The Rise of the Nazi Party
The Early Years: The Weimar Republic
In 1918, after Germany lost the First World War, the Kaiser resigned. The new government, the Weimar Republic, signed the hated Treaty of Versailles and had to cope with Germany's economic problems.
Many Germans held the Weimar government responsible for the Treaty of Versailles, the French invasion of the Ruhr (1923) and hyperinflation. there were attempts to overthrow it in 1919, 1920 and 1923. From 1924, the government recovered, mainly due to the work of Gustav Stresemann. First, he stabilised the currency and the economy, then he established better foreign relations. But the Depression of 1929 undid much of Stresemann's work.
The Nazi Party was one of several parties that gained support in the 1920s. By 1923, led by Adolf Hitler, it had its own private army (the SA) and tried to take over the government by force (the Munich Putsch). this failed and Hitler was imprisoned. On his release, the Nazis worked to be elected to power.
- The revolution of November 1918
- The Weimar Republic: everyone over 20 could vote
- Proportional Representation: method of voting chosen. It gave many political parties seats in the Reichstag. No single party had a majority, so the government was a coalition.
- Strengths of the new constitution: it was more democratic and central government was not all-powerful.
- Weaknesses of the new constitution: Free speech laws allowed unchecked criticism of the Weimar constitution. Coalition governments were often weak and collapsed.
- The Treaty of Versailles: The Weimar Republic was unpopular for signing both the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was not invited to treaty talks.
- The 'war guilt' clause: Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles made Germany accept that it was responsible for starting the first world war. It was the term many Germans most resented.
- Paying reparations: Put a huge strain on Germany's economy, already in difficulties because of the cost of the war and inflation. Germany found behind almost immediately as the £6,600 million set by the Allies was so high.
- Military Restrictions: No planes, no submarines, no troops in the Rhineland that bordered France, army limited to 100,000, navy limited to 15,000 and 6 battleships.
- Land losses: Alsace and Lorraine to France, Upper Silesia, Posen and West Prussia to Poland. All overseas colonies lost. Danzig, Memel and the Saar run by the League of Nations.
- Germans saw the Treaty of Versailles as unfair: They said the Weimar government had given the country a 'stab in the back' by signing it.
- Reasons for resentment: Most Germans did not want to accept war guilt, or pay reparations. They were humiliated by the occupation of the Rhineland and the ban of their troops. Germany lost 10% of its industry, and 15% of its farmland, weakening its economy.
- Widespread resentment: Many felt the Treaty was too harsh, US President Wilson tried to base the treaty on his 14 points which would have been fairer, but France…