Impact of WW1 on Germany

reactions, oppostion, shortages, war and peace.



Reactions to outbreak of war -

  • Attitude - to begin with support for war was low, but as war progressed people supported and became patriotic. Political nation (parties united). Political Unity passed by reichstag as it passed all legislative power to the bundesrat. Different section took control over different areas such as raw materials. Business remained in private hands.
  • War in 1914 -  Schlieffen Plan unleashed which was war on both West and Eastern Front; France and the USSR. Failed by September due to French causing them to half outside Paris. Best opportunity for military success had passed.
  • War in 1915 - New Commander Falkenhayn and the OHL launched attack only on the East but with little gain, to turned to the West to knock Britain out the war; result was troops were spread too far across Europe.
  • Food - Germany was never self sufficient in food and the British blockade (bombing of good ships destined for Germany) meant supplies were limited to cities. Rationing of grain was introduced in 1915 and the bureaucratic agencies had no force to enforce rationing laws so it was counter-productive.
  • Shortages - Labour in the countryside reduced as men conscripted to war; less food produced. Women were able to take better paid jobs so began to work but not in areas where they would be needed. Substitute food ERATZ was introduced.
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What was the extent of opposition in 1914-1916?

  • Only a few socialist members were against war, and when radicals appeared (Luxemburg and Liebknecht) they were put in prison for campaigning for peace. German Peace League formed but had little impact. Police force and public opinion kept opposition low.
  • 1916 - attrition year; Falkenhayn wanted an endurance war; he launched attack in France where they were near to surrendering. Germans managed to sink a few British Royal Navy Vessels but had to retreat to port. Russia attacked German Austrian Allies and they had to support their ally. Falkenhayn then fell from his position as casualties reached 1.5 million.
  • Hindenburg(head of OHL) and Ludendorf( Chief of Staff)- had sole control of war from 1916. War aims were; knock USSR out of war, get allot of land, mobilise all Germany materials towards war effort.
  • Hindenburg Programme: Shut down all unimportant industries to free labour. Auxiliary Labour Law (ALL) was forced labour for men over 17; resulted in military having trade unions which was not supported. It FAILED as War office failed to shut down non important businesses, ALL did not get large numbers of men to work, put a larger strain on raw materials; DID INCREAASE PRODUCTION. 1915-17 by 50%.
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Shortages 0f 1916-1918 -

  • There were shortages of everything needed for war effort; cold winter made potato harvest fall by 90% and transportation of goods fall. People starved to death; soup kitchens opened, people had to eat turnips and polonaise began.
  • Social consequences - peasant and rural producers had been isolated by gov regulations. Urban working class resented to state controls, lack of food and the black market. Middle classes had savings that were worthless and the gap between them and the lower class decreased.
  • War 1917 - wanted to knock Britain out the war by submarine warfare, but it failed and as a result the USA joined to war on the allies side; polarised German politics as US was not a wanted enemy. Opposition - growing opposition increased on the home front due to millions being injured and killed. Hunger increased the resentment. Some members of the SPD refused to vote for war credits. USPD in 1917 was set up who campaigned for peace and negotiation and social reform.
  • July crisis - members of the Centre party and SPD tried to seek negotiations and peace. The Pope asked for Germany to consider peace, German Fatherland Party began and wanted territory for Germany, Prussian reform of its voting system was declined. New foreign minister promised to negotiate peace but was dissmissed in 1918.
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War and Peace 1918 -

  • Strikes started in Berlin, initiated by the USPD. Wanted end to war, more food and democratic rights. Brest-Litovsk treaty with Russia meant Germany took a third of Russian coal and iron, cotton and oil.
  • Ludendorff offensive - Half mill troops went from West to Eastern Front to start the offensive; cause Allies to withdraw from war. They did push the allies back 80 miles, but due to exhaustion the allies counter attacked and German morale was ruined by the defeat from British troops.
  • Impact of defeat - Ludendorff entered talks of armistice with the allies an the US. Prince Max of Baden and the new coalition Gov and the Kaiser considered constitutional change if parliament considered foreign and military affairs, Prussian Parliament was democratic and cabinet gov was recognised by the constitution. Ludendorff resigned, and sailors refused to go to sea to fight the British Navy. The Allies forced the Kaiser to abdicate and he went to Holland. As a result the allies forced Germany to withdraw from the Rhine, all Treaties signed by Germany dropped and troops withdraw from Russia, and Germany surrender 150 submarines and navy vessels.  
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