Aftermath of World War One
- World War One lasted from 1914-1918. Fighting ended with armistice on November 11th 1918.
- The winners (Britain, France and the USA) imposed peace treaties on the losers - particularly Germany.
- Millions of people were dead or injured. Countries like Belgium and France were devastated - the main powers had spent too much money on the war.
- Many people wanted Germany to take all the blame, especially in Britain and France - so Germany and their allies weren't allowed to take part in the talks.
- Everyone wanted to make sure a war like this wouldn't happen again, but they couldn't agree on how to do this.
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Treaty of Versailles
- The peace settlement between the winners and Germany, known as the 'Treaty of Versailles', was signed in June 1919.
- Article 231 of the treaty said that Germany had to take the blame for the war - the War-Guilt Clause.
- Germany's arrmed forces were reduced to 100000 men, only volunteers, without armoured vehicles, aicraft or submarines, and only 6 warships.
- Germany was forced to pay £6600 million in reparations - payments for the damage caused. The amount was decided in 1921 but was changed later. It would have taken Germany until the 1980s to pay.
- Germany lost its empire - areas around the world that used to belong to Germany were now called mandates. They were put under control of countries on the winning side of the war by the League of Nations (organisation which aimed to settle international disputes peacefully).
- The German military banned from the Rhineland (an area of Germany on its western border).
- Germany hated the Treaty of Versailles because they couldn't afford reparations, lost industrial areas and could not rebuild, lost pride without armed forces, didn't accept guilt for starting the war, suffered an economic crisis, lost colonies, often now lived under foreign rule in new countries and didn't accept defeat.
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The Weimar Republic
- Kaiser Wilhem II had ruled the German Empire as a monarch. At the end of the First World War there was a period of violent unrest in Germany and the Kaiser was forced to abdicate in November 1918.
- In early 1919, a new government took power led by Friedrich Ebert - it changed Germany into a republic. It was set up in Weimar because there was violence in Berlin. Ebert became the first President, with Scheidemann as Chancellor.
- Ebert was leader of the Social Democratic Party, a moderate party of socialists. The new government was democratic - they believed the people should say how the country was run.
- The new German government wasn't invited to the peace conference in 1919 - and had no say in the Treaty of Versailles. At first, Ebert refused to sign the treaty but in the end he had little choice - Germany was too weak to risk restarting the conflict.
- Reichsrat (Upper house could delay measures passed by Reichstag), Reichstag - The new German parliament (elected by proprtional representation), President-elected every 7 years.
- Proportional representation is where the number of seats a party wins in parliament is worked out as a proportion of the number of votes they win. This was the system in Germany and it often led to lots of political parties in the Reichstag - making it harder to get laws passed.
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Weimar Republic Problems
- It was difficult to make decisions because there were so many different parties in the Reichstag.
- It was hard to pick a Chancellor who had the support of most of the Reichstag.
- The new government had to accept the Treaty of Versailles, so they were hated by many Germans because of their loss of territory, the 'war guilt' clause, the reparations, etc.
- There were many outbreaks of trouble and Ebert agreed to form the Freikorps, a body of soldiers to keep the peace.
- The Weimar Republic was set up in a time of defeat which made it unpopular from the start.
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Problems after World War One
- Thousands of people were poor and starving. An influenza epidemic had killed thousands.
- Many Germans denied they had lost the war and blamed the 'November Criminals' who had agreed to the Armistice and Treaty of Versailles.
- Others blamed for losing the war included the communists, the government and the Jews.
- The government was seen as weak and ineffective - the Treaty of Versailles had made living conditions worse in Germany.
- In 1919, the communists led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg tried to take over Berlin in the Spartacist Revolt - but they were defeated by the Friekorps.
- In 1920, some of the right-wing Freikorps themselves took part in the Kapp Putsch (Putsch means revolt) - led by Wolfgang Kapp, they took over Berlin to form another government. The workers staged a General Strike - Kapp gave up. The government didn't punish the rebels because many judges sympathised with people like Kapp.
- In 1922 Walter Rathenau was assassinated by former Freikorp members - he'd been Foreign Minister and was Jewish. Many Germans were now anti-Jewish/ anti-Semitic.
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- In 1923 Germany couldn't pay the reparations so France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr - the richest industrial part of Germany - to take resources instead.
- This led to fury in Germany , while workers in the Ruhr refused to work.
- German industry was devastated again, plunging the economyy into hyperinflation.
- Hyperinflation happens when production can't keep up with the amount of money there is, so the money keeps losing its value.
- For example, an egg was 1/4 Mark in 1918, 5000 Marks in August 1923 and 80 million Marks in November 1923.
Three Major Results of Hyperinflation
- Wages were paid twice a day before prices went up again.
- The middle classes lost out as bank savings became worthless.
- The German Mark became worthless.
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- Dawes Plan- USA lends money to Germany, Germany pays reparations, Britain and France pay back debts to USA.
- Stresemann was Chancellor for a few months, then Foreign Minister. He believed Germany's best chance for recovery came from working with other countries.
- In September 1923 he told the workers in the Ruhr to return to work.
- He accepted the Dawes Plan in 1924 and introduced more stable currency called Rentenmark.
- In 1925 the French and Belgian troops left the Ruhr.
- In October 1925 he agreed to the Locarno Treaty where the western borders of Germany were agreed, but not the eastern. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts.
- In 1926, Germany joined the League of Nations and became a permanent member of council.
- In 1928, Germany was one of 65 countries to sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact. They promised not to use violence to settle disputes.
- In 1929, the Young Plan replaced the Dawes Plan - reparations would be reduced by three-quarters of the amount and Germany was given 59 years to pay them.
- Some big industries (like coal, iron and steel) began to recover, providing jobs and improving the economy. However, some sectors of society remained poor, e.g. peasant farmers.
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- Life was beginning to look better for Germany thanks to the work of Stresemann but he died in October 1929, just before the Wall Street Crash (a massive stock market crash in the USA which started a global economic depression). The plans he had agreed would only work if the USA had enough money to keep lending to Germany but now it didn't. Things were suddenly getting worse again.
- Germany's capital Berlin became a centre for culture under the Weimar Republic.
- There were advances in art, architecture, music and literature. German films were successful.
- Some developments were bold and new, like the drama of Bertholt Brecht. The Bauhaus School of design was highly influential.
- The Weimar Republic encouraged new ways of critical thinking at places like Frankfurt Uni.
- Not everyone approved of these culturally changes - the cabaret culture in Berlin was seen as immoral by some. The culture of the Weimar Republic didn't survive under the Nazis.
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