IGCSE History Edexel: Germany 1919-1945

History: Germany

Topic 1: Establishment of the Weimar Republic and its early problems

Abdication of the Kaiser and German Revolution of 1918-19

Causes – Failure in WWI (2 million troops dead since 1914, people felt that the government had failed them; Germany had started the war confident of victory, but now defeat seemed near)

– Hardship caused by war (Allied navies blocked German coast, preventing imports and causing food shortages, influenza infection in Europe August 1918)

– Russian revolution of November 1917 (wanting to imitate this by replacing undemocratic rule of Kaiser with councils of workers and soldiers

Events – 29th October 1918: German sailors refused to set sail in bases of Wilhelmshaven and Keil

– 4th November, 40,000 sailors there took over docks and set up a workers’ and soldiers’

party

– Sparked similar revolutions across Germany (Hamburg, Bremen) and soldiers in Hannover refused to control rioters

– 7th November: thousands of Bavarian workers, led by Kurt Eisner, marched on state capital Munich. Local ruler, King Ludwig III, fled fearing his life

– 8th November: Eisner set up a workers’ and peasants’ council, declaring Bavaria a people’s state

– Around Germany, 4 kings, 5 dukes, and 12 princes fled fearing similar revolts

– In Berlin, Kaiser’s own ministers deserted him, and as defeat in war drew closer, Allies said they would only speak to representatives of the people

– 9th November: Kaiser agreed to abdicate and fled to Holland

– Social Democratic Party, Germany’s biggest party, formed new government with SDP leader Fredrich Ebert as Chancellor

Effects – 11th November: new government agreed on an armistice

– Germany had to give up land won in war, pull back troops within its borders 48 kilometres from France, and put navy under Allied control

– Political turmoil, as the new government and terms of armistice were divisive and unpopular

– By mid-1919, new government rules agreed on and state became known as the Weimar Republic

Strengths of Weimar republic and constitution

Weaknesses of Weimar Republic

Made Germany more democratic, with general elections every 4 years.

Proportional representation made it possible for extremists to gain seats in Reichstag, and parties had to form coalitions to gain seats in Reichstag. 28 different parties had seats during 1920s. However, parties within the coalitions wanted different things, leaving the government unstable.

Balancing of powers: Reichstag and Reichsrat, two houses of power, could check each other. Also two key offices, president and chancellor.

Careful balancing of powers made a strong, decisive government difficult in times of crisis. During crises, chancellor had to ask president to suspend constitution with Article 48 and rule by decree.

Ebert promised: no reform of the armed forces (support of army), no nationalisation of private businesses (support of companies, maximum 8-hour working day (support of trade unions)

Built on shaky foundations: extremists didn’t support it, moderates found it too weak.

Reactions to Treaty of Versailles

Terms of Treaty – Reparations £6.6 million

– Lost 11

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