The 'Golden Age' of the Weimar Republic, 1924-28

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  • Created on: 24-05-16 10:27

Economic developments

  • At the height of Hyperinflation in August 1923, Cuno's government collapsed and Stresemann, from the DVP, became chancellor for a mere 103 days
  • Stresemann's coalition was named the 'Great Coalition' because it included parties from both left and right.
  • By the time Stresemann left office in November 1923, the currency and inflation had been stabilised.
  • The end of passive resistance- Passive resistance against the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr was called off in September- led to unrest ( one of the reasons for the Beer Hall Putsch).
  • By halting the governments payment of workers who refused to work for the French, the governent reduced it's expenditure.
  • In November a new currency called the Rentenmark was introduced to replace the now worthless Reichsmark. New currency was exchanged for the old on the basis of one Rentenmark for one trillion Reichsmark. Government kept tight control of inflation.
  • However, Germany didn't have sufficient gold reserves to back the new currency, so supported by a mortgage on the industrial and agricultural land.
  • In August 1924 the Rentenmark became the Reichsmark backed by German gold reserves- had to be maintained at 30% of the value of the Reichsmarks in circulation. All this happened under the direction of Hjalmar Schacht.
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More Economic developments

  • Stresemann's government cut Expenditure and raised taxes.
  • 300,000 Civil servants lost their jobs and the salaries of government employees were cut.
  • Weaker companies that relied heavily on credit crumbled
  • Number of companies that went bankrupt in Germany rose from 233 in 1923 to over 6000 in 1924.
  • People who had lost their savings in the collapse of the old currency didn't gain anything from the introduction of the new currency.
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The Reparations issue and the Dawes Plan

  • November 1923 Stresemann asked the Allies' Reparations Committee to set up a committee of financial experts to address Germany's repayment concerns.
  • USA had interest in getting Germany into a position that it could pay it's reparations to France.
  • American banker, Charles Dawes, became the chairman of the committee
  • By the time the Dawes plan had been finalised in April 1924, Stresemann's government had fallen, but Stresemann had remained as Foreign Secretary.
  • The Dawes plan confirmed the orignal figure of £6.6 billion/ 132,000 million gold marks, but made payments more manageable.
  • It stated that:
    • Amount paid by Germany each year would be reduced until 1929, when its situation would be reassessed.
    • Germany should start paying 1000 million marks and raised by annual increments over five years by 2500 million marks per year.
    • After that then sum paid should be related to German industrial performance
    • Germany should receive a large loan of 800 million marks from the USA to start the plan and allow for heavy investment in German infrastructure
  • Heavy debate in Reichstag over the Dawes Plan, right wing parties like the Nazis and the DNVP attacked the policy of comprimise, but the plan was accepted by Germany and allies in July 1924.
  • French gradually left the Ruhr during 1924-25
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Industry

  • By 1925 Germany appeared more stable and prosperous- a combination of the Dawes plan, the new currency, the reduced government expenditure and Schact's work at the Reichsbank, keeping interest rates high to attract foreign investment.
  • Big industrialists began to buy out and/or make cooperative agreements with smaller firms to form cartels.
  • By 1925 there were around 3000 of these cartel arrangements in operation, including 90% of Germany's coal and steel production.
  • After 1925, Germany were allowed to place tariffs on imported foreign goods.
  • Industrial output grew after 1924, but didn't reach 1913 levels until 1929
  • Economy shrank im 1928 and 1929 and investment in new machinery and factories were falling by 1929.
  • Advances were made in the chemical, car and aeroplane industries, but cars were still too expensive for the average German.
  • Inflation was close to zero and living standards improved as wages began to increase from 1924.
  • Loans helped to finance the building of houses and public buildings-  big population growth- in 1925, 178,930 dwellings were built and in 1926 there were to be 205,793 more homes.
  • Number of strikes during these years decreased, partly because of new system of complusory arbitration- decreased from 1,973 in 1924 to 353 in 1930. 
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Limits to economic recovery

