I. Ideological Roots: Antecedents & Context - Historical Antecedents & Preconditions
Historic Roots of Nazism

FIVE World War I& its Aftermath. The Weimar Republic, 1918-32

Context to the Rise of Hitler and Nazism

“ ... specific German development made the rise of Nazism an unprecedented event in human history.”1

Bauer, 61-86
* World War I. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/lessons/00/lincolnm/intro.html
The Great War - Link to posters, propaganda, and cartoons from the Great War.
WWI, the basics. http://www.42explore.com/ww1.htm
*Map: Europe in 1914. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/euro1914.htm
* Wars & Atrocities. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/war-1925.htm
* Treaty of Versailles. http://history.acusd.edu/gen/text/versaillestreaty/vercontents.html
* Weimar Republic. http://artsandsciences.virginia.edu/ascit/german/weimar.html


World War I, 1914-18) and its impact. The Peace Settlement, Jan. 1919. Treaty of Versailles June, 28, 1919. Rise of Fascism. The Weimar Republic (1918-1932) - its weaknesses. Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s at a time of social, political, and economic upheaval; Legend of stab in the back; inflation; domestic conflict.

‘In this lecture we discuss the meaning of World War I for European history, and the repercussions of the defeat of Germany for German & Jewish history. The objective of this discussion is to indicate the nature of the response to the defeat in certain German circles, and what impact this had on the nature of growing German antisemitism, especially among members of far right and the emerging Nazi Party. Secondly, we discuss the failure of the democratic Weimar Republic - the nature of the Weimar Republic and its inherent weaknesses which led eventually, to its decline and overthrow.’

Instructional Objectives - Students will be able to describe and assess:

1. the sociopolitical context, and the domestic & worldwide conditions that influenced Germany after WWI and contributed/led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party - the historical circumstances and conditions in Germany, that preceded the Nazi rise to power:
how the economic & political conditions after German’s defeat in World War I, led to despair & hopelessness among Germans, & to different social groups to support Nazis.

Focus Questions

1. How the Final Solution Came About? How does a society get to this point?
2. What were the factors that produced National Socialism and Hitler’s ideology?
3. Discuss the repercussions of the German defeat in WWI.

Study Questions/Essays

1. Evaluate the impact and the consequences of World War I (WWI).
2. Determine the factors that led to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe in the period between the two world wars.
3. Identify countries which experienced a rise in antisemitism after WWI.
4. List at least, three major provisions of the Versailles Treaty.
Indicate the nature of the response to the defeat in WWI, in certain German circles and what impact this had on the nature of growing German antisemitism, especially among members of the far Right and the emerging Nazi Party.
How the reconfiguration of Europe following World War I, influenced German national politics in the period 1919–1933? )

The Nazi party gained popularity and then came to power during a period in which Germany was shaken and transformed. Describe the social, political, and economic instability that plagued Germany and the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933, and explain how the Nazis used this instability to their advantage in their rise (

Which 2 political parties were the strongest opponents of the democracy? What type of government did each of them wanted instead?

What was the "Free Corps" and what role did it play during the political upheavals in post-World War I Germany? Why did ex-soldiers join the Free Corps?
How long did the 1st Reich last? the 2nd Reich? the Weimar Republic?


Chapter content

I. Background to Hitler’s Rise

The Great War - World War I (1914-18) & its Aftermath

A. Underlying causes of Great War - WW I, 1914-18

By 1914, national states were fueled by an explosive nationalism, & were grouped into hostile alliances, because of imperialism & militarism. (Extreme nationalism, militarism imperialism heightened tensions. National rivalries & militarism brought about arms race & formation of opposing alliances).

1. Alliance systems developed during 1800s, divided Europe into 2 armed rival groups of nations. 1882 Triple Alliance Bismarck, to isolate France: Germany, Austria-Hungary & Italy. To counteract the Triple Alliance:
1907 Triple Entente friendly understanding: France, Great Britain, Russia.
Germany faced nightmare of 2 front war, against France & Russia.

2. Militarism - glorified war & caused leaders to prepare armed forces for conflict - to solve international problems-->armaments race.

3. Imperialism
- thrust European nations into fierce competition to gain colonies, new markets, new sources of raw materials -
->imperialist nations clashed over rival claims; bred jealousy, mistrust.

4. Nationalism & internal dissent - spurred European/ nations to extend their territory & compete; awakened movements for independence among minor nationalities, such as Serbs.
Jingoism -extreme & aggressive nationalism; national rivalries. French: to regain Alsace-Lorraine; German nationalists to extend German power territory. Russian Pan-Slavists to rule over Slavs of East. Europe.

