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Was the Weimar Republic Doomed from its beginnings?

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Presentation on theme: "Was the Weimar Republic Doomed from its beginnings?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Was the Weimar Republic Doomed from its beginnings?

2 The Second Reich Hereditary Kaiser (emperor) Weak Reichstag Reichsrat
appoint/dismiss ministers at will Could dissolve Reichstag at will Head of the armed forces Especially revered in Prussian culture Responsible for Foreign Policy Weak Reichstag could not remove chancellor or government ministers Agree or reject laws proposed by Kaiser or his government Socialist SPD largest Socialist parliamentary group in Europe Reichsrat 26 state state governments Control over local affairs Could veto Reichstag legislation

3 First World War Muddled start to war Wave of nationalistic fervour
Pre-emptive strike due to Russian Mobilisation Wave of nationalistic fervour All parties pledge support for the war (including SPD) “Civic Truce” Socialist conference about war in Switzerland Pro-war versus anti-war Communists surprised at socialist support for armies Class war versus nationalism SPD expect political concessions from establishment in return for support Although prepared to wait until victory is achieved

4 War of Attrition Sclieffen Plan fails in 1914
Consumer goods sacrificed for Total War Black Market profiteers could provide goods (at a price) Royal Navy Blockade starts immediately Food supply problems Food riots Strikes Lawlessness Disease 1916 Hindenburg and Ludendorff take supreme command of war effort Above Reichstag, Chancellor and even Kaiser Popular move whilst German armed forces are doing well Conditioned Germans to expect victory through sacrifices being made

5 The War Drags On… German response to Blockade
Unlimited Submarine Warfare Not as effective as blockade Brings US into war Russian Revolution provides hope to the Germans Potentially frees up millions of German soldiers Turn down peace overtures from allies Confident of victory through their own efforts Negotiations with Bolsheviks drawn out Had to restart Eastern Front campaign in 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk punitive towards Russia Required vast manpower just to garrison newly acquired territory


7 1918 – Clutching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
Ludendorff Summer Offensive New tactics Storm-troopers infiltrating enemy lines Initially successful, massive advances Outskirts of Paris Amazed to find allies have significant supplies whilst their own rations / conditions were so poor US Allied counter-attacks easily recover German gains German forces out of emplacements Poor Morale Exhausted meagre supply chains


9 Staring Defeat in the Face!
German Army in full retreat 2 million dead 6 million wounded Blockade starving civilians and military alike Defeatism and collapse of morale Turks, Bulgarians, Austro-Hungarians all negotiating surrenders German High Command realise that defeat is imminent!

10 Deflecting Blame! September 29th
Generals suggest a new Civilian Government to negotiate an armistice with Allies Why?

11 Deflecting Blame! Generals suggest a new Civilian Government to negotiate an armistice with Allies Why? They knew that continuing the war was hopeless They could avoid some of the blame for losing the war German High Command was basically running Germany They felt that the Allies would be more sympathetic negotiating with Civilians rather than with Military Wilson!

12 Chancellor von Baden October 3rd First Job New Civilian Government
Led by Prince Max of Baden Full Reichstag Support Including liberals and socialists First Job To negotiate the armistice/surrender! Amenable to Wilson’s 14 points

13 I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view. II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants. III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance. IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety. V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined. VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy. VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired. VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all. IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality. X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development. XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into. XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees. XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant. XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

14 Wilson’s 14 Points US President Wilson seemed to offer more favourable terms with his 14 Points Compared to the vindictive French! Wilson refused to negotiate with Kaiser or with military autocrats Belief in Democracy and Democratic Governments But…France and Britain not keen on handing over negotiating rights to this Johnny come lately

15 The Deteriorating Situation: The Kiel Mutiny
German Navy had been starved of resources In port since Battle of Jutland, 1916 Bored sailors Poor morale High command order fleet to sea for one final desperate bid to unblock blockade Sailors refuse to follow orders October 28th Mutiny Red flags prevalent Influence of Russian revolution Soldiers hear of sailors’ mutiny German soldiers begin to mutiny, desert, surrender Discipline collapses across Western Front Government realise that defeat is imminent! Need to act to forestall a full scale Communist Revolution!

