WWI caused serious food and medicine shortages because of the Allied Naval Blockade of German Ports
Food shortages led to mutiny. The USA told the Kaiser that there couldn’t be peace negotiations until Germany became more democratic. But the Kaiser refused that.
On the 28th of October there was a mutiny at the naval base at Kiel that spread very quickly to other ports. By the 9th of November Berlin was in the hands of revolutionaries, this caused the Kaiser to abdicate and so he fled to the Netherlands.
A new Provisional Government took over the leading. It was headed by Ebert, leader of the SPD. He signed armistice, and so the fighting of WWI ended on the 11th of November.
The provisional government called for elections, January 1919, in Weimar. This was because of unrest in Berlin. Here a new, democratic, Constitution was drawn up.
Article 48 meant that the President could declare a state of emergency and rule by issuing decrees that weren’t approved by the Reichstag
There were opponents to the Weimar Republic, the Spartacists. Ebert was forced to allow the Freikorps to crush the rising of a Bolshevik-like type of revolution by the Spartacists. The survivors of the Spartacists formed the party KPD.
The Weimar Republic also faced serious economical problems. When the German government announced that they couldn’t pay the 2nd instalment, the Ruhr was invaded by Belgian and French troops. To cope with this crisis the printed more money, but with no counter-value the money soon became worthless. This increased the hatred of middle-class people to the Weimar Republic.
In September 1923 a new government was formed, headed by Stresemann because of the continuing crisis. Stresemann replace the old mark with a new currency, called Rentenmark. This was extremely unpopular with the nationalists. The Nazi Party, led by Hitler, decided to use this crisis as an opportunity to overthrow Stresemann’s government.
Hitler decided to organise a national revolution against the Weimar Republic because Stresemann ended passive resistance against the occupation of the Ruhr by the French in 1923. He wanted to take control of Munich and start a march in Berlin.
Hitler took over a meeting in a beer hall by von Kahr, army and von Lossow and von Seisser. At first they persuaded to join the plan, but later they changed their minds. The next day the Beer Hall Putsch failed because they were blocked by the police. The fighting that followed resulted in the death of 1 policeman and 16 Nazis. Hitler fled.
Hitler was able to use his trial to attack the Weimar System. He was given 5 years prison. There he wrote “Mein Kampf” in which he wrote his plans and beliefs. In December 1924 he was released after 9 months from prison by the Bavarian authorities.
By 1924 Germany was becoming more stable in political and economical circumstances. Stresemann could renegotiate with the Allies about the reparations.
Payments were limited to what Germany could afford each year. USA provided loans to restart the German economy. The Young Plan reduced the reparations to less than £2002 million. Unemployment began to fall and wages rose. Stresemann signed the Locarno Treaty, in return the Allied troops began to withdraw. In 1926 Germany persuaded the Allies to join the League of Nations. By 1929 Germany was the world’s 2nd most advanced industrial nation.
When Hitler was released from prison, Germany’s economical situation was already beginning to improve. So support for extreme groups began to decline. The Nazi Party was breaking up into various factions. So they experienced their Lean Years, in which they received little electoral support. The number of seats reduced from 32 to 14 to 12 seats.
Hitler reasserted the control over the party quickly and set up various sections, like the Hitler Youth, in order to recruit more members. In 1925 he set up the Schutz Staffel (SS). To gain more power he decided that the Nazis had to use elections. An extra boost came when newspaper-owner Alfred Hugenberg joined in a national campaign with the Nazis against Stresemann’s policies
The German economy seemed to be booming by 1929. In October 1929 Stresemann died and the stock market on the Wall Street crashed. The USA stopped further loans to Germany. The industry went soon in depression as world trade declined. Unemployment grew rapidly, by 1923 there were 6 000 000 unemployed. This was because of a vicious circle
The Wall Street crash and the subsequent depression gave Hitler the chance to achieve power. Growing unemployment and poverty made it difficult for the government coalitions to agree on policies. So there were frequent changes of government. Hindenburg, president after Stresemann, increasingly used the article 48
The Nazis blamed all Germany’s problems to the Jews, the Treaty of Versailles and the Weimar Government. The violence seemed to prove that the Nazis were strong and the government weak. So they gained popularity and seats, September 1930 107 seats. The Hunger Chancellor Bruning was replaced by von Papen, whose government consisted almost completely of German aristocrats.