Dissatisfaction ethnic minorities & tensions; nationality problem in Austria-Hungary: South Slavs, -Bosnians, Croats, & Slovens. Balkans - powder keg: Serbia independent 1878 from Ottoman Empire, ‘ sick man of Europe,’ to create a ‘greater Serbia,’ unite millions of South Slavs in Austria-Hungary. Austrians with Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Slovens, Ukrainians, Rumanians, Slavs; viewed Serbian as a threat to empire; 1908: annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina.

B. Immediate cause of WW I

WWI was touched off by the assassination by a Serbian nationalist Slav, of the heir to the Austrian Empire/ throne Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary & Germany were soon at war against Britain, France, & Russia.

C. Steps leading to war

1. Austria declare war on Serbia, July 28
2. Russia supported Balkan nationalists, mobilized its troops; Germany declared war on Russia, & France.
3. Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium on Aug. 3, 1914, forced Britain to declare war on Germany.
Alliances trapped countries in chain reaction.

D. Course of War
1. Aug. 1914: outbreak war -enthusiasm, patriotism, & expectation for brief war. Modern posters underlined importance national glory.
Allies: Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, Belgium. 1915 Italy; US in 1917
Central Powers: Germany 2 fronts, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire.

2. Western Front: stalemate, war of attrition, trench warfare. French defensive: 1st battle of Marne, Paris saved; 1st 4 months of war: more than 11/2 million. soldiers killed wounded; new weapons machine guns, airplanes, poison gas, tanks-->stalemate dragged on 1916 & 1917--> Great Slaughter; Verdun Feb. 1916: Germans failed; General Henri Petain; 10 months, 700,000 dead.

Total War & Widening of war. Empires made this the 1st true world war->fighting in Middle East, Asia, & Africa.
Gallipoli Ottoman Empire: British, French, Australia & New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli Peninsula 1915 - Gallipoli campaign, to reach Constantinople, control Dardanelles; allies withdrew.

Middle East
. 1917: British officer who incited Arab princes to rebel against Turkish rulers: T.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia. 1917 Britain took Bagdad.
1915: 1,200 people,100 American, killed when German U-boat sank Lusitania, British passenger liner; April 6, 1917 US & Japan in war; 2 million. American soldiers. 1917 Russia out of war.

3. Eastern Front. Ill-equipped poorly led Russians devastating losses: Tannenberg Aug.14; fall 1915, lost 15% of territories. Lenin: smuggled from Switzerland by Germany; 1917 to end war; promised Bolsheviks to redistribute Russian lands to peasants; slogan ‘peace, land, bread.’ March 1917 Russian Revolution -Bolsheviks forced abdication czar: end 300-yr old Romanov dynasty; Czar Nicholas II murdered. Staggering losses, food shortages: Soviet Union separate peace with Germany March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - Russia lost 40% of its population. By 1921, Communists controlled Russia, after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution & the civil war; creation of a new Soviet power.

E. Impact of War

Antisemitism in Germany

During World War I, when the German war effort began to deteriorate, a new cycle of antisemitism was the response as Jews became the popular scapegoat. They were accused of profiteering, not participating in combat, and causing food shortages. Antisemitic literature proliferated. In 1915, tsar blamed Jews for defeat, & expelled them. By 1921, about 100,000 Jews in the Ukraine were murdered. Stereotyped as unmilitary. ’

The Armenian Massacres - The Armenian Genocide

1894: 20,000 Armenians murdered by Young Turks.
“The 1st World War of 1914-18 inflicted such massive casualties on all sides, that the continent of Europe became desensitized as never before to mass human destruction. ...
cover of that war, in 1915, the Ottoman Turks massacred over a million Armenians in the century’s first systematic genocide.”2

The Armenian Genocide Students and scholars can locate here photographs of the circa 1915 and circa 1916 Armenian Genocide: http://imia.cc.duth.gr/turkey/arme.e.html

Armenian Research Center Home Page http://www.umd.umich.edu/dept/armenian - site provides important facts that are important for anyone interested in the problem of genocide.

Impact Total War on Home Front

The 1st total war
- involving all human & material resources of countries taking part. WWI encompassed the entire nation. Domestic mobilization to victory; a total massive brutal war of 10 million dead, increased government centralization of power over lives of its citizen, economic regulation, & made the practice of strong central authority a way of life. States demanded total victory & total commitment from their citizen. Propaganda. They regulated industrial production, developed sophisticated propaganda techniques to strengthen morale, & exercised ever greater control over the lives of their people, organizing & disciplining them like soldiers. This total mobilization of nations’ human & material resources provided a model for future dictators. With greater effectiveness, dictators would centralize power & manipulate thinking.