  • Before Stresemann died in 1929 he said 'The economic position is only flourishing on the surface... If the short-term loans are called in, a large section of our economy would collapse.'
  • Unemployment was a continuing issue in these years - by March 1926, it was over three million, but it did fall after that.
  • Unemployment due to more people seeking work because of government cuts and also companies reducing their workforces to make efficiency savings- mining companies reduced their workforce by 136,000 between 1922 and 1925 and reduced them by another 56,000 between 1925 and 1929.
  • Mittlestand (the professional middle classes gained very little in the 'Golden age' and they were bankrupt in the hyperinflation of 1923.
  • White collar workers didn't enjoy the wage increases of the industrial sector
  • By late 1920s industrial sector wages had drawn level or exceeded those of the middle class
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Agriculture

  • Farmers gained very little benefit from the economic recovery
  • Worldwide Agricultural depression kept food prices low and few farmers were able to profit from their land
  • During inflation farmers and landowners borrowed money to buy new machinery to improve their farms- farmers in debt when prices falling - can't keep up with loan payments
  • increased taxes for welfare benefits of the sick and unemployed were regarded as an unfair burden on farmers
  • Government tried to relieve the burden by introducing high import tariffs on food products and import controls and subsidies to farmers- measures weren't enough
  • Situation worsened by price slump in 1925 and 1926.
  • By late 1920s increased bankrupties amongst farmers and many had lost their land as banks demanded repayment
  • In 1928 farmers issued small scale riots in protest of foreclosures and low market prices
  • By 1929 agriculture production was at less than three-quarters of its pre-war levels.
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The Reparations issue and the Young Plan

  • Dawes plan was intended to be a temporary settlement
  • Allied forces remained in the Rhineland and France wouldn't agree to withdraw the forces until the last settlement of the reparations issue had been made
  • Stresemann agreed that the issue should be considered by an international committee headed by the American business man, Owen Young.
  • Committee met in Paris in 1929, with Schacht as one of Germany's representatives, and produced final report on final settlement of reparatons issue
  • Young plan obliged Germany to continue paying reparations until 1988 and the total reparations bill was considerably reduced from £6.6 billion to £1.8 billion, but annual payment Germany made was required to be increased.
  • France and Britain agreed to withdraw all their troops from the Rhineland by June 1930.
  • Young Plan received opposition from nationalists in Germany- Alfred Hugenberg launched nationwide campaign against the plan, involved other conservative groups, including NSDAP
  • Campaign group drafted 'freedom law' which stated that the government would repudiate the war guilt clause, demand evacuation of all the occupied areas and any minister who signed a treaty accepting war guilt would be tried for treason. 
  • Hugenberg got 4,135,000 signatures in petition for the freedom law- reichstag it was defeated and rejected in the referendum. However, nationalists like Hitler getting more support. 
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Social and cultural developments- Social Welfare R

  • Social welfare reforms between 1924-27 included:
    • 1924- The Public Assistance System- helped poor and distitute-modernised
    • 1925- The state accident insurance system- introduced by Bismark to help those injured at work - cover those suffering from occupational diseases
    • 1927- A national unemployment insurance system - introduced to provide benefits for the unemployed, financed by contributions from workers and employers
  • Welfare system promised more than it delivered and was very expensive
  • 1926- state was supporting 800,000 disabled war veterans, 360,000 war widows and over 900,000 war orphans, in addition to old age pensions and after 1927 unemployment benefits.
  • Means tests were tightened up- trying to keep expenditure down and snoopers were used to check claimants were not cheating the system.
  • Those in need of support felt humiliated by welfare system- undermined support for Weimar.
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Living standards and lifestyles

  • Living standards for millions of Germans improved between 1924-28
  • Those in work, represented by powerful trade unions were able to maintain living standards by negotiating wage increases
  • Those dependent on welfare benefits were less well off, but poverty prevented by welfare system
  • Business owners and their salaried employees benefitted from improved trading system for German companies during this time 
  • Many had lost their savings in the hyperinflation crisis and were unable to regain the once comfortable lifestyles they once had.
  • Farmers suffered from low prices and poor trading conditions 
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Position of Women

