Nazi Germany: 1919-1945

AS level History on Nazi Germany and how Hitler came to power and what happened when he did.

  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 06-04-12 12:35

Imperial Germany

1871 - 25 states: 4 kingdoms (Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Wurttemberg) - Prussification - Prussia most dominant in unification of Germany

Kaiser (Emperor) - Wilhelm II - appoint/dismiss government ministers, control of foreign relations, command over army, dissolve the Reichstag

All men over 25 = vote - secret ballot - new laws and budgets had to be approved by Reichstag

1871 - 1914 - Economy was fastest-growing in Europe - advanced and sophisticated economy

Working class - Socialism (SPD) - hated captialism

Junkers (Ruling classes) - Capitalism - hated + feared socialism

Communism (KPD) - Socialism (SPD) - Zentrum (Centre - Z) - German Peoples' Party (DVP) - Nationalism (DNVP) - Fascism/Nazism (NSDAP)

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The 'Revolution From Above'

1st October 1918

September 1918 - Hindenburg + Ludendorff told Kaiser the war was lost and urged him to appoint a new Government made up of representatives of the biggest parties in the Reichstag; the Kaiser agreed - New parliamentary democracy.

Kaiser - nothing more than a ceremonial head of state (lost powers)

Chancellor - Prince Max of Baden - respected as head of the German Red Cross, but a political lightweight.

Ludendorff + Hindenburg - did not like democracy - hoped a democratic Germany would get better peace terms from the Allies and that it would divert attention from their own responsibility for Germany's defeat by  onto Prince Max's Government.

Ministers took office because it was patriotic to do so + knew they would be held responsible.

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The Popular Revolution

November 1918 - New Gov. - open cease fire talks with America and told that the Kaiser would have to abdicate before negotiations could begin - Kaiser abdicated

Admiral Scheer (Navy) ordered the High Seas fleet to mount an attack on Britain - he saw no need to clear it with the Gov. High Seas fleet refused to obey the order (suicide mission) - when they returned to base (Kiel - Baltic Sea) they seized the ports and set up an elected council of workers and sailors (a soviet) to run it.

Nothing tried to stop Kiel mutiny - the ruling classes had lost control and were not feared - Local councils/soviets dominated by socialists followed + seized major cities.

9th November 1918 - Germany run by SPD + the Kaiser abdicated

11th November - Cease fire talks opened

Prince max stood aside + a new 6 man Gov. of SPD  with Frederic Ebert (interim Gov. - they had not been elected.

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The Spartacists

SPD: Split - Marxists + moderates: Spartacists - extreme left-wing Marxists

Leaders - Karl Liebknecht + Rosa Luxemburg (1919-renamed Communist Party)

December 1918 - Conference - voted in favour of election of a National Assembly

Spartacists - impose socialism by force, but circumstances were not in their favour:

  • Unprepared (no plan) + leaders were theorists rather than decision makers + they had small numbers
  • Powerful forces were actively working to undermine the appeal of revolutionary socialism - Ebert-Groener pact: Gov. + army work together - Stinnes-Legien agreement - Employers intro 8hr day (trade union demand)

However it wasn't completely hopeless:

  • Backing from Russia + trade union officials of Berlin factories.
  • Hunger and unrest (Allied naval blockade)
  • Army disintergrated (Nov. armistice) - Gov. not rely on it to suppress revolt.
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'Spartacus Week'

Gov. saw the army's unreliability - Gustav Noske (Defence Minister) authorised formation of privately organised military-style units - Feikorps (Free Corps)

Over 150 Freikorps - 400,000 men (most army units loyal to their officers - some civilian units, mostly Uni students)- Gained a reputation for brutality + right wing extremism (most later became Nazis)

January 1919 - Spartacists organised anti-government demonstrations in Berlin. Big turn out so they seized control of gov. buildings and declared gov. was overthrown.

The gov. response - send in Freikorps. More disciplined + heavily armed they crushed the Spartacists within a week. Leaders beaten to death as well as others

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After the success the Freikorps were let loose on strongholds of revolutionary socialism.

Spring 1919 - subdued the ports of Breman and Hamburg, put down a general stike in the Ruhr + suppressed more communist-led disturbances in Berlin.


1918 - An indepenant socialist republic proclaimed in Bavaria. It's leader was Kuet Eisner - a radical socialist NOT a communist.

Early 1919 - Eisner was assassinated by a right-wing extremist. After, communists took control and renamed it the Bavaria Soviet Republic

May 1919 - Bavarian Soviet Republic violently overthrown by 35,000 Freikorps army - 600 people kiled and many seriously wounded

Upper-class - Freikorps = saviours, but revolutionary socialist hated them + those who unleashed them - seen as alliance with enemies - betrayel not to be forgiven

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The Weimar Constitution - 1919

January 1919 - National Assembly elections - 80% won by democratic (SPD + Z + Democratic Party) - middle-class. DNVP won 10% - Junkers + big business

Many middle-class voted in the hope of being treated more leniently by the Allies at the Paris Peace Conference (Democrats never again won by this much %)

The Assembly started February 1919 - The constitution made had 3 main features:

  • Ultra-democratic - Eduard David: 'the most democratic democracy in the world'
  • Federal constitution - avoid concentration of power in 1 place
  • Mixture of British parliamentary system and American presidential system.

Weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution:

  • Proportional representation (seats = % of vote won) - encouraged multi-political politics = weak gov. + coalitions, easier for extremist parties to win seats.
  • Parliamentary-presidential system - Article 48 - President sideline Reichstag
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Threat From the Right

Most important and extreme right-wing politcal party was the DNVP - Monarchist, anti-democratic and anti-socialist - wanted the return of Imperial Germany

Right-wing had limited electiorial support, but had money and the influence that came with it. Alfred Hugenburg - leader of DNVP late 1920s - Media Tycoon + used it to undermine the Weimar. Had the support of the army and the judicial system.

Why did the extreme right hate the Weimar Republic?

  • Was ruling classes  - resented loss of power and status they saw as their right.
  • Viewed as the creation of the worst elements of society (SPD, catholics + jews) - Weimar was a Social Democratic Republic and a Judenrepublik (jewish repulic)
  • Blamed Weimar politicians their defeat in ww1 - the 'November criminals' had agreed to armistice when Germany was capable of fighting on (unrealistic claim) - the Weimar politicians were guilty of Dolchstoss - the 'stab in the back'
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The Treaty of Versailles - 1919

Germany was given an ultimatum: agree to the Treaty within a week or face invasion. Everyone came together to condemn it, but Germany had to submit + signed the Treaty in June 1919:

  • Territorial losses - France, Rhineland, Polish Corridor, Saar, colonies taken
  • War Guilt/Reparations - responsibilty for war + compensate Allies - £6,600 mil
  • Disarment - Army restrcited - 100,000 men, no tanks/heavy artillery, no air force, limited no. ships, no submarines

Germans regarded the TofV as an outrage for 3 main reasons:

  • 'Diktat' - dictated peace - no discussions + little regard for the Fourteen Points (formula for compromised peace by Woodrow Wilson - American President)
  • War-guilt clause - sole responsibility for war + pay reparations for the suffering that followed (to turn Germany into an 'economic corpse')
  • Polish Corridor - over 1mil Germans under Polish rule + cut East Prussia off. Germans saw Polish as primitive and backward - 'lice people'
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The Kapp Putsch - 1920

TofV (especially the disarment) triggered 1st right-wing attempt to overthrow. Huge cuts required + the Freikorps were disbanded. Noske promised Freikorps they would be incorporated into the army.

1920: Ehrhardt Brigade (the most notorious) was ordered to disband - Ehrhardt, Luttwitz + Kapp (conservative politician) refused + planned to topple the Republic. He ordered his forces into Berlin and proclaimed the republic overthrown.

The gov. turned to the army who refused and commander, Hans von Seeckt said 'troops do not fire on troops', but Berlin's civil servants refused to work + SPD called a general strike, brought Germany to a standstill. Ehrhardt, Luttwitz and Kapp fled the country.

It was seen as poorly organised, but it showed weaknesses of the Weimar:

  • Did not have the support of the army
  • Had to rely on the German people to end the Putsch

It also showed that the German people had faith in the Republic

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Organisation Consul

After the failure of Kapp Putsch, Ehrhardt turned to political assassination to destablise the Republic

1921 - He returned to Germany in secret and formed Organisation Consul - a right-wing death squad.

Organisation Consul was responsible for the murder of Matthias Erzberger (1921) and Walter Rathenau, Foreign minister, (1922).

Erzberger was targeted because he had negotiated the armistice in 1918 and was considered the leading 'November Criminal.

Rathenau was targeted largely because he was Jewish. His murder led to a storm of protest and to a security crackdown - forced Organisation Consul to disband.

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Crisis of 1923 - Hyperinflation

1923 - January - France sent troops into the Ruhr

  • Summer - Germany was in the grip of hyperinflation
  • Autumn - the extremist right + left moved in

France -  TofV failed to provide long-term security from German agression. Wanted to keep Germany in a permanently weakened position. Germany failed to pay the reparations 1923, so the French occupied the Ruhr.

Little military strength (TofV) - opted for passive resisitance to bring the Ruhr to a standstill - stop France from taking its wealth. Workers were instucted to go on strike - paid compensation for lost wages by gov.

Passive resistance - turned inflation into hyperinflation. Gap opened between gov. spending + tax income. Ruhr at standstill, other parts of Germany had to scale down operations. Gov. printed paper money- led to collapse of the mark - losing value hourly, so people resorted to barter (goods for goods).

Biggest losers were middle-class + some upper-class profited from hyperinflation.

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Threat From the Left

KPD goal - workers' state - power concentrated in soviets (workers' concils), not the Reichstag - fundamental reason for opposition to Weimar. Believed socialist Germany was almost reached after WW1 + were upset with they way they were put down + bitter with the way the Spartacists + others were treated.