F. The Aftermath of War

After 4 years of exhausting warfare, the Allied armies defeated the German in 1918. Nov. 11 1918, armistice -truce; end war; Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire surrendered, Germany’s kaiser William II abdicated.

‘In the years 1914-1918, the first of the twentieth century's worldwide conflicts took place. Measured in terms of the size of armies, the extent of devastation, and the effects upon civilization, the Great War was not comparable to any previous war.’3 WWI “the Great War” turning point, shattered liberal & rational assumptions of late 19th & early 20th c. New propaganda techniques manipulated entire populations.

Incredible destruction: 8 million soldiers died & 21 million wounded; civilians, such as those aboard the Lusitania, killed. Millions more died from hunger or from an influenza epidemic that swept through both neutral & warring countries.
People would be weary of another war.

1. Peace Settlements 1917-1919

Woodrow Wilson of the US. came with plan for peace, based on his 14 points: world disarmament; League of Nations; self-determination for nationalities.

a. Paris Peace Conference

In January 1919, delegations of 27 victorious Allied nations gathered in Paris to conclude a final settlement of the Great War (World War I) at the Paris Peace Conference. Most decisions, however, made by leaders of the 4 Allied nations -men, called the ‘Big Four’ - Georges Clemenceau of France, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Vittorio Emanuel Orlando of Italy, & Woodrow Wilson of the US.

The 1919 final peace settlement of Paris, consisted of 5 separate peace treaties with the defeated nations/Central Powers - Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria & Turkey.

Three empires: the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, & Ottoman Empires disappeared. Guiding principle: ‘self-determination’ for nationalities. New states carved from territories of 3 failed eastern empires.

b. Peace settlements brought political& territorial changes

*Peace settlement redrew map of central & eastern European. Croats & Slovens joined with Serbia to form Yugoslavia. 7 new states came into being; Austria, & Hungary separate nation; large ethnic minorities were grouped in states such as Czechoslovakia formed by Czechs & Slovaks; Italy & Rumania also gained land from old empire; Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, independent states. Poland & access to Baltic Sea, city of Danzig became an international free trading city - Polish Corridor.

Every eastern Europe state was left with a minorities problem, which became sources of later conflict.

Territorial changes reshaped the Middle East.
*Ottoman Empire lost its Middle Eastern territories -stripped of all its lands outside Turkey. Some gained independence, while others came under control of Britain, France, & Greece. Mandates: France controlled Lebanon & Syria;

received Iraq & Palestine. The Zionist movement won a success with the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 by Britain - promised to “‘look with favor’ on creation in Palestine of a homeland for Jews. 1922: British Mandate on Palestine.
Within Turkey, nationalists overthrew the Ottoman sultan.

c. The Treaty of Versailles

*On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed with Germany, ending WWI; most important. Controversy over the Versailles Treaty. Woodrow Wilson, allied leader urged moderate treatment of Germany after war; but was met by resistance from Britain & France -Clemenceau ‘The Tiger,’ wanted to punish Germany; both wanted Germany to be demilitarized & pay heavy reparations.

The League of Nations: to respect borders of members & to take all disputes to League for settlement; proposed by Wilson, formed to help ensure world peace, but bitter feelings & resentment lingered in many nation. More than 60 countries joined. US didn’t

America’s isolationism. American Senate in 1920 refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles & thus kept the US out of the League of Nations. In the 1930s, isolationism was an important element in the foreign policy of the United states

WWI peace negotiations readjusted the balance of power in the world
The Central powers -Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, & the Ottoman Empire- lost power as they lost territory. The victors gained power as they either acquired territory or gained supervision of the defeated powers’ colonies. Although these changes did not ignore the causes of the war, they did not correct them. The reshuffling of boundaries and creation of new states only led to new problems.

The peace was unsatisfactory in important ways. Many felt peace settlement too harsh. Many unresolved problems persisted in the 1920s. Antagonizing both German & the Allies, the terms of the peace failed to bring Russia & the US into the settlement, sowing seeds for future instability in Europe. Among problems remaining after WWI I:

a) nationalist rivalries
b) militaristic attitudes & powerless League of Nations
c) imperialism in Asia & Africa, with mandate system. War resulted in increase in a nationalist spirit in colonies. European global domination weakened after WW I; WWI ended age of European hegemony over world affairs; but it was WW II that dealt the fatal blow to colonial empires.


Immediate effects of WWI
Russian Revolution & Communism
Creation of new states in Eastern Europe
Requirement that Germany pay reparations
Germany loss of its overseas colonies
Balfour Declaration
League of Nations

Long-terms effects
Economic impact of war debts on Europe
Rise of Fascism & totalitarian regimes
World War II

2. World Jewry: 1918-1933

Soviet Jewry - 1917: Bolshevik Revolution. Stalin. Jewish working class organized. Yiddish.

