Ch1: How strong was Weimar Germany in the 1920s?

  • Created by: nataliak
  • Created on: 13-03-17 19:42

What were the consequences for Germany of defeat in the First World War?

In 1918 Germany had launched a massive attack against the British and French troops in France. At first, the launch was successful but then the growing strength of Allies who had the increasing support of American troops, ensured that the German advance would come to a stop. On 29 September 1918, the army general Ludendorff informed both his superiors that the war was lost and the only solution was an armistice. As a consequence, Ludendorff urged the creation of a democratic regime.

Many Germans were surprised with the defeat, despite being blockaded by the British. The German Admiralty opposed an armistice and responded with attacking British fleet which did not work out. Over the following days, soldiers' and workers' councils sprang up in large cities, creating a revolution.

William II abdicated on the 9th of November, passing the power to Ebert, who was the first president of the Reich as well as the leader of the SPD party at the time. Many noted that Germany was on the verge of having a revolution comparable to that of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

Ebert has concluded that a revolution would disrupt demobilisation, the vital distribution of food to the starving population and the preparations for the coming peace negotiations. To maintain order and to avoid further slipping into the revolution, he refrained in the aftermath of defeat from creating a new army force or in place of the army, so that he would have their support. In addition, he was helpped with the country's industrialists who negotiated with the trade unions regarding an eight-hour working day and to establish workers' councils in all companies with an employee number higher than 50.

The far left wing, including the Spartacists, wanted to have a soviet system of government rather than an elected parliamentary system. They also wanted the formation of a Red Army and the nationalisation of all large farms and key industries. To support their cause, they'd organise strikes and demonstrations, but it only made the SPD more determined to control the unrest.

However it soon became clear, at the first Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils' meeting in december 1918 that the majority of Germans did not want a revolution. A new parliamentary republic and the election of a government was therefore decided on.

The Spartacists responded to this through a 7 day revolt, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. They attempted to seize power in Berlin but were repressed by the Freikorps and the military. Rosa and Karl were murdered on January 15th.

In the elections of 1919, the SPD, the Centre and the DDP formed a coalition and won the majority. To avoid the threats of riots in Berlin, they met at Weimar. The SPD provided the first president of the Reich, Ebert and the chancellor, Scheidemann. The immediate tasks to be performed by the government were to negotiate a peace treaty as well as…


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