History Germany 1918-39


Kristallnact, November 1938

On 7th November 1938, and polish Jew, Hershal Grynszpan, shot a German outside the German embassy in Paris, Ernst von Rath. On the 9th, von Rath died. Goebbels told Hitler, who said if Germans decided to take revenge on the Jews, the Government should do nothing to prevent it. Some Nazi's took this as an order to attack the Jews. On the 9th/10th of November, gangs smashed up Jewish property and attacked Jews. The damagae was: 814 shops, 171 homes, 100 Jews killed and 191 synagogues. This was known as Kristallnacht.

The Jews were blamed for the trouble and fined 1 billion marks for damage, banned from running shops and businesses and going to German schools or universities. By the 12th November, 20,000 Jews had been sent to concentration camps.

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The Nuremberg Laws, September 1935

As the Nazi's established themselves in power, however, persecution became worse. On the 15th September 1935, a set of changes called the Nuremberg Laws were passed.

  • Jews lost the right to vote
  • Jews required to wear a coloured patch to set themselves apart from other citizens
  • Jews forced to travel in different parts of buses and trains
  • Jews were not allowed to marry German citizens

From 1938, matters became more ominous

  • From March 1938. Jews had to register all there possessions 
  • From July 1938, Jews had to carry identity cards
  • From July 1938, Jewish doctors, dentists and lawyers were forbidden to work for white Aryan Germans
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The standard of living, 1933-39

Wage levels increased because unemployment decreased and one sign of peoples higher spending power was that sales of consumer goods also increased. For some, luxury purchases increased too. The Nazis supported the production of a new peoples car (Volkswagen), which was meant to make car ownership possible for the masses and car owners trebled in the 1930's. Hitler set up two organisations to help working conditions:

  • One was the SDA - Beauty of Labour. This organisation tried to ensure good standards at work - of safety, cleanliness, lighting, noise levels, ventilation and hot meals.
  • The other was the KdF - Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy). This provided leisure activites for workers, including sports facilities, films, outings and theatre shows. 


  • Working hours increased because trade unions had gone
  • Many employed in Military, not productive jobs
  • Rising prices cancelled out wage increases
  • During Great Depression, standards of living were very low, so any improvements measured against 1933 were really just a return to the normal.
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The Treaty of Versaille, June 1919

On 28th June 1919, the German delegation signed the Treaty of Versaille. The treaty was not liked by the German people or German political parties. They blamed Germany's new political leaders for signing the treaty (November Criminals). This link with defeat and humiliation weakened the new republic from the very start. The terms of Treaty of Versaille were:

  • £6000million reparations to allies
  • 11 colonies lost to Africa
  • Army limited to 100,000
  • The Rhineland was demilitarised
  • Alsace and Lorraine were lost to France
  • Lost 50% of its Iron and 15% of its coal reserves

The Treaty had a lasting effect within Germany.

  • It weakened popularity of Weimar
  • It caused lasting political protest
  • It harmed Germany's economy
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The New Weimar Constitution, February 1919

The new constitution was more democratic than government under the Kaiser.German people had more control. In the Reichstag, proportional representation was used. This meant that the number of Reichstag seats which political parties were given depended on the percentage of votes they gained.

This was a weakness because even a party with a small number of votes gained seats in the Reichstag. During the 1920's 28 parties were represented in the Reichstag. To get majority, they had to set up coliations, which didnt work out because the parties had opposing views. 

The second weakness meant that, whenever compromise broke down, the chancellor had to suspend the constitution, under Article 48 and rule by decree. This gave the impression the the new constitution did not really work.

The Weimar Republic was built on shaky foundations. Extremist parties didn't support it; moderate Germans feared it was too weak. 

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Political Unrest, 1918-20

The Spartacist League - Left Wing

During the Winter of 1918-19, there were left-wing uprisings in Germany. The most influential communist leaders were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht, organisers of the spartacists league. On the 6th of January, 100,000 communists demonstrated in Berlin and took over key buildings, such as newspaper offices.Chancellor Ebert chose the Freikorps (demilitarised soldiers/anit-communist), who put down the rebels in early 1919.

 Kapp Putsch - Right Wing

In 1920, 5000 right-wing supporters of Dr Wolfgang Kapp marched on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic and bring back the Kaiser. The rebels controlled the city for a while, but the government urged people to strike which ground the city to a halt because no one was working and no one wished to bring back the Kaiser. Kapp realised he could no longer govern and fled, was caught and died.

