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The Weimar Republic 1918 - 1930 The Reichstag in session 1930.

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Presentation on theme: "The Weimar Republic 1918 - 1930 The Reichstag in session 1930."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Weimar Republic The Reichstag in session 1930

2 1918 Defeat and Revolution By mid 1918, it was clear Germany would lose the war. The entrance of America into the conflict ensured fresh allied troops and supplies while the British naval blockades and bad harvests in 1917 and 1918 meant that food supplies were critically low in Germany. As a result, malnutrition was widespread. By August 1918, all land taken during the German Spring Offensive had been lost and German territory itself was now under threat.

3 Confident that peace would be based on Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’, moves were made in Germany to give the Reichstag parliament greater powers. It was hoped this would extract more favourable peace terms from the allies, as they themselves had well-developed democracies. Defeat and Revolution President Woodrow Wilson (USA)

4 The new government led by Chancellor Prince Max of Baden approached the allies for a ceasefire. As news of the impending armistice spread, sailors in Wilhelmshaven refused to follow an order to sail into the English Channel. They were quickly followed by sailors in Kiel who also mutinied (above). Defeat and Revolution

5 Workers and soldiers soviets were set up in many towns and cities and demanded an end to the war. A key stumbling block was the continued presence of the Kaiser – the allies would negotiate only with a new government. On the 9th November the Kaiser fled and Germany was proclaimed a republic. Friedrich Ebert (SDP) was appointed as Chancellor and Philipp Scheidemann (SDP) his deputy in a provisional government. Defeat and Revolution

6 An Early Threat to the Weimar Republic The Spartacist Rising January 1919 Left-wing extremists staged an uprising in Berlin ahead of the elections for the new National Assembly. They wanted more equal power and wealth for the working classes and believed that the new government would primarily benefit the middle classes. Middle-class newspaper premises were occupied and the end of the Ebert-Scheidemann government was proclaimed.

7 Ebert called out the Army and Freikorps (ex-soldiers) units to deal with the Spartacists (KPD) who continued to hold out after 3 days. Hundreds were killed and Spartacist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg were shot by Freikorps officers while under arrest. This led to lasting hostility between the SDP and the Communists which would make co-operation against Nazism much more problematic in future years.

8 Main Political Parties in Weimar Germany Z (Centre Party) Catholic working and middle class Social Democratic Party (SDP) Working and lower middle class Received most votes until 1932 KPD (Communist) Against the Republic, wanted Communist state instead. DVP (German People’s Party) Upper middle class, employers Led by Stresemann DNVP (German National People’s Party) Junker landowners, urban lower middle class NSDAP (Nazi) Extreme nationalism and racism Wide appeal after 1929

9 The New Constitution Four days after the murder of the Spartacist leaders, elections were held for a National Assembly. 76% of the votes went to parties such as the SDP, DDP and the Centre party who clearly supported a new democratic Republic. Ebert now became President and Scheidemann Chancellor. In February the new assembly met in Weimar, away from the disturbances in Berlin and began to draw up a new constitution for Germany.

10 The Weimar Republic – intrinsic political weaknesses? Proportional Representation A voting system in which political parties gain representation in parliament according to the proportion of votes they receive Universal adult suffrage All votes cast were given appropriately weighted representation in the Reichstag so it was a very democratic system PR resulted in frequently changing coalitions as no one party was able to secure a 50% majority Post war Germany had a particularly high number of political parties representing very narrow sectional interests e.g. religion, regions, social class

11 Powers of the President Elected directly by the people for 7 years An ‘Ersatz Kaiser’ with the power to appoint and dismiss Chancellors Under Article 48 the president could also override the Reichstag to pass laws Under Article 48 the elected President could rule in times of crisis, ensuring a swift response to a crisis e.g Ebert’s response to threats to the Republic In the wrong hands Article 48 could threaten democracy e.g. Chancellors could be appointed regardless of how much support they had in the Reichstag

12 The Birth of the Weimar Republic – a bad start? The shock of sudden defeat following years of wartime propaganda led some to develop a rabid hatred of the culprits allegedly responsible for it i.e. ‘Jews’ and ‘Bolsheviks’. This ‘Stab in the Back’ myth particularly struck a chord with the right wing. Widespread hunger and the influenza pandemic provided the backdrop to rioting, strikes, political instability and violence. Peacetime Germany saw the return of many traumatised soldiers. There were also huge numbers who would never return. Many desperate people clung to an unrealistic set of expectations of what this new Republic could achieve in the short term. The Republic would forever be tainted by the signing of the peace settlement at Versailles in July 1919.

