The Challenge of Fascism: From Kaiser to Fuhrer

  • Created by: Rachel
  • Created on: 28-03-13 15:30

The Background to the Unification of Germany:

  • Capital City of Germany = Berlin  
  • The city of the Beer Hall Putsch = Munich
  • The territory that still spoke French = Alsace-Lorraine
  • Where bombings of WW2 took place = Dresden 
  • Where Hitler made Jews subjects not citizens = Nuremburg
  • A Dictatorship was set up by Hitler after the death of President Hindenburg.
  • The Second Reich was a Democracy.
  • The Weimar Constitution stated that man and women over the age of 21 could vote. 
  • After the fall of the Seconf Reich, Socialism was widely supported by people. 
  • After the unification of Germany an outpouring of Nationalism was felt within Germany.

German Unification: End of 20C, Germany was a new Country which emerged from nationalism of 19C Europe. The two most powerful states, Prussia and Austria competed for leadership of Confederation. In 1834, Prussia set up free trade. In 1871, King Wilhelm of Prussia proclaimed as Kaiser of Germany. Germany became a nation state through violence and war; no treaties were in place and they were never truely one nation. 

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The Wilhelmine Political System Part One:

  • The Kaiser: 
    • Wilhelm did have some talents; original minded, excellent memory and charming, however her lacked powers of steady application and his moods and behaviour were liable to wild fluctuations. No major decision could be taken without his agreement. 
    • In the first decade of his reign he averaged 200 days per year travelling on official business or private recreation. 
  • The German Chancellors: 
    • Would be portrayed as lesser men, none dominated the political scene. They all lacked Bismarck's talent, prestige and Independance. 
    • Between 1890 and 1914 there were 4.
      • General Leo Caprivi (1890-1894)
      • Prince Chlodwig Hohenloe (1894-1900)
      • Bernhard Bulow (1900-1909)
      • Theobold Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917)
  • The Bundesrat: The upper house of the national parliament, was essentially a conservative body. It declined in influence after 1890 and introduced as Reichstag rather than the Bundesrat.
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The Wilhelmine Political System Part Two:

  • The Reichstag: Could discuss, amend, pass or reject government legislation, its power to initiate new laws was negligible. No party or coalition of parties ever formed the goverenment of the day. 
  • The Right Winged Parties: One most issues Wilhelm relied on the backing of the right-winged parties (the Conservatives, the Free Conservatives and the National Liberals). However after 1890, votes for this party was in decline = Imperial Government had to find support from other parties if legislation was to be ratified. 
  • The Centre Party: Consistently won between 90 and 110 seats, making it the largest party in the Reichstag.
  • The Social Democrat: The SDP appealed the Germany's growing industrial working class. In 1893 it won 25% of the popular vote. However, the SDP was far from united, in 1891 it adopted the Marxist programme to overthrow the Wihelme class system, but many SDP members favoured the parties minimum programme, other parties saw the SDP as a force for evil. 
  • Interest groups: These organisations were a symtom of escalating political participation, especially on the part of the middle class.
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Wilhelmine Germany 1890-1914 Part One:

  • The States: While the 25 Federal States retained control over many domestic matters, imperial authority inexorably gained at the expense of that of the states. The functions of the Reich government expanded, the social insurence schemes were Reich measures and tariffs were Reich issues, so were military and naval matters. 
  • Prussia: Was easily the Reich's largest State. Its state parliament, the Landtag, was elcted on a system of indirect balloting and a three-class male suffrage giving disproportionate political weight to the rich = conservation matters. 
  • The Army: Bismarck has fought hard to keep the military under political control. Military Chiefs had the support of Wilhelm. By 1914, the German Army was no longer Prussian dominated or aristocratically led as it had been under Bismarck (Most officers were middle class). Most civilians, by contrast, admired military virtues and had great faith in the army as an institution. 
  • The Structualist view: Wehler and fellow structuralists believed that Wilhelm II lacked the strength of character to determine a coherent and co-ordinated policy. Other forces began to dominate Germany; Junkers, Army Officers and Leading Civil servants and diplomats. These elites were determined to maintain their power.
  • The Anti-Structuralist view: exaggerates the unity of purpose within the elites. Junker Influence was in decline. 
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Wilhelmine Germany 1890-1914 Part Two:

  • Economic Change: By 1914 Germany had become Europe's industrial super power, and had almost caught up with Britain's level of Coal production and exceeded Britain's level of iron production. 
  • Domestic policies, Caprivi's 'new course' 1890: 
    • Leo Caprivi, a middle aged soldier had a good administrative record but little political experience.
    • He went out of his way in his first weeks as Chancellor to make concessions to socialists, Poles and Centrists. Caprivi pushed through a number of social measures; Sunday work was prohibited, Employment of Children under 13 was forbidden and women were forbidden to work more than 11 hours a week. 
  • Tariff Reform: The most important single measure Caprivi put before Reichstag was a bill to reform the 1879 tariff act. Caprivi negotiated a series of commercial treaties with Australia, Italy, Russia and a number of smaller areas between 1891 and 1894. The Agrarian League which formed in 1893 opposed Tariff Reform, it soon had 300,000 members. It won widespread support in eastern Prussia. 
  • Caprivi's Fall: Wilhelm pressed Caprivi to draw up new anti-socialist measures, Caprivi who was aware a new anti-socialist law would not be tolerated, refused and lost the Kaisers confidence, therefore he resigned in 1894.
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Wilhelmine Germany 1890-1914 Part Three:

