Road to Germany

December 21, 2015
Episode 3: Road to Germany


The flag of the Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic
WWI fighting ended with the armistice of November 11, 1918. Post-war peace was achieved with the abdication and exile of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the creation of the Weimar Republic, and German acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles. The Weimar constitution created a semi-presidential system in which power was divided between the president, a cabinet and a parliament. The office of chancellor was appointed by the president and was basically the chairman of the Reichstag (the parliament).To secure the peace, the Weimar Republic accepted punishment inflicted on them by the Allies, including mass reductions in the size of their military, payment of war reparations, reduction of territory, and
acceptance of the "war guilt" clause. Almost from the start, the Weimar Republic came under attack from within. Right-wing extremists, meanwhile, used their political power to oppose any democratic system, and to blame the country's WWI defeat on a conspiracy between socialists and Jews. Although the moderate government maintained power, violence erupted on the streets between the left and right. It was a rough start for this democracy. War Reparations
As the loser, Germany was forced to pay for the war. In 1921 these "reparations" were set at 269 billion Marks, or roughly 32 billion dollars-a staggering sum. Some economists argued against such a big bill, and predicted that it would take Germany until 1988 to pay it. Later that year the sum was reduced to 226 billion Marks, still considered an astronomical amount by many observers. Reparations came in a variety of forms, including coal, steel, intellectual property (eg. the trademark for Aspirin) and agricultural products. In 1923 Germany defaulted on its ability to deliver further amounts of coal and steel. In response, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr River valley inside the western border of Germany, the center of the German coal and steel industries. The German people passively resisted the occupation (workers and civil servants refused orders and instructions from the occupation forces), thus leading to a further strain on Germany's economy and contributing significantly to inflation (a rise in the prices of goods & services). When the government began printing more money to pay its debts, it created astronomical "hyperinflation", the worst ever seen in the history of civilization.
The buying power of German money simply disintegrated. The statistics to the right, which compare the value of the German Mark (the basic unit of currency) with the American dollar, illustrate the point. By the end of 1923, a life savings of a hundred thousand Marks would not buy a loaf of bread. In November, the government started printing new marks called Rentenmarks, which simply lopped off all of the zeros from what the old money was worth. This helped stabilize things, but there remained the

The German Mark v. the U.S. Dollar

1914: $1 = 4 Marks
1921: $1 = 75 Marks
02/1923: $1 = 48, 000 Marks
10/1923: $1 = 440, 000, 000 Marks (440 million)
11/1923: $1 = 4, 200, 000, 000, 000 Marks (4.2 trillion)

problem of reparations. In 1924, a payment plan was worked out and Germany's economy improved. However, it made the German economy, as well as the economies of the rest of Europe, dependent on the United States. A cycle of loans was created: The U.S. loaned money to Germany, which then made reparations to other European nations, which then used the money to pay off their debts to America. Therefore, any problems with the U.S. economy could severely hurt Germany and the rest of Europe.


Nazi Party Symbol

The Nazi Party
The far-right group pressuring the Weimar Republic was the Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, hereafter referred to as the Nazi party). The Nazis evolved from Germany's working class. They blamed capitalism, the ruling class, liberalism, communists, and trade unions for the nation's problems, all of which, they claimed, were connected with Jewish conspiracy. They demanded that all Jews be deprived of German citizenship. Intensely nationalist, Nazis wanted all German peoples united under one nation (this was a revival of the "Greater Germany" idea which had been disregarded back in 1871, when a unified "Lesser Germany" was created out of the northern kingdoms, led by Prussia, leaving out Germans of the Austrian empire).
One of the main supporters of these ideas was Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who had been a corporal in the German army during WWI. By 1923 Hitler had skillfully increased Nazi Party membership from 3, 000 to 15, 000, and had organized a private army of mostly ex-soldiers, the SA (also called storm troopers, or "brownshirts" because of the color of their uniforms) to attack his political opponents. They appropriated the swastika, an ancient symbol frequently used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, which had become popular in the Western world as a symbol of good luck.
The Beer Hall Putsch
That fall, in Munich, Hitler engineered a revolt against the Weimar Republic. The revolt came to be known as the Beer Hall Putsch, because it was launched from a beer hall, which were commonly used as places to debate politics and hold political meetings. The uprising was quickly put down. The Nazi party was ordered to disband, and Adolf Hitler was arrested. During the trial, in which Hitler's words were reported almost verbatim in the press, Hitler moderated his tone, even dropping his usual anti-Semitism. He based his defense on his selfless devotion to the Volk (the people) and the need for strong action to save them. Hitler was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years in prison. He stayed in a reasonably comfortable cell and was allowed lengthy visitations. This was a customary
sentence for people whom the judge believed to have had honorable, but misguided motives. Because of Hitler's impressive performance at trial, he was pardoned by the Bavarian Supreme Court after serving only 8 months in prison. While in prison he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle), his blueprint for the future of Germany. Relying on old superstitions and stereotypes, Hitler scapegoated Jews as the main cause of Germany's woes. He called on Germans to repudiate the humiliating Treaty of Versailles; he advocated Pan-German nationalism (a unification of all Germanic peoples), and for Lebensraum (living space) for Germany by
Source: www.authentichistory.com
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