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Weimar Germany : challenges, problems and failure

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1 Weimar Germany : challenges, problems and failure
As part of the allied conditions for surrender at the end of World War 1 the German Kaiser ( King) had to abdicate power and a Republic was declared. The New Republic was a new democracy and Germany had little experience of democracy before this moment. Many powerful groups had a shaky loyalty to the New Republic. They saw the surrender as an act of Treason and called the men who signed it “THE NOVEMBER CRIMINALS.”

2 Failure of Weimar Republic and Rise of the Nazis
So the Weimar Republic was founded in defeat and associated with defeat. It was unpopular with powerful groups from the start. These groups included army officers, judges, civil servants and others. They were suspicious of democracy and felt it would lead to weak government. Many communist groups wanted the Weimar Republic to fail so there would be a communist revolution. They were also anti-democratic.

3 Weimar Constitution The new government was called the Weimar Republic because the new constitution was agreed and signed in the town of Weimar in February 1919. The Parliament (Reichstag) was to be elected by men and women over the age of 20. The head of government was the Chancellor who was appointed by the President. The President was head of state and was elected every 7 years. The President could declare a STATE OF EMERGENCY and allow the Chancellor to rule by decree ( make laws without having to get the support of the Parliament )

The Social Democrats – most popular party up till 1932. The German Democratic Party – had mainly middle class support. The German People’s Party – backed by businessmen.] The Centre Party – a Catholic Party

The Communist Party – wanted a Communist Revolution. The Nazi Party – extreme nationalist and racist party. The German National People’s Party – wanted to return to the old ways and bring back the monarchy.

One of the first things the new government had to do was sign the Versailles Peace Treaty. It was a very harsh treaty and imposed great difficulty on Germany. It was very unpopular and it made people fear that the new Republic could not defend German interests very well. (see handout for the terms) Resented the terms – many blamed the Weimar politicians – too weak

7 Unpopularity - instability
The elections under the Weimar Constitution were held under a PR system. There was a wide range of very different parties who had to go into government together and form coalitions as none could win an overall majority. They often fell out and governments collapsed very frequently. There were 19 different governments in the 14 years of the Weimar Republic. This led people to feel that democracy under the Weimar Republic could not give Germany strong and stable government to deal with the serious problems that the country faced.

8 Respect for democracy was also undermined by the way that the President had to often declare and emergency and rule by decree to get laws passed.

THE REPARATIONS AND HYPER INFLATION CRISES. Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty the Germans had to sign a war guilt clause and commit to paying reparations worth 6 billion to the allies. This added to the economic problems caused by defeat in the war. This was a huge amount if money and the Germans could not keep up the payments.

10 The First economic crises
In January 1923 the German Government defaulted on the scheduled Reparation payments. In response the French invaded and occupied the coal rich area of the Ruhr. This was the industrial heartland of Germany. France wanted to use the coal and seize the goods produced in the factories to pay for the reparations. The German government called for a General strike and agreed to pay the workers for doing nothing. They did so by printing money.

11 HYPER-INFLATION The loss of production led to factory closures all around Germany and unemployment increased from 2 to 23 percent. The government revenues fell dramatically as the amount of taxes dropped as less people were working and therefore were paying no tax. The government printed more and more money to pay the workers and to pay for government services. This led to hyperinflation that wiped out German savings and made the currency almost worthless.

12 Prices multiplied thousands of times over and people struggled to feed themselves as prices kept rising and rising. In some cities crowds rioted and looted food shops. More and more people turned against the Weimar Republic and support for the anti- democratic parties increased.

13 STRESEMANN, recovery and the Golden Era of Weimar Republic
Stresemann became Chancellor for a time in and was foreign Minister for every year after up until his death in 1929. He helped Germany to recover and grow strongly between He stabilised the economy by ending the support for the strikers. He stopped printing money and brought in a new currency called the RENTENMARK that was equal to 1 trillion of the old worthless mark.

14 Stresemann renegotiates the Reparations
As Foreign Minister he realised that Germany would have to negotiate with their neighbours to reduce the debt and make the payments more affordable. 1924 – Dawes Plan allowed a more reasonable schedule of reparations and received a loan of $800 million from US. This helped to stimulate the economy and create growth and jobs. 1929 – Young Plan reduced the amount Germany owed to 2 billion and extended the payments over 50 years.

15 Stresemann leads Germany back into the family of nations
1922 – Treaty of Rapallo, Stresemann co-operated with the Russians. 1925 – Locarno Pact, accepting Germany’s borders with France and Belgium. 1926 – joined the League of Nations Between the German economy prospered and boomed. This meant that the parties and people who were against the Weimar Republic had less support. The Weimar Republic seemed secure.

16 The Great Depression This all changed after the WALL STREET CRASH of October 1929 triggered the Great Depression and led to the second great economic failure and collapse since the Weimar Republic was established just 11 years before.

The German economy had got lots of loans from America since This had helped to the German economy to grow. After the Wall Street crash unemployment rose and American businesses failed, unemployment rose and American banks started to lose money. They demanded that their loans be repaid.

18 The Depression in Germany 29-32
This took a lot of money out of the German economy and German businesses began to struggle. Banks went out of business and German companies had to cut production and lay people off. By 1932 Industrial production was 40% lower than what it had been in 1929. At the beginning of 1933 one in three workers or 6 million people were unemployed.

19 People Turning against the Weimar Republic
As there were a lot less people at work the German government took in less money in taxes which meant they did not have enough to pay people unemployment assistance. People became angry and desperate and started to turn completely against the Weimar Republic and the democratic political parties. They began to turn either to the Communists or the Nazis.

20 Who were the NAZIs Was led by Adolf Hitler, an Austrian who had served with the German Army during World War 1. He was ordered to spy on a small party in 1918, he soon joined it and became its leader. They were named the National Socialist Workers’ Party ( Nazis ). Hitler was a gifted speaker and spoke against the Versailles Treaty, the November Criminals, Jews and Communists.

21 NAZI AIMS AND BELEIFS The Nazis wanted to destroy the Versailles Treaty and make Germany great again. Unite all German speakers in one country. Destroy Communism. Set up a Dictatorship and destroy democracy. They were Racist – saw Germans as a “master race” that had the right to rule other lesser races. They were extreme nationalists, they wanted to increase the strength of Germany by any means necassary.

Hitler set up a uniformed private army called the Storm Troopers (SA) or brown shirts The SS were set up in 1925 to act as Hitler’s personal bodyguard. At first the Nazis thought they could overthrow the government and take power by force. They were waiting for the right moment.

23 BEER HALL PUTSCH In 1923, during the hyper inflation crises, the government was extremely unpopular. Hitler thought that many people in the army would support an armed revolution to take power and set up a new government. In November Hitler marched into Berlin and attempted to take power. The police opened fire, killing 16 Nazis and arresting many including Hitler. He was sentenced to 5 years in Prison but served only 9 months. He used the time to write “Mein Kampf” a book in which he set out his ideas.

24 In prison he realised that that he could not take power by violent means but that instead he would have to get power through winning support and winning democratic elections. He was still against democracy and still wanted to set up a dictatorship but decided to use democracy to get power so he could abolish democracy.

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