16 Speeding up of negotiations
5th November Wilson agrees to use 14 points But adds that Germany liable for all damage caused Baden government prevaricates French and British furious to find US negotiating without them November 9th Allies revise demands Rhine to be occupied German Fleet to be handed over East Africa to be handed over All munitions to be handed over All Allied POWs to be freed immediately

17 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th Baden Government reeling from new demands Communists feel that conditions are ripe for a revolution Spartacist Revolution USPD (Independent Socialists) Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxembourg Support from Lenin Bavaria declared a Socialist Republic Soviet Republic of Germany declared! General Strike announced

18 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th Majority Socialists (SPD) oppose Spartacist Revolution Afraid of model of October Revolution! Would prefer a February Revolution! Call for Kaiser to abdicate to remove wind from Spartacist demands Kaiser dithers – cannot make up his mind Chancellor Baden decides for him! Announces Kaiser’s abdication Establishes a Regency Calls for a new Constituent Assembly Chancellor resigns and hands power to SPD

19 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th Kaiser livid Kept on mumbling that he did not mean to abdicate! Treason! Barely any army left to defend him! Order collapsing throughout Germany Forces of order anxious of Communist Russian Precedent Bundled onto a train to Holland and exile

20 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th SPD Friedrich Ebert declared new Chancellor A Marriage of convenience General Groener Commander of German Army Contacts Ebert by secret phone to negotiate giving him the support of the army What demands did he make?

21 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th A Marriage of convenience General Groener What demands did he make? Ebert must oppose Communism Ebert must put down the Spartacist Uprising Ebert must leave the structure of the German Army alone This gives Ebert the ability to assert control over Spartacist Revolution (takes time) Army a little gung-ho in shooting their countrymen with little remorse

22 “Bare-Face Outrageous Treason and 2 Republics in One Day!”
November 9th Marriage of Convenience Allows Ebert to save Germany from immediate revolution But It allows the conservative army to remain intact* Allows Ebert to conclude armistice with Allies Allies prefer socialist Germany to a Communist Germany Allies content that with the support of the army Ebert can be negotiated with November 11th Armistice signed at 11am Short term versus long term blame!

23 Ebert tries to stabilise Germany
Short Term Gain Long Term Problem Army left intact Civil Service left intact 3 USPD socialists invited into government Worker’s councils set up Employers and trade unions brought together Constituent Assembly elections called

24 Ebert tries to stabilise Germany
Short Term Gain Long Term Problem Army left intact Restore Law and Order Leaves conservative institution alone Civil Service left intact Allows Germany to function reasonably stably Leaves conservatives at heart of government 3 USPD socialists invited into government Show sincerity and willingness to cooperate with opposition Tarnished by association with Communists Worker’s councils set up Show socialist credentials Shows communist similarities! Employers and trade unions brought together Prevents strikes and increases production at a crucial time Industrialists resentful at being dictated to by government. Smacks of communism Constituent Assembly elections called SPD gains support of conservative/nationalists desperate to avoid Communism Convinces SPD that they have more support than they really do

25 January 1919: The war is over, but the problems are not!
Treaty of Versailles negotiations continuing Royal Naval Blockade in place Starvation/Hunger Influenza epidemic General Strike still continuing Russian Revolutionaries helping newly created German Communist Party (KPD) Anarchy and Chaos on Eastern Border Separatist governments being declared Communist infiltration of some Police forces Army barely maintaining discipline No money to pay soldiers! FreiKorps step in to fill vacuum Spartacist revolution being crushed violently Thousands killed in Berlin alone Bavaria restored Summary justice

26 Is the enemy on the left or the Right?
Treaty of Versailles negotiations continuing Royal Naval Blockade in place Starvation/Hunger Influenza epidemic General Strike still continuing Russian Revolutionaries helping newly created German Communist Party (KPD) Anarchy and Chaos on Eastern Border Separatist governments being declared Communist infiltration of some Police forces Army barely maintaining discipline No money to pay soldiers! FreiKorps step in to fill vacuum Spartacist revolution being crushed violently Thousands killed in Berlin alone Bavaria restored Summary justice

27 Constituent Assembly Results January 1919
% Seats SPD 38 163 Zentrum 20 91 DDP 19 75 DNVP 10 44 USPD 7.6 22 DVP 4.4

28 New Assembly, New Challenges!
Chancellor Schiedemann Minority government SPD 163 out of 421 A new constitution is written In Weimar Weimar thought to be the home of the German ‘liberal’ Intelligentsia Goethe, Bach, Schiller, Nietzsche Text on pages 26/27 of big red book Analyse advantages and disadvantages of Constitution Treaty of Versailles Concluded June 1919