1929: the Great Depression - Europe was face with severe economic problems after WWI. Jews in West & Central Europe well-integrated. In the East, peasants attacked Jewish traders, as foreign competitors. Traditional antisemitism in Poland; active Jewish cultural life.

British & French Jewry - extreme right blamed Jews for crises. Maurras. Britain: Protocols; popular & social antisemitism. France: 1936-38 - Jewish socialist, Popular Front government leader: Leon Blum; the Right favored antisemitism against foreign Jews.

American Jewry - Leo Frank; spread of Protocols in 1920 by Ford; ‘international Jewry.’1929: quota immigration law; anti-Jewish prejudices. antisemitic agitation by Nazis; Father Coughlin: the Christian Front; Social Justice, blaming Jewish community controlling American financial system. Antisemitism agitation against the New Deal (‘Jew Deal’) and against the Roosevelt administration. ‘Christians only’ at universities, hotels. Antisemitism opposed by America’s liberal and democratic tradition.

The New Jewish Center in the U.S. - 17 million Jews in world; 4.5 in US, 2.5% of population; 1.5 million in New York; post-1881
East European Jews: working class; influenced growth of American trade-union movement; Orthodox, Hassidim, & anti-religious socialists

Central European Jews - from 1848, Reform movement; upper-middle-class German Jews, philanthropic work, the American Jewish Committee - AJC, to fight antisemitism, led by lawyer Louis Marshall. 1914: the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) led by German Jews; aided Palestine Jewry during WWI and East European & German Jewry between wars, & during & after the Holocaust. 1918: East European Jews joined up with Marshall to establish the American Jewish Congress. Decline in Yiddish culture. de-proletarization. Jews prominent in American cultural life, retail trade, supermarkets, middle-class community; economic & political influence limited.
American Jewry: reform, conservative, orthodox.4

“By the early thirties, Jewish powerlessness was compounded by the effect of the Great Depression: Jews had little or no economic clout and less political influence. In 1933: Jews were finally seen by Western governments as what they were: an unpopular minority5

The new states of east-central Europe - nationalism & antisemitism

“in east-central Europe ... Poland (3 million Jews), Hungary (445,000), Czechoslovakia (375,000), Yugoslavia (68,000) ... these new states had sizable minority populations and the Jews were among the largest and most conspicuous ... in Lithuania 110,000, in Latvia 90,000 ... With the exception of Czechoslovakia ..., these countries were the breeding ground of a ferocious new nationalism, fueled by centuries of suppression which, combined with age-old prejudices, produced illiberal antisemitic right-wing regimes. ...

In Poland, Rumania and Hungary, in particular, various antisemitic policies were introduced, severely restricting the rights of Jewish individuals and the freedom of Jewish business activity. Harsh quotas were applied to Jewish university entrance ... The result was the growth of a number of bewildered impoverished and increasingly vulnerable European Jewish communities.

Thus, by the time Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933, several of the emerging central European countries which contained significant Jewish populations - Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Latvia and Lithuania - had regimes installed which would be favorably disposed towards many of his racial theories. This would have the most alarming consequences for their Jewish population.”6

3. Retreat from Democracy - Rise of Fascism: authoritarian & totalitarian states

Weak democracies & economic problems - US, Great Britain; inflation. The war shattered Europe’s political & social order and gave birth to totalitarian ideologies. Totalitarianism. Communism. Fascism

Totalitarian regime:
highly centralized government that allows no opposition & holds total control all-importance of state - dictatorship; based on masses; emerged from WWI & Russian civil war.

Conditions after WW I which enabled dictators to come to power: combination of

1. - severe economic hardship & social unrest: Europe plagued with unemployment, inflation
2. - inadequacy of liberal-democratic govt., political instability; feared spread of communism
3. extreme nationalism exacerbated by frustrations of war - resentment over peace settlement

- Essential to mention the brutality of Europe society in the wake of WWI - death of some 10 million dead & 21 million wounded, as well as harsh treatment of civilian population, including women & children, established a precedent, followed by Nazi murderers & their helpers of various nationalities.

The war produced a generation of young people, for whom violence had become a way of life; some veterans embrace an aggressive militarism. Both Hitler & Mussolini, themselves ex-soldiers knew how to appeal to veterans. Different kind of totalitarianism:

a. Communism. In Russia, Stalin’s Communism, after the 1917 Russian revolution; totalitarianism of left: communism under dictator Stalin; private property taken by state.

b. Fascism:
government doctrine that relies on dictatorial rule & a totalitarian regime, in which rigid control is maintained by the government through force & censorship. Totalitarianism of the radical right. Fascists believed that political power must rest with a single strong ruler; stressed & dedicated to idea of nation, whereas communists focused on class. Fascism involved with opposition to Marxist ideals, irrationalism, dynamics of the intuitive leader.