  • The reorganisation of the Government: In 1897 there were three new government appointees; Admiral Tirpitz as Navy Secretary, Count Posadowsky-Wehner became Interior Minister, and Bernhard Bulow became Foreign Minister. 
  • Chancellor Bulow 1900-1909: Exerted a strong influence as Foreign Minister before becoming Chancellor in 1900. He effectively handled the Reichstag and his main interest was Foreign Policy. 
  • Social Reforms: Were an extension of accident insurence, a law making industrial courts compulsory and extended prohibition of child labour. 
  • The end of the Bismarckian System: Bismarck's resignation was a crucial event in German Foreign Policy. In March 1890, Caprivi and Holstein allowed the Reinsurence Treaty to lapse. They believed it was incompatible with Germany's other commitments, especially to Austria. Wilhelm hoped to ally with Britain. Bismarck thought that the failure to sign the Reinsurance Treaty was an act of Criminal stupidity as it pushed Russia towards a friendship with France. 
  • The Dual Alliance: Wilhelm, worried by the growth of socialism, quickly regretted his anti-Russian attitude. He was soon on excellent terms with his cousin Tsar Nicholas II. The Dual Alliance meant that Germany now faced the prospect of a war on two fronts.
  • Anglo-German relations 1890-1898: Germany's diplomatic position would have strengthened if it had reached an understanding with Britain. 
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  • Weltpolitik was a vision of Germany's future, supported by large numbers of ordinary Germans, and the decision to persue Weltpolitik in 1897 was a vital movement.
  • Industrialisation had created economic demands for the acquisition of raw materials and markets beyond Europe. In the 1890s radical nationalists formed pressure groups like the Pan-German League and the Navy League, popularising the message of Weltpolitik. 
  • Weltpolitik was a deliberate attempt to make Germany into a World Power on par with Britain. It meant expanding Germany's Navy, creating a large colonial empire and supporting that henceforward no major colonial issues must be decided without Germany having a say in it. 
  • Anglo-German Rivalry: The Navy was to be a direct challenge to Britain - the lever with which it would be forced to respect Germany. This was a serious miscalculation. Britain felt threatened, but was not prepared to be intimidated. 
  • Naval Expansion: The decision to expand the German navy was of central importance to Weltpolitik. The 1898 Naval Bill, which proposed to building 16 major ships was finally carried by 212 votes to 139. Opposition of the right believed money would be best spent on the army and left opposed any increase in military spending. 
  • Germany and Britain: In 1904 Britain sign a entente with France. The Entente was an understanding. Germany's hopes that Britain would be dragged into war soon fell.
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The Constitution of the Second Reich Part One:

  • Liberalism: Political thought, Equality, working class reform. 
  • Socialism: Equality, working class, people should be a part of decisions. 
  • Constitution: A set of key rules and laws. 
  • Fascism: Rightwinged political thought (Extreme), very nationalist. 
  • The Kaiser: Always was to be the Prussian King.
    • Held full control over foreign and diplomatic policy.
    • The Kaiser appointed and dismissed the Chancellor and had the power to dissolve the Reichstag. The Kaiser was the guardian of the constitution.
  • The Chancellor: Was responsible to the Kaiser as Chief minister of the Reich.
    • As well as being Chancellor of the Federal State, he was minister -president of Prussia.
    • The Chancellor could ignore the resolutions passed by the Reichstag.
  • The Bundesrat: Was the the Upper house of the federal parliament and consisted of 58 members.
    • The Bundesrat was part of the law-making process and was, in theory, able to change the constitution.
    • It was created by Bismarck to act as a possible barrier to radical legislation. The Bundesrat could veto legislation if 14 or more of its members voted against a bill.
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The Constitution of the Second Reich Part Two:

  • The dominence of Prussia was assured by the fact that it held 17 of the 58 seats in the Bundesrat.
  • The Reichstag: Had joint legislative power with the bundesrat.
    • Its most significant power was that it had control over the defence budget, it was to become the most significant federal government expenditure.
    • The Reichstag was also able to pass an annual budget. HOWEVER, this power was reduced by Bismarck.
    • Even though the Reichstag could be dissolved by the Kaiser it could not be dismissed indefinitely and it had the right to hold elections soon after dissolution.
    • Had limited powers to initiate legislation.
    • In order to ensure that only a certain class of person stood for election to the Reichstag, Bismarck included the stipulation that members would not be paid. 
  • The Army: Bismarck made the army directly responsible to the Kaiser.
    • The Kaiser appointed the Military Cabinet (made up of senior military figures)
    • The General staff organised all military affairs (they would be chosen by the Military Cabinet. 
    • The Army swore an oath of alliance only to the Kaiser not to the state.
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The Constitution of the Second Reich Part Three:

The Strengths and Weaknesses:


  • Elected Body.
  • Well Structured.
  • Difficult for people to rebel.


