Sunday, December 6, 2015
Germany between 1918 - 1945
Why did the Weimar republic collapse:-
a) It had a number of disadvantages:-
a. It had accepted the humiliating and unpopular Versailles Treaty. German nationalists could never forgive it for that.
b. There was a traditional lack of respect for democratic government and a great admiration for the army and the officers class as the rightful leaders of Germany.
c. The parliamentary system introduced in the new Weimar constitution had weaknesses. It enable all parties could get fair representation. So that no party could ever win an overall majority. No party was able to carry out its programme.
d. The political parties had very little experience of how to operate a democratic parliamentary system. In the new constitution the chancellor was responsible to the Reichstag, which had the final say. But it usually failed to compromise all parties.
e. Parties organized their own armies led to more outbreaks of violence and attempts to overthrow the republic.
b) Outbreaks of violence:-
a. The Spartacist rising:
i. The communists inspired by the success of the Russian revolution occupied almost every major city in Germany.
ii. Government managed to defeat only because it accepted the help of the Freikorps ( anti communist ex-army officers).
b. The Kapp Putsch(1920):
i. Attempt by right-wing groups to seize power.
ii. Government tried to disband the Freikorps.
iii. Berlin was occupied by Freikorps; german army took no action because general were sympathetic.
iv. With the help of workers of berlin government regained control and Freikorps were disbanded.
c. A series of political assassinations took place:
i. Carried out by ex- Friekorps members.
ii. Government did not take control measures because there was great opposition from the right wing parties.
iii. Communist leaders were brutally murdered.
d. The Beer Hall Putsch:
i. the French occupation of the Ruhr and the disastrous fall in the value of the mark caused severe public annoyance.
ii. Hitler aimed to take control of the Bavarian state government in Munich, and then lead a national revolution to overthrow the government in berlin.
iii. The police easily broke up hitler’s march, and the beer Hall Putsch soon fizzled out. Hitler was sentenced to nine months.
e. The private armies expanded:
i. The violence died down during the 1924 and 1929.
ii. But when unemployment grew in the early1930’s, the private armies expanded and regular street fights occurred between Nazis and communists.
c) Economic problems:
a. In 1919 germany was close to bankruptcy because of the war.
b. Her attempts to pay reparations instalments made matters worse. 1922, germans claimed they were unable to make the full annual payment.
c. In 1923, French troops occupied the Ruhr and attempted to seize goods from factories and mines- galloping inflation and the collapse of the mark.
i. Thanks to the Dawes plan and young plan to make the economy stable.
d. The prosperity was much more dependent on the American loans than the most people realized.
e. Wall street crash- the USA stopped any further loans and began to call in many of the short-term loans already made to Germany. This caused a crisis of confidence in the currency ; exports were severely reduced, factories had to close, unemployment was high.
f. To deal with the crisis the government reduced the social expenditure, introduced high tariffs, bought shares in factories hit by the slump.
g. But the government came under criticism from almost all groups in society, especially industrialists and the working class who demanded more decisive action.
By the end of 1932 the Weimar republic had thus been brought to the verge of collapse.
d) the alternative- Hitler and the Nazis:
a. the fortunes of the Nazi party were linked closely to the economic situation; the more unstable the economy, the more seats the Nazis won in the Reichstag.
b. Rise of Hitler was one of the most important cause of the downfall of the republic.
e) What made the Nazis so popular?
a. They offered national unity, prosperity and full employment.
b. They promised to overthrow the Versailles settlement, to build Germany into a great power again.
c. The Nazi private army was attractive to young people.
d. Wealthy landowners and industrialists encouraged the Nazis because they feared a communist revolution and they approved of the Nazi policy of hostility to communists.
e. Hitler himself had extraordinary political abilities. Possessed tremendous energy and will-power and a remarkable gift for public speaking.
f. The striking contrast between the governments of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi party impressed people.
g. Without the economic crisis though it is doubtful whether hitler would have had much chance of attaining power.
f) Hitler became chancellor:
a. By 1932, hitler was able to form the single largest party in the Reichstag.
b. A small clique of right –wing politicians with support from the Reichswehr decided to bring Hitler into a coalition government with the nationalists. Their reasons for this decision were:
i. They were afraid of the Nazis attempting to seize power by a Putsch;
ii. They believed they could control hitler better inside the government than if remained outside; taste of power would make the Nazis modify their extremism;
iii. It would give them a better chance of controlling the communists.
What did National Socialism stand for?
1. It was more than just one political party among many. It was a way of life dedicate to the rebirth of the nation. All classes in society must be united to make Germany a great nation again. Since the Nazis had the only correct way to achieve this, all parties must be eliminated.
2. Great emphasis was laid on the ruthlessly efficient organization of all aspects of the lives of the masses under the central government. To achieve greatness, violence and terror are necessary.
3. Greatness could only be achieved by war, the entire state must be organized on a military footing.
4. The race theory was vitally important- Aryans were the germans, ideally tall, blond, blue-eyed and handsome; master race, destined to rule the world. Slavs, coloured people and particularly Jews were inferior and were destined to become the slav races of the Germans.
Hitler consolidates his power
a) The election of 1933:
a. The election campaign was and extremely violent one.
b. Nazis, now in power were able to use all the apparatus of state, including media to try to whip up a majority.
c. Senior police officers were replaced with reliable Nazis, and auxiliary police men were called up, most of them from the SA and SS ( Schutzstaffein- hitler’s personal and private army).
d. Meetings of all parties except Nazis and nationalists were wrecked and speakers beaten up.
b) The Reichstag fire:
a. Reichstag was badly damaged by a fire apparently started by a young Dutch anarchist , who was arrested, tried and executed.
b. Hitler used the fire to stir up fear of communism and as a pretext for the banning of the party.
c. Nazis still failed to win an overall majority and had to depend on the support of nationalists.
