Weimar and Nazi Germany 1919-1945

Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany

Germany 1918-1945 Depth Study revision – quick links

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Weimar Germany 1919-1929

The situation in Germany after the First World War including early extremist uprisings (the Spartacist Revolt and the Kapp Putsch), the invasion of the Ruhr, and the causes and effects of hyperinflation. The appointment of Gustav Stresemann, the end of the occupation of the Ruhr, negotiation of the Dawes Plan, and the terms of Locarno Treaties.

The rise of Adolf Hitler,
1919-1929

Hitler’s early attitudes, control of the National Socialist German Workers Party, the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers and the Munich (Beer Hall) Putsch. Hitler's imprisonment and Mein Kampf, and how the ‘Stresemann period’ of German history led Hitler to use legal means in an attempt to gain political power.

The rise of Adolf Hitler, 1929-34

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.

Nazi control of Germany, 1933-1945

Repression: Nazi control of the police and courts, the SS and the use of concentration camps, and the Gestapo.
Nazi achievements: assistance to farming communities, employment and improved working conditions. Middle-class and upper-class support.
Propaganda: role of the Reich Chamber of Culture; the effect of the radio; use of films; the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Life in Nazi Germany 1933-1945

Nazi systems for young people; the role of women and families within Nazi society; the experiences of minority groups under the Nazis.
Weimar Germany coat of arms

Establishment of the Weimar Republic: overview video

This short video provides an overview of the reasons for the establishment of the Weimar Republic.

Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

The killing of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

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.

Make Germany Pay

‘Make Germany Pay’ – the Treaty of Versailles

An overview of the background to the Paris Peace Conference in 1918, and an explanation of the aims of the ‘Big Three’.  It goes on to describe the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and Germany’s reaction to them.

Weimar Hyperinflation

Weimar Germany 1919-1929 podcast

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.

     

Occupation of the Ruhr

The French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr, 11th January 1923

On the 11th January 1923, French and Belgian troops marched into Germany and occupied the industrial Ruhr area. The two countries had grown increasingly frustrated by Germany frequently defaulting on its reparations that had been agreed in the Treaty of Versailles. The occupation was met with passive resistance, which was only called off on the 26th September as rampant hyperinflation crippled the German economy.

 

Although the French leader Raymond Poincaré was initially reluctant to occupy the Ruhr, he had grown increasingly exasperated by Germany’s regular defaults and the lack of international support for sanctions as a way to persuade her to pay. He argued strongly that the reparations themselves were not the key issue, but rather that allowing Germany to defy this part of the Treaty of Versailles could lead to further attempts to undermine the Treaty at a later date.

Despite these arguments it was Germany’s failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922 that provided France and Belgium with the excuse to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923. They established the Inter-Allied Mission for Control of Factories and Mines to ensure that goods payments were made, but the Germans responded with a campaign of passive resistance. Tensions were high between the occupiers and Ruhr locals, and by the time Gustav Stresemann’s new government called off the strikes in September approximately 130 German civilians had been killed by the occupying army.

The occupation enabled France and Belgium to extract reparations, but it was Germany that won international sympathy. The last French troops finally left the Ruhr on the 25th August 1925.

The end of Germany’s strike in the Ruhr

On the 26th September 1923, German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann ended passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed the payment of First World War reparations.

By doing so he was able to slow down the economic crisis that was enveloping the country and show that he accepted the international realities of the new era. Although greeted with anger from both Left and Right Wing parties, Stresemann’s actions laid the foundation for the economic recovery that Germany experienced up until the onset of the Great Depression.

The 1921 London Schedule of Payments set out both the reparations amount, and the timetable over which Germany was expected to pay for its defeat in the First World War. However, from the very start of the payments Germany missed some its targets. Failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922, provided the excuse for France and Belgium to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923.

Occupation was met with passive resistance, and the striking workers were paid with money printed by the government. This contributed to the rampant hyperinflation that had begun to cripple the economy from before the occupation even began. Aware that the situation was unsustainable, Stresemann – who had only been Chancellor for six weeks – called off passive resistance after nine months and started to pay reparations again. This marked the start of Germany’s international rehabilitation, although within Germany it was met with opposition from both Left and Right extremists. For that reason, Stresemann asked President Ebert to announce a state of emergency under Article 48 of the constitution on the same day.

Rentenmark

Introduction of the Rentenmark in Weimar Germany

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.

The Nazi Party in 1922

The Rise of Hitler 1919-1929 podcast

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.

          

Hitler in Landsberg

Adolf Hitler’s release from Landsberg Prison after serving 9 months for treason

In November 1923 Hitler had led an attempted coup against the Weimar Government by trying to seize power in the Bavarian city of Munich. The putsch failed and Hitler was found guilty of treason in the subsequent trial. Sentenced to five years imprisonment, he was sent to the Festungshaft prison in the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech.

 

Hitler’s ‘fortress confinement’ provided him with a reasonably comfortable cell in comparison to conventional facilities, and meant that he was able to receive mail and have regular visitors. The discovery in 2010 of more than 500 documents relating the Hitler’s imprisonment show that more than 30 people were able to visit him on his birthday on 20 April 1924, just 19 days into his sentence.

Imprisonment provided Hitler with the opportunity to dictate his autobiography, Mein Kampf, to his deputy Rudolf Hess. It was in this book that Hitler laid out his blueprint for the future of Germany. Although it gained only modest success when it was first published, Winston Churchill later claimed that if world leaders had read it they could have better anticipated the scale of Nazi domestic and foreign policy.

In a memorandum dated 18 September 1924, the Landsberg warden Otto Leybold described Hitler as “sensible, modest, humble and polite to everyone – especially the officers of the facility”. He was released on 20 December 1924 after serving on nine months of his five-year sentence and soon set about rebuilding the Nazi Party which had been banned in Bavaria as a result of the Beer Hall Putsch. The ban was lifted less than two months after Hitler’s release.