Unit 2 Section A Germany 1919-29

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Economic and Political Effects of WW1

Political Effects:

Germany was now an unstable, democratic republic:

  • War stress and anger led to a revolution in October-November 1918.
  • Ex-soldiers and civilians hated new democratic leaders and believed that leader Field Marshal Hindenburg had been betrayed by weak politicians.
  • Germany was used to having a strong, decisive leader, so the Weimar Republic was seen as unpopular and weak.

Physical Effects:

  • Farmers had been drafted in to armed forces, therefore farming was greatly disrupted.
  • Germany was only producing 50% of the milk and 60% of the butter and meat that it had been producing before.
  • Food could not be imported, as Britain controlled the sea, and their fleets had blocked the ports.
  • All of the above made civilians vulnerable to disease and 3/4 of a million citizens died form illness and starvation.
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Social and Economic Effects of WW1

Social Effects:

The war had deepened divisions in German society:

  • HUGE gaps between living standard and wealth of rich and poor.
  • German workers bitter at restrictions placed on their earnings during the war (factory OWNERS had made vast fortunes from the war).
  • Whilst men had been at war, women had been called up to work in factories, and had continued to work their after the war, due to the lack of men. Many people thought this damaged traditional family values and society.
  • The War had made people angry - they needed a scapegoat to blame for its problems

Economic Effects:

Germany was virtually bankrupt:

  • War left 600,000 widows and 2 million children without fathers, so by 1925 the state was forced to spend about 1/3 of its already depleted budget on war pensions.
  • National income was about 1/3 of what it had been in 1913.
  • Industrial production was about 2/3 of what it had been in 1913.
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Treaty of Versailles: Expectations

Germany had reasons to hope that the peace treaty would not be too harsh:

  • They had obeyed the Allies by getting rid of the Kaiser, and democratically electing a new government who could not be blamed for the war.
  • The new democracy needed support, and a harsh treaty would make it difficult to create a stable government.
  • President Woodrow Wilson, one of the Big Three, wanted a fair treaty that did not treat Germany too harshly, as he feared that this would anger Germany and lead to another war.
  • Germany felt it was not to blame for the war, they had been forced into it by the way other countries had acted, and all countries should bear equal blame - it did not expect to be punished as the guilty party.
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Treaty of Versailles: Reality

When the Allies drew up the Treaty in 1919, the emphasis was on punishing Germany. The French in particular wanted to weaken Germany so it could never invade France again. Germany was not invited to the negotiations - they had to sign it, as they could not afford another war:

  • Germany was given the blame for starting the war in the War Guilt clause, even though they had seen it as self defence.
  • They had to pay £6600 million in reparations, as well as 10% of their industry and 15% of its land. Could Germany even afford it?
  • The Military was greatly restricted: the air force was disbanded, the army was limited to 100,000 men, the navy was limited to 15,000 sailors, only six battleships and no submarines and the Rhineland would be occupied by the Allies for 15 years - this humiliated Germany as it had once had one of the strongest military forces around.
  • Germany lost 13% of its land and about six million of its population, and its overseas colonies in Africa
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The Weimar Constitution

  • A Bill of Rights guaranteed every German citizen freedom of speech and religion, and equality under the law.
  • All men and women over the age of 20 were given the vote. This was even better than Britain where only women over 30 could vote.
  • There was an elected president and an elected Reichstag (parliament).
  • The Reichstag made the laws and appointed the government, which had to do what the Reichstag wanted.
  • However, hidden in the detail were two flaws that eventually destroyed the Republic:
  • Proportional representation - instead of voting for an MP, like we do in Britain, Weimar Germans voted for a party. Each party was then allocated seats in the Reichstag exactly reflecting (proportional' to) the number of people who had voted. 
  • This sounds fair, but in practice it was a disaster it resulted in dozens of tiny parties, with no party strong enough to get a majority, and, therefore, no government to get its laws passed in the Reichstag. 
  • This was a major weakness of the Republic.
  • Article 48 - this said that, in an emergency, the president did not need the agreement of the Reichstag, but could issue decrees. The problem with this was that it did not say what an emergency was, and in the end, it turned out to be a back door that Hitler used to take power legally.
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The Spartacist Uprising

Leaders: Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebkrecht (Left-wing)

Aims: Get a change of government, communism in Germany.

Actions: They captured the headquarters of the government's newspaper and the telegraph bureau in Berlin. It was badly prepared, and easily crushed.

Defeat: They were crushed by the Freikorps, and 100 Spartacists died, whereas only 13 Freikorps ded. The leaders were killed.