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Stresemann Era, 1924-29

The Dawes Plan, April 1924Charles G. Dawes asked to resolve Germany's non-payment of the reparations. He reduced annual payments to an affordable level and agreed that America banks would invest in German industry. Employment went up - Imports and Exports Increased - Industrial Output Doubled

The Locarno Pact, October 1925 - This was Streseman's progress in international affairs. It was a Treaty between Germany, France, Italy and Belgium. Germany agreed to keep its new border as long as Allied troops left the Rhineland, France promised peace with Germany and talks about them joining the League of Nations.

  • Germany joined the League of Nations in September 1926

The Kellogg-Briand Pact, August 1928An international agreement not to use war to achieve foreign policy aims, made Germany be seen as more respectable.

The Young Plan, August 1929Reduced total reparations to £2 billion and had a further 59 years to pay. This made it possible to lower taxes,and reduced the annual amount Germany had to pay. This, in turn, released spending power, which boosted German industry and employment.

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The Birth of the Nazi Party, 1919-23

The DAP was set up by Anton Drexler. Hitler joined in the autumn of 1919. They railed against:

  • the communists and socialists, who they blamed for bringing down the Kaiser
  • the Weimar politicians who accepted the Treaty of Versaille
  • the weakness of all democracies
  • the Jews, whom they blamed for undermining the German economy

In February 1920, the DAP revealed the 25 Point Programme. This included:

  • scrapping the Treaty of Versaille
  • expanding Germany's borders to give its people Lebensraum- more land tolive in
  • depriving the Jews of German Citizenship

On the 7th August 1920, the DAP changed to the NSDAP. In mid-1921, Hitler pushed Drexler aside and became party leader and gathered him loyal party leaders: Rohm, Goering, Hess and Streicher.In 1921, Hitler created the SA, who were the party's private army and lead by Rohm. Many of the SA were thugs and difficult to control as they were demobbed solidiers, unemployed and students.

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The Munich Putsch, November 1923


  • Hyperinflation
  • Streseman would soon get on top of Germany's economic problems
  • Streseman was starting to crack down on extremist groups, like the NSDAP


  • 8th November, Hitler and 600 SA trooops burst into a Bavarian Gorvernment meeting and announced he was taking control of Bavaria, then Munich and then the Government itself
  • Kahr, Seisser and Lossow (leaders), pressured into supporting the uprising
  • The next morning K,S+L had changed their minds. Hitler and his 3000 supporters were met by state police, who opened fire and quickly controlled the violence. Hitler was later arrested


  • Sentenced 5 years at Gaol (served 9 months). Hitler used his trial to get national publicity for his views, ban on NSDAP lifted in 1925, won 32 seats 1924 and wrote Mein Kampf.
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The rebirth of Nazism, 1924

Hitler left prison in 1924 with a clearer vision for the Nazi party. Nazism had key features.

Nationalism - breaking the restrictions on Germany in the T of V, reviving the power of Germany, making Germany self-sufficient, expanding Germany's borders and purifying the German 'race'.

Socialism - Hitler wanted to control big businesses and Hitler did not want to take all private land and businesses in the hands of the workers (what the communists wanted). He believed socialism was running the economy in the national interest.

Totalitarianism - the belief that the Nazi Party should control every aspect of life. Hitler despised democracy and said it was weak and believed in Fuhrerprinzip; total loyalty to the leader.

Struggle - Hitler believed that life was a struggle, in which peope constantly struggled against eachother. He said that this constant struggle made people and countries healthier and fitter.

Racial Purity - According to Hitler, Aryans were the superior race, who had produced all that was good in Germany. Believed Asians and Africans were inferior and the lowest form of life was the Jews who he described as parasites who fed off the countries they lived in.

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Nazi Party organisation in the lean years, 1924-29

Hitler improved party finances. He befriended Germany's most wealthy businessmen. They shared his hatred for communism and hoped Hitler would limit the power of the trade unions. 

The extra income helped fund the expanding of the SA. Hitler didnt trust the SA because they were difficult to control and violent thugs and, while Hitler was in prison, they had developed a dangerous loyalty to Rohm. So in 1925, Hitler set up the ** (schutzstaffel). They became famous and feared by their menacing black uniforms.