How was Hitler able to stay in power?
a) the enabling Law, 1933:-
a. the law was passed by use of SS force.
b. the government could introduce laws without the approval of the Reichstag for the next four years, could ignore the constitution and sign agreement with foreign countries.
c. All laws would be drafted by the chancellor.
d. Weimar constitution had been abandoned
Means forcible co-ordination which turned Germany into a totalitarian state. The government tried to control as many aspects of life as possible, using a huge police force and the notorious state secret police, the Gestapo. The main features of the Nazi state were :
· All political parties were banned .
· Separate state parliaments still existed but lost all power. Nazi Commissioner had complete power over all officials and affairs within his state. No more elections to province or municipality.
· The civil service was purged. Jews and enemies of the state were removed .
· Trades unions were abolished and replaced by German Labour front to dealt with all grievance, and strikes were not allowed.
· The education system was closely controlled so that children could be indoctrinated with Nazi opinions.
· Hitler youth- all boys had to join at 14; girls joined the league of german maidens.
· Hitler took on title Fuhrer ( leader ).
· All communications and the media were controlled by the minister of propaganda.
· The economic life of the country was closely organized:
o Telling industrialist what to produce, depending on what the country needed at that moment; closing factories down if their products were not required;
o Moving workers around the country to places where jobs existed;
o Controlling food prices and rents;
o Manipulating foreign exchange rates to avoid inflation;
o Introducing vast schemes of public works.
o Forcing foreign countries to buy german goods .
o Manufacturing synthetic rubber and wool and experimenting to produce petrol from coal in order to reduce the dependence on the other countries for fuel.
o Religion was brought under state control, since the churches were a possible source of opposition.
· Above all, Germany was a police state. Gestapo and SS tried to prevent all open opposition to the regime; concentration camps introduced; they contained political prisoners- communists, social democrats, catholic priests, protestant pastors and above all jews.
· The worst aspect of the Nazi system was Hitler’s anti-sematic policy.
o Hitler decided to use them as scapegoats for everything- the Versailles, the depression, unemployment, communism.
o Lots of germans were in such a desperate situation that they were prepared to accept the propaganda about the Jews.
o Thousands of the jews were removed from their jobs.
o Nuremberg law- deprived jews of their German citizenship, forbade them to marry non-jew.
o Their property was attacked and burnt; jews themselves herded into concentration camps.
o Eventually, hitler intended to exterminate the entire Jewish race.
o Including in the occupied territories, 5 million jews were murdered.
c) Hitler’s policies were popular with many sections of the German people:
a. His arrival in power in 1933 caused a great wave of enthusiasm and anticipation after the weak and indecisive governments.
b. Hitler was successful in eliminating unemployment .
i. The public works schemes provided thousands of extra jobs.
ii. Large party bureaucracy was setup. Provided thousands of extra office and administrative posts.
iii. There were purges of Jews and anti-Nazis from the civil servie and from many other jobs.
c. Care was taken to keep the support of the workers – provided benefits such as subsidized holidays in Germany and abroad, cheap theatre tickets etc.
d. Wealthy industrialists and businessmen were delighted with the Nazis in spite of the governments interference with their industries.
i. They now felt safe from a communist revolution.
ii. They were glad to be rid of trades unions.
e. Farmers were in specially favoured position in the state because of the declared Nazi aim of self- sufficiency in food production.
1. Prices of agricultural produce were fixed so that they were assured of profit .
2. Farms were declared to be hereditary estates.
f. Hitler gained the support of the Reichswehr( army) one organization which could have removed him by force. Hitler had won it over:
i. Setting aside the restrictions of the Versailles treaty by rearmament and expansion of the army to its full strength.
ii. There had been a steady infiltration of Nazis into the lower ranks .
iii. The army leaders were much impressed by Hitler’s handling of the troublesome SA in the notorious Rohm Purge.
g. Finally. Hitler’s foreign policy was a brilliant success.
Nazism and Fascism:
a. Anti-communist and because of this drew a solid basis of support from all classes;
b. Attempted to organize a totalitarian state, controlling industry, agriculture, way of life of the people, so that personal freedom was limited;
c. Attempted to make the country self-sufficient;
d. Emphasized the close unity of all classes working together to achieve these ends;
e. Emphasized the supremacy of the state, were intensely nationalistic, and glorified war and the cult of the leader.
b) But there were come important differences:
a. Fascism never seemed to take root in Italy as deeply as it did in Germany.
b. The Italian system was not as efficient as that in Germany. They never achieved self-sufficiency and never eliminated unemployment;
c. The Italian system was not as ruthless and brutal as that in Germany.
d. Italian fascism was not particularly anti-jewish or racist until when mussolini adopted the policy to emulate hitler.
e. Mussolini was more successful than hitler with his religious policy after his agreement with the pope.
f. Their constitutional positions were different. The monarchy still remained in Italy. Unfortunately there was nobody in Germany who could dismiss Hitler.
How successful was hitler in dometic affairs up to 1939
a) He was successful
a. Nazis were extremely successful because they provided many benefits of the sort mentioned above, and developed a flourishing economy.
b. If only Hitler had managed to keep Germany out of war, all would have been well.
b) The was superficially successful
a. Hitler’s policies were only superficially successful and could not stand the test of time.
b. The so called ‘economic miracle’ was an illusion; there was a huge budget deficit and the country was, technically , bankrupt.
i. Full employment was achieved only at the cost of a brutal anti-jewish campaign and a massive rearmament programme;
ii. Self-sufficiency was not possible unless Germany wsa able to take over and exploit large areas of eastern Europe belonging to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia;
iii. Permanent success therefor depended on success in war, thus there was no possibility of Hitler keeping out of war.