GCSE History - Germany 1918-1945

Covers everything you need to know about Germany in the years 1918-1945.


Weimar Republic - Constitution

  • Democratic
  • Set up 1919, in Weimar.
  • Men and women over 21 vote.
  • Voting system of proportional representation (PR). Number of votes = number of deputies in Reichstag.
  • Head of Reichstag = chancellor, elected every 4 years.
  • Head of state = president, elected every 7 years.
  • President = Friedrich Ebert.
  • Article 48 allows president to make laws without consent of Reichstag, in an emergency.
  • Freedom of speech and press.
1 of 18

Problems - Effects of WW1 1918

  • Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates.
  • German 'revolution'
  • Kiel (navy) mutiny.
  • Starvation - no potatoes, only turnips.
  • Hunger and disease.
  • Demobilised soldiers return from WW1, and are unhappy with the government.
  • Weimar Republic seen as 'November Criminals' for signing the armistice. 

WW1 leaves Germany in ruins - the Weimar Republic already has lots of problems to solve. 

2 of 18

Problems 1918-1922

  • 1919 - Treaty of Versailles signed. Seen as dictated peace, or 'diktat', makes Weimar Republic unpopular. 
  • 1919 - Spartacist uprising. Communists attempt to seize power, government call on Friekorps for support. Leaders of Spartacists murdered - Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknicht.
  • 1920 - Government rely on Freikorps, but only allowed 100,000 men in army, according to Treaty of Versailles. Government try to get rid of Freikorps.
  • 1920 - Kapp Putsch. Freikorps attempt to seize power, led by Dr.Wolfgang Kapp. Government flee, and a general strike is called. The putsch is unsuccessful. 
  • 1921 - 1922 - Even though they are banned, Freikorps continue to be a problem, and murder 2 politicians, Walter Rathenau and Matthias Erzberger.
3 of 18

Problems 1923

1) French invade Ruhr.

Germany fail to pay reparations, France and Belgium invade and take coal and iron as payment. Government orders strike, print more money to pay workers. Leads to hyperinflation.

2) Hyperinflation

caused by money being printed to pay workers. Value of money drops, paper money becomes worthless. Prices rise, workers demand more money. Savings and fixed incomes become worthless. Bartering becomes common, people are unhappy with the government. 

3) Munich Putsch.

People losing faith in democracy, Hitler sees chance to seize power. Organises a putsch, expects army to be on his side. Army open fire, kill 16 Nazis. Hitler sent to prison for 5 years, but serves 9 months. Gains publicity at trial. Nazi party banned. Hitler decides to gain power by votes. 

4 of 18

Weimar Republic 1924-1929 - Success/Recovery

1)  Economic:

Gustav Stresemann introduces new currency, rentenmark. 1924 - Dawes Plan, loans of 800 million marks to Germany from USA. German industrial production is 3rd largest in world. Employment, prosperity. 

2) Foreign Policy: 

1924 Dawes Plan helps Germany economy. 1925, Locarno Pact, France and Germany agree to follow Treaty of Versailles. 1926 - Germany join League of Nations. 1928 - Kellogg-Briand Pact, 60 countries including Germany outlaw war. 1929 - Young Plan, extends time to pay reparations.

3) Political:

No major threats to Republic. Political stability. People are happy with the government.

4) Culture:

Freedom of speech/expression. Seen in art (George Grosz), architecture (Bauhaus), film(Marlene Dietrich), cabaret (Josephine Baker), literature (All Quiet on the Western Front). Berlin is pleasure capital of Europe. Democratic and forward thinking. 

5 of 18

Weimar Republic 1924-1929 - Failure to Recover

1) Economic:

Stresemann claims economic success is like 'dancing on a volcano'. Stresemann dies 1929. Wall Street Crash 1929, USA loans recalled, economy collapses. Factories closed, jobs lost. People angry with government.

2) Foreign Policy:

Germany still felt inferior to other countries. People hated Treaty of Versailles, do not agree that Germany should co-operate with other countries. Felt that Germany would never be equal until reparations were paid.  

3) Political:

Proportional representation results in no majority, coalition governments. Weak government cannot make decisions in times of crisis. Article 48 abused by President Hindenburg who was right wing and anti-democracy. 

4) Culture:

Many think new modern influences went against tradition - also a Nazi belief. Berlin night-life seen as sleazy and corrupt. 

