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German history from 1919 to 1933 An overview
THE BIRTH OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC
• Before 1918, the most powerful person in Germany was Kaiser Willhelm II. He was head of the government, appointing ministers to run the country. He was head of the civil service and commander of the armed forces. Usually, it is said that, due to all these powers, the government of Germany was almost a military autocracy. • But despite the Kaiser’s powers, Germany’s government did have some democratic features: men of 25 and over had the right to vote for a parliament called the Reichstag. This voted on the laws which the Kaiser and his ministers drew up. However, the Reichstag had no say in foreign or military affairs, nor in choosing of ministers.
• In autumn 1918 the Allies had clearly won the war and Germany was in a state of chaos. • The Allies offered Germany peace, but under strict conditions. One of them was that Germany should become more democratic. • Kaiser Willhelm II then allowed the main parties in the Reichstag, Germany’s Parliament, to form a new government which took away many of the Kaiser’s powers and gave them to the Reichstag.
• But this change did not satisfy many people. Public opinion turned against the Kaiser. • At the end of October 1918, the German navy mutinied. Rebellion spread throughout the country, mostly encouraged by the Socialists (who had been previously persecuted by the Kaiser). • Finally, in November Germany was forced to drop out of the First World War. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on 9 November 1918 and fled the country.
• After the abdication of the Kaiser, the Socialist leader Friedrich Ebert became the new leader of the Republic of Germany. He immediately signed an armistice with the Allies. • In January 1919, elections were held for a new Reichstag and in February 1919, in the town of Weimar, a new government was agreed: Friedrich Ebert was elected President of the new Republic and a new constitution was drawn up.
Phase #1 – 1919‐1923
• At first the Weimar Republic had great difficulties:
• Left wing rebellions
• • • • All people were angry with it Right‐wing rebellions and terrorism Invasion and inflation Munich Putsch
Phase #2 – 1923‐1929
• But the Republic survived and (after Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor in 1923) did well:
•Economic Prosperity •Foreign Policy successes •Cultural flowering
Phase #3 – 1929‐1933
• After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, however, the Republic collapsed:
•Unemployment •Nazi Party grew more powerful •In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor