How far do the early problems of the Weimar Republic suggest that it was doomed from the start?

AQA GCSE Modern World History revision notes based on the syllabus.

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The Origins of the Weimar Republic

  • On 9th November 1918, the Kaiser abdicated his throne.
  • The following day, Friedrich Ebert, the Socialist leader, became the new leader of the German Republic.
  • The new government signed an armistice on the 11th.
  • In January 1919, free elections took place for the first time in Germany. Ebert's party won a majority and he became President.
  • In February, the new republic was set up at Weimar as there was violence in Berlin.
  • Proportional Representation was they way in which the Socialists won power - the number of seats a party wins in a parliament is worked out as a proportion of the number of votes they win. This system of government made it difficult for laws to get passed quickly.
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The Problems of the Weimar Republic

  • There was a very anti-allied feeling.
  • Better working conditions needed.
  • Many war veterans were wounded and needed financial support.
  • The families of dead soldiers needed support.
  • Trade needed to be restarted.
  • Reparations had to be payed.
  • Gross unemployment - jobs need creating and organising.
  • The industry needs to be reconfigured.
  • There were too many parties in the Reichstag.
  • The post-war treaties need to be accepted.
  • War Guilt Clause hated by Germans.
  • The Weimar constitution had article 48 - in times of crisis, the President has unlimited power.
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1918 - 1924 1

  • Many were poor and starving because an influenza had killed thousands.
  • In 1919, the Communists tried to take over Berlin in the Spartacist Revolt, but they were defeated by the Freikorps (a body of soldiers designed to keep peace).
  • In 1920, some right-wing Freikorps took part in the Kapp putsch (revolt). Led by Wolfgang Kapp, they took over Berlin in order to form another government. The army refused to fire on them, and it looked as if the government was doomed. It was saved by the German people, especially industrial workers of Berlin who declared a strike - Kapp gave up.
  • In 1922, the Foreign Minister, Walter Rathenau, was killed by extremists because he was Jewish.
  • In 1923, Germany couldn't pay the reparation, so France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr - the richest industrial part of Germany - to take resources instead. The government responded by ordering the workers to carry out passive resistance - strike.
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1918 - 1924 2

  • This resulted in hyperinflation because Germany had no goods to trade, so the government simply printed money. This meant that wages were paid twice a day before the prices went up again, the Middle Classes lost out as bank savings became worthless and the Deutschmark became worthless. However, the government was able to pay off war debts in worthless marks, including war loans of over £2200 million. Some rich industrialists also payed off their loans.
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The Munich Putsch

  • On 8th November 1923, right-wing Nationalists called the National Socialist German Worker' Party, hijacked a local government meeting and announced that they were going to take over the Bavarian Government under Adolf Hitler, who was supported by the old war-hero General Ludendorff.
  • Hitler commanded Nazi storm troopers to take over official government buildings.
  • The next day, police rounded up the storm troopers and killed 16 Nazis.
  • The rebellion was crushed, while Hitler escaped in a car and Ludendorff and others stayed to face the armed police.
  • Hitler and other Nazis were arrested as a result of the failed Munich Putsch, and charged with treason.
  • At the trial, the Nazis gained enormous publicity as every word of Hitler's ideas were reported in the newspapers.
  • Hitler and his accomplices got off very lightly: Ludendorff was freed altogether and Hitler was given only five years in prison, even though legal guidelines stated that high treason should carry a life sentence. In the end, Hitler only served nine months of his sentence and did so in great comfort in landsberg Castle.
  • He took this time to write his book 'Mein Kampf' ('My Struggle'), which broadcast his ideals on the people of Germany.
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