Explain and account for changes in German social and cultural life in the period 1923-1933.
The period 1923–1933 was a time of great change for German social and cultural life. The decade itself can be subdivided into three distinct periods: the time from January 1923 to 1929 involving the French occupation of the Ruhr, hyperinflation and through to Gustav Stresemann’s actions ending in October 1929, revealing a period of struggle for economic and political stability and an acceleration of cultural change; the second era from October 1929 to January 1933 consisting of the Great Depression and severe social changes; the third period of change beginning in January 1933-December 1933 with Hitler’s rise to Chancellor leading to an escalation of opposing groups and cultural changes.
The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was a cause for social change in The Golden Twenties. Clause 231 declared that Germany must pay a total of £6.6 billion in war reparations. Germany was already struggling significantly to gain economic stability due to the war; the reparations thus brought a death blow to the country. French soldiers dealt a further blow to Germany in the occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923, overtaking the industrial heart of Germany. The German workers were ordered by the government to react in passive resistance and go on strike, causing Germany’s industrial strength to diminish as the country was no longer producing any goods to sell. Foreign investors immediately withdrew their investments and the government increased the money printing to attempt to buffer the economic downturn. As a result, hyperinflation set in, immediately followed by severe social class changes. The segment of society that was hit the hardest was the middle class. "Inflation had shaken the social structure to its roots. The changes of status which it caused were profound. The old middle class wellnigh disappeared and a new group came into prominence. There was less change in the condition of the masses [working class]—they had not so much to lose—but the wiping out of savings, insurance, and pensions pressed heavily upon the worker even if his losses did not parallel those of some of the better-to-do social classes."
Gustav Stresemann’s pragmatic actions between 1923 and 1929 are a significant cause for cultural changes such as the freeing of political views through Cabaret dancing in Germany. Stresemann realised in 1923 that a bankrupt Germany would destabilise Europe and further threaten its own economy. Stresemann negotiated with the United States, to create the Dawes Plan in 1924, reconfiguring reparation payments and facilitating billions of dollars of foreign investment, to recoup the German economy. The German industrial and manufacturing sectors recovered quickly, leading to rapid employment, wages and living standard improvements. The influx of American investment and the economic revival of the Stresemann period encouraged celebration, spending and decadence. German Cabaret dancing became popular during the later Stresemann, from 1925-1929, because it offered an outlet for political views and criticism. Such views were acceptable under the Civil Rights clause of the 1919 Constitution. Many Cabaret performers criticised politicians for their physical shortcomings. Friedrich Ebert, for instance, was criticised because of his weight and Adolf Hitler because of his extreme mannerisms. This showed there was a distinct increase in the expression of political views as a result of the attitudes created by Germany’s economic revival.
The Weimar period also saw changes among the religions in Germany at the time. After German unification in 1871, the government had strongly favoured the two major Protestant Churches, Lutheran and Reformed, which thought of themselves as state-sponsored churches. At the same time, the government had harassed and restricted the Catholic Church. German Jews, who had faced centuries of