On the 15th January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were killed by members of the Freikorps. The two German socialists were joint-founders of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany, and were captured following the Spartacist uprising that began on the 4th January.
Luxemburg and Liebknecht were members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany when Germany declared war in 1914. Frustrated by the wider SPD’s support for Germany’s declaration of war, they and other leftists created a separate organisation known as the Spartakusbund or Spartacus League. Named after the leader of the Roman Republic’s largest slave rebellion, the Spartacus League actively opposed the ongoing war. In 1916, both Luxemburg and Liebknecht were found guilty of high treason and imprisoned after they organised an anti-war demonstration.
They were released in 1918, and in December renamed the Spartacist League the Communist Party of Germany. By this point, following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Germany was experiencing a post-war revolution. Friedrich Ebert, a centrist member of the SPD, had assumed the position of Chancellor but struggled to maintain control of the country. His government had begun to side with conservatives, while the left sought the establishment of a government based on workers’ councils.
On the 5th January thousands of people swarmed into the Berlin streets and began to occupy government and press officers. Two days later around half a million people began a general strike. By this point, however, Ebert had hired Freikorps to crush the revolt. They did so quickly, and violently. On the 15th January Luxemburg and Liebknecht were arrested, tortured, interrogated and executed.
This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE History students. The aim is to present an overview of events in Weimar Germany from 1919-1929. You could use the Q&A sheet while you listen, and then test yourself on the content later. After listening, you may wish to also use the Weimar Germany Revision PowerPoint.
The episode focus on two key periods: 1919-23 and 1924-29.
The first section begins with an outline of the situation in Germany after the First World War. Particular attention is paid to the early extremist uprisings (the Spartacist Revolt and the Kapp Putsch), the invasion of the Ruhr, and the causes and effects of hyperinflation. The second section of the podcast begins with the appointment of Gustav Stresemann. It explains the end of the occupation of the Ruhr, negotiation of the Dawes Plan, and the terms of Locarno Treaties.
The podcast ends with tips on how to answer a question about ‘how successful’ Weimar Germany was. Examples are given of signs of recovery, as well evidence that Weimar Germany was still unstable.
On the 15th October 1923, the Rentenmark was introduced in Weimar Germany in an attempt to stop the hyperinflation crisis that had crippled the economy.
Gustav Stresemann’s finance minister, Hans Luther, introduced the new currency to replace the crisis-hit Papiermark in a plan devised jointly with Hjalmar Schacht at the Reichsbank who went on to be Minister of Economics in the early years of Hitler’s rule.
The French and Belgian Occupation of the Ruhr that began on the 11th January 1923 had been met with a policy of passive resistance by the German government. Although this succeeded in frustrating the occupying powers who sought to extract reparations payments in the form of natural resources, it also brought the economy in the Ruhr to a shuddering halt.
Since the strike had been called for by the government, the strikers and their families were eligible to receive income support. However, with falling tax revenues as a result of the lack of trade the government struggled to keep up with payments. In response they began printing money even though there was no product to base it on. The so-called Papiermark went into freefall as hyperinflation took hold, and the cabinet resigned in favour of a new one formed under Stresemann.
The new currency was backed by real estate – land that was used by businesses and agriculture – and was introduced at the rate of one Rentenmark to one trillion Papiermarks. With the currency now tied to something with physical value, hyperinflation was stopped in its tracks. The more commonly known Reichsmark was introduced the following year at the same value.
This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE Modern World History. It is the first of two podcasts that present an explanation of the range of factors that contributed to the rise of Hitler. It goes into more detail than the briefer podcast that covers the entire 1919-1934 period. You could also download the Rise of Hitler Revision PowerPoint which complements the two podcasts.
The podcast begins in 1919 with an introduction to Hitler’s early attitudes and him taking control of the National Socialist German Workers Party (who became known as the Nazis). An overview is then given of the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers before describing how the hyperinflation of 1922-23 led Hitler to use his violent supporters to launch the Munich (or Beer Hall) Putsch. The consequences of the Putsch are considered, which include increased publicity for the Nazis and Hitler’s imprisonment during which he wrote Mein Kampf.
The podcast then goes on to explain how, during the ‘Stresemann period’ of German history, which is described in greater detail in the Weimar Germany revision podcast, Hitler changed his tactics to use legal means in an attempt to gain political power.
This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE History students studying Nazi Germany. It is the second of two podcasts that present an explanation of the range of factors that contributed to the rise of Hitler. It goes into more detail than the briefer podcast that covers the entire 1919-1934 period. You could also download the Rise of Hitler Revision PowerPoint which complements the two podcasts.
The podcast is the second of two that explore how Hitler came to power. This episode covers the period from the Wall Street Crash to Hitler’s self-appointment of the Fuhrer of Germany in 1934. Specific attention is given to:
* The effects of the Great Depression on Germany
* The Presidential election campaign of 1932
* The appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in 1933
* The Reichstag Fire and the Enabling Act
* The Night of the Long Knives
* The death of President Hindenburg
The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these factors, and explains how you might approach a question on them in the exam.
For more detail on the rise of Hitler, please see these expanded podcasts:
The podcast begins in 1919 with an introduction to Hitler’s early attitudes and him taking control of the National Socialist German Workers Party (who became known as the Nazis). An overview is then given of the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers before describing how the hyperinflation of 1922-23 led Hitler to use his violent supporters to launch the Munich (or Beer Hall) Putsch, which resulting in Hitler’s imprisonment during which he wrote Mein Kampf. This coincided with the ‘Stresemann Period’ of German history, which is described in greater detail in the Weimar Germany revision podcast.