Under the control of Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda machine promised that Germany would be great again as it had been under the Kaiser. In March 1932, Hitler got 16 million votes and Hindenburg 19 million votes. In July 1932 the Nazis get 230 seats, in November 196 seats and the communists 100. on the 30th of January 1933 becomes Hitler Chancellor.
3 Nazis were in the cabinet, also the minister of Interior, so in charge of the police. He called elections for March 1933, and used the SS and SA violence against the Anti-Nazis. The day before voting the Reichstag building caught fire. Hitler used this as a reason to accuse the communist party of an attempt of trying to start a revolution. And so he got Hindenburg to agree on a law for emergency.
In the March 1933 elections Hitler failed to win an outright majority. Hitler only got a majority after the KPD deputies were excluded. But he wanted a two-third majority, so he could destroy the Weimar Republic. To achieve this he made promises to the Centre Party, they agreed to his plans. With the SS and SA crowding round them, all but the SPD deputies voted for an Enabling Act. This gave Hitler the power to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree for 4 years without the Reichstag’s approval.
The Nazis moved quickly to establish their dictatorship. Communists and other politicals were put in concentration camps, run by the SA. In July there were 25 000 prisoners. In April Nazi officials, known as Gauleiters, took over all 18 Lander (provinces). The Nazis abolished all state governments and appointed Nazi governors. In May trade unions were banned and their leaders were arrested and assets seized. In June the SPD were banned, and in July the Centre Party disbanded themselves. On the 14th of July all other parties were banned by the Law Against the Formation of Parties. So Germany became a one-party state.
Hitler still faced opposition; from within his own party. It came from the more militant sections of the NSDAP. Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA since 1930, wanted to merge the German army and the SA under his control. But Hitler wanted an army to conquer the ‘Living Space’ he wanted for Germany. And so he decided to kill Rohm and other SA leaders, to prevent opposition, in June 1934 in what became known as the Night of the Long Knives.
In August 1934 Hindenburg died. The army then supported Hitler combining the jobs of President and Chancellor. Hitler became Fuhrer of Germany. The army also swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler. The Nazis now moved to create a ‘Totalitarian State’ to prevent any future opposition.
The Nazis wasted no time ensuring in maintenance of their role.
Goebbels who was placed in charge Propaganda and Culture, established control of newspapers, radio, cinemas and art. All communist, socialist and Jewish were sacked. By 1939 the Nazis owned 70% of the Press. All newspapers had to use the NDB (state press agency) as only source for news stories. Goebbels made sure there were cheap radios available so Nazi views could be heard as regularly as possible.
The Nazis also relied on terror. Himmler was given control of political police in Bavaria, but soon extended power to all states except Goebbels’ Prussia. The Gestapo (secret state police) was given power to arrest and murder. In 1936 Himmler became head of the new Reich Central Security Office (RSHA). In 1939 Heydrich became its head.
Goebbels created a cult of personality around Hitler. The disciplined and ordered structure of Hitler which was presented to the German people and the rest of the world was in reality quite different. Hitler was lazy and often didn’t even started to work until the afternoon. To make sure he stayed in control he deliberately set up conflicts between governments and Party Organisations. But nonetheless Hitler made all important decisions and his reputation remained unaffected.
The Nazis also tried to maintain power by adopting popular policies. He wanted to make Germany self-sufficient and to re-arm in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. In order to reassure the business world Hitler appointed Schacht, a non-nazi, as Minister of the Economy. Schacht’s job was to develop a ‘New Plan’ to provide Germany with the raw materials needed for rearmament, and to finance public works to reduce unemployment, without increasing Germany’s foreign debts
Hitler concentrated on reducing unemployment. He was helped by this because of policies of earlier governments were beginning to have an effect. He expanded the National Labour Service, which had been set up before he became Chancellor. This NLS used government money to fund public work’s schemes, which included building houses and motorways. 1935, the Reich Labour Law made it compulsory to work for the NLS for all 18-25 y.o. for 6 months. Unemployment was reduced by excluding groups like women and Jews. Communists, socialists, trade unionists and Jews were put into concentration camps, they weren’t counted as unemployed. When trade unions in 1933 were abolished workers were forced to join the Nazi Labour Front (DAF). Strikes were made illegal, hours of working were increased. The wages stayed below the wages of before 1929. to distract this the DAF began two schemes. The Beauty of Labour tried to improve working condition, but achieved little. More was achieved by Strength through Joy, which provided free or subsidised holidays, events and facilities.
