Weimar Republic 1918-1933 GCSE Edexcel History 2A

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Treaty of Versailles-Germany

  • Guilt: By article 231, Germany had to accept full blame for WWI.
  • Armed forces:
    • 100k in the army with conscription banned, and 15 men in the navy.
    • 6 battleships, 6 cruisers, 12 torpedo boats, 12 destroyers, no subs allowed.
    • No airforce allowed, and the Rhineland was demilitarised.
  • Reparations: £6.6 billion, this final figure was set in 1921.
  • German Territory:
    • Alsace and Lorraine were given to France, and Eupen and Malmedy were given to Belgium.
    • Lost all colonies-13% European territory was lost, as well as nearly 50% iron and 15% coal reserves lost.
    • Upper Silesia voted to join Poland, and Northern Schleswig was given to Denmark.
    • West Prussia, Posen and the Polish Corridor were given to Poland.
  • Leage of Nations: This was set up as an international government to settle disputes by discussion rather than war.
  • Extra: Anschluss (Union) with Austria was banned.
  • Reactions: Rumours said that it wasn't the army that was defeated; politicians had betrayed Germany, and this was known as the Dolchstoss. The new chancellor, Ebert, had lost 2 sons in the war and never accepted defeat. Politicians who signed the Treaty were called the November Criminals, this resentment following until collapse in 1933.
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Weimar Republic

  • The start: Ebert slowly took control when the Kaiser left and extreme political parties clashed with the army; civil servants stayed in their post, and 6 moderate social democrats made a council of People's Representatives, a temporary govt. who organised elections for the National Assembly, and met in February 1919 to make the constitution. There was a lot of unrest in Berlin so they met in Weimar, calling it eventually the Weimar Republic, and the constitution was drawn up in 1919.
  • President: The figurehead, not involved in day to day politics, and was elected every 7 years. He chose the chancellor and could suspend the constitution under 48, and could pass laws by decree. He could dismiss the Reichstad and call new elections and he controlled the army.
  • Chancellor: This was the head of govt., and needed majority in the Reichstag to pass laws.
  • Reichstag: This was the central government, where members were elected every 4 years, and any man or woman over 20 years could vote by secret ballot. Voting was done using proportional representation, where the percentage of votes a party got guaranteed the number of seats it got in the Reichstag.
  • Reichstrat:  This was the local parliament, run by the 18 regions of Germany like Bavaria and Prussia. Members from each region were chosen according to the size of the region, and it could delay new laws unless overruled by 2/3 of the Reichstag.
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Friedrich Ebert was elected by the Assembly as the first president, carefully gaining the support of powerful groups in society:
    • Promised General Groner, the head of the army, that there'd be no reform on the army.
    • Reassured industrialists' leader Hugo Stirmes, that there'd be no nationalism put on private busineeses.
    • Ensured support of trade unions by promising the leagder, Karl Legen that there'd be a maximum 8 hour working day.
    • Opposition and protests were finally being overcome.
  • Weaknesses:
  • Proportional representation meant that even parties that had gained a small number of votes still got seats in the Reichstag, so for majority support, chancellors needed coalitions of several parties, which were usually the Social Democrats, the Democrats, the People's Party and the Centre Party.
  • However, everyone wanted different things, which made a stable government hard, and the careful balancing of powers made strong, decisive government by the chancellors very hard in times of crisis.
  • When compromise broke down, the chancellor had to ask the president to suspend the constitution under artyicle 48 and rule by decree.
  • Also, the president had too much power, which could very easily lead to a dictatorship.
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French Occupation of the Ruhr

  • German govt.-bankrupt from spending gold reserves in war, and the Treaty made it harder, depriving them of wealth-earning areas like coalfields in Silesa as well as the reparations.
  • Reductions were asked for but victors, especially Frnace, needed money to pay war debts to the USA, so by 1923 they couldn't pay anymore.
  • France got impatient and decided to take payment by sending troops into the Ruhr, confiscating raw materials, manufactured good and industrial machinery.
  • The government urged passive resistance, like strike, even sabotage, so France retaliated by sending in their own workers and arresting people.
  • Germany's army was nothing to France's 750,000 army.
  • It did France little good, but crippled Germany; 80% of their coal, iron and steel was based there, which increased Germany's debts and unemployment and caused shortages of goods.
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  • Shortages in goods meant that prices rose, and the government needed money to pay debts, but unemployment and failing factories meant that the government got less money from taxes.
  • Government income was a quarter of what was required, so more money was printed.
  • In 1923, 300 paper mills and 2000 printing shops were constructed just to print more money. This initially made it easier to pay reparations, but made inflation worse.
  • The more prices rose, the more money printed, making prices rise again.
  • A loaf of bread: 1921: 1 mark. 1922: 200 marks1923: 200,000 billion marks-hyperinflation.
  • Everyone had shortages, and German marks were worthless compared to foreign currency- 1918: £1=20 marks, Nov. 1923: £1= 20 billion marks. Foreign suppliers refused to accept marks for goods and imports dried up, causing shortages of food and other goods.
  • No one could buy what they needed, even if wages went up, and bundles of money had to be carries in baskets/wheelbarrows just to buy a loaf of bread.
  • Workers-paid twice a day so they could rush out and buy goods before prices rose.
  • Bartering started becoming more common. (Exchanging goods instead of with money)
  • Savings were hit the hardest; money in bank accounts, insurance policies and pensions became worthless, mostly affecting the middle class.
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Political Uprisings-Sparticist