  • Much talk about the 'New Woman'- symbolised the way women's lives had changed since WW1
  • New woman= free, independent, sexually liberated and increasingly visible in public life
  • Weimar Constitution had given women equality with men in voting rights, in access to education, equal opportunities in civil service appointments and equal pay.
  • Population unbalanced- more females - over 2 million males died in the war- fewer opportunities for women to follow conventional path of being a housewife- war had brought more women into employment to replace the men that had been lost
  • Extent of change shouldn't be exaggerated- not all Germans and women approved of the changes and the traditional Civil code of 1896 remained in force- code stated that in marriage the husband had the right to decide all matters concerning family life - including whether his wife should enter paid employment
  • League of German Women (BDF) had 900,000 members - promoted family values and maternal responsibilities- echoed by conservative parties and by the churches and catholic centre party.
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Young People

  • Mostly working-class young people were turning towards anti-social behaviour and crime as if they were not to attend the selctive Gymnasium schools, then they would have to find apprenticeships and unemployment at 14 - fewer apprenticeships and employment opportunities available
  • Young people sufferered from the rise in unemployment after 1924- in 1925-26 17% of the unemployed were in the 14-21 age category- partly because of a baby boom between 1900-10 so there were more young people competing for jobs at a time when businesses were reducing their workforces
  • Benefits system assisted some young people and day centres were established to help youths acquire work skills- couldn't compensate for lack of employment opportunity
  • Many young Germans joined gangs to find the comradeship, mutual support and sense of adventure that was lacking in their lives.
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Young People- Youth Groups

  • Wandervogel
    • set up by a Berlin teacher- consisted mainly of middle-class boys- non political, but nationalistic. Hated industrialisation and big cities- spent most of their time hiking in forests, swimming in lakes and rivers and sleeping under canvas.
    • Rejected middle-class social conventions and sought freedom of wild spaces- some adopted unconventional lifestyles of nudism and vegetarianism
  • Church youth groups- Catholic and protestant - 'New Germany' was founded in 1919, aimed at middle-class youths. Protestants had fewer members in their groups - tasks of the youth were to promot religious observance  and instill respect for family, church and school.
  • Political youth groups- Hitler Youth- growth was slow in 1920s including about 13,00 members in 1929. Young communist league -founded in 1925 for children of KPD members. The Bismark Youth founded in 1922- linked to DNVP- reached membership of 42,000 by 1928.
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The Jews

  • There were more than 500,000 living in Germany during the Weimar republic
  • 80% lived in cities and were well educated
  • Many were intensely patriotic and felt more German than Jewish and they believed in assimilation- keeping their ethnic and cultural identity, but becoming fully integrated and accepted in German society.
  • Jews only represented 1% of the total population
  • Jews achieved prominence in politics, the press, business, banking, in the universities and in almost all aspects of Weimar culture
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Jews in Politics and the press

  • Jewish publishing firms had a powerful influence in the media
  • There were two jewish-run newspapers that were particularly influential in promoting liberal political views; the Berliner Tageblatt and the Frankfurter Zeitung
  • Theodore Wolff, editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, was the driving force behind the DDP and Walter Rathenau (leading member of the DDP), who became foreign minister in 1922
  • Jews were also prominent in the SPD and and the KPD
  • Rosa Luxemburg, Hugo Haase and Kurt Eisner came from Jewish Backgrounds.
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Jews in Industry, commerce and professions

  • Jews achieved wealth and influence in industry and commerce, but the extent of it was exaggerated by anti-jewish propaganda.
  • Rathenau family controlled the electrical engineering firm AEG until 1927.
  • Jewish firms dominated coal-mining, steelworks and chemical industry in silesia, but had little importance in the western industrial areas like the Rhineland or Ruhr.
  • Jewish banking families such as the Rothschild owned about 50% of private banks
  • Jewish directors managed several major public banks also.
  • However, in the 1920s the role of Jews in banking was declining
  • Banks owned by Jews made up about 18% of the banking sector in Germany- considerably less than the proportion owned by Jews before 1914
  • Jews owned around half of the firms involved with cloth trade
  • Jews were successful in the professions of law and medicine- made up 16% of lawyers and 11% of doctors- high amounts in Berlin
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The extent of assimilation and anti-semitism

