At the end of October 1918, the German navy mutinied. Rebellion spread throughout the country. In November Germany was forced to drop out of the First World War. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled the country. A new republic was declared. In January 1919, elections were held for a new Reichstag and in February 1919, in the town of Weimar, a new government was agreed. Freidrich Ebert was elected President of the new Republic. Germany did not just get a new government. The Allies made sure that Germany got a different kind of government. Before 1914, the government of Germany was almost a military autocracy; after 1919, it was a parliamentary democracy.
How Germany fared after WW1?
Impact of the war on Germany by 1918
Germany was virtually bankrupt
War left 600,000 widows and 2 million children without fathers – by 1925 the state was spending about one-third of its budget in was pensions.
National income was about one-third of what it had been in 1913.
Industrial production was about two-thirds of what it had been in 1913
The war had deepened divisions in German society
There were huge gaps between the living standards of the rich and the poor
Many German workers were bitter at the restrictions placed on their earnings during the war while the factory owners made vast fortunes from the war
During the war women were called up to work in the factories. Many people saw this as damaging to traditional family values and society as a whole
Germany had a revolution and became an unstable democratic republic
Stresses of war led to a revolution in October-November 1918
Many ex-soldiers and civilians despised the new democratic leaders and came to believe that the heroic leader Field Marshall Hindenburg had been betrayed by weak politicians
Germany 1919 – 1933
The history of Germany 1919 – 1933 falls into three phases:
1919-1923: At first the Weimar Republic had great difficulties:
Left wing rebellions
All people were angry with it
Right-wing rebellions and terrorism
Invasion and inflation
1923-1929: The Republic survived and (after Gustav Stesemann became Chancellor in 1923) did well:
Foreign policy success
1929-1933: After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, however, the Republic collapsed:
Nazi Party grew more powerful
In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor
Germany’s Constitution in 1914
The Weimar Constitution of 1919
The Weimar Constitution
Before the war Germany had had no real democracy. The Kaiser was virtually a dictator.
The Weimar Constitution, on the other hand, attempted to set up probably the most democratic system in the world where no individual could gain too much power.
All Germans over the age of 20 could vote.
There was a system of proportional representation – if a party gained 20 per cent of the votes, they gained 20 per cent of the seats in the Parliament (Reichstag)
The Chancellor was responsible for day-to-day government, but he needed the support of half the Reichstag.
The Head of State was the President. The President stayed out of day-to-day government. In a crisis he could rule the country directly through Article 48 of the Constitution. This gave him emergency powers, which meant he did not have to consult the Reichstag.
Weimar Problems 1919-1923 [ILRIM]
1. Ineffective Constitution
The Weimar Constitution did not create a strong government:
a. Article 48 of the constitution gave the President sole power in ‘times of emergency’ – something he took often.
b. The system of proportional voting led to 28 parties. This made it virtually impossible to establish a majority in the Reichstag, and led to frequent changes in the government.
c. The German states had too much power and often ignored the government.
d. The Army, led the right-wing General Hans von Seeckt was not fully under the government’s control.