Germany 1900-1939 - Introduction

GERMANY 1900-1939
Germany experienced an era of remarkable change in the forty years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Wappen des
Heiligen Römischen Reiches
Proclamation of the German Empire
18 January 1871
It was only on the 18 January 1871 at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris in France, that Germany had become a unified nation - a reich or empire.
That reich was always referred to as the Second Reich.
The first German Reich was taken to have been the Heiliges Römisches Reich (Holy Roman Empire).
The Second reich had seen three emperors, or Kaisers - kaiser from the Latin Caesar.

Kaiser Wilhelm I

The first Kaiser was Wilhelm I (Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig, 22 March 1797 – 9 March 1888), of the House of Hohenzollern.
He was originally the King of Prussia (2 January 1861 – 9 March 1888)
Subsequently he was proclaimed the first German Emperor (18 January 1871 – 9 March 1888), and it was largely due to his Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, that Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the establishment of the German Empire.

Fürst von Bismark
Otto Eduard Leopold, Fürst von Bismark, Herzog von Lauenburg (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a conservative German statesman who dominated European affairs from the 1860s to his dismissal in 1890 by Emperor Wilhelm II.
In 1871, after a series of short victorious wars, he unified most of the German states (whilst excluding some, most notably Austria) into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership.
This created a balance of power that preserved peace in Europe from 1871 until 1914.
Otto von Bismarck became the first Chancellor of a united Germany after the 1871 Treaty of Versailles, and largely controlled its affairs until he was removed by Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm II in 1890.
His diplomacy of Realpolitik and powerful rule gained him the nickname the "Iron Chancellor".

Kaiser Friedrich III

The second Kaiser was Friedrich III, Deutscher Kaiser und König von Preußen; (18 October 1831 – 15 June 1888) who reigned for 99 days in 1888, the 'Year of the Three Emperors'. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
The last German Kaiser was Wilhelm II (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht; 27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918.
He was a grandson of the British Queen-Empress Victoria, and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe.
Wilhelm's reign ended prematurely with his abdication in 1918 after the defeat of the Central Powers in the Great War.

Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand
at Sarajevo - 1914
'Der Große Krieg' (the Great War - WWI) was a global war, centred in Europe, that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918.
The Central Powers
It involved all the world's great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (originally the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy; but, as Austria–Hungary had taken the offensive against the agreement, Italy did not enter into the war).
These alliances were both re-organised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers.
Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.

Trench Warfare - 1914-1918
More than 9 million combatants were killed, largely because of technological advancements that led to enormous increases in the lethality of weapons without corresponding improvements in protection or mobility.

Hitler at the Declaration of War
München 1914
The war was entered into in Germany in a spirit of romantic heroism, despite the fact that the causes of the war were not directly related to the interests of the Reich - it was a dispute between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Serbs.
The horrors of trench warfare, and the appalling conditions endure by civilians within the Reich as a result of the Allied Naval blockade had a profound effect on the sensibilities of many in the recently created Reich.
German society was then shaken to the core by the defeat of 1918, the collapse of the ruling classes, including the Kaiser, ans the subsequent loss of territory and later the collapse of the German economy.
At the end of the war Germany was humiliated by being stripped of much of its territory, forced to sign a demeaning peace treaty, and made to pay huge reparations for its supposed 'guilt' in causing the war.

Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles (French: le Traité de Versailles) was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I were dealt with in separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty.

   German Territorial Losses at the End of the Great War
The result, in Germany, of the treaty demands made by the Allies was the collapse of the German economy, and near anarchy.

Spartakusaufstand - Berlin 1919
At the same time the German Jewish Communists, led by their masters in the newly created Soviet Federation in Russia, stirred up the people in an attempt to stage a revolution similar to that which had recently spread over Russia.
The Spartakusaufstand (Spartacist uprising) also known as the Januaraufstand (January uprising), was a general strike (and the armed battles accompanying it) in Germany from January 4 to January 15, 1919.
Its suppression marked the end of the German Revolution.

Karl Liebknecht
Rosa Luxemburg
The Spartakusbund  (Spartacist League) led by the Jews Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) planned, initiated and led this uprising.
This uprising contributed to German disillusionment with the Weimar Government.
The newly created government - the Weimar Republic - with the assistance of the Reichswehr and the Freikorps,  managed to suppress the uprisings, and liquidate the Bavarian Soviet Republic in München.
The  Bavarian Soviet Republic - Bayerische Räterepublik - was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in the form