  • Vast majority of German jews wished to assimilate
  • Many jews looked like other Germans and married non-jewish spouses
  • Chief factor in limiting the degree of Jewish integration was the reluctance of many Germans to stop identifying jews
  • Between 1918-24 there was a backlash against the perceived threat of Jewish Bolshevism- events like the Spartacus uprising in Berlin encouraged the idea that Jews were related to commnism and were dangerous to German values
  • Anti-semitism was part of the violent nationalism and right-wing movements such as the Freikorps and the NSDAP, formed in 1920
  • Hostility towards jewish financers during the hyperinflation crisis during 1923
  • During the golden age and economic recovery, anti-semitism was pushed to the fringes of society and political life
  • There was still opposition, making frequent accusations of corruption and exploitation by jewish bankers and business men -Barmat brother scandal 1925- bribed public officials to obtain loans from prussian state bank
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Development of arts and culture in the Weimar Repu

  • New political and social freedom in Weimar Germany gave rise to an era of experimentation and innovation in the arts.
  • Germany in the 1920s experienced an explosion of creativity in art, architecture, music, literature, film and theatre.
  • Not all Germans welcomed the new changes and developments in culture and there was ongoing tension between modernists and conservatives.
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Berlin's Nightclubs

  • Vibrant nightlife in Berlin, especially in the more prosperous years after 1924
  • Berlin nightclubs renowned for their cabarets and the use of nudity in them
  • Gay men, Lesbians and transvestites, who before 1918 were forced to conceal their sexuality, now felt free to display it openly
  • American jazz music became popular
  • Many of the comedians in the clubs attacked political figures and authoritarian attitudes
  • Many traditionalist regarded the nightlife scene as horrific, they hated the influence of the USA on German cultural life
  • They felt that order and discipline had been destroyed in the revolution of 1918
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Art

  • The most predominant movement in art during this time was Expressionism
  • It was associated with the artists; Kandinsky, Grosz and Marc.
  • Expressionist painters believed that art should express emotion and meaning instead of reality
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Music

  • Expressionism also influenced German classical composers like; Hindemith and Schoenberg
  • Schoenberg attempted to convey powerful emotions in music and avoided traditional views of beauty
  • Associated with atonal music- lacks a key and sounds harsh.
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Literature

  • Expressionism also influenced this
  • Novelists and poets focussed on the internal mental state of their characters rather than the external reality
  • Revolt against parental authority was a common theme
  • Leading German writer for the period was Thomas Mann, who won a nobel prize in 1929 for his Literature
  • Mann was a supporter of the Weimar Republic, so much so that he moved to Switzerland when the Nazis came to power
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Architecture

  • Founding of Bauhaus by Gropius in 1919 was a key development of modernist art in Germany
  • Students were encouraged to break down barriers between art and technology by incorporating materials such as steel, concrete and glass into their designs
  • Stripped away was the superfluous ornamentation.
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Theatre

  • Dramatist also influenced by expressionism
  • Sets were stark and plays relied on abstraction and symbolism to convey their message
  • Much experimental theatre in Germany was explicitly political, attacking capitalism, nationalism and war.
  • Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill developed a new form of musical theatre called the Threepenny Opera, a savage left-wing satire that treated respectable middle-classes as villains and made heros out of criminals and prostitutes. 
  • They were attacked by the right as 'cultural Bolsheviks'
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Film

  • Berlin became an important centre for world cinema, developing modern techniques that would later be exploited by Nazi propaganda
  • Important figures of jewish descent in the German industry included Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Josef von Sternberg
  • Sternberg directed the best-known film of the Weimar era.
  • Morals became looser in film and sexuality was more obvious
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