29 Treaty of Versailles German Negotiating difficulties
Change of Government Coalition government Compromises, disassociations, vascillations German army melting away People’s priorities elsewhere in 1919 Arrogant Prussian officer class negotiating Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau Treaty of Vienna Parallels? Germans expecting to be treated similar to France in 1815 Magnanimous Kings and emperors maintaining a balance

30 The Council of Four Wilson Clemenceau Orlando Lloyd-George
Idealistic, Naïve Clemenceau Old tiger, vindictive, pessimist Orlando Wanted rewarding for helping Allies Withdraws from negotiations! Lloyd-George Imperial strategist, Compromiser Many minor delegates attended But Germany not invited to any of the negotiations Merely summoned in June 1919 to sign the finished document



33 Treaty Provisions 440 articles including: Territorial Losses
Creation of new buffer states between Germany and Russia! Plebiscites encouraged Sop to Wilson Austria specifically prevented from holding a plebiscite! Punitive actions to reduce Germany to a minor power Army 100,000, 6 ships, no tanks or aircraft Reparations Ominously to be decided! ‘Blank Cheque’ J M Keynes War Guilt Clause

34 Article 231 The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

35 German Impact of Treaty 1: Cabinet Crisis
Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau Disgusted at lack of German participation Allowed just 15 days to make observations on document Disgusted that Blockade continued throughout Horrified at vindictiveness of treaty Illegally published a draft copy German Public as horrified as he was Chancellor Scheidemann Considers resuming the war Army High Command point out that Germany has effectively no military capability to defend itself Although Hindenburg considers a Heroic defeat! Chancellor resigns rather than sign such a savage document

36 Musical Chairs President Ebert tried to resign as President
Bauer takes over from Scheidemann Reluctantly agrees to Treaty Provisions 237 to 138 in Reichstag Foreign Minister Muller signs on 28th June The SPD would forever be tarnished for having had to sign the ‘Dictated Peace Treaty’

37 German Impact of Treaty 2: Soldiers Revolt
Prussian Military Tradition undermined by Treaty Officer corps horrified by savage cuts Freikorps units were no longer in legal limbo they were now illegal Frustrated army unable to turn on victorious Allies Turn on Weimar Government instead! Luttwitz – Berlin Army Commander Erhardt – German Marine Commander Kapp – Prussian Civil Servant/Leader of the Fatherland Party

38 The Kapp Putsch The Plan An Open Secret? March on Berlin
Expel Socialist government Place Pliant Kapp as civilian figurehead of a new military government An Open Secret? Plotters asked Seeckt, Ludendorff and other generals for their support No support received But no hostility either Nobody reported the plotters Plotters assumed that German soldiers would not fire on German soldiers!

39 The Trigger February 1920 Forced Demobilisation of army
A requirement of the Treaty of Versailles 12,000 Freikorps ordered to disband Commander Luttwitz refuses


41 Who will defend the Republic?
Chancellor Bauer asks General Seeckt to restore order General refuses “Troops do not fire on troops; when Reichswehr fires on Reichswehr all comradeship within the officer corps has vanished!” Wait and See policy (See who wins?) Most Soldiers remain neutral But government forced to flee Berlin To Dresden and then to Stuttgart Nationalist Von Kahr takes advantage to regain control of Bavaria from Communists Would become a centre of right wing tolerance

42 Who will defend the Republic?
The Left comes to the rescue General Strike ordered by Trade Unionists with support of most working classes and even Communists 80,000 communists take control of Ruhr Refuses to cooperate with the new Kapp Government Kapp Ineffectiveness 4 days of rule were pretty ineffective Could not announce victory to newspapers as they could not even find a working typewriter Banks refused to issue loans or currency on behalf of the unrecognised government Strike paralysed business and industry

43 Who will defend the Republic?
Dilemma for Government What to do with the German Army? It had demonstrated that it could not be relied on in times of crisis to defend the Republic from attacks from the Right However, it was still needed to defend the Republic from threats from the left! Eg 80,000 Communists in the Ruhr They would not lay down arms after the fall of the Kapp Government Army more than happy to shoot left wing rebels!

