Early Problems for the Weimar Republic, 1919-23

One of the main problems for the Weimar government was the right-wing Dolchstosslegende - the claim that the Army had been 'stabbed in the back' by the government (whom the right called 'the November criminals').

Early Problems
• 1923 was a pivotal year for the young Weimar Republic – a number of problems arrived which would determine if democracy would survive, at least in the short term
– French invasion of the Ruhr, Jan. 1923 – Hyper-inflation and economic meltdown – Munich Beerhall Putsch, Nov. 1923

French & Belgian Invasion of the Ruhr, January 1923

Why did France and Belgium invade ?
• Germany did not keep up her agreed reparations payments • France was prepared to make Germany pay, if necessary by seizing raw materials for themselves • Perhaps there was fear that, as the German economy was beginning to meltdown, they might stop paying reparations entirely

What happened ?
• Jan. 1923 – French and Belgian troops invaded the Ruhr to gather reparations payments • The Germans responded with a passive resistance movement – they refused to cooperate with the French and stopped working • The resistance movement also meant that the German government lost what the Ruhr would normally produce – accelerating hyper-inflation • Violence marred the occupation – the French eventually introduced their own workers to operate the factories/mines • Eventually the invaders left when Germany agreed to reschedule her reparations payments

What effects ?
• The loss of income from factories and mines and heavy industry in the Ruhr forced the German government to print more money • This money, based on non-existent reserves, resulted in monetary value dropping drastically and prices rising fast • Hyper-inflation led to middle-class families losing businesses and savings, prices rising and accelerating unemployment • A change of government took place – a new Chancellor Gustav Stresemann took charge of the Republic’s financial response.

Hyper-inflation, 1923

What was the hyper-inflation ?
• After 1921 the German economy was being affected by the Allies reparations demands – this triggered hyperinflation • Businessmen also speculated on the German Mark – trying to make a quick profit – this also had a drastic effect on the German economy

What was the hyper-inflation ?
 July 1914  Jan 1919  July 1919  Jan 1920  Jan 1921  July 1921  Jan 1922  July 1922  Jan 1923  July 1923  Nov 1923   1.0  2.6  3.4  12.6  14.4  14.3  36.7  100.6  2,785.0  194,000.0  726,000,000,000.0

• As 1923 went on, the German Mark became worthless – the final collapse was helped by the French invasion of the Ruhr • The value of the Mark decreased (table) – prices rose, businesses went bust, unemployment rose, the Government lost money, people lost their savings

What were the results ?
• The real losers were the middle classes who saw their businesses and savings destroyed • The new Finance minister Hans Luther issued a new currency – Rentenmark – old banknotes were recalled to be destroyed • The American banker Dawes came up with a rescue plan – lending Germany 800 million Marks to invest in industry and commerce, and spreading out the reparations payments over a longer period

Munich Beer-hall Putsch November 1923

What prompted the attempt ?
• When, in Sept 1923 Stresemann (Chancellor) decided to give into the French over the Ruhr, Hitler and other right-wing politicians saw this a betrayal of the German people • Hitler was convinced that he could succeed where von Kahr had failed – and he expected that von Kahr and the Bavarian government would support his attempt to destroy Weimar • Perhaps Hitler also over-estimated the amount of support the Nazis had in Munich

What happened ?
• Hitler and some SA men interrupted a public meeting led by the head of the Bavarian government Gustav von Kahr • Hitler declared that he was taking over the local government, and that there would be a march on Berlin to take over there too • 9th Nov – Hitler and 3000 supporters were confronted by 100 armed policemen • 16 Nazis were killed, Hitler was wounded • The whole putsch (revolt) collapsed

Why did the Nazis fail ?
• Hitler had expected support from other right-wing groups, including the Bavarian government of von Kahr • The time was ripe for revolt – inflation, invasion of Ruhr etc

What were the results ?
• When the Munich Putsch failed, Hitler was placed in jail • He used his trial to gain nationwide attention for his cause – helped by a sympathetic judge • Hitler served nine months of his 5-year sentence in prison, where he wrote the famous Mein Kampf

Why had the Weimar republic survived the events of 1923?
• Reorganisation of economy – currency, confidence, loans & American investments, reparations rescheduling – Stresemann ! • Strong & decisive leadership from Stresemann – as opposed to the previous Chancellor Cuno • Lack of support for violent upheaval and overthrow of the government –people are prepared to give democracy a chance – is there any alternative ?

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