6 of 18

Factors Helping Hitler Become Chancellor

1) Nazi Tactics/Propaganda: Offer solution to people's problems - 'Work and Bread' slogan. Propaganda - Hitler's speeches, rallies, posters, photographs, idea of Hitler as 'Superman', tours of Germany by plane to get support, radio prices down so more people can listen to speeches. Common enemies - Jews and Communists as scapegoats - Nazi party needed to protect people. Storm troopers disrupt political opponents. 

2) Impact of the Depression: 1929 - Wall Street Crash, no trade with USA. Unemployment, loans withdrawn, industry grinds to a halt. People blame Weimar Republic, look to extremist solutions. Chancellor Herman Muller resigns. 

3) Weakness of Constitution: Coalition government can't agree on decisions. Rely on Hindenburg using Article 48 to pass laws. Reichstag meets less, Hindenburg becomes more like a dictator.

4) Rivalry of Von Papen and Von Schliecher: Von Papen was chancellor, overthrown by Von Schliecher. Von Papen plots revenge - asks Hindenburg to make Adolf Hitler chancellor, replacing Von Schliecher. Von Papen to be vice-chancellor. Hindenburg thinks Hitler can be manipulated/'puppet' chancellor, so agrees.

7 of 18

Events Helping Hitler (1)

  • Hitler is chancellor but limited power, so calls an election for March 1933.

1) Reichstag Fire, Feb 1933:

Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe found guilty, executed. Nazis claim that fire was part of a Communist revolt. Some historians think Nazis might have started the fire as it was so convenient. Hindenburg passes 'Decree for the Protection of the People and the State', allows Nazis to arrest Communists, and ban meetings of opposition parties.

2) Election, March 1933  

288/647 seats but no majority, so bans 81 Communist seats, and make coalition with Catholic Centre Party - Hitler agrees not to meddle with church.

8 of 18

Events Helping Hitler (2)

3) Enabling Law, March 1933

Enables Hitler to make laws without Reichstag for 4 years. Uses intimidation to get Enabling Law passed - SA at the vote. Passed 441 to 84, Reichstag votes itself out of existence. 

4) Night of the Long Knives, June 1934

Execution of SA. SA want well paid jobs for loyalty, want to be part of official army under Ernst Rohm's leadership. Rohm a problem as has left wing views, and poses a threat to Hitler. Army see SA as thugs. Hitler orders ** to execute the SA and their leader, and tells public that the SA are a threat to Germany. Army swear oath of loyalty to Hitler. President dies, Hitler the only leader - 'Fuhrer' of Germany. 

9 of 18

Methods of Control (1)


Everywhere. Ministry for People's Enlightenment and Propaganda has 2 jobs: (1) Spread Nazi message (2) Suppress undesirable influences. Geobbels in charge. Posters, photographs, speeches, films, book burning, music - Wagner seen as desirable, Black-American and Jazz music undesirable. Radios cheap, Hitler portrayed a strong, confident leader. Celebrations - Fuhrer's Birthday, anniversary of Munich Putsch, Nuremberg Rallies.  

Olympic Games 1936:

Show supremacy of Aryan race. New stadium/facilities show German efficiency. Television cameras for first time. Germany = 33 golds. But overshadowed by Jesse Owens - Black American athlete, 4 golds. Negative Nazism hidden e.g. Treatment of Jews. 

** (Bodyguard):

Himmler is leader. 3 sections = National Security, Waffen ** (fight alongside army) and Death's Head Units (run concentration camps).  

10 of 18

Methods of Control (2)

Gestapo - Secret Police:

Created by Herman Goering, led by Reinhard Heydrich. Use web of informants including children in Hitler Youth. Discover enemies of state and put them in prison/send them to courts. 

People's Courts

1933+ Judges are sworn Nazis. Number of political prisoners increases. By 1939, 162,734 people are under 'protective arrest'.

Concentration Camps

Where 'enemies of the state' are sent. Poor food, hard discipline leads to deaths. Communists and trade unionists at start, then other undesirables sent there, e.g. Jews, gypsies, homosexuals. Later, 'Final Solution' of Death Camps.  

11 of 18

Opposition to the Nazis (1)

Private Grumbling: 

Many moan in private but too scared to do anything - shows effective Nazi control. Propaganda gives message that all of Germany is grateful to the Fuhrer fgor restoring Germany's greatness.

Political Opposition: 

All other political parties banned, so go underground. Publish anti-Nazi leaflets but little reach the people.


Against restrictions on freedom of expression. Either suffered in silence or emigrated e.g. Albert Einstein. 