44 June 1920 Elections 1919 % 1920 % SPD 38 21 Zentrum 20 8 DDP 19 18
DNVP 10 15 USPD/KPD 7.6 DVP 4.4 14

45 June 1920 Elections Disaster for the SPD
The writers of the Weimar constitution were punished by its own provisions Associated with Treaty of Versailles, Hunger, Defeat, Instability, Poor economic conditions, etc… etc… SPD withdrew into opposition The future of the Weimar Government passed to weak coalition governments who were at best hostile to the Weimar constitution

46 The Bill arrives April 1921 Germany to pay £6.6 billion for damage caused during First World War +6% interest over 50 years of repayment plan To be paid in Gold Marks 7% of annual German Income Centrist Chancellor Fehrenbach resigns in horror!

47 Wirth picks up the poisoned Chalice
New coalition formed Zentrum, SPD and DDP Appoints DDP Rathenau as foreign minister Highly talented Jewish DDP politician Wirth attempts a complicated tactic Fulfillment policy Attempt to honour repayments in order to show that Germany is incapable of repaying such a huge bill Sow seeds of hyperinflation Government did not fully try to control spending Subtlety lost on Allies France not concerned at any suffering on part of Germans Britain needed to repay loans taken from US Subtlety lost on German public Blamed everything on Treaty of Versailles or on Weimar governments attempting to honour Treaty of Versailles

48 Upper Silesia Plebiscite
Requirement of Treaty of Versailles Allowing locals to determine national identity Join Germany or Poland 717,122 votes to join Germany 483,514 votes to join Poland Clear majority and yet Poles claimed cheating and started an insurrection British troops sent to region to stop the fighting League of Nations compromise Germany to receive 2/3rds of area But Poland got the industrial 1/3 with most of the coal mines German ‘fulfillment’ policy in tatters Why bother working with Treaty of Versailles institutions if they are only going to work against Germany – no matter what! Serious credibility blow for Wirth government


50 Treaty of Rapallo, 1922 First political success for Weimar Government
Negotiated by Rathenau Designed to outflank France Pariah Treaty The enemy of my enemy is my friend USSR and Germany agreed: No reparations demands on each other Close economic ties Normalise diplomatic ties Secret military clauses Germans to be able to train in USSR USSR to receive German technical assistance in weapons production Diplomatically useful but domestically dangerous Confirmed to nationalists that Weimar was secretly sympathetic to communist form of government (+ Jewish connection) Rathenau assassinated in June 1922 by right wing terror group

51 ‘The enemy is on the Right’
Political assassinations Left Right Murders Committed 22 354 (326 of which completely unpunished) Sentenced to death 10 Severely punished 17 1

52 ‘The enemy is on the Right’
Why might many Germans disagree with Wirth’s plea? Look at page 41 Were Germans justified in being more concerned at a left wing threat than the more subtle right wing institutional threat!

53 Gathering Economic Crisis
Currency markets concerned at impact of reparations on German government finances German mark begins to slide 103,208,000,000 Marks Total budget for1922 187,531,000,000 Marks Amount of reparations required by Allies in 1922 (in gold marks) France unwilling to bend Annoyed at Treaty of Rapallo Unconcerned at German difficulties Wirth resigns November 1922

54 Free Fall Cuno ‘business government’ takes over
Minority Government French invasion of Ruhr to secure payments in kind Policy of non-cooperation initiated Hyperinflation kicks in as richest area of Germany now under foreign control and not producing anything anyway!


56 Was there an alternative to Hyperinflation?
Yes, But it would involve: Cutting expenditure Raising taxes These would have cut the deficit and reduce the amount of money in the economy and hence inflation. So, why didn’t the government choose this option? Why did it choose to print money instead?

57 Was there an alternative to Hyperinflation?
So, why didn’t the government choose this option? It would have hurt industrial output and put many businesses into bankruptcy Unemployment would have risen Very unpopular in the immediate term! Hyperinflation would be unpopular but only once the effects were felt Tax increases and budget cuts would be felt immediately Perhaps a different government would be in place when the consequences were felt?

