In 1871 following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war Alsace-Lorraine and Prussia became part of Germany forming a super state. Germany had everything it needed after this triumph including the second largest population in all of Europe and an incredibly strong industry. Germany had the strongest army in the world in 1914 consisting of 2,200,000 men. Before the Great War in 1914 Germany was ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II who came to power in 1888 following the death of his father. Germany was ruled as a military autocracy this meant that Kaiser Wilhelm was the self appointed leader of Germany and the power was military.
Germans lived a very obedient and traditional lifestyle under Kaiser Wilhelm II’s rein. Queen Victoria was the Kaisers mother but had a cold and unloving relationship with her son. The Kaiser brought new and mixed qualities to his new job as Kaiser. The Kaiser dreamed of being better than everyone else and had high hopes that Germany would be established as the most superior country in Europe. He was willing to go to war for his dreams. Some people say he suffered from brain damage at birth due to his inability to concentrate on one idea for a long period of time. He was very well educated and well-informed.
He was incredibly intelligent and brought a new dynamic to the role as Kaiser. He had an ambition to build Germany’s military strength and improve their empire even more. He was extremely determined to do this and carry out all his other plans. Kaiser Wilhelm was cruel to people and enjoyed playing practical jokes. In 1908 the Kaiser suffered a minor nervous breakdown but continued to fulfil his role in government. Unfortunately for some on November 9th 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate and fled to Holland. Following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm there was a new democratically elected leader of Germany.
Fredrich Elbert the new leader was the leader of the social democrats. His meant that all new systems were put in place. The Weimer constitution aimed to set up the most democratic system in the world. They soon let all Germans over the age of twenty vote. A system of proportional representation was put in place meaning that if a party gained twenty percent of a vote the gained twenty percent of the seats in parliament. Hitler’s and many other’s views of the Weimer republic were not so good. Hitler claimed that the Weimar government had stabbed Germany in the back and they were ‘November criminals’.
Kaiser Wilhelm’s rein left Germany wanting another very strong and firm leader. Like Hitler Kaiser Wilhelm shared many of the publics views. They were very proud of their nation and had very high standards for themselves. They were united and were willing to fight if once again they were split up or humiliated. They were a very obedient nation and very focused. Between 1918 and 1923 Germany had a very strong base to change the nation. There was an incredibly strong welfare state and many Germans were very well educated offering many prospects to all people. One third of all Germans were under 15 making them extremely easy to brainwash.
Having such a young nation meant that Germany was keen on war. The majority of the German nation had a strong Christian faith and somewhere along the line this influenced the nation’s decision to shun the Jewish faith. By 1918 the Great War had proved to have a huge impact on Germany. They became bankrupt and national income dropped by two thirds. Two million children were left without fathers and six hundred thousand women were made widows. Divides became huge within Germany with women working. Due to the break down in the economy there was a restriction to some people’s wages worsening the gaps between the rich and the poor.
Germany itself became an unstable democratic republic because people felt betrayed by pathetic politicians leading to a revolution in October 1918. At the end of the First World War the Treaty of Versailles was signed by Germany, France, Britain and America. This caused enormous problems for the current German government. It resulted in the loss of self determination because Germany lost thirteen percent of its land and people who were originally German were becoming a different nationality due to this land loss.
One term of the Treaty was that the German army was reduced to only one hundred thousand men meaning that thousands of German soldiers lost their jobs. All Germans hated article two three one because as well as being humiliated by it, it led to all the other harsh terms in the Treaty. The unfair reparations of £ 6600 million led to hyper inflation and taxes went up for all Germans. Imperialists hated the thirteen percent loss of land, the twelve percent loss of population and the loss of colonies. This was a huge let down from the Weimer republic because Kaiser Wilhelm had promised a huge empire.
Germans lost self-determination, trade, wealth and pride. Industrialists hated the loss of land and trade because it hugely damaged business and economy. Although their were very few up sides to the Treaty but not for the Germans. The Polish liked the Treaty because Poland was made bigger and given access to the sea. The Weimer republic proved to be an unpopular move in Germany’s politics. Although they were rightfully voted into power the Germans were very suspicious and to some extent afraid of democracy.
Unfortunately for the Weimer republic they were forced to sign the Armistice ceasefire at the end of World War One, this meant that the German public felt betrayed by the government. Due to the timings of Kaiser Wilhelm’s abdication and the beginning of the Weimer republic the Kaiser had been associated with ‘pre-war prosperity’. Any government that followed the Kaisers rein that had to deal with the post war crisis were not going to be popular. The German’s felt incredibly humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and they hated the fact that the Weimar government had signed it. The £600 million reparations were far too high for Germany to repay and it brought huge economic crisis for the government. Because the Germans craved a strong, firm leader they hated that the government had lost control of the nation resulting in angry Germans staging rebellions and revolts. In 1923 French and Belgium troops invaded the Ruhr (Germany’s main industrial area). This happened because in 1922 Germany declared they were struggling to pay back the reparations and were going to lower their repayments for three years. France and Belgium were not impressed by Germany’s move and decided to invade the Ruhr in 1923.
All the Ruhr workers were instructed by the Weimar republic to carry out passive resistance during this one hundred and forty Germans were killed. Strikers got the full support of the government and remained on full pay. This drove Germany into even bigger economic crisis because their main industrial area was making no money yet they were still paying the workers. The Weimar republic came up with the idea to print more and more money to cover their repayments but it soon got out of hand and led to hyper-inflation. This meant that money became worthless for example one loaf of bread could cost one hundred Marks.
The economic crisis affected all areas of German life including the major food shortages leading to deaths due to starvation. There was widespread poverty and this combined with everything else made nearly all Germans turn against the Weimar republic. In August 1923 it seemed that Germany was going to be saved. Gustav Stresemann was appointed chancellor and immediately called off the Ruhr strikes. He then introduced a new currency (the Rentenmark) to start the economy on a clean slate. Stresemann came to an agreement to borrow the reparation money from America under the Dawes Plan.