Postwar Italy experienced economic problems & labor unrest. Government seemed powerless to remedy the problems of high debt, unemployment & inflation. 1919: founding of the fascist movement; creation of Fascio di combattimento who opposed “socialist threat” with physical force. Fascism in Italy, 1922 with Mussolini, il duce; the Black Shirts.

Totalitarian leaders had many followers who felt personal satisfaction & sense of community from belonging to a mass movement.
Development of fascism marked culmination of trends inherent in the extreme nationalism & radical conservatism of late 19th c; fascism spread; Nazism, racial fascism of the right, triumphed in Germany in 1933.

The Political Spectrum in Germany

Rise of mass politics

In the late 19th century, conservatives founded right-wing antisemitic political parties based on race -using antisemitism. By 1912, the Social Democratic party became the largest single party in the Reichstag. Socioeconomic tensions were manifested in a new, radical right-wing politics.
*Anti socialist & anti liberal groups as the Pan-German League stressed strong German nationalism, & were antisemitic.
*Traditional conservative -upper echelon of civil service, judges, industrialists, large landowners, & army leaders, frightened by growth of socialists, would join these radical right-wing groups.

Political designation

right, left, and center vary, & one must understand their meaning during the 1st 1/2 of the 20th c.

-*Members of the extreme or radical left, mostly communists, Marxists, & radical wing of the socialists; urban workers; believed their party must dictate policy to benefit the proletariat; private property to be abolished; social equality; revolution acceptable means to that end.

- Supporters of the moderate, or liberal left, called themselves socialists ; advocated government control & ownership of all major public services, & the means of production & distribution; the state’s duty to provide support for all citizens; valued stability & domestic peace - change through ballots not bullets; noneconomic views as the center.

- The Catholic Center party consisted of middle-class Catholics; favored gradual constitutional changes; to protect Catholic minority in the Reich.

- *The radical right, ultra-nationalists, (Nazis & fascists) glorified everything German; believed in a totalitarian, monolithic dictatorship; for single party even to use terror to conformity & obedience; national glory, war, conquest to be achieved by leader, the Fuhrer; democracy, a failure.
*After Germany’s defeat in WWI, Nazism would emerge out of a radical right-wing ultra nationalist politic.

Germany’s defeat in the Great War - World War I l(WWI) left German people demoralized & without strong government.
The Nazi party gained popularity and then came to power after World War I, and during a period in which Germany was shaken and transformed.

II. Contributing Factors to Hitler’s Rise

The political and socioeconomic problems of the Weimar Republic. Antisemitism.

In Germany, the government which preceded that of the Nazi party was called the Weimar Republic - born in blood, hunger, & defeat at the end of World War I. Revolution, disorder, & chaos. German morale & pride were severely wounded by the war loss. Economic problems reached impossible proportions. Consequently, Germany descended from a democratic republic to a Nazi police state within 14 short years.

The Weimar Republic, 1918-932 - A Culture in Crisis
Democracy fails in Germany

1. Political problems

- Weimar Republic government was seen as weak & ineffective
- 1919: Communist uprisings broke out in several German cities
- Right-wing critics feared that the Social Democrats would take over industry & break up large estates.
- Nationalists & militarists wanted to rebuild Germany’s army, which the Treaty of Versailles forbade.

The Weimar Republic, 1919-1933

On Sept. 29, 1918, General Ludendorff informed German leaders that the war was lost, & with general Hindenburg recommended to seek an armistice. Allies unwilling to to make peace with the autocratic imperial government, & France’s desire to punish her old enemy. October 4: the emperor formed a new, more liberal government to sue for peace.

Reforms instituted to create a liberal government; too late for angry German people, with no democratic habits & attitudes; war weariness & hunger led to popular upheaval. Negotiations dragged on, and an angry & frustrated German people finally rose up. On Nov. 3, after naval units in Kiel mutinied, councils of workers & soldiers were taking over the supervision of civilian & military administrations; they established revolutionary councils.

Like Russia, Germany & Austria also experienced political revolution, as a result of military defeat. The German Revolution of November 1918 was similar to the Russian Revolution of March 1917. Revolution broke out in Germany, and masses of workers demonstrated for peace in Berlin. With army discipline collapsing, Kaiser/Emperor Wilhelm I abdicated, under public pressure & of the Left; he fled to Holland; Imperial Germany ended.

