The Treaty of Versailles
Following the war, the Allies had to decide what to do with Germany.
The Big Three- USA, GB and France- each had their own opinion on what should be done with Germany.
FRANCE had suffered terribly in the war, as the fighting took place on French soil The French leader, George Clemenceau, wanted revenge.
THE USA was not as badly affected during the war because it only joined in 1917. Woodrow Wilson believed in a fairer treaty. He came up with his 14 points
BRITAIN had lost many men during the war and, although the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George agreed with Wilson, the British public wanted to 'make Germany pay'
They met in Versailles to discuss what should be done with Germany and what her punishment should be.
The Terms of the Treaty of Versailles
There were 5 main terms of the Treaty of Versailles:
War Guilt- This was the term that most Germans hated. It put the blame for the war on the whole German population.
Reparations- Germany had to pay compensation for the damage done during the war. The amount was set at £6.6 billion. WOW!
Loss of land- Germany lost large amounts of land to surrounding countries e.g. Alsace and Lorraine were given to France and land in the east was lost to form a new country, Poland.
Demilitarisation- Germany had her army reduced to almost nothing. No air force, no submarines, only 6 battleships and only 100,000 soldiers. This was a tiny army for a country of Germany's size.
The Kaiser had to abdicate.
If the German government refused, they would be invaded and Germany could not defend herself from an invasion. So, the Germans had no choice but to sign the Treaty.
The Invasion of the Ruhr and Hyperinflation
Germany was in a terrible state. The Royal Navy blockade had caused food shortages and disease was widespread. Therefore, she could no longer keep up with her reparation payments.
In 1923, the French and Belgians invaded the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland. This meant that Germany was no longer producing anything. This lead to HYPERINFLATION. The German government told the workers to strike but the French simply brought in workers of their own and took whatever they wanted. There was violence but the army could do not anything because...
1) It was too weak and 2) It was not allowed into the Rhineland, where the Ruhr is.
Hyperinflation means that the value of money collapses very quickly. German people were in a dreadful state. They had to resort to bartering. Children would play with large piles of money and also people would use it as fuel as it was less valuable than the fuel.
Some people did gain from hyperinflation. Debts could be paid off very easily and some business people had calculated and were selling there products in gold value.
However the majority of people lost out. Those on fixed incomes didn't have enough money to spend and also life savings were now worthless.
In 1924, Gustav Stresemann became German Chancellor. He called off the strike in the Ruhr and took in old currency and destroyed it. He then created a new currency. This new currency was backed up by American money provided throguh the Dawes Plan. Also, there was a more sympathetic French government which removed troops from the Ruhr.
So the 3 factors that improved German life were: Gustav Stresemann
New French Government
This helped to bring Germany out of the effects of hyperinflation and life seemed to be on the up.
The Weimar Republic: Downfall
In 1929, the Wall Street Crash happened and this had a dreadful effect on the whole world but had a devastating effect on Germany. The German economy relied on American money as it was supported by it. So when America started to withdraw its money from Germany, the German economy collapsed. Also, because the effects were worldwide, nobody could afford to buy German exports. Prices rose sharply and many people were homeless. This period was worse than the period following the First World War. Germans were living in third world conditions. This era saw many shanty towns and soup kitchens, signs of poverty. Unemployment rose to 6 million by 1932.
Also, Stresemann, the best politician of the Weimar Republic, died.
There was unrest and this lead to extremists growing in popularity.
The Weimar Republic Summary
1919 to 1923
Bad- The Treaty of Versailles, The Invasion of the Ruhr and Hyperinflation
Very Good- Stresemann, American investment and the end of the Ruhr problem
Terrible-Death of Stresemann, Wall Street Crash, The Great Depression, Poverty and the rise of extremists