Freikorps - not fatally wounded KPD - good size following, boosted in 1920 by 400,000 new recruits when the Independant Socialist party disintergrated.

KPD attempts to destabilise the Republic ended badly -

  • 1920 - KPD led revolt in the Ruhr - crushed by the army
  • 1921 - KPD attempt to seize power in Saxony - crushed by the army

The extreme left was not as much of a threat as the right - did not have the same ability to influence public opinion and had fewer armed men to call upon. The extreme left was also treated more harshly by the authorities - members of Imperial Germany's ruling classes (feared revolutionary socialism) still held key positions in the gov. and judicial system.

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The Munich Putch - 'Beer Hall Putsch'

November 1923 - Hitler + Nazi attempt to overthrow the gov.

September 1923 - Ebert + Chancellor Gustav Stresemann end passive resistance, paid reparations. DNVP - admittance of guilt for WW1. Right wing parties moved to Bavaria - headquaters = Munich.

November 8th - Bavarian PM, Gustav von Kahr addressing meeting - von Seeckt, Lossow, Seisser. Hitler + 600 storm troopers surrounded beer hall. K, L, S, S taken to back room, threatened with guns, Kahr agreed to help Hitler + promised key position in new gov. + Lossow senior post in army. Ludendorff also supported Hitler. He let them go and Kahr + others reported it to Berlin gov. and ordered police + army to put down Nazis.

Novermber 9th - Nazis marched (Hitler knew police + army were there - didn't want to lose credibility.) Wouldn't fire - Ludendorff leading and appeal to army. March began - 3,000 men, faced 100 armed police + army who fired. 16 Nazis, 3 police killed, Hitler arrested 2 days later.

Trial gave Hitler publicity. Got short sentence + out early. Used as example of bravery, gave Nazis 1s martyrs + deaths used for Nazi propaganda.

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Gustav Stresemann - Chancellor, 1923

1923 - Chancellor

100 days - achieved 3 great things.

  • Ended passive resistance - try stop inflation
  • Rentenmark - new currency to get economy back on track with stable currency
  • Defeated left + right - army crushed left + waited for right to self-destruct (Munich Beer Hall putsch)
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Gustav Stesemann - Foreign Minister, 1924-1929

Years 1924 - 1929 known as the Golden Years of Weimar

The Dawes Plan - Banker investigated non-payment of reparations. April 1924 - his report: fixed annual payments, reorganisation of Rentenbank, increase foreign loans. The French withdrew from Ruhr, stablised currency, controlled inflation, large loans from US, unemployment fell - Germany met TofV obligations for 5 yrs.

Locarno Pact - Join League of Nations. Promise not send troops to Rhineland and accept Alsace-Lorraine was France's. Signed October 1925. (Hitler tore up - 1936)

Treaty of Berlin - 24th Arpil 1926 signed by Stresemann + USSR. Agreed to co-operate to meet economic needs of both countries. Re-affirmed 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Both govs. wanted maintain peace + pledged neutrality. Increase in relations

The Young Plan - Wall Street Crash 1929 - non-payment of reparations investigated by banker. His report - reparations reduced 3/4, payments on sliding scale up to 1988. Accepted, but plan not completely followed through - all reparations cancelled - 1931. Right-wing politicians (Hitler, Hindenburg) disagreed.

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Great Depression - 1929

Wall Street Crash - Germany given 90 days to start to re-pay loans. Companies across Germany were going bankrupt, workers laid off in millions.

People had no way of providing for families and there was no end to their problems under Weimar Republic - turned to more extreme parties (Nazis + Communists)

1928 - Nazis almost went bankrupt, but were financially bailed out by Hugenburg. Election - Socail Democrats still had most votes and the Nazis did not have anywhere near the amount of votes.

1932 - gained 230 seats, making them the largest in the Reichstag.

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Persecution of the Jews

1933 - Boycott -  People told not to buy goods in Jewish shops. August 25th - Haavara Agreement - allowed 60,000 Jews emigrate to Palestine by 1939

1935 - Nuremburg Laws - Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour - prevented marraige between Jews and non-Jews. Reich Citizenship Laws - No German citizenship for Jews. Took their rights, like the right to vote.

1938 - October 5th - Large J imprinted on passports. Novermber 15th - Jewish children banned from normal schools.

1938 - November 7th - Polish Jew attacked + shot 2 German officers because of the way his parents had been treated. Krystallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) - November 9th - Ordered by Goebbles + the **, Jewish storefronts and offices smashed + vandalised, synagoges destroyed by fire. 91 jews killed, 30,000 arrested and sent to concentration camps. Next 3 months 2000-2500 died in camps + rest released under condition they left Germany.

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Death of Hindenburg

1934 - August 2nd - President von Hindenburg died + no new president appointed, but powers of chancellor + president combined into office of the Furher.

Hitler took control - no other parties - totalitarian control of law-making.

Army swore oath of loyalty to Hitler - power over the military = more easliy create pressure on Jews

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