  • Not really powerful.
  • Some had more power than others, too rigid.
  • Too much control.
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The Political Parties in Germany 1890-1914:

  • Conservatives, Right Wing: Supported the Kaiser, disipline and authority; in favour of a nationalist foreign party. Represented Junkers, landed interest especially in Prussia.
  • Free Conservatives, Right Wing: Similar to the Conservatives; strong supporters of Bismarck and protectionism. Represented commercial, industrial and wealthier professional classes.
  • National Liberals, Left Wing: Nationalist; believed in a strong nation state and encouragement of a state with a liberal constitution; supported attack on the Catholic church. Represented Industrial middle class and protestant middle class.
  • Liberal Progressives, Left Wing: In favour of the development of parliamentary government; not so keen on Bismarck's idea of the power of the nation state. Represented middle class.
  • Centre Party, Middle Wing: Opposed Bismarck's attack on the Catholic church, the 'Kulturkampf'; feared rise of communism; anti-Prussia. Represented the Catholic church and its members, non-socialist working class, and middle and lower middle class.
  • Social Democrats, Left Wing: Split; Marxist argued for revolution and non-cooperation with the political system; reformists argued that the party should work within the political system to achieve social reform. Represented Working classes after Bismarck's Anti-socialist laws lapsed in 1890.
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Economic Pressure after 1900


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Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg

Flottenpolitik: The New Policy of building up the German Navy.
Sammlungspolitik: Concentrated politics.
Weltpolitik: World politics/foreign policy.

  • Reform the Prussian voting system.
    • Opposed by conservatives, warped and unfair. Every 60,000 votes = 1 seat.
    • More tax paid = more their vote was worth.
    • FAILURE: proposal was dropped.
  • Seizing estates that belonged to poles.
    • Opposed by Poles, Hollwegg wanted to redistribute land to German peasantry.
    • SUCCESS: Local German landowners and peasants benefitted. 
  • Imperial Insurence code introduced.
    • Opposed by employers and government.
    • SUCCESS: Social reform. People who could bot work would now be paid.
  • Introduced a constitution for Alsace-Lorraine 1911.
    • French people of Alsace-Lorraine opposed.
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The Zabern Affair 1913:

1870: Germany and France war. Chancellor wants to make Alsace-Lorraine German and no longer French. 

The position of Alsace-Lorraine had initially been designated as 'Reichland Elsass Lothringen' in 1871. The Treaty of Frankfurt in October 1872, residents of the region were given the option to emigrate or take German nationality. In November 1913 a young officer, Forstner (German) stationed in Zabern made rude remarks about the locals to his troops which was then printed in the press. The Governer of Alsace-Lorraine (Karl von Wedel) tried to have Forstner transferred but this was refused by von Reuter who later had towns people who jeered at Forstner imprisoned. Throughout the affair the Kaiser refused to see Wedel and accepted explanations of the events which underplayed incidents. Government made no interegation. 

The Zabern Affair shows that the Reichstag had gained some power, their influence had grown. However, it shows the limits to their influence e.g. the Reichstang's vote of no confidence was simply ignored by the Chancellor. 

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What was the extent of Constitutional change 1900-

  • Constituency boundaries 1871:
    • Changing role of the Reichstag and voting system.
  • The Kasier:
    • Reichstag will now challenge him.
  • Parties as interest groups:
    • SPD move towards social reform.
  • No great move by 1914 towards parliamentary democracy.
  • Constituency boundaries (1871) benefitted conservative and liberal parties. Therefore SPD members of the Reichstag tended to represent more constituents than National Liberals.
  • Elections were not decided on the popular vote.
  • 1907, the centre party and SPD received 3 million more votes than the Bulow block but still gained less seats.
  • No political party was prepared to challenge the power of the monarchy.
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How did Germany start the First World War?

TRIPLE ALLIANCE: Britain, France and Russia.
TRIPLE ENTENTE: Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary.

Controversy Number 1: To what extent was Germany to Blame for World War One?

This will be examined in Part B of the exam:
- Main events leading to War.
- Factors that caused the war: Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, Nationalism, Economics and Assassinations.

To What extent can Germany be Blamed? Arguments For and Against.
- Historical Interpretations.
- Why might historians disagree?

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The 'New Course' German Foreign Policy after 1890:

  • How was the New Course different from what had gone before?
    • Wilhelm II refused to renew the Reassurance Treaty between Germany and Russia that guaranteed that each country would not attack the other. 
    • Move towards Vienna, Austria-Hungary for alliances.
    • Moved towards Vienna for Nationalistic purposes.
  • Bismarck described the decision to scrap the Reassurance Treaty with Russia as "Criminal Stupidity". Why might he be correct?
    • Russia could now attack, they are much bigger/powerful.
    • Russia was a rich, vast Country with a big population.
    • Germany decided to isolate itself towards a more German surrounding. 
    • Austria-Hungary was smaller.
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The Schlieffen Plan


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I think you have got the members of the triple alliance and entonte mixed. Very good though thanks for the revision slides

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