Damage caused towards the Republic: The government was put into the hands of the army and the Freikorps, neither of which were loyal to the Weimar Republic.

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The Kapp Putsch

Leader: Wolfgang Kapp (Right wing).

Aims: Get a change of government, a strong, single, powerful government, a nationalist government and get rid of the "November Criminals".

Action: Military takeover in Berlin.

Defeat: Workers went on strike and country ground to a halt.

Damage caused to the Republic: President Ebert forced to flee to Dresden, making the Weimar Republic look weak. Kapp went unpunished.

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1923 and Hyperinflation

Crisis 1 - The occupation of the Ruhr:

  • Germany did not pay its reparations, so the French and Belgian armies invaded the Ruhr and took its industry. 
  • The Germans in the Ruhr responded with a policy of passive resistance, and did not work or have anything to do with the French - this made them even poorer
  • Peaceful protests (strikes etc) began to occur all over Germany

Crisis 2 - Inflation:

  • The German government printed more money to pay the strikers to come back to work and for the costs of passive resistance in the Ruhr and the industry they were losing.
  • Even though they had been doing this in the Kaiser's government, Weimar got the blame and this led to more discomfort - money was now worth practically nothing
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Reasons for the Munich Putsch in 1923

Why did Hitler attempt a Putsch in 1923?

Reason 1: Close relationship with army leader Ludendorff, who if a push came to a shove could persuade the army to abandon the government and join the Nazis.

Reason 2: Support of the right-wing Bavarian government, whom Hitler was sure would support a Nazi putsch.

The trigger:

In September Stresemann's government called off passive resistance in the Ruhr and began to pay reparations. Right-wingers were angry, and this highlighted the weakness of the Weimar Republic.

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The Munich Putsch

8th November:

  • Hitler believed this was the optimal time for a PUTSCH. 
  • Gustav Kahr, head of the Bavarian government, was not so keen, and doubted whether the army would support it.
  • Hitler was furious at Kahr's hesitations and forced him to act.
  • on 8th November 1923 Kahr and his two most senior Bavarian officials were having a meeting with around 3000 business men at a beer hall.
  • Hitler and Goering arrived with 600 Stormtroopers.
  • Hitler stopped the meeting and took Kahr and his ministers into a side room at gunpoint where he persuaded them to support him 

9th November:

  • Hitler let Kahr go, and he fled, giving them no support whatsoever.
  • The Weimar government ordered the Bavarian government to crush the Putsch
  • Hitler continued, hoping he could persuade the police and the army to join him with Ludendorff's help
  • Met by the army who fired on them, Hitler fell, dislocated his shoulder and fled. Ludendorff was arrested then, and Hitler two days later
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Stresemann's Golden Age - Politics


  • More stable government, Social Democrats joined with other parties committed to the Republic.
  • Middle class parties were no longer suspicious of the Socialists
  • Stresemann was a constant, and uprisings were rare


  • the fragile coalition government could not keep the support of the Reichstag.
  • It was too right-wing for Socialists, too moderate for Nationalists
  • 25 governments in 14 years, elected by proportional representation.
  • Hindenburg, who hated the Weimar Republic, was elected President in 1925
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Stresemann's Golden Age - Economy


  • The Dawes Plan: the basis for German recovery. In 1924, Germany was lent lots of money by America. Charles Dawes negotiated 800m marks to be lent to Germany.
  • By 1930 Germany was one of the world's leading exporters of manufactured goods.


  • Depended on Germany's loans which could be easily withdrawn
  • Big unemployment problem
  • Employers complained about taxes
  • Big gap between rich and poor
  • Effects of inflation still felt
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Stresemann's Golden Age - Foreign Policy


  • 1925 - Germany signed the Locarno Treaty with Britain, France and Italy which guaranteed frontiers with France and Belgium.
  • 1926 - joined the League of Nations
  • 1928 - Kellogg-Brimd Pact - France wanted USA to protect it, but the USA wasn't keen
  • They changed it to a treaty that renounced war, most countries signed it and Germany was forgiven and treated like an equal.


  • The Locarno Treaty didn't apply to all countries, only western borders not eastern, so Nazis could invade.
  • The Treaty of Versailles remained unchanged.
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Stresemann's Golden Age - Miscellaneous


  • Paintings, Cinema, Music, New buildings, technology, nightclubs, transvestite balls, theatre
  • Censorship gone
  • Especially in Berlin, people were becoming freer about homosexuality and other issues that were previously "taboo"


  • Germany was seen as sleazy and sex obsessed
  • Artists were despised and threatened by the Nazis
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