Impact of WW1 on Germany

The political, social and economical impact of WW1 on Germany and the Second Reich

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Beginning of WW1

  • There was widespread support for the war across Germany
  • Germany entered a state of Burgfreiden - Political Unity
  • The Kaiser stated at the beginning of the war: 'I recognise parties no more, I recognise only Germans'
  • The Enabling Act passed to allow for war credits and emergency powers to the Bundesrat removing the Reichstags legislative power without any opposition
  • The Schlieffen Plan had failed to defeat France and Russia, but Germany had pushed Russia back 250 miles, inflicted heavy casualties on the British and reached shelling distance of Paris
  • Germany decided to try and knock Britain out of the war with a Sumarine Blockade
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Shortages on the Home Front

Why were there shortages?

  • Before the war, 25% of German food was imported
  • By the end of 1915 half of German agricultural workers had been called up
  • The British retaliated against the German Submarine Blockade, by blockading Germany fully

What was the result of the Shortages?

  • Grain Corporation set up to purchase and distribute grain but farmers hoarded it as they believed the prices to be too low
  • Bureaucratic mismanagement (Agencies had to compete with Federal and Regional governments) caused the slaughter of 9 million pigs in 1915 - caused a shortage of pork and fertiliser to grow crops
  • Ersatz goods (Substitutes) - e.g. tree bark coffee, meatless sausages where common - demonstrates unity and Burgfrieden
  • 800,000 died from malnutrition
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Total War and Semi-Military Dictatorship

  • New Military leadership of Hindenburg and Ludendorff resulted in a semi-military dictatorship - this shows a beginning to political disunity in 1916
  • Hindenburg introduced the hindenburg programme - Total War - This was an extention to Burgfreiden
  • This closed down non essential businesses (though didn't really work)
  • Auxiliary Labour Laws (1916) was to solve labour shortages forcing employment of 17-60 year olds in war effort - didn't work because not the extra Labour and upset the Socialists
  • Focus on Munition production stretched Industry - Coal production only 90% of 1913 levels - BUT did double explosive production 1915-17
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End of Burgfreiden - 1917

  • Bethman-Holwegg said that war had to end by the winter of 1916 or the Home Front would Collapse
  • Turnip Winter (1916/17) was extremely cold and destroyed potato crop so Germans lived on Turnips and as little as 1000 Calories a day
  • Russian Revolution overthrew the Tsar and Germans started demanding more political rights
  • The USA joined the war against Germany, polarising opinion as the US were the greatest democracy in the world the war seemed less just - 300,000 Berliners protested at the USA joining the War
  • The USPD split from the SPD because they wanted soviets set up in Factories
  • Strikes in 1916 demanded 'Peace, Bread and Freedoms'  and the Reichstag voted for a peace without annexation motion in 1917
  • The threat was serious enough for the Kaiser to make an Easter Offer to reform the 3 Class Prussian voting system after the war
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1918 - The end of the War

  • Unity briefly returned with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Germany had won 75% of Russian Coalfields)
  • Ludendorff offensive transfered 500,000 Eastern Front troops to the west, pushing the Allies back 80 Miles, but the Allies countered and were approaching German Borders
  • Anti-War demonstrations in Berlin saw 1 million take to the streets wanting peace and democracy
  • Prince-Max became Chancellor in a SPD/Centre coalition and promised Reichstage reform, Democracy in Prussia and a Cabinet inside the constitution
  • Peace talks were suggested by Ludendorff (To protect integrity of Army so the defeat of the war could be blamed on the politicians)
  • There was a Mutiny at Kiel and Prince-Max suggested that the Kaiser could abdicate in order to get better peace terms
  • This all contributed to the Stab in the back myth and the concept of the November Criminals once the armistice was signed 
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