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Years of Crisis, 1918-23 HI136, History of Germany Lecture 6.

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Presentation on theme: "Years of Crisis, 1918-23 HI136, History of Germany Lecture 6."— Presentation transcript:

1 Years of Crisis, HI136, History of Germany Lecture 6

2 The Birth of German Democracy?  Did 1918 mark a break from the 19 th century?  How revolutionary were the events of 1918?  What compromises led to birth of the parliamentary republic?  What changes in German politics and society did the birth of the Weimar Republic signal?

3 The Domestic Impact of the War  Growing unrest from  Mounting casualties, falling living standards and food & fuel shortages led to growing labour unrest.  Mass strikes in Jan throughout Germany and Austria-Hungary.  The realisation of defeat a profound shock to the German people – all their suffering had been for nothing.

4 The October Reforms  3 October: Prince Max von Baden installed as Chancellor.  Coalition of Centre Party, Liberals and SPD.  26 October: Reform of the Constitution announced  The 3 class franchise in Prussia abolished.  The Kaiser’s powers over the army and appointments severely curtailed.  The Chancellor and the Government made accountable to the Reichstag.  A ‘Revolution from above’?

5 The November Revolution Mutinous sailors at Kiel, November 1918

6 The Proclamation of the Republic Philipp Scheidemann (marked by the cross) proclaims the formation of the German Republic from the window of the Reichstag, 9 November 1918

7 The Split in the Left  The SPD split in April 1917 over continuing support for the war.  The MSPD represented the more reformist wing of the party, upheld democracy and wanted moderate reforms rather than soviet-style communism.  The USPD wanted radical social, economic and political reform, but shied away from full communism. It was deeply divided and its influence was curtailed by factional squabbles.  The Spartacists and Revolutionary Shop Stewards campaigned for a socialist republic based on the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils which would follow the same path as Bolshevik Russia.

8 Fatal Compromises?  Ebert-Groener Pact (10 Nov. 1918)  The Army promised to support the new government in return for a commitment to resist Bolshevism and free hand in military affairs.  A betrayal of the revolution or a sensible precaution?  Stinnes-Legien Agreement (15 Nov. 1918)  Employers agree to recognise unions & introduce 8 hour working day if Unions abandon calls for nationalisation of industry.

9 The Freikorps

10 The Spartacist Uprising Street fighting in Berlin, January 1919

11 Revolution in Bavaria Kurt Eisner ( ), the leader of the Bavarian Revolution … … And his assassin, the 22 year old Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley ( )

12 Revolution in Bavaria Above:The Revolutionary leaders Ernst Toller and Eugene Levine. Below: Freikorps entering Munich, May 1919

13 The Weimar Constitution  Power derived from the people:  The President elected by universal suffrage every 7 years.  The Reichstag elected by universal suffrage through proportional representation ever 4 years.  The Chancellor and Cabinet were appointed by the President, but required parliamentary support to pass legislation.  Extended the vote to women and lowered the voting age.  Established fundamental civil rights:  Freedom of press, speech & assembly (Article 114)  Equality before the law (Article 109)  The right to economic justice (Article 151)

14 The Weimar Constitution Source: John Traynor, Europe (1993)

15 Political Parties  Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (German Social Democratic Party, SPD).  Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Independent German Social Democratic Party, USPD).  Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany, KPD).  Deutsche Demokratische Partei (German Democratic Party, DDP).  Zentrumspartei (Centre Party).  Deutsche Volkspartei (German People’s Party, DVP).  Deutschenationale Volkspartei (German National People’s Party, DNVP).  Various smaller parties including the Bayerische Volkspartei (Bavarian People’s Party, BVP) and the Nationalsozialistische Partei Deutschlands (NSDAP).

16 The Kapp Putsch Left: Freikorps distribute leaflets in Berlin, March 1920 Right: Wolfgang Kapp, figurehead of the Kapp Putsch

17 The Ruhr Uprising Left: Left-wing unsurgents during the Ruhr Uprising, March 1920 Right: Soldiers killed in action during the uprising.

18 Matthias Erzberger ( ) Matthias Erzberger ( )  Centre Party Leader  Proponent of self- determination  Supported Armistice and signed Versailles Treaty  : Vice Chancellor & Finance Minister  Killed on holiday in Black Forest, 26 August 1921.

19 Walther Rathenau ( )  Industrialist and financier.  Responsible for setting up the Kreigsrohstoffabteilung in WWI.  Germany’s first Jewish foreign minister.  Assassinated 24 June 1922.

20 Economic Crisis  Had its roots in the pre-war and wartime economy.  Lack of capital investment, large trade deficit and difficulties in switching from a war-time to peace-time economy were made worse by the necessity of paying reparations to the victorious allies.  The Government refused to either raise taxes or cut expenditure on political grounds – it was feared that both measures would lead to unemployment and political unrest.  Default on reparations payments led to French and Belgian occupation of Ruhr ( ).  Unable to collect taxes from the Ruhr and cut off from the supplies of coal that powered German industry and exports, the Government’s finances collapsed.

21 The Munich ‘Beer Hall’ Putsch Defendants at the treason trial following the Munich Beer Hall Pustsch. Ludendorff is in The centre. Hitler is on his left.

22 Conclusion  German politics were radicalized by the experience of war and defeat.  But the vast majority of Germans were primarily concerned with their material well-being, not political reform.  The circumstances of its birth hampered the Weimar Republic – revolution and counter-revolution, economic crisis and the bitter legacy of defeat all helped to undermine faith in the new democracy.  The Weimar constitution achieved much (a democratic system, welfare state etc.), but did little to solve deep divisions within German society and left key institutions unreformed.  But the Republic weathered the storm – which should indicate that it had more popular support and stronger institutions than has sometimes been suggested.


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