The Weimar Republic, set up in January 1919, lasted for 14 chaotic years; years of calamities of all kinds, in the social, economic and political provinces. From 1919 to 1924 the Weimar Republic seemed at several times to be on the verge of collapse and it surprised the vast majority that it lasted until 1924. There were five key factors which had an impact in the weakening of the Republic. The Treaty of Versailles (signed 28th June 1919) was a major cause of the eventual collapse of Weimar.
It left damaging consequences which had an impact on the nation as a whole. The acceptance of War Guilt had a colossal impact on the German national pride, which had an inevitable knock on effect on its economy. Many became angry and frustrated predominantly due to the fact that even by as late as spring of 1918, most Germans had anticipated victory. However the economy had already been bruised enough, the loss of industry not only meant a severe reduction in production rate, but it also meant that thousands were left unemployed.
The loss of Germany’s land resulted in the loss of population, many Germans now found themselves separated from family and under the rule of another country who may not have been German speaking (e. g the Polish Corridor and Alsace Lorraine). This land lost may have also been industrial land, resulting in Germany no longer having the income from such industries or from the tax on that land.
All in all Germany is believed to have lost 13% of its territory, 6. million of its population, 48% of its iron ore and 16% of its agricultural production. An anchluss with Austria was forbidden which angered Germany for the simple reason that the two countries had been close for many years previous. Another clause of the treaty meant Germany also had to pay i?? 6600 million of reparation fees to the allies. With its severe loss of industry this became an impossibility as they now had far lesser means of making such money.
Germany’s army and armaments were hugely reduced, not only resulting in more mass unemployment (those de-mobbed soldiers as well as factory workers constructing the armaments) but also the German people were a very proud country and were massively proud of their achievements including their army. Without this army the country lacked a strong defensive system, which was crucial to Germany incase of any hostility from neighboring countries, another reason for a lack in confidence from the people.
Plus once the soldiers had been dismissed from the army, they still had their weapons which lead to chaos on the street. The Treaty of Versailles was clearly hated and the politicians responsible for signing it received a heavy amount of blame. Therefore, due to the treaty, there was already bubbling hatred for the new politicians of the Weimar Republic. However this was not the only issue affecting the Republic. There was also that of the threats from extreme groups both left and right. At this time there were a few predominant groups, the Soviets (the SPD) the Spartacists and the Freikorps.
The Soviets were a council of workers and soldiers and they believed in similar left wing views to communists, power to the people and workers, and they wished to achieve this through revolution and reform. They aroused the fear that they would over throw the current German society and set up a communist regime. The Freikorps were a Nationalist right wing party of demobilized soldiers and were renowned for their excessively violent nature and the Spartacists who were an extreme left wing communist power who believed in power to the people and total equality.
The leaders of the SPD, Noske encouraged the creationg of the Freikorps which aided in restricting the Soviets however increased the threat from the right, this alliance was purely formed through mutual hatred of the communist regime and wanting to surpress as much as possible. However the communists had originally branched from the Socialist Party and believed there should be an alliance between them and the Socialists which caused further tension. Then in January 1919 there was a Sparatcist uprising led by two former SPD members Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht.
They attempted in taking over Berlin but were crushed after a few days by the army and Freikorps resulting in the death of Luxemburg and Liebknicht. Another similar uprising was that of the Bavarian “Council Republic” in March 1919. The communist take over Munich for a similar short-lived amount of time, but once again the Freikorps defeat it and murder the leaders of the uprising. It was events such as these which aided in the depletion of left wing politics.
It results in the socialists and the communists being essentially split because the communists bear a strong grudge with the socialists for allying with the Freikorps who held the responsibility for murdering their leaders. In essence by the end of 1919 the left wing had attempted but failed. Along side these attempted revolutions from the left, there was similar trouble in play from the opposing right. The main issue of the Freikorps was that there were more of them than the actual army. The terms of Versailles had limited Germany’s army to 100,000 men however the Freikorps were a much stronger force.
The allies realize this and put the government under great pressure to shut down the already uncontrollable Freikorps. So in retaliation the Freikorps attempt a take-over of Berlin, 12th March 1920. This is known as the Kapputsch, named after its leader Wolfgang Kapp. However the army does not disarm the Freikorps as they see them as part of the army, therefore one of their own. General Von Seeckt, operational chief of the army, emphasizes the point by saying, “Reickswehr does not fire on Reichswehr. ” So inorder to stop it, a General strike is called in Berlin involving 50,000 workers walking out of their jobs.
This prevents the Freikorps from being able to function and shuts them down. This constant threat to the government of revolution from extreme left and right wing parties would create continuous fear and uncertainty which would have an affected on the functioning of the Weimar Republic and the image they are exuding. A further, negative impact on the government was that of Hyperinflation and the Ruhr crisis of 1923. The origins of these came from WW1. In 1916 the German government ran out of money to continue funding the war, this was due to them fighting a war on two fronts and the British Blockade.
However there was still two years left of fighting, with no money to fund it, so in the years 1916-1918 the government essentially backed the war through deficit spending. They believed so strongly that they would win the war and could therefore pay back this borrowed money through the reparations they demanded from the defeated countries. However when the war does eventually end the economy is thrown into crisis and the government ends up broke, with reparations to pay and a huge loss in industrial land to help pay back the money owed.
This initiates the birth of hyperinflation. The Reichsmark becomes much weaker due to a severe drop of confidence in it and the government having to keep borrowing more and more money, and the more of something there is, the less its worth becomes. Another key predicament with inflation is that it creates real uncertainties so businesses are less likely to infest their money. The Ruhr crisis stemmed from this problem of hyperinflation. December 1922, Germany defaulted on paying one reparation sum.
At this the French immediately felt the need to claim their owed money so the combined force of the French and Belgians invaded the Ruhr, where 3/5 of German industry is produced. The Germans responded to this by calling Passive Resistance in January 1923 where all the workers went on strike, making the land near useless. However, for them to have gone on strike they would have needed to remain being paid, therefore the government had to print yet more money making the hyperinflation dramatically worse. A fine example of how worthless the many had become in Germany is that of children using wads of money for bricks as houses.
Even though many people argue that Germany was not in fact in as bad a state as it is made out to be, and that the Treaty of Versailles merely made a dent on the German economy as it was still one of the strongest super powers after it, Germany was in total political, economical and social disarray. If it had not been weekend by all the factors above, it would have been able to stand up to such powers as Hitler and the might of the Wall Street Crash in 1929, not only was it a miracle it lasted until 1924, but it was more of a miracle it sustained the few years to follow.