*On November 9, 1918, Socialists leaders in Berlin proclaimed a liberal provisional German republic, and simultaneously agreed to tough Allied terms of surrender.
Moderate German Social Democrats led by Friedrich Ebert -president, gained control of the government, & the Social Democratic Party (SPD) proclaimed the establishment of a German federal democratic state known as the Weimar Republic, new government of the moderate Left. its official referred proudly to the German “revolution.”
*This government which preceded that of the Nazi party lasted 14 years.

On Nov. 11, 1918, the new German government agreed to an armistice. Frightened of a communist revolution,
the Social Democrats government made a pact with the army, which was already encouraging the legend that it had not lost the war but had been stabbed in the back. Government used the old Prussian elites to maintain the status quo - old bureaucracy served new regime.

*Legend of the stab in the back

German unaccustomed to defeat, & the “stab-in-the-back’ myth arose.
After the German defeat in the first world war, the German generals, in order to save face and deflect criticism of their handling of the war, began spreading the myth that Germany had lost because they had been "stabbed in the back" (dolchstosslegende).
Who had stabbed them in the back? Jewish business and political leaders!

*General Paul von Ludendorff explained that Germany had not lost the war, but the German army was defeated in 1918 by internal enemy - had been stabbed it in the back by politicians -Democrats, Catholic Center party, Socialists, Jews & radicals at home. Germany's military defeat in 1918 was blamed on the Jews and the Socialists. German nationalists saw ‘Jewification’ of the new democratic republic.
*The stab-in-the-back legend was later used by Hitler to undermine the government.

*A New Parliamentary Democracy, 1919-1933

Germany’s new leaders held elections in January 1919 for a constituent assembly. It met in Weimar. Elections to the National Assembly resulted with victory for the Weimar coalition of Social Democratic Center party & Democrats - 75% of vote. The old Prussian conservatives began to organize successor parties to the old imperial bourgeois parties -by this time called the National Party & People’s Party- in the years after 1918-19. The Weimar Constitution was adopted in Jan. 1919, and made Germany a federal republic, known as the Weimar Republic.

Germany’s new government had a president, 7-year term, and a two-house parliament elected by universal suffrage - a parliamentary democracy.
*After the Great War, WWI, Germany for 1st time, a centralized democratic state ruled by a legislature. The parliament included the Reichstrat and the Reichstag. The president appointed the leader of the majority party in the Reichstag as the chancellor, Germany’s prime minister.

*Article 48 of the German Constitution,
allowed for the exercise of emergency presidential powers at times of political crisis - permitted the president to suspend the constitution. Key positions in hands of aristocracy, industrials supporting army.

The Weimar Republic was inexperienced, associated with the crushing military defeat, unpopular, & faced many economic problems.

Revolutions Era, 1919

From its beginning the Weimar republic was plagued by a series of problems; no outstanding leaders. The young Republic suffered politically from attempted uprisings & attacks from both left & right. Right-wing rebels viewed as patriots. Many aristocratic former officers turned to new volkisch armed movements. Anarchy was more the rule in the cities. The war was over, but the revolutionary forces set in motion by the war were not yet exhausted.

Within its first year, attempted revolutions threatened the Weimar Republic. Communist-inspired insurrections shook Germany. Some Jews were leaders of these abortive revolutions; this inspired hatred of Jews as well as Communists. The Spartacists, left-wing Marxists, advocated Soviet system.

*Radical left-wing socialists
, led by Rosa Luxembourg & Karl Liebknecht, in Dec. 1918, formed the German Communist party.
Rosa advocated a Bolshevik-style revolution. When these radicals, headed by Liebknecht & Luxembourg, tried to seize control of government in Berlin in January 1919, the moderate socialists led by president Ebert, called on the army to crush the uprising. Jan. 1919: Rosa & Karl arrested & murdered by army leaders, an act that caused the radicals in the Social Democratic party to break away and form a pro-Lenin German Communist party.

*A Communist government took over Munich, capital of state of Bavaria, and attempted to withdraw the state from the federal union The Bavarian Communist revolt was crushed by the “free corps” - private right-wing armies made up of demobilized soldiers loyal only to their generals.

*Later in Berlin, a right-wing group tried to overthrow the republic and to elevate to power men of its own choosing. This attempted overthrow was defeated when members of the legal government, fleeing the city, called for a general strike. The workers of Berlin left their jobs, paralyzing the city and making it impossible for the right-wing rebels to set-up their own government.
January & April 1919, the army & Freikorps (paramilitary formations of the right) were used to put down the movement of left-wing councils & to quell all political agitation. Government’s reliance on the army was a blow to Germany’s new democracy.

