Nazism and the rise of Hitler
In the First World War which continued for nearly four long years, Germany suffered defeat. Germany was forced to sign the treaty of Versailles and Germany became a Republic. Hitler stirred up the emotions of the Germans by condemning the treaty of Versailles. Hitler becomes the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and President in 1934. He cancelled the civil liberties, abolished the frees and radio and controlled all educational institutions. He tortured and executed millions of Jews in Germany. Hitler was determined to make Germany a might power and conquer all of Europe. With surprising rapidity Germany rose from ashes. German forces attacked Poland on 1 September 1939. Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September in order to protect Poland. World War II began in September 1943. Germany was defeated in this war. Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.
Birth of thWeimer republic -
The defeat of imperial Germany and the abdication of the emperor gave an opportunity to parliamentary parties to recast German polity. a national Assembly met at Weimer and established a democratic constitution with a federal structure. Deputies were now elected to the German Parliament or Reichstag. On the basis of equal and universal votes cast by all adults including woman. This republic, however, was not received well by its own people largely because of the terms it was forced to accept after Germany’s defeat at the end of the First World War.
(a) Treaty of Versailles:
Germany signed a peace treaty with the Allies at Versailles according to which
(i) Germany lost its overseas colonies, a tenth of its population, 13 percent of its territories, 75 present of its iron and 26 percent of its coal to France, Poland, Denmark and Lithuania.
(ii) The Allied Powers demilitarized Germany to w taken its power.
(iii) The War Guilt clause held Germany responsible for the war damages the Allied countries suffered. Germany was forced to pay compensation amounting to 6 billion pound.
(iv) The Allied armies also occupied the occupied the resource-rich Rhineland for much of the 1920s.
(b) The Effects of the War:
The war had a devastating impact on the entire continent both psychologically and financially. From a continent of creditors, Europe turned into one of debtors. The Weimer republic carried the burden of war guilt and national humiliation and was financially crippled by being forced to pay compensation.
The First World War left a deep imprint on European society and polity. Soldiers came to be placed above civilians. Politicians and publicists laid great stress on the need for men to be aggressive, strong and masculine. However soldiers lived miserable lives in trenches, trapped with rate feeding on corpses. They faced poisonous gas and enemy shelling, and witnessed their ranks reduce rapidly. Democracy was indeed a young and fragile idea, which could not survive the instabilities of inter-war Europe.
(c) Political Radicalism and Economic Crises:
(i) Soviets of workers and sailors were established in many cities. The political atmosphere in Berlin was charge with demands for Soviet-style conveyance. Those opposed to this-such as the socialists, Democrats and Catholics – met in Weimar to give shape to the democratic republic. The Weimar Republic crushed the uprising with the help of a war veteran’s organization called Free Crops.
The anguished Spartacists later founded the Communist Party of Germany. Communists and Socialists henceforth became irreconcilable enemies and could not make common cause against Hitler. Both revolutionaries and militant nationalists craved for radical solutions.
(ii) Germany had fought the war largely on loans and had to pay reparations in Gold. In 1923 Germany refused to pay, and the French occupied its leading industrial area, Ruhr, to claim their coal. Germany retaliated with passive resistance and printed paper currency recklessly. With too much printed money in circulation, the value of the German mark fell. As the value of the mark collapsed, prices of goods soared. This crisis came to be known as hyperinflation, a situation when prices rise phenomenally high.
(d) The years of depression:
German investments and industrial recovery were totally dependent on short tern loans, largely from the USA. On one singly day, 24 October, 13 million shares were sold in Wall Street Exchange. This was the start the Great Economic Depression. The German economy was the worst hit by the economic crisis. Workers lost their jobs or were paid reduced wages. As jobs disappeared, the youth took to criminal activities and total despair became a commonplace. The economic crisis created deep anxieties and fears in people. The currency lost its value. Sections of society were filled with the fear of proletarianisation, an anxiety of being reduced to the ranks of the working class, or worse still, the unemployed. The large mass of peasantry was affected by a sharp fall in agricultural prices and women, unable to fill their children’s stomachs, were filled with a sense of deep despair. Politically too the Weimer Republic was fragile. The Weimer constitution had some inherent defects, which made it unstable and vulnerable to dictatorship. Proportional representation and Article 48 were its major shortcomings. People lost confidence in the democratic parliamentary system, which seemed to offer no solutions.
Hitler’s Rise to Power
(i) Born in Austria in 1889, Hitler spent his youth in poverty. During the First World War, he enrolled in the German army, acted as a messenger at the front, became a corporal and earned medals for bravery.
(ii) In 1919, he joined a small group called the German Workers Party; subsequently took control of this party, renamed it as the National Socialist German Workers Party. This party came to be known as the Nazi Party. In 1923, Hitler planned to seize control of Bavaria, march to Berlin and capture power. He failed, was arrested and tried for treason, and later released. The Nazis could not effectively mobilize popular support till the early 1930s. It was during the Great Depression that Nazism became a mass movement. In 1928, the Nazi Party got no more then 2.6 percent votes in the Reichstag – the German parliament. By 1932, the Nazi Party had become the largest party with 37 percent votes.
(iii) Hitler was a powerful speaker. His passion and his words moved people. He promised them a strong nation, employment, secure future for the youth and to restore the dignity of the German people. He devised a new style of politics. Nazis held massive rallies and public meetings to demonstrate the support for Hitler and instill a sense of unity among the people.