Army Generals:

Suspicious of Hitler, do not like foreign policy. Many were sacked e.g. Ludwig Beck in 1938. 

12 of 18

Opposition to the Nazis (2)


1933 Concordat - Nazis agree to work with Church, coalition with Centre Party. But Nazis start banning Church youth groups. 1937 - Pope Pius XI denounces Nazism as anti-Christian. Nuns and priests sent to Labour Camps, Hitler sets up Reich Church.

Upper Class:

Kreiseau Circle (led by Helmuth von Moltke) - aristocratic family against Nazis, anti- violence. 1944 - found and executed. Beck-Goerderler Group - Ludwig Beck and Karl Goerderler. July bomb plot to assassinate Hitler, Operation Valkyerie. Plot fails, and they were executed. 

Young People: 

Swing types - refuse to join Hitler Youth, listen to Jazz music. Edelweiss Pirates - beat up Hitler Youth. Pose a threat to Nazis in WW2 as helped allied soldiers and delivered allied propaganda. 1944 - attack Gestapo and kill an officer. 12 pirates hung. White Rose Movement - Hans and Sophie Scholl, university students in Munich. Hand out anti-Nazi leaflets, both executed in 1943.

13 of 18

Life in Nazi Germany - Young People


Swing types, Edelweiss Pirates, White Rose Movement.

Youth Groups:

Indoctrinate the young - future Nazis. Boys = Little Fellows, Young Folk, Hitler Youth. Girls = Young Girls, League of German Maidens. Act as informants for Gestapo - report parents and teachers. Boys = training ground for army. Girls = preparing for motherhood.


Indoctrinated at school. History - Germany's successes, biology - racial theory, P.E. compulsory. Gender divide = boys - military, girls - domestic. Taught about supremacy of Aryans, and undesirables seen as 'low life'. Questions in textbooks contain Nazi beliefs. 97% teachers are Nazis. 

14 of 18

Life in Nazi Germany - Persecuted Groups

Nazi ideas:

Aryan race = blue eyed, blonde hair, tall. Master race. Undesirable groups = low lives, 'untermenschen' - black people, Jews etc.


Seen as inferior, blamed for German defeat in WW1 and collapse of economy - scapegoat.

Persecution starts as propaganda - shown as fat, greedy, big nose, sly. Boycott Jewish shops, banned from public places e.g. parks. Nuremberg Laws - not allowed to be German citizens or marry Germans. Kristallnacht/Night of the Broken Glass - Jewish student shoots German diplomat in Paris - Nazis smash Jewish shop windows/synagogues. 100+ killed, 1000+ in prison. Final solution = death camps. 


Homosexuals(registered, concentration camps, medical experiments), gypsies, Eastern Europeans (sterilised), tramps (labour camps, sterilised), mentally and physically disabled ('euthanasia' programme). 

15 of 18

Life in Nazi Germany - Women

Nazi Ideas:

Duty is motherhood, to look after husbands - not in workplace.

Female Ideal: 

Propaganda - traditional German woman = no smoking, no make-up, flat heels, full skirt, plaited hair.


As many children as possible, 'Mother's Cross' medal - gold for 8 children. Contraception discouraged. Race farms - breeding of super Germans/Aryan race.

Jobs Banned:

Teachers, doctors, civil servants, judges, jury. Needed during WW2 but not in armed forces.


Objected to unequal treatment, joined illegal groups. But same attitude to women existed in other countries, Nazi attitude just more extreme. 

16 of 18

Life in Nazi Germany - WW2

Start of War:

Blitzkreig = success, people don't mind sacrifice in return for victory.


Hitler begins attack on Russia, Germany starts to suffer.

Allied Bombing Raids:

Civilian casualties, lowered morale, dropped leaflets, German people want war to end.

Total War: 

Rations, longer hours in factories, fur coats donated to soldiers fighting in cold conditions, women to work. 

17 of 18

Life in Nazi Germany - Pros and Cons


  • Unemployment beaten - rearmament, conscription, motorways/autobahns built, public works. Nazi Worker Groups - Strength Through Joy - give away holidays, cars etc. to workers.  


  • Employment - no trade unions, work longer hours for less pay.
  • Loss of freedoms - Media censored, no freedom of speech, no other political parties, all aspects of lives controlled e.g. churches, youth groups, education, films, work places.
18 of 18


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all WWII and Nazi Germany 1939-1945 resources »