*Paramilitary organizations - The Free Corps, Freikorps

Discontented with social and economic conditions as well as Germany's humiliation in the war, often violent ex-soldiers joined the Free Corps - Freikorps: a paramilitary armed organization of the right, composed of vigilante war veterans, broke up left-wing meetings unofficially, crushed uprisings, and banded together to fight the growing Communist insurgency which was taking over Germany. The Free Corps crushed this insurgency. Its members & members of other paramilitary units such as the Stahlhelm (steel Helmet), would provide recruits & formed the nucleus of the Nazi "brown-shirts" - Ernst Ruhm's Stormtroops (S.A. Sturm Abteilung, storm troops), which served as the Nazi party's army, & SS (Schutzstaffel, Defense Corps; against democracy, equality, & justice. The post-war violence of right-wing groups and parties became a school for murderers later involved in the annihilation of the Jews.

The Treaty of Versailles & its consequences

Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. Only under pressure of the Allies’ naval blockade and threat to extend their military occupation from the Rhine-land to the rest of the country had Germany’s new republican government signed the Treaty of Versailles in June 28, 1919 - officially ended the war. (Peace Conference, after WWI, opened in Paris in January 1919) Settlement between the Allies & Germany, the most important. Controversy over the Versailles Treaty. Woodrow Wilson, allied leader urged moderate treatment of Germany after war; but was met by resistance from Britain & France -Clemenceau ‘The Tiger,’ wanted to punish Germany; both wanted Germany to be demilitarized & pay heavy reparations.

Revenge shaped peace terms. The military & territorial terms of the treaty which ended hostilities in the War:

*1. Article 231, the ‘War Guilt Clause,’ declared Germany (& Austria) responsible for starting the war, & added shame & humiliation to national pride.
*Germans hated the Versailles Treaty, because it blamed them for causing the war.
Germany forced to accept responsibility for war & punitive reparations for destruction of life & property, felt betrayed; The incipient National Socialist Party (Nazis) used the war guilt & territorial clauses of the Treaty as a basis for rallying Germany to unity from 1919-1939.

2. High reparations - demand for payment of unspecified reparations - war damages, to Allies; Germany a forced to pay reparations for all civilian damages caused by war; 33 billion in 1921.
These two provisions of the Versailles Treaty particularly angered the Germans.

3. Germany forced to restrict size of its military force:
to limit its army to 100,000 men;
- reduce its navy to 15,000, & eliminate its air force.
- No German troops could be in the Rhineland

4. Territorial changes:

a. A 30-mile strip on the right bank of the Rhine was demilitarized, as a barrier against France.

*b. Germany lost
her African colonies to France & Britain, large portions of German territory, Poznan, upper Silesia, and
- Germany returned Alsace-Lorraine to France, & West Prussia to the new Polish state. Danzig: international city.

c. Its coal mines in the Saar
were taken by foreign interests - France control for 15 yrs.

Treaty had profound & far-reaching impact on the infant republic. Treaty hated by almost all Germans. To Germans of all political parties, the treaty represented a harsh, dictated peace, to be revised or repudiated as soon as possible. Terms of the treaty were humiliating to most Germans, and condemnation of its terms undermined the government and served as a rallying cry for those who like Hitler believed Germany was ultimately destined for greatness. German resentment of the Treaty’s harsh terms was a major cause for WW II.

Repercussions Germany’s defeat in the Great War I & war losses

- Humiliation, resentment, unfair, revenge
- General feeling of despair, hopelessness
- Social & economic trauma; dislocation, unemployment; inflation

The Weimar Republic was blamed for the unpopular war treaties. The Weimar Republic was not popular with the German people. The republic had been created in response to Woodrow Wilson’s announcement that he would deal only with a government elected by the German people. Many Germans opposed a republican government, and because Weimar representatives had signed the humiliating Versailles Treaty, the German people viewed the republic as a traitorous government.

The Jews of Weimar Germany

By 1919, German Jews had enjoyed the consequences of legal & political emancipation for almost a century. There were about 550,000 Jews in Germany, under 15 of the overall population, but more than 3.5% in positions in the middle-class professions of law, medicine, trade, banking, & commerce. By 1933 many Jews were owners of large department stores, banks & publishing houses.

However, about 1/5 of the German Jewish population was made up of refugees from various revolutions in eastern Europe. They were less integrated, victims of unemployment, and easy targets of antisemitic accusations of cultural outsiderhood.7

The destructive hyper-inflation, the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty which set the terms for peace after the war, and widespread misery
created in concert an atmosphere which promoted antisemitism. Volkisch movements and parties sprang up, including the extreme right wing German Worker's Party (later evolved into the Nazi party), which Hitler joined in 1919.
In 1920, the Nazi party issued its 25-point platform, asserting that no Jew could ever be a member of the German Volk.
*On June 24, 1922, Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister of Germany, was assassinated by right-wing extremists identifying Jews with bolshevism & democracy.

