Effects of War On Germany
After the war, Europe had turned into a continent of debtors from being a continent of creditors. The Weimar Republic was forced to pay for the sins of the old empire. The supporters of the Weimar Republic became easy targets of the attacks by the conservatives.
Glorification of Soldiers
- After the First World War, the soldiers came to be placed above civilians all over Europe.
- Politicians and the media glorified the life of a soldier.
- Trench life was portrayed as adventurous and romantic. But for a soldier in a trench, it was life in hell.
- Aggressive war propaganda and national honor became the theme of public debate.
- Democracy was a nascent idea which could not survive the war-ravaged Europe.
Political Radicalism and Economic Crises
This was the time when the Spartacist League revolution began to rise on the pattern of Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. There was a charged political atmosphere in Berlin and there were demands for Soviet style governance. The socialists, democrats and the Catholics met in Weimar to give shape to the democratic republic. The uprising of the Spartacist was crushed with the help of war veteran organizations called Free Corps. The Spartacist later founded the Communist Party of Germany.
The economic crisis of 1923 further heightened the political radicalization in Germany. Germany had to pay war reparations in gold which led to depletion of gold reserve. When Germany refused to pay in 1923, the French occupied its leading industrial area Ruhr; to claim their coal.
Germany responded with passive resistance and printed paper currency recklessly. Increased circulation of currency led to hyperinflation in Germany. Hyperinflation is a situation marked by rapid price rice of most of the items of consumption.
Finally, America decided to bail out Germany from this mess. America introduced the Dawes Plan. According to this plan, the terms of reparations were reworked to ease the financial burden on Germany.
The Years of Depression
Some stability could be seen between 1924 and 1928. But that stability was short-lived because the industrial recovery in Germany was dependent on short-term loans. A large portion of those loans came from the USA. This support was withdrawn after the infamous Wall Street crash. The Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929 and people sold their shares in a mad spree. This was the beginning of the Great Depression. The effects of this recession in the US economy were felt all over the world.
The German economy was the worst hit by Great Depression. By 1932, industrial production became 40% of what it was in 1929. Number of unemployed touched a high of 6 million. Unemployment also led to an increase in criminal activities.
The Weimar Republic was politically fragile as well. Its constitution had some inherent defects and hence the Weimar Republic was prone to be unstable and vulnerable to dictatorship. The provision of proportional representation meant that majority by a single party was impossible and coalition government was the norm. Article 48 gave the President the powers to impose emergency to suspend civil rights and to rule by decree. The average life span of a cabinet was just 239 days and emergency was declared many times. In other words, it was a period of political instability. People were losing confidence in the republic.