Hitler worked on propaganda with Goebbels to improve the Nazi Party. They: created scapegoats, promoted Hitlers voice as Nazi leader (speeches), used up-to-date technology and created a clear image of strength for the party.

However, these were seen as the lean years because:

  • Since 1923, Inflation had eased, employment had increased and the public were better off.
  • Streseman seemed to be regaining status for Germany on a world stage.
  • In 1925, Hindenburg, an ex-field marshal of the German army, had become president. His reputation made more people support the Weimar. The Nazi's only won 12 seats / 2.6%.
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The Nazi's win Power, 1932-33

The Presidential Elections of 1932:

Germany was not in a good place because of the Wall Street Crash. This had caused a collaspe of Germans industry and banking. Hitler polled 11 million votes, communists polled 5 million and Hindburg had polled 18 million. Because no one had >50% of the votes, there was a reelection in April, where Hitler polled 13 million, H. 19 and communists 4. Hitler was now a major political figure in Germany.


In April 1932, C. Bruning tried to ban the SA and **. This angered right-wingers. von Schleicher removes him. Schleicher + Hindenburg put Papen as chancellor in May '32. The coalition was weak and Hitler won 230 seats in Reichstag and was largest party. Without Hitler's support, von Papen could no longer command a majority in the Reichstag and resigned. Schleicher became C. on 2nd December. he consistantly failed to get a majority in the Reichstag. Schleichers plan to be head of a military dictatorship leaked and he resigned.

On the 30th January, Hitler became C. and von Papen his vice. Papen thought he could use Hitler and a figurehead and have him in his pocket. 

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The Removal of Opposition, 1933-34

The Reichstag Fire, 27th February 1933. A dutch communist sets fire to the Reichstag. Allows Hitler to call for a state of Emergency and call for a new election. The Nazi Party Seats went up to 288. He had two-thirds majority and had enough to change the constitution.

The Enabling Act, March 1933. Was forced through the Reichstag. It allowed Hitler to make laws for four years without the consent of the Reichstag. It was renewed in 1937. 

Banning of Trade Unions, May 1933. They were potential opposition for Hitler. If they worked with the communists, they could undermine the Government.

Banning of other Political Parties, July 1933. All parties illegal apart from the NSDAP.

Abolishing Lander Governments, January 1934. Hitler could not control the Lander governments as Chancellor. 

The Night of the Long Knives, 30th June 1934. Hitler believed that Rohm was gaining too much power in charge of the SA. Rohm wanted to to replace the German army with the SA. leaders of the ** warned Hitler that Rohm was trying to seize power. So Rohm and SA members were murdered, including: Rohm, Schleicher, Strasser. 2nd August 1934, Hindenburg died.

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The Retenmark, 1923-24

Streseman knew that restore confidence in the German currency he would need to replace it with a new currency. So he introduced the Rentenmark. Then he set up a new independent bank, the Reichsbank and gave it control over the new currency. These measures brought a clean break from the period of hyperinflation and restored confidence in Germany at home and abroad. So this was successful in dealing with the problems created by hyperinflation. When you look at it, it is the tackling of inflation that binds all this together. Without it, the French would not have left the Ruhr, other countries would not have wanted to be on good terms with an economically crippled Germany and the Americans would not have lent money in the Young Plan. 

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The Nazi Police State, 1933-39

** - Set up in 1925, put in charge of Himmler in 1929. Nazi parties bodyguards. It was the ** who warned Hitler about the SA and Rohm in 1934. The ** gradually expanded to 50,000 during the 30's. Another role of theirs was to carry out racial purification+run c. camps. All were Aryan. 

Gestapo - Hitlers non-uniformed police force. Set up in 1933 by Goering and placed under control of ** in 1936. Germans feared them becuase they could not tell who they were. Arrested people who spoke out against the nazi's, prisoned without trial. By 1939, 150,000 locked up.

Concentration Camps - First was Dachau in 1933. Located in isolated areas. Mainly political prisoners or undesirables. From 1938, were used for forced labour. There were 6 by 1939, After 1939, they grew and were used for the mass murder of minority groups, such as the jews. 

Law Courts - Hitler took control of the courts. Set up the National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law. All members had to sign. Certain that judges would support Nazi ideas, Hitler gave them freedom to punish people even when they hadn't broken the law. 