The Republic had few supporters & many enemies

Danger from the Right

Both left-wing communist & right-wing Nationalist -conservative upper classes: the Junker army officers & landowners, big businessmen, exploited Germans’ feeling of anger, frustration, resentment & humiliation. Nationalists identified republic with defeat & humiliation of Versailles. Ultra-nationalists. In 2nd election in July 1920; right -against democracy & left-wing opposition to regime gained adherents. Between 1919 & 1933, 20 governments; in 1920, old military aristocratic alliance joined by industrialists to overthrow the government by coup d’etat: Kapp putsch, a failure.

Contributing Factors to Hitler’s Rise

2. Economic crisis. German inflation 1922-23 - the gravest problem

Many of the difficulties of the Weimar Republic reflected the economic, social, & political problems that faced all of Europe after the war. Unemployment was high, & inflation soared. Between 1919 & 1924 Weimar Republic faced serious economic difficulties -war costs & debts, leading to hyper-inflation in 1922-23 and to monetary collapse. Germany lagged behind in her war debts. In Jan. 1923, to settle a reparations dispute, French troops occupied the industrial German Rhur. Germans resented this occupation, which also had an adverse effect on the economy.
*Germany printed a lot of paper money to pay its bills to France. The mark devaluated. That caused inflation that ruined German economy. Germany’s runaway inflation had serious social effects on those on fixed incomes & working classes; price of an egg, for example, had inflated to 30 million times its original price in just 10 years. Jews-haters blamed ‘Jewish politicians in the government & wealthy Jewish financiers’ for creating the inflation. Economic upheaval breeds political upheaval.

Domestic Conflict

Weimar Republic also showed the weaknesses of the multiparty system; no one party held a majority of seats in the parliament (Reichstag); so the republic governed by a coalition of several parties; unstable coalition because of ideological differences. Supporting the republic were Social Democrats, Catholic Centrists, & German Democrats; a coalition of these parties governed the republic during the 1920s. Seeking to bring down the republic were the Communists, on the left, & 2 rightists parties -the Nationalists & the National Socialist German Workers party, led by Adolf Hitler.

November 9, 1923: The failed Beer Hall Putsch

Hitler's party benefited by the economic collapse of the 1923 massive inflation. At the height of the Ruhr crisis, Adolf Hitler led a nationalist putsch, or coup in Munich to overthrow the Bavarian government. The German General Erich Ludendorff participated in the failed coup attempt with Hitler in 1923, and denounced Jews and their "deadly superstition of Jehovah;" quickly defeated; plotters’ punishment very light. Hitler is jailed and writes Mein Kempf.

Art & Pessimism

The rise of Hitler to national prominence is best understood within the context of the prevailing mood of hopelessness in Germany. World War I -WW, had begun with expectations of quick & easy victory, & ended with disillusionment. Urge to escape stark reality & despair; craving for entertainment; decadence of life in Berlin in the Weimar era. The arts, literature & painting, mirrored the turmoil of the generation. Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet in the Western Front, and Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, 1924, distilled the pessimism of the age, reflecting the age of the lost generation. Dadaism, 1915-1924, exhibited the concept that life & art have no meaning when millions are killed in the war. Jean Artp, Max Ernst, & George Grosz - expressionism toward new directions. Surrealism in art, c. 1925; dreams & nightmares, abstracts, reflected anguished conception of the world

The soil in which the Nazi Party took root & grew powerful was well tilled. Since their defeat at the end of WWI, the German people had experienced international humiliation, political convulsions, economic disasters, & cultural escapism. The political, economic, & social problems of the Weimar Republic provided an environment in which Adolf Hitler & the Nazis were able to rise to power. The success achieved by Hitler & the Nazi party was the result of a historic convergence of a man and his time.



Anarchy - The absence of government or law in a society.
Putsch - A revolt or uprising
Rhineland - Demilitarized zone that Allies established after World War I as a buffer between Germany and western Europe.

Weimar Republic German republic(1919-1933) - a parliamentary German democracy, formed after Germany's defeat in World War I, with its capital in the city of Weimar.

Free Corps - A paramilitary organization of German World War I veterans who organized to oppose Communist insurgency.

Reparations - Payments made by a defeated country to the victors to make amends for losses suffered.

Paramilitary - Describing an organization which operates in the style of an army, but in an unofficial capacity, and often in secret, such as the S.A.

Copyright, Fall 1999, January 2004 Edith Shaked
Source/Credit: The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers. http://www.remember.org/guide/

1 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001

2 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, 161.

3 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/lessons/00/lincolnm/teacher.html

4 see Y. Bauer, The holocaust, pp. 59-72; and Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust, pp. 68-74

5 Y. Bauer, The holocaust, p. 72

6 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, 73-4

7 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, 92