The Weimar Republic

Economic and financial problems that the WP faced

The Weimar govt was burdened with a terrible financial and economic legacy:

  • Germany's national debt has risen from 5000 million marks to 144,000 million  marks from 1913 to 1919. 
  • To fund the war, Germany used short-term loans and printed more money. 
  • This led to the value of the mark against the dollar to fall from 4.20 marks to 14.00 marks. 
    • By 1920, a dollar was worth 100 marks. 
  • To control inflation, the options were to increase taxation and/or by cutting expenditure. 
    • However, the govt did not chose these because of the fear that it would make them unpopular. 
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Economic and financial problems that the WP faced

Germany also faced severe economic problems:

  • Germany lost most of its merchant shipping, its fishing fleet and all its property in Allied territories (as a result of the First World War).
  • The Allied blockade worsened an already dire food supply situation, which did not end until the signing of the ToV. 
  • By the terms of the ToV, Germany lost:
    • nearly 15% of its arable land
    • 75% of its iron ore
    • 68% of its zinc ore
    • 1/4 of its coal production. 
  • In 1919, Germany's manufactoring output was 30% lower than it was in 1914. 
  • They had a large trade decifit.
  • They also faced the difficulties of re-adjusting a war economy to the requirements of peace. 
  • The enormous reparation payments demanded by the Allies in 1921, did not help the economic and financial problems. 
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The threat from the left

After the revolution of 1918-19, Socialist politics remained a state of confusion:

  • The SPD was committed to parliamentary democracy.
    • Whereas, thr KPD took its lead from Bolshevik Russia, and pressed for proletarian revolution. 
  • The USP pressed for the creation of a socialist soceity within a democratic framework (therfore they were caught in the middle).
    • However, the USPD had come to an end in December 1920. 
    • Therefore, its members either joined the KPD or the SPD. 
  • As a result, the KPD has around 400,000 memebers by 1920. 
  • They wanted to ovethrow the Weimar Republic and establish a one party Socialist state, which would restructure Germany's social and economic fabric. 
  • This frightened many Germans, but the threat of the KPD was exaggerated. 
  • This is because they were unable to win the mass support of the working classes. 
  • Therefore they proved to be incapable of mounting a unified attack on the WP.
  • The repression they had endured, at the hands of the Freikorps, in 1919, had removed some of their most dedicated supporters.
  • The suppression of the Spartacists, by Ebert's govt, was neither forgotten or forgiven by the extreme left. 
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The threat of the right

The threat of the right:

  • Right wing political forces rejected the Weimar system and its democratic principles completely.
  • They wanted a strong govt, attack the Versailles settlement.
  • They had a considerable success in propagating the notion that the army had been 'stabbed in the back' in 1918, by the 'Novemeber Criminals.'

The right was divided between:

  • Conservatives and radicals. 
  • The Conservatives wished to restore the monarchy, and tended to join the National Party (DNVP).
    • The DNVP was a coalition of nationalists forces, including old imperial conservative parties, along with the Fatherland Party and the Pan-German League. 
    • It remained the party supporting landowners, employers and middle class institutions (the army, civil service, the judiciary and the education system).
  • Large numbers of army officers, bureaucrats, judges and professors were actively hostile to the new Republic. 
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The threat of the right part 2

After 1918, radical right wing groups had little sympathy with the Conservatives:

  • They were anti-democratic, anti-Semitic and anti-Socialist.
  • They wanted to smash the Republic.
  • Many ex-soldiers, in the Freikorps, were attracted to the radical right. 
  • Extreme right wing groups were particularly active in Bavaria. 
  • In September 1919, Adolf Hitler joined the German Workers' Party (a right wing group in Munich).
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