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Nazi's and the Church, 1933-39

The Nazi's glorified strength and violence whereas Christianity preached tolerance, peace and respect for all people.

Catholic: One-third of Germanys Christians were Catholic. They owed their allegiance not to Hitler but the Pope. They also had their own schools which taught different from the Nazi regime. Hitler tried at first to reach an agreement with the Catholic Church. In July 1933, he reached a concordat (agreement) with the Pope: to confirm freedom of worship for the Catholics, not to interfere with catholic schools in Germany, priests were not to interfere with politics and ordered German Bishops to swear loyalty to the Nationalist Socialist regime. However Hitler did not keep his promise : Catholic preists were harassed and arrested(put in CC), Catholic schools were brought in line with state school and the catholic youth league was banned. The Pope realised that the concordat was worthless and issued critism and had a 'buring anxiety' with Nazi regimes.

Protestant: At first, protestants were grateful Hitler saved them from anti-Xian communists. Nazi flags were put in churches. Some Protestants formed the German Christian Movement, Muller in charge and was made Reich Bishop of G. in 1933. However, Pastor Martin Neimoller set up the Pastor Emergency League to campaign against Nazi action. 1937, Neimoller sent to concentration camp and the PEL was banned. 

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Censorship and Propaganda, 1933-39

Press - Had to provide views which the ministry agreed with or face the consequences. Journalists given briefings, sometimes given direct instructions what to write. There was no free press in G.

Universities - The Nazis had little respect for academic research. Between 1933-38, 3000 lecturers were dismissed from their jobs. Research was expected to agree with Nazi views.

Arts - Goebbels controlled the arts. They had to join the Reich Chamber of Culture, any whom the Nazis disapproved of were banned. Books with views they didnt like were censored. once, German students burned 20,000 books wrote by jews, communists, Einstein and Freud (anti-nazis).

Radio - All radio stations were put under Nazi control. Hitler made frequent broadcasts. Radios wre made cheap and by the 1930's there were more radios in Germany than anywhere else.

Cinema - Films were shown alongside a 45minute newsreel publicising Germanys achievements.Plots had to be approved by Goebbels. Some films had overtly politcal messages.

Sport - The Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936. Germany won 33 medals, top scorer. They believed it proved Aryan superiority.

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Women in Nazi Germany, 1933-39

Nazis believed that women should serve their society and the best way to do that was to be good mothers. Women were encouraged to leave work and concentrate on the 3k's - Kidner Kuche kirche(children, kitchen and church). Some professional women were forced to leave their jobs as doctors, lawyers and teachers. This freed up jobs for men, thus reducing unemployment.

  • In 1933, the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage was introduced. Loans of 1000 marks were provided to young couples to marry,as long as their wife left work. For each one of their four children, the couple could keep and quarter of their loan. 
  • The Mother Cross also encouraged childbirth. An award given to the amount of children a women had: bronze for 4, silver for 6 and gold for 8. 
  • Lebensborn (fountain of life). Set up in 1935 by Heinrich Himmler. Started of as providing nurseries and financial aid for women who have children with ** men. Later, it even made 'single women available for fertilisation by ** men. This was to create genetically pure children for adoption. 
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Work and Employment, 1933-39

In the place of trade unions, Hitler set up the DAF (German Labour Front). the DAFs role to ensure that workers served the best interests of the Nazis. The DAF also controlled the power of the employers. Although German workers lost their freedom to act collectively against employers, at least DAF established what the minimum working conditions standards should be, which prevented serious exploitation of labour by employers. 

In 1933, Hitler set up RAD (National labour service). This provided manual work for the unemployed. At first it was voluntary, but it was made compulsory in 1935. It was organised along the lines of the army. Rates of pay were very low and some complained of very poor food. RAD had built 7000 autobahns by 1939.

To prepare for war in 4 years, Hitler proposed Rearmament. This increased government spending on arms; by 1939 it was 26 billion, production of iron and steel tripled, army grew to 900,000 by 1939. Unemployment went down, while production profits went up. 

Hitler reduced unemployment from 4.8million (1933) to 0.5million in 1939. By 1939, Germany was ready for war. However, some of the employment had only been achieved by moving women and Jews out of jobs and expanding organisations such as the Gestapo.

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