Weimar Republic 1918-33

The Europe that emerged from the horror of WW1 consisted of new nation states created out of the 5 Empires that had collapsed by 1918.

These new nation-states would, it was hoped, help ensure that war would never again engulf Europe.  To that end, the Paris Peace Conferences sought to guarantee their democracy and independence.

 

Using the maps on the left, describe how Europe's attempt to enshrine Wilson's 14 Points fared.  What had happened by 1939?  Which parts of Europe were central to this and why? 

'Interwar States' as a HL unit as a whole deals with domestic developments in certain key European states in the period between the two world wars. It requires the study of four European countries: Germany, Italy, Spain and the USSR. 

 

We focus on the Weimar Republic as a separate unit, with the others forming part of the SL course of Global War, Authoritarian States + 20thC War.....

 

The section considers the impact of the end of the First World War, then examines the economic, social and cultural changes in each country during the 1920s and 1930s.

  • Weimar Germany: constitutional, political, economic/financial and social issues (1918–1933); initial challenges (1918–1923); “Golden Era” under Stresemann (1924–1929); the crisis years and the rise of Hitler (1929–1933)

  • Hitler’s Germany (1933–1939): consolidation of power; Hitler’s pre-war domestic policies, including economic, social and political policies; nature of the Nazi state; the extent of resistance to the Nazis

  • Italy (1918–1939): rise of Mussolini; consolidation of power; Mussolini’s pre-war domestic policies, including economic, social and political policies; nature of the fascist state

  • Spain (1918–1939): political, social and economic conditions in Spain; the Primo de Rivera regime; polarization and political parties under the Second Republic; Azaña and Gil Robles; causes of the Civil War; foreign involvement; reasons for nationalist victory under Franco

  • Case study of domestic political, economic and social developments in one European country (other than Germany, Italy or Spain) in the inter-war years.  For our course, this will be the USSR emerging from the Civil War in 1918.....

Overview 1918-33: Constitutional, political, economic/financial and social issues 

What did the Weimar achieve?

How was it also a failure?

What relationship did Hitler + the Nazis have to the Weimar Republic?

How was the Weimar organised?

What crises did the Weimar face?

How did it overcome them?

How successful was its Golden Era?

What impact did the Great Depression have?

Was its fate inevitable?

1918-23 - Initial challenges 

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In the period from 1919 to 1924, Weimar Germany faced multiple threats. It faced uprisings from both left and the right, economic crises, criticism over the Treaty of Versailles and hostility from the old conservative power. However, in spite of the strong opposition, Weimar Republic managed to survive the turbulent period and even reach a period of relative stability later in the decade. The reasons why the Republic survived are many, but the main ones are the effective leadership it had during this period, the widespread support among the majority of the people and the disorganized opposition from their enemies.

Probably the most important reason the Republic survived is the determination of its leaders. Ebert was absolutely dedicated to the Republic and adamant to ensure it survived. He used his influence and the power given

to him under the Article 48 to protect the Republic in its critical

years. During the Spartakist revolt in 1919 Ebert uses his

powers to crush the revolt by mobilizing the army and the

Freikorps. His deal with Groner ensured that the Republic,

while not exactly having the loyalty of the army, at least had

its support.

1924-28 - Streseman 'Golden Years' 

How stable was the Weimar by 1928?

By 1929, Weimar Germany had had a democratic constitution for nearly a decade and 78% of voters supported pro-Weimar parties. Indeed, the political system seemed at its strongest since its conception after the end of the First World War, with the last attempted coups being the Kapp Putsch in 1920 and before that the Spartacist Uprising in 1919. It is worth noting that even during these times of political crises, neither of these coups had attracted widespread support and thus it was clear by 1929 that the political system could not be removed by force - a clear sign of stability. Furthermore, the Nazis only obtained 2.8% of the vote in the 1928 election.Economically, the Dawes Plan of 1924 meant that the German economy was stable for much of the 1920s,

benefitting greatly from foreign loans and investment, principally from the

USA. Between 1925 - 30, Germany received 25.5 billion marks from the

USA which proved invaluable in ensuring economic stability throughout

this period. This economic stability also tangibly benefitted the German

people who saw their wages rise every year from 1924-30 and the

industrial sector of the economy grew rapidly. 

However, was this miraculous recovery all that it seems?  Using your Todd reading, the podcasts and the HistoryToday article on the right, complete the googledoc above...

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Having established that the Weimar's Golden Years were indeed a recovery of sorts from the chaos and firefighting of the Republic's early years, it must also be recognised that this recovery was in many ways merely a papering over of fundamental cracks that would reappear when pressure was reapplied.  This can be further investigated by examining the famed Weimar Culture of the mid 1920s when Germany, and in particular Berlin, were seen as the cultural epicentre of post-war Europe.  How had Germany found itself in this position and what can this cultural explosion tell us about both the history of the Weimar as a whole, and about its Golden Years in particular?

Use your text handouts and the googledoc on the left to explore further...

TOK focus - How far should we trust art as historical evidence?

- what can artwork tell us about the periods studied?

- why do we have to be careful using art as evidence?

One type of source often underused for the reasons explored above is art.  The subjective nature of artistic work can be seen to limit its value to the historian. 

 

However, they can often allow for analysis of history away from the conventional text and statistics so often used.  They can convey emotions felt, the mood or atmosphere of the time, criticism or indeed praise of events or individuals

What is required is careful treatment of these pieces with their use requiring they be put into context, and that the artists themselves is firmly at the centre of any usage of reference.  With this in mind, the art of George Grosz provides an interesting body of work to practise using artistic work as evidence and using it in history writing...

1929-33 - Economic crisis + collapse

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How much responsibility must the Weimar bear for its own demise amidst the rise of the NSDAP?

- The collapse of the Weimar must be seen through multiple filters - the continuing shadow of humiliating loss in WWI; the economic crisis of 1929-33; the correspondent rise in the popularity of extremist politics; NSDAP success at the polls; ineffective governance; flawed political structures; over-reliance on the US dollar; Stalinist economic policy reportedly working miracles; machiavellian right-wing establishment political manoeuvring..the list goes on!  Using your existing knowledge, research the end of the Weimar and examine the . extent to which its demise was inevitable...

Weimar Historiography

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December 16, 1866, just after the victory of Königgrätz. Bismarck hauls the Prussian Liberals on the chariot of victory.
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How can we assess the Weimar?

- Having examined how the Republic was established, survived, flourished and then ultimately collapsed, the final analysis must focus on the Republic as in its entirety.  How should history see it? 

  • As doomed from the very start?

  • Given the context, as a success story? 

  • Was it the victim of forces outside of its control? 

  • How does it sit within this concept of Sonderweg?

Using the list of points on the googledoc on the left, argue the merits of each of these theories - which seem the most plausible?