Collapse Of The Second Reich Essay

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The collapse of the autocratic Kaiserreich

The Kaiserreich was autocratic in nature; this meant that the Kaiser had ultimate power over Germany. Although a Parliament (the Reichstag) was established, there was no parliamentary Government – all ministers were appointed by the Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Pressure from German public:

At the beginning of World War One, German citizens rallied to support their nation. In 1916, however, discontent was growing in Germany as the death rate soared and shortages intensified. A period referred to as the ‘turnip winter’ in 1916-17 saw turnips become the staple diet of citizens.

The Russian Revolution was influential to the German working class, the overthrow of the tsar and his demise somewhat inspired many Germans and there were calls for a parliamentary Government.

Pressure from Reichstag:

The Great Depression in Germany, not only undermined the loyalty of the German public but also the politicians. There was no longer unanimous support in the Reichstag for massive expenditure.

In July 1917, a dramatic parliamentary revolt occurred when a peace resolution was carried by 212 votes to 126 – this peace resolution was disregarded by the High Command.

Pressure from USA:

Germany increased its war efforts during the Turnip Winter of 1916-17 and announced that U-boats would attack every ship in Europe’s waters. In response to this, US president Wilson ended all diplomatic relations with Germany. President Wilson’s neutral position was no longer deemed appropriate and many in the US now saw war as a viable solution.

When the German Foreign Secretary sent the ‘Zimmerman note’ to Mexico requesting that Mexico declare war on the US if the US declared war on Germany, promising the states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico at the end of the war, the American public were outraged. Finally, on 18th March 1917, German U-boats sank three American ships and President Wilson entered World War One alongside the Allied forces. Wilson declared that the US were fighting on a moral basis only: to ‘protect democracy from tyranny and promote peace throughout the world’. 3,000,000 US men were drafted to bolster the military and Wilson was pleasantly surprised to find that many Americans supported his action. Wilson appointed General John J. Pershing as commander of US forces in Europe and left all operational decisions under his jurisdiction.

When the American Government launched a propaganda campaign to persuade less enthusiastic Americans to support the war, the campaign also fuelled anti-German sentiments and a deep loathing for Germany and its people. In response, Wilson reminded the people that the US had…