58 Free Fall Losers from Hyperinflation Winners from Hyperinflation

59 Free Fall Losers from Hyperinflation Winners from Hyperinflation
Lenders Middle Classes State Workers Pensioners – those on fixed benefits Mittelstand Weimar Republic Jews (incorrectly blamed) German Government Politically Borrowers Speculators Landowners Areas close to borders Foreigners German Government Financially

60 Restoring Economic Order
Streseman came to power August 1923 How did he go about restoring order Use page 49 Hite and Hinton Use page 30 Collier

61 Restoring Economic Order
Stresemann’s Fulfillment policy? Hjalmar Schacht appointed to Reichsbank Hans Luther the new Finance minister New currency created Rentenmark 1 Rentenmark = 1,000,000,000,000 Reichsmarks Supply of new currency strictly limited 3,200,000,000 in total Backed by bonds Cut government expenditure Redundancies for 700,000 government workers Called off Passive resistance in Ruhr and repaid some reparations Allow France to withdraw from Ruhr A commission set up to look at reparations payments Dawes Plan

62 Threats to Stresemann Economic Threats Regional Threats
Difficulties and sacrifices required to stabilise new currency Regional Threats Saxony and Thuringia Communists had cooperated with Socialists to take control of these states Bavaria Concerned at the Communist takeover of neighbouring States, The Right wing Kahr requests German Army declare loyalty to him before to Berlin


64 Horses for courses? Stresemann showed his nationalist leanings in his treatment of the two regional threats Saxony and Thuringia Germany army sent to overthrow the communist/socialist governments SPD horrified and withdrew support from Stresemann coalition Bavaria He does not sack von Lossow (army commander) or overthrow Kahr Kahr and Lossow or thankful to the conservative Stresemann (will be useful shortly)

65 The Munich Putsch Adolf Hitler’s attempt to take power in Munich and march to Berlin to replace the Weimar government. Why did it take place in Bavaria? Why did this take place in November 1923?

66 The Munich Putsch Why Bavaria? Very Conservative Catholic Region
Hostile to Weimar Cosmopolitan attitudes Resentful at being on periphery of power base Deeply hostile to anti-religious sentiments of Communism Von Kahr’s Right Wing Government Took power in 1920 Putsch Replaced Communist Government Violent overthrow culturally acceptable? was deeply hostile to communists and socialists Allowed Right wing groups to thrive Persecuted Left wing groups

67 The Munich Putsch Why November 1923?
Inspired by Mussolini’s March on Rome, 1922 Clock is ticking National Socialists thrive on discontent Stresemann’s economic reforms are already kicking in Stability returning to Germany Stresemann getting the credit Misread Stresemann’s leniency to Kahr Thought it was a sign of weakness rather than strength Misread Kahr and Lossow Thought they were allies They were conservative monarchists who were deeply uneasy about some of the socialist aspects of National-Socialism (see page 52)

68 A comedy of errors? Poorly organised Relied on Blackmail Errors
Lack of coordination Did not have necessary arms Poor communications systems Relied on Blackmail They required the support of Kahr and Lossow to allow a march on Berlin to have any chance of success Errors Ludendorff’s Traditional value system German officer’s couldn’t lie! Allowed Kahr and Lossow to reassure their wives! Indecisive Hitler had a nervous collapse when he found out kahr had gone Ludendorff had to decide to march to city centre Army remains loyal to right wing Kahr Why shouldn’t they? More Nationalist less Socialist than Nazis Cowardice Hitler does a runner when the man next to him is shot Ju-Jitsu lady disarms frantic Hitler

69 Why did the Weimar Republic Survive 1919 – 1923?
Did the Weimar Government stand a chance? Which of the following posed the greatest threat to Democracy taking root in Germany: Place them in an order of greatest threat to democracy: Limited Nature of the 1918 German Revolution The Weimar Constitution The Treaty of Versailles Right Wing Extremism Left Wing Extremism The Economic Crisis Attitudes of the German elite Attitudes of ordinary Germans

70 Why did the Weimar Republic Survive 1919 – 1923?
Limited Nature of German Revolution The Weimar Constitution The Treaty of Versailles Right Wing Extremism Left Wing Extremism The Economic Crisis Attitudes of the German elite Attitudes of ordinary Germans Compare your list to your neighbours Do you need to rewrite your list? Can you agree on a common list?

71 Why did the Weimar Republic Survive 1919 – 1923?
Page 57 Hite and Hinton Read events 1 to 12 With a partner decide whether you agree with a) or with b) or with neither!


73 1924 – 1929 The Golden Age of Weimar?
What evidence can you find that life got better for the majority of Germans between these years?


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