      

1945 - Hitler commits suicide. 

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