The episode then goes on to explain how, following his release from prison, Hitler changed his tactics to use legal means to gain political power. The period of the Great Depression led to increasing support for the now well-organised Nazi party which culminted with the appointment of Hitler to the position of Chancellor. An explanation of how Hitler consolidated his power is then given – the Reichstag Fire which led to the Enabling Act; the Night of the Long Knives through which Hitler removed opponents including Ernst Rohm; and finally Hitler taking the title of Fuhrer following the death of President Hindenburg.
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On the 27th February 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin was set on fire in an arson attack. Generally accepted to have been conducted by Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, the fire provided the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler with an opportunity to consolidate Nazi control of the German government.
Hitler had been appointed Chancellor on the 30th January, but had demanded new elections for the Reichstag. These were scheduled to take place on the 5th March, and Hitler hoped to increase the Nazi’s share of the seats in order to pass the Enabling Act and take control of political decisions for himself.
Shortly after 9pm on the evening of the 27th February, Goebbels was informed that the Reichstag was on fire. Although the blaze was extinguished before midnight, the inside of the building was destroyed. Communists were declared responsible, and van der Lubbe was arrested.
The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to pass the emergency Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, which suspended many civil liberties and allowed the Nazis to arrest their opponents. Thousands of communists were rounded up by the SA, along with Social Democrats and liberals, and placed in so-called ‘protective custody’.
Van Der Lubbe was tried, convicted, and executed. Although there is debate over the exact circumstances of the fire, Sir Ian Kershaw says there is consensus among the vast majority of historians that he did set the fire. Whatever the circumstances, the situation was certainly exploited by the Nazis and was the first step in the creation of a single-party state.
The 30th June 1934 saw the Nazis carry out a purge of their own party, when Hitler ordered the SS to murder leading figures of the SA or Brownshirts along with critics of the Nazi regime such as former chancellor von Schleicher. The purges actually went on throughout the weekend of the 30th June – 2nd July, even though the popular name suggests they only lasted for one night.
By the middle of 1934 Hitler was consolidating his rule over Germany but the relative autonomy of the SA within the Nazi Party was a concern. As Germany became a one-party state, the SA’s usual political targets for street violence were removed meaning that in a number of cases these representatives of the ruling party would instead intimidate civilians.
Such actions undermined the sense of order that Hitler was trying to project, and threatened to destabilise the party itself. The SA’s leader, Ernst Röhm, was a particular concern as he sought a so-called “second-revolution” to redistribute wealth within Germany in order to fulfil the socialist part of the Nationalist Socialist party’s name. Furthermore, the Reichswehr – Germany’s official army – were unhappy at Röhm’s desire to place the Reichswehr under the command of the SA.
On the morning of the 30th June, the homes of Röhm and other people who threatened Hitler’s power were broken into. While some were executed on the spot, others such as Röhm himself were held in prison for a few hours first. Hitler justified the purge in a public speech, claiming that he acted as “the supreme judge of the German people.”
On the 2nd August 1934, the 86 year old German Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg died of lung cancer and Adolf Hitler became both the Führer and Reich Chancellor of the German People.
The move effectively merged the offices of both the President and Chancellor into one role, and therefore completed what the Nazis referred to as Gleichschaltung (or “Co-ordination”) by establishing Hitler as both Germany’s head of state and head of government.
Interfering with the post of President was illegal under the terms of the 1933 Enabling Act, and although Hitler merging the two positions removed any political checks and balances of his personal domination of Germany, a plebiscite held 17 days later on the 19th August saw an enormous 90% of people approving of the change.
Hitler’s assumption of the role of Führer also allowed the Nazi Party to more actively pursue its promotion of the ideology of Führerprinzip. This stated that Hitler possessed absolute control over the German government. Supported by a propaganda machine that relentlessly pushed the slogan Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – which translates as “One People, One Empire, One Leader” – the Führerprinzip also confirmed the Nazi Party’s complete control over every element of German society. This ranged from local government to factories and even to the management and control schools, although in terms of government it sometimes meant that officials were reluctant to make decisions without Hitler’s personal input or approval. It was also used by Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials to argue that they were not guilty since they were only following orders.
On the 13th January 1935, the Territory of the Saar Basin voted to reunite with Germany. Having been administered by the League of Nations for 15 years following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the overwhelming plebiscite result of over 90% in favour of reunification surprised many observers.
In 1918 the Saar Basin was a heavily industrialised area, boasting a large number of coal mines. Following the Treaty of Versailles the area was occupied and governed by France and Britain under the auspices of the League of Nations. France was also given exclusive control of the coal mines. However the Treaty called for a plebiscite to decide the long-term future of the Saar region after a period of fifteen years.
By the time of the plebiscite Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany, which had led a number of Nazi opponents to move to the area since it was the only part of Germany free from their rule. They were keen for the area to remain under the League’s administration, but maintaining the status quo was unpopular with ordinary Germans.
Meanwhile the Nazis began an intensive pro-Germany campaign led by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. As early as 1933, complaints that the Nazi campaign amounted to a “reign of terror” had been noted by American political scientists Sarah Wambaugh, one of the members of the commission overseeing the plebiscite. Although the Nazis did tone down their tactics by the end of 1934, the League of Nations provided a peacekeeping force to monitor the plebiscite.
Voter turnout plebiscite was 98%, with 90.8% voting to re-join the German Reich.