Nazi policies and their impacts:
To achieve self-sufficiency agriculture was encouraged to increase production, but imports were reduced. Attempts were made to keep food prices down below the 1928-1929 price. The Reich Entailed Farm Law (1933) stopped splitting up the farms between sons. The law gave farmers protection of eviction, many Nazi supporting farmers were disappointed. The Nazis encouraged bigger firms to take over smaller ones
Rearmament, after 1935 openly, resulted in building thousands of tanks, aircrafts, warships. This reduced unemployment. Conscription was introduced. Rearmament was stepped up in 1936, when Goering was put in charge of a Four Year Plan to prepare Germany for War. Schacht was worried because Germany was spending more money than earning. Schacht resigned when Hitler refused to slow down the rearmament programme.
The Nazis thought that women could contribute to making the Third Reich a powerful country. These policies and ideas were based on the 3 K’s (kinder, kirch, küche). Laws passed so women were removed from civil services and professional jobs, so they could be given to men. Woman were encouraged to give up work and to marry and to have large families, by a system of marriage loans, maternity benefits, grants for each 4th child or higher and by giving bronze, silver and gold medals (the Mother’s Cross) for 6,8 or 10 children. Abortion was made illegal. Women didn’t get important posts in the Party, they even tried to control the women’s appearance. Nazi organisations constantly promoted Nazi views about women. To improve the Aryan stock, infertile women could be divorced and forced sterilisation was carried out. By 1939 over 375 000 Germans were sterilised.
The Nazis tried to make sure that the youth and future generation would be loyal to the supporters of Hitler and the NSDAP. Schools were under governments control. All teachers had to join the Nazi Teachers’ League, all Jewish and political unreliable teachers were sacked. In 1934 Bernhard Rust became minister of education and science. He placed much emphasis on national history, that the Nazis were saving Germany and attacking enemies, tripled PE to make boys and girls fitter for war and children, biology lessons were about the Aryan race, and the Jews, black, Slavic people were inferior. Those with physical handicap didn’t get any secondary education. Outside school there was the Hitler Youth, to indoctrinate youth with Nazi ideas.
The Nazis saw themselves as the Master Race, all other groups were inferior. Their obsession with Racial Purity led to compulsory sterilisation of disabled people and criminals and later into the murdering of handicapped people
The Jews were the main victims of Nazi racism. They used the defeating in WWI and communism as justifications for their treatment to them. Also pseudo-scientific ideas were used. The Nazi Regime persecuted the Jews in ways that became increasingly violent. The Nazi wasted no time in putting pressure on the Jewish community in Germany. The SA and SS launched a boycott on all Jewish-owned shops and businesses in April 1933. After only one day this was called off because of not enough support.
Hitler decided to use laws against the Jews. The 1st law banned all Jews from holding State jobs. This was followed by the Nuremberg Laws. These were Laws like the Reich Citizenship Law that removed all rights from Jews and the Protection of German Blood and Honour law that banned all marriages between Aryans and Jews. In 1938 all Jews had their passports stamped with a large letter J
After 1938 the policy against Jews became more violent. When a Jewish student shot dead a German as result the Nazis responded with what became known as the Kristallnacht in November 1938. the SS and SA attacked, encouraged by Goebbels, on Jewish homes, shops and synagogues in a week-long campaign of terror. Over 100 Jews were killed, 20 000 were put into concentration camps and thousands of homes and shops were destroyed. After that the government fined the Jewish a one billion marks bill for the damage done. Jews in Germany were forced to live in ghettoes. In Poland, Jewish were deliberately deprived from food, which led to starvation and disease and resulted in death.
From July 1941 it was decided to eliminate all Jews in what became known as the Final Solution (Endlosung). At first they were killed by SS in mass shootings. Later this changed in more methodically ways. Special extermination camps were constructed in parts of Poland, which would be able to kill large numbers of Jews in gas chambers. In all about 6 000 000 Jews were killed. Other inferior groups, as Slavs, homosexuals and gypsies were killed too. Their number came to about 5 000 000.