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Weimar Germany and the Roaring Twenties. Overview Weimar Republic Party Politics Occupation of the Rhineland Hyperinflation Locarno Dawes Plan Unemployment

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  • Weimar Germany and the Roaring Twenties

  • OverviewWeimar RepublicParty PoliticsOccupation of the RhinelandHyperinflationLocarnoDawes PlanUnemploymentStock Market Crash

  • Kaiser Wilhelm is overthrown in November, and a constitutional convention is held in the town of Weimar1919: First democratic constitution of a united GermanyRevolution! A new government declared in Weimar

  • Germany 1918 Sailors Strike!

  • Structure of the Weimar GovtProportional RepresentationNumber of seats in parliament is proportional to the percentage of votesMakes it easy for small parties to thrive.

    Votes cast for a party, not an individual

  • Powers of the PresidentUnder the new constitution, the President had the power to:dismiss the cabinetdissolve the Reichstagveto legislationuse plebiscite (public vote) to bypass Reichstagemergency powers to allow cabinet to rule without consent of Reichstag if public order required it

  • The Early YearsThe Weimar government gets off to a shakey start, facing opposition from a strong Marxist left (Marxist rebellions in 1919 and 1922) and a potent, but less organized, nationalist right (coup attempt 1920, assassination attempts in 1922; early Nazi coup attempt in 1923)

  • Beer Hall Putsch

  • Left and Rightbitter about betrayal of socialist revolutionblames the ruling Social Democratic Party for betraying the working class, the class that brought about the German republic

    resentment about VersaillesBlames Ebert (social democrat) and his internationalist views for the acceptance of the terms of the treaty

  • NATIONALISM students, war veterans, army officers, denounce war-guilt clause, demanded the return of Germanys colonies, right to rearm perpetuate stabbed in the back theory blamed Communists and Jews Said Germany was not defeated but cheated by AlliesTied to racism, anti-semitism and ideas of a master race, social Darwinism, Eugenics

  • Economic ProblemsWeimar government is burdened with reparations payments of the Versailles treatyCrippling economic problems following on the war and sanctions exacerbate the crisis

  • Currency CrisisPrior to World War, the German unit of currency, the Mark, was one of the strongest in Europe, (about 4 or 5 for each to the dollar).

  • Following World War I, the German financial world collapsed and inflation was rampantIndeed, from 1920 to 1923 Germany entered a period of hyperinflation such that at its worst, in 1923, the Mark traded at 4 trillion to one dollarInflation

  • War Debt and InflationRather than cut spending or raise taxes to pay for the war, the government continued to borrow and to print more moneyAs the ar dragged, shortages and inflation became a problem so that the price of domestic goods doubled between 1914 and 1919

  • Locarno Pact (1925) demilitarized RhinelandKellogg-Braind Pact (1928) 65 nations outlawed war as an instrument of foreign policyDawes Plan US $$$ to GermanyYoung Plan further reduced reparationsPOST WWI GERMANYPost WWI Germany

  • ReparationsInflation and an unstable currency continues to be an early problem for the new governmentIn January 1923, the government misses a reparation paymentIn response, France and occupy the Ruhr valley -- the German industrial heartland The Germans go on strike and begin printing currency, driving up inflation.

  • StrikeGiven the DMZ and the troop reductions, Germany unable to do anythingInstead, the SPD covertly supports workers strikes in the occupied areas, and opts to pay the workers (some 2 million people) to stay homeTo do this, the government just prints more money and circulates the bills

  • HyperinflationThat decision leads to period of hyperinflation, wiping out the financial resources of most German familiesECONOMIC DISTRESS Hyper Inflation 1921-24 In 1919, one loaf of bread cost 1 mark; by late1923, it cost 100,000,000,000 marks!By 1932: 6 million out of work

  • 1922192319211920

  • WEAKNESSES OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC weak president, many political parties (~40)

    LACK OF DEMOCRATIC TRADITION history of autocracy, Democracy = economic failure, Nazi promises of economic stability, nationalistic glory

    POLARIZATION OF POLITICS-- Crises lead to strong parties on the far left and far right.

    APPEAL OF THE NAZISmass politics, propaganda, violence, suppressed opposition,Blamed political and economic problems on Jews, communists and socialists.

  • WeimarThe pointlessness of the war, the flu epidemic, the post war famine and the hyperinflation strongly shaped youth culture in the major German cities, particularly BerlinUnstable currency made it pointless to save money

  • Political extremismParties on the extreme left (the Communist party) and the extreme right (various nationalist and conservative parties including the Nazis) begin to gain in elections despite the general economic stability from 1924-1929

  • Hitler comes to powerELECTION 1932President Paul von Hindenburg 19,360,000Hitler 13,400,000Reichstag Nazi Party 230 seats, 38%


  • Reichstag FireA month after Hitler is named Chancellor, on 27 February, the Reichstag is burned by communist radicals (allegedly)Hitler uses that as a pretext to invoke Article 48 of the Constitution allowing for emergency powers

  • Elections to DictatorshipElections in March of that year (1933) do not give the Nazis the clear majority they need, but still have enough support from minor parties to form majority coalitionOn 23 March, Hitler orchestrates passage of the Enabling Act, a law which gave Hitler and his cabinet the ability to pass legislation without going through the legislature

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