KEY TOPIC 1 - The Weimar Republic 1918-1933

o   The origins and early problems of the Weimar republic 1918-1923

o   The recovery of the republic under Stresemann 1924-1924

o   The impact of the great depression 1929-1933

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  • Created by: semoni
  • Created on: 14-05-12 19:01

why germany hated the treaty of versailles

Germany had to accept total responsibility for starting the First World War.

this was called the War Guilt Clause or Article 231.                       Germany had to pay £6,600 million in reparations to cover war damages and other Allied losses.
The German army was to have no more than 100,000 men and the navy was limited to 15,000 sailors

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The Weimar Republic

In 1919, Germany became democratic for the first time. Up until the end of the First World War, Germany had been ruled by the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and government passed from royal hands to an elected government known as the Weimar Republic. This was so-called because the German capital, Berlin was under the control of Communists and the new government was forced to meet in Weimar instead.  The Weimar Republic was a democracy. The German people voted for Members of Parliament to represent them in Parliament (Reichstag). The political party that gained a majority large enough to win votes formed the government. The leader of that party became the Prime Minister (Chancellor) and ministerial posts were given to other prominent members of the party. To keep a check on the actions of the new government, a head of state (President ) was elected. This person did not run Germany on a day to day basis that was the Chancellor’s job. The relationship between Chancellor and President was similar to the relationship between Monarch and Prime Minister in the UK today.

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the problems

The Weimar Republic faced many problems. One of the worst was the fact that German political parties found it difficult to win enough votes to gain an overall majority in the Reichstag. This meant that whenever there was a vote, to pass a new law for instance, no single political party had enough MPs to push a law through on its own. The Weimar Republic had too many political parties representing relatively small sections of the population. What was needed were fewer parties with widespread appeal so that one could get enough support to form a strong government that could pass laws and make changes to the benefit of the German people. The solution to this problem was for political parties to make coalitions i.e. share power. The problem was that these coalitions were often temporary and they found it difficult to agree. Another problem was that the Weimar Republic was generally blamed for surrendering in 1918 and signing the Treaty of Versailles. Many political extremists, particularly the right-wing groups such as the Nazis, picked up this theme. Germany had no tradition of democracy in 1919 and there was no reason to suggest at this point that it would survive for long. The Weimar Republic faced serious competition from Communist, left-wing revolts in major cities such as Berlin and from right-wing, paramilitary groups such as the Nazis who were supported by wandering bands of ex-servicemen called freikorps . To compound the mess Germany faced severe economic difficulties that made many ordinary Germans look to strong extremist groups to solve Germany’s problems rather than to the relatively weak, but moderate and democratic Weimar Republic.

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Weimar - crisis of 1923

The 1923 crisis began when Germany missed a reparations payment. This situation spiralled out of control and once again the German people were unhappy and in financial difficulty, so uprisings occurred throughout the country.

Hyperinflation

The sudden flood of paper money into the economy, on top of the general strike - which meant that no goods were manufactured, so there was more money, chasing fewer goods - combined with a weak economy ruined by the war, all resulted in hyperinflation.Between 1919-1923 Weimar experienced a number of left wing and right wing rebellions. Left wing and right wing are terms used to describe types of political ideas. They were first used in France during the French Revolution during which members of parliament who wanted major change in society sat together in the left hand side of the parliament and those who stood for tradition and continuity sat together on the right hand side.

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The Spartacists

The Spartacist Uprising, Jan 1919. nThe Spartacist League was made up of German communists who were against everything that Ebert and Weimar did.  They were led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.  They wanted Germany to be ruled by the Communist Russians.  If this happened many middle and upper class Germans would lose their property, business and land. nThe Spartacists tried to seize power in Jan 1919 by occupying public buildings, organising a general strike and forming their own revolutionary committee to take action!  The Weimar government gets its name from the fact that politicians had to flee to Weimar to work out the constitution when Berlin was under threat  from the Communists. nEbert did a dangerous deal with the army commanders – in return for them killing the German Communist leaders, he would allow the old army more freedom (they were against the Republic as they felt they had been betrayed in the war as well – they wanted revenge, and Ebert was effectively helping them to achieve it!). nFrom then on, the Communists would always want their own revenge on the Weimar government as long as it was led by parties like the SDP.  They were a constant threat.

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Berlin and Bavaria

Revolts in Berlin and Bavaria. These were more political threats to the new Republic.  It was clear by now that many political parties were never going to accept that the Republic was led by democratic parties.  Communists organised more riots and strikes in Berlin – crushed by the army section called Free Corps. nIn Bavaria the Socialists (Communist led) set up their own Republic in Bavaria.  They took food, money and houses from the rich and gave them to the workers – this a key belief of Communists.  Soldiers soon broke into the Bavarian capital Munich and massacred the leaders.  The Weimar government had successfully defeated its immediate political opposition, but at a price – the army now had more power to use as they wished!

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The Kapp Putsch

The Kapp Putsch, 1920. The Treaty of Versailles had ordered that the German army be reduced.  Many soldiers lost their jobs, and decided to form a band known as the Free Corps (in German Freikorps) – they had helped support the government and dealt violently with the initial political threats. nBecause of the increasing power of the Free Corps, the Allies were urging Ebert to take action and break them up.  The Free Corps led by Wolfgang Kapp marched into Berlin to seize power – this was a putsch (an attempt to seize power by force).  They had the support of the army and the Berlin police – very dangerous for Ebert!  Ebert and his government had to flee to Dresden.  They appealed for help from the workers of Berlin – the workers responded by organising a general strike – cut off water, coal and gas to Berlin.  The putsch collapsed – order was restored and the government could return to Berlin.

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munich putch

Hitler was put on trial in February 1924. Hitler was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison Hitler served 9 months only in Landsberg Prison.

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