  • This was an extreme left-wing uprising.
  • 6 January 1919, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, inspired by the Sparticists.
  • 100,000 communists marched on Berlin and took over key buildings like newspaper offices.
  • Chancellor Ebert and the defence minister, Gustav Noske, needed to put it down, but the regular army, the Reichswehr, were in no shape to put it down, and so they turned to the Freikorps.
  • The Freikorps were demobilised soldiers from WWI who had refused to give back arms. At this point, they numbered 250,000 and so could put the uprisings down effectively.
  • Thousands of communist supporters were arrested or killed, mainly in Berlin.
  • On 15th January, Rosa and Karl were found and both shot there by the Freikorps.
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Political Uprisings-Kapp Putsch

  • This was a right-wing uprising in 1920.
  • 5000 right-wing supporters of Dr Wolfgang Kapp marched on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic and bring back the Kaiser.
  • The rebels managed to control the city for a while, and the government fled to Dresden, encouraging people not to co-operate and to go on strikes.
  • Many people obliged, as they had socialist learnings and had no desire to see the return of the Kaiser.
  • Essential servies were halted, and Kapp realised that he couldn't govern and fled, but was caught and imprisoned, where he died.
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Recovery Under Stresemann-Economic Policies

  • President Ebert appointed him chancellor and foreign secretary in August 1923.
  • Stresemann was forced to resign the chancellorship in November, but remained as foreign secretary until 1929. He was supported by moderate left and right-wing parties.
  • Dawes Plan- April 1924
    • This addressed the issue of reparations, and was drawn up by Charles G. Dawes, an American banker. Annual payments were reduced to an affordable level, and American was to invest in German industry.
    • Stresemann called off passive resistance in the Ruhr and eventually the French withdrew.
    • As a result, industrial output trebled from 1923-28, fuelled by US loans.
    • Employment, imports and exports increased.
    • However, some hated that Germany were to pay reparations again, and that the fragile economy depended on the US.
  • Young Plan-1928
    • Drawn up by American banker Owen Young.
    • Reparations reduced to £2 billion, and Germany was given a further 59 years to pay, which reduced the annual amount that had to be paid, which made it possible to lower taxes and release spending power, boosting German industry and employment.
    • However, reparations were still £50 million per year, and now stretched to 1988. Extreme parties were incensed.
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Recovery Under Stresemann-Foreign Policies

  • Locarno Pact-Oct 1925
    • This was between Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Germany.
    • Germany agreed to keep it 1919 Versailles borders with France and Belgium, and the Allied troops left the Rhineland.
    • France promised peace with Germany, and it meant that Germany wasn't being dictated to anymore-seen more of as an equal.
    • It paved the way for Germany to join the League of Nations.
    • However, some hated that the hated Versailles borders had been confirmed.
  • Kellogg-Briant Pact-Aug 1928
    • This was between 65 countries, all agreeing not to use war to achieve foreign policy aims.
  • Confidence in the Weimar Republic grew even more when Paul von Hindenburg replaced Ebert as President-he was a former field marshal of the Kaiser, and was therefore a strong figurehead.
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Wall St. Crash and Great Depression

  • Stresemann died of a heart attack Oct 3 and just a few weeks later, share prices on Wall St. stock exchange in New York began falling. People's investments were falling in value and so they rushed to sell them before they fell further. On Black Thursday, 24th October, 13 million shares were sold, sending prices down further. Shares worth $20,000 in the morning were worth $1000 by the end of the day and in a week, investors lost $4 billion.
  • Economic Effects
    • Banks were major investors in shares and suffered huges losses. German banks lost so much that people feared they couldn't pay out money in bank accounts and so rushed to get money-some banks ran out of cash.
    • German and American banks desperately needed return of money they had loans, and companies which depended on these loans had to either reduce operations or close. German industrial output fell and unemployment rose.
    • The Great Depression was a disaster for export industries, but high employment meant that domestic demand for goods fell and unemployment rose further.
  • Social/political effects
    • Middle classes lost savings, companies and homes and workers became unemployed.
    • Weimar govt. couldn't do anything and the chancellor of 1930-32, Heinrich Bruining, proposed raising taxes to pay unemployment benifit, as well as reducing unemployment benifit. Right-wings, middle classes and the wealthy were against higher taxes, and left-wings and workers were against unemployment reducing.
    • Bruning's govt. depended on the coalition of parties, but it collapsed in 1930. In 1930, there were only 5 presidential decrees. 1931-44, 1932-66 and everything still went wrong. Bruning resigned in 1932.
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