The Problems of the Weimar Republic

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Describe the Problems that the Weimar Republic Faced in the early 1920's.In 1918, November 11th, the Great War, that had lasted 4 years, ended. Germany had lost and so they had signed the armistice, an act that that officially ended the war. The armistice held the command for the dictator ruler of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm, to abdicate. So, the Kaiser gave up his power and moved to Holland. Because of this, a new provisional government had to be set up. Led by Friedrich Ebert, this new government was created in February 1919. The parliament was called the Reichstag. But, this new republic faced problems as soon as they came into existence, with many more problems just over the horizon. Ebert and his government were instantly labelled the November Criminals, since they were the politicians that agreed to the armistice and, later, on the 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles. The first problem that the Republic would've faced is the constitution. For a start, the Chancellor had what was effectively a Get out of jail card, which was called Article 48. Article 48 was an article in the constitution that allowed the Chancellor to rule by decree without the consent of the Reichstag. If the Chancellor used Article 48, they were saying that there was a state of emergency and they were effectively given emergency powers. The Chancellor could abuse this power and he/she would effectively become a dictator, just like the Kaiser. This was the eventual downfall of the Republic by the hands of Adolf Hitler in 1933, which was when he and the Nazi party rose into power. The other main problem of the Constitution was the idea of Proportional Representation. The idea of this was to give each party a certain number of seats in relation to the amount of votes that party had.

By Thomas Neville

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The big problem with this was that no one party could ever gain an advantage in the government and the German enemies of the Republic could be given power too. Since there were a lot of small parties and because none of these parties could get a fair chance to voice their opinion, these smaller parties would join together. This would be fine until after they had joined together (in a coalition) and they found that they disagreed on another issue. This would result in the parties disbanding into their original smaller party. Due to these constant changes of government, there was no stability. One of the next biggest problems was the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The final conditions of the treaty were determined by the leaders of the Big Three nations: British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and American President Woodrow Wilson. Because of the history between Germany and France, in addition to the casualties that France lost during the war, France wanted to cripple Germany so that it'd never be able to invade France again. Britain wanted the navy of Germany to be weakened since Britain felt that Germany's navy could rival their own. Since America had not suffered as much as anyone else, they were a lot lighter on Germany. All America wanted was to remove itself from the affairs of Europe and world peace. But, in the end, Germany suffered greatly from the treaty. They had to give up a lot of their territory and armaments, pay a huge amount of reparations and were given the burden of holding full guilt for World War I. As a final insult, Germany weren't invited into the League of Nations and they had absolutely no say in the conditions of the treaty. Germany was left isolated from the rest of the world. So, when the government signed the treaty, it didn't bode well with the people of Germany. Some people called the treaty, the Diktat, meaning the dictation. Another problem that the Republic had to deal with as soon as they were created was the many revolutions and uprisings that took place around Germany. It was due to these uprising that the Republic had to stop meeting in Berlin and instead meet at Weimar, hence the name of the Weimar Republic.

By Thomas Neville

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One of the first, biggest uprising came in January 1919, that of an extreme left wing party called the Spartacist League. Left wing parties were communists, with right wing being nationalists and the middle parties being democratic. The name came from the slave called Spartacus, who led a slave revolt against the Romans. In the streets of Berlin, the Freikorps, a mercenary group of ex-war and volunteer soldiers, were sent in to quell the uprisings. Two of the leaders of the Spartacists, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were captured and executed without any court hearing. This made Ebert very unpopular amongst the other radical left wing parties. In March 1920, the Kapp Putsch took place. The leader, Wolfgang Kapp, was a member of the left wing nationalists. Their main reason for forming was their objections against the Treaty of Versailles. The Kapp Putsch was quite successful until the people of Berlin went on strike. Since Kapp couldn't control them, the nationalist group disbanded and Kapp fled to Sweden. Another of the famous uprisings was the Munich Putsch, also known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The putsch took place on the 8th and 9th of November 1923 and it was led by Adolf Hitler. The reason for the uprising was that the hyperinflation and the French occupation of The Ruhr, angered a small right wing party called the Nazi Party. The party attempted to gain power n the Bavarian state capital, Munich. When Hitler came into power of the party, he developed a squad of ex-army Freikorps who would form the core of the Sturmabteilung (SA). They were also known as the Stormtroopers or Brownshirts. On the 8th November 1923, Hitler led a group of 600 stormtroopers into the Burgerbrau Beer Hall, in order to force the Bavarian Chief Minister, Gustav von Kahr, to join up with him. Kahr forcefully agreed, but after Hitler had left, he informed the authorities. Hitler was captured 2 days later and served nine months of his five-year prison term. Finally, the other big problem facing the Weimar Republic was the German economics. First of all, mostly due to the reparation payments, Germany was bankrupt in 1919. By 1921, their reparation bill was at 6600M, to be paid at a rate of 100M per year. The government had made the 1921 payment but failed the next year.

By Thomas Neville

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This led to the French, who needed the money to repay their debts to the USA, invading the industrial capital of Germany, The Ruhr. The French intended to take the goods they needed from The Ruhr in compensation. However, workers across Germany went on strike in response to this. It was a policy of passive resistance against France and Belgium. But, the government still had to pay the strikers so they printed more money. This caused inflation to rise and by April 1923, the government was spending more money than it was receiving. This resulted in hyperinflation. The value of the mark, the German currency, fell rapidly until it was worthless. Prices were rising so quickly that workers were paid twice a day and that those on a fixed income, like a pension, or those who had life saving, suffered greatly. The only people who benefited from the hyperinflation were people who owed money, since they now owed less. But even that only benefited them while they were paying off their debts. Here is a table showing the rising cost of a loaf of bread from 1918 to 1923. 1918 0.63 marks 1922 163 marks January 1923 July 1923 250 marks September 1923 November 1923 201,000,000 marks

3,465 marks 1,512,000 marks

Some Germans began to look at the anti-Weimar parties for answers and support.

By Thomas Neville