13 French soldiers wait outside the Palace of Versailles for the signing of the Treaty

14 The Treaty of Versailles “This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years” Ferdinand Foch, French Marshal

15 Terms of the Treaty Alsace – Lorraine to be returned to France and territories in the East to become part of Poland. Loss of foreign colonies. Saar coalfields under the control of France and Danzig to become a free city supervised by the League of Nations. Demilitarisation of the Rhineland. Article 231 = war guilt Article 232 = £6.6 billion reparations to be paid. Anschluss (union) between Germany and Austria forbidden. Army to be only strong, no Air Force or submarines allowed.

16 Dancing in the streets of Paris after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles 28 th June 1919

17 Freikorps units under the leadership of Wolfgang Kapp forced Ebert’s government to flee Berlin. In desperation and lacking support from the army, the Weimar government persuaded the trade unions to lead a general strike to paralyse the city. Kapp was forced to surrender but punishments were slight due to government concerns about alienating the right wing. The Kapp Putsch March 1920

18 Two days after the Kapp Putsch, Communists led an uprising of in the Ruhr This time the army cooperated and the disturbances were more easily suppressed. The Red Rising

19 The early 1920s were also blighted by political assassinations. Amongst the hundreds of victims of right-wing extremists was Walter Rathenau, Germany’s Foreign Minister. He was a popular and charismatic figure, and his state funeral in 1922 was a national trauma.

20 Hyperinflation In August 1914, the war was expected to be short. The Kaiser financed it through government borrowing, not by savings and taxation and also by simply printing more money. Between 1914 and 1919 prices in Germany had already doubled. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was expected to make huge reparations payments and yet it had to forfeit the income from important industrial areas such as the Saar coalfields. Critics of Versailles such as the economist JM Keynes were convinced that the amount set was both unrealistic and punitive.

21 In 1922 Germany claimed it was unable to meet the second reparations instalment. Jan 1923 France occupies the Ruhr to seize coal Germans react with Passive Resistance More economic disruption Increased welfare payments needed for strikers Rapid printing of money Collapse of confidence in the mark Hyperinflation and economic crisis

22 The Impact of Hyperinflation Choosing to print more money to pay striking workers and compensate industrialists rather than raising taxes had a disastrous effect. A loaf of bread that cost 0.63 marks in 1918 cost marks by November Marks per US dollar

23 Pearl Buck, an American writer was in Germany in 1923: "The cities were still there, the houses not yet bombed and in ruins, but the victims were millions of people. They had lost their fortunes, their savings; they were dazed and inflation-shocked and did not understand how it had happened to them and who the foe was who had defeated them. Yet they had lost their self-assurance, their feeling that they themselves could be the masters of their own lives if only they worked hard enough; and lost, too, were the old values of morals, of ethics, of decency." Wallpapering with marks July 1923

24 The French had sent their army into the Ruhr to enforce their demands for reparations, and the Germans were militarily powerless to resist. Great German industrialists such as Krupp, Farben and Stinnes condoned the inflation. A cheaper Mark, they reasoned, would make German goods cheap and easy to export, and they needed the export earnings to buy raw materials abroad. Inflation kept everyone working. The German leaders felt that the collapse of the mark was proving how impossible it was for Germany to pay the reparations which were demanded. Stabilization of the mark would have spoiled this ‘proof’. Why did the German government not act to halt the inflation?

25 Small tradesmen, craftsmen and shopkeepers were shielded from the worst effects of the crisis. Some of the working class had unions to fight on their behalf for wage rises. Larger businessmen found their debts were wiped out and they could exploit bankruptcies. Those that suffered the most were those on fixed incomes e.g. pensioners, disabled war veterans. White collar workers e.g. teachers, civil servants struggled as salaries were difficult to negotiate. Although this group had been supportive of Weimar in 1919, after 1923 many voted for extremist parties. Hyperinflation – Winners and Losers

26 The ‘Golden Years’ Gustav Stresemann, the German Foreign Minister, addresses the League of Nations in September 1926

27 Gustav Stresemann ( ) Formed the German people’s Party (DVP) in Chancellor from August - November 1923 and resolved the hyperinflation crisis Following this he became Foreign Minister until his sudden death in 1929 Initially a supporter of military force, but later became convinced of the need to support the Republic and find peaceful solutions to Germany’s problems.

28 September 1923 Passive Resistance called off. November 1923 The new Rentenmark issued and secured on a mortgage of all land and industry Dawes Plan reduced the total reparations bill, spread out the repayments and provided an allied loan of 800 million marks to help Germany meet the installments Locarno Pact saw Germany voluntarily accept her Western borders as set at Versailles, including the demilitarisation of the Rhineland Germany admitted to the League of Nations Young Plan set a time limit for reparations and reduced the overall amount. Stresemann’s Achievements

29 Calling off Passive Resistance was seen by many as Germany again surrendering to the allies. Hitler and other right-wing extremists capitalised on this during the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich Many Germans felt Stresemann was more of a European peace broker than a German minister and it brought him domestic unpopularity. Snyder has argued that “the Dawes Plan actually promoted a cycle harmful for international finance”. Close links between the German, British, French and American economies meant that serious problems in one country would impact unavoidably in the others. Criticisms of Stresemann

30 However, Stresemann was far-sighted and calculating, ensuring that although Germany’s Western borders were finalised under Locarno….

31 ….her Eastern borders could still be revised. Stresemann refused to sign mutual guarantees with Poland and Czechoslovakia over this issue

32 “When we came back from Locarno the English ambassador made a speech …‘The world will never forget that it was Germany who took the initiative towards peace in Europe.’” Gustav Stresemann October 1925 By the late 1920s Germany was no longer an outcast but a key player on the European stage once again.

33 Recovery in Germany During the late 1920s, the Weimar government invested heavily in public housing, schools, parks and other facilities. A more comprehensive unemployment insurance scheme was introduced and wages, particularly in the public sector, increased. By 1927 German industrial production had recovered to pre-war levels. The late 1920s saw a rise in car ownership and a growth of the cinema industry, both indicators of a more prosperous society.

34 Artistic movements such as the Bauhaus and expressionism were developed as artists like Klee and Kandinsky experimented with modern abstract art Verdichtung, 1929 The Bauhaus School, Dessau

35 However, economic recovery between was patchy… Farmers faced a world-wide agricultural depression and were unable to modernise production. In 1929, agricultural production was only 74% that of pre-war levels. Although wages did increase in industry they did not go far above the cost of living. Those without union representation still experienced economic difficulties e.g. civil servants. The balance of trade was in the red i.e. in debt. There were still 1.9 million unemployed in early German government finances from 1925 were continuallly run in deficit.

36 October 1929 On October 3rd 1929 Stresemann died suddenly of a stroke. This would inevitably leave a political vacuum. The president at the time, Hindenburg, (elected in 1924 following Ebert’s unexpected death) had been one of the highest ranking army generals during the war and was keen for a return to more autocratic rule. Paul von Hindenburg

37 In October 1929, the US stock market suddenly collapsed. On ‘Black Tuesday’ (29 th October) more money was lost in one day alone than the US government had spent during the whole of the first world war. October 1929

38 Banks closed and businesses collapsed in America. However, American dominance of the world economy meant that a worldwide depression soon followed. Wall Street New York Oct 1929

39 Fall in demand Less goods sold Workers left unemployed Less money available The Cycle of Economic Depression

40 Effect of the American Depression on Germany

41 A 5 party coalition struggled on under Chancellor Muller. However, the SDP members demanded higher levels of unemployment benefit, while the DVP wanted lower taxes and lower benefits. Agreement could not be reached. German politics in the early 1930s

42 Frustrated, Muller resigned. Hindenberg replaced him in March 1930 with Bruning, leader of the ZP, the second largest party in the Reichstag. The legislative process therefore was paralysed. Muller asked Hindenburg to pass new laws by decree instead. Hindenburg refused. Bruning, keen to avoid inflation, wanted lower welfare benefits and increases in taxes was supported by Hindenberg who passed these increasingly unpopular measures by decree. Bruning

43 September 1930 Reichstag elections The Reichstag challenged the presidential use of Article 48 in July 1930 when Hindenburg used it to put Bruning’s new budget through. In the resulting deadlock, Bruning asked Hindenburg to dissolve the current Reichstag and call another election. However, instead of resulting in a more workable coalition of centre-right, pro-democratic parties, the real beneficiaries of the election were to be the extremist parties of both the left and right. The KPD increased their share of the vote to 13.1% while the Nazi Party with 18.3% of the vote was now the second largest party in the Reichstag. Democratic parliamentary government was now going to find it even more difficult to function.

44 ‘The Dead Parliament’ by John Heartfield Produced in October 1930 by a German communist, the caption below stated: “It’s what’s left from 1848! This is what the Reichstag will look like when it opens in October 1930.”


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