History

Introduction

Introduction

It's important that you understand this background information in order to fully understand the Germany unit. However, there won't be a question about it in the exam so you don’t have to learn the information.

  • After it was formed in 1871, the German Empire was controlled by a powerful emperor - Kaiser [Kaiser: The German sovereign. ], Wilhelm II. The country had a parliament - the Reichstag [Reichstag: German parliament in Berlin. ] - but those who had been elected as its members only had limited powers. Germany was under the firm control of the Kaiser and his ministers.
  • In 1914, Germany went to war against Britain, France and Russia.
  • By September 1918, Germany’s Generals had to accept that they had lost the First World War. This came as an enormous shock to the country. Weeks of violence followed as the Germans expressed their anger.
  • 11 November 1918 - Germany signed an Armistice to bring the First World War to an end.
  • 19 January 1919 - Elections were held for the new government.
  • 06 February 1919 - A new government met for the first time in Weimar. President [President: Corresponds to a King in Britain. ] - Ebert; Chancellor [Chancellor : German Prime Minister. ] - Scheidemann. Germany was now a Democratic Republic. Democracy had been forced on the Germans.

Comparisons between the Kaiser and the Weimar Republic

The Constitution of the Kaiser Reich:

  • The Kaiser - an inherited the post, was responsible for the army and the armed forces, chose a Chancellor
  • The Bundestrat - the upper government house, had law-making powers
  • The Reichstag - the lower house, approved legislation only

Constitution of the Weimar Republic:

  1. The President – chose...
  2. The Chancellor – who needed the support of over half...
  3. The Reichstag – which was elected by...
  4. The People

What were the problems/weaknesses of the Weimar Republic?

Proportional representation [Proportional representation: A party had to win more than everyone else in order to form a government. ] - If a party won 5 per cent of the vote, it would get 5 per cent of the seats in the Reichstag. The result: it was difficult to win enough to form a government, therefore Coalition Governments [Coalition government: More than one party having to unite to form a government. ] were common and it could be difficult to make decisions.

Article 48 [Article 48: The Chancellor could control without the Reichstag at a time of emergency. ] - This gave the President the power to pass laws without the permission of the Reichstag at times of emergency.

The Army - Reichswehr. The Generals had been fighting for the Kaiser. They didn’t like the new government.

The Courts - Many Judges had served under the Kaiser. They weren’t as strict with people who were trying to destroy democracy, eg Hitler in 1923.

Establishing the Weimar Republic:

  • Armistice
  • Constitution? [Constitution: A country's written regulations or laws, either written in one document (eg USA) or composed of many laws from different documents (eg Britain). ]

The difficult years for the Weimar Republic, 1919–23:

  • Blamed for losing the First World War
  • Signed the Treaty of Versailles
  • Economic crisis
  • Hyperinflation [Hyperinflation: A rapid form of economic inflation, where price levels increase dramatically. ]
  • The Munich Putsch

The Golden Age of the Weimar Republic, 1924–29:

  • The USA provides financial aid
  • Accepted to the League of Nations
  • Gustav Stresemann
  • but – the Wall Street Crash

Politics

You need to know this:

  • Left wing – people who want to change things, often extremists; Communists (KPD)
  • Right wing – people who want to keep things the way they are or become more extreme, the Nazis (NSDAP)
  • Both sides were against the Weimar Republic.

Make sure that you also understand this:

What made the Weimar Republic so unpopular?

  • Losing the First World War
  • Signing the Treaty of Versailles
  • Democracy was new
  • Poverty and starvation after the war

Who was against the Weimar Republic?

  • Communists (KPD)
  • Nazis (NSDAP)
  • Civil workers
  • Judges
  • The police
  • The army

What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Weimar Republic constitution?

ConstitutionStrengthWeakness
Article 48Decisions could be made quickly in emergencies.It could be misused to form a dictatorship and become non-democratic.
Proportional representationVoting system based on fairnessMade it easier for small parties to be formed, therefore made it difficult to win a majority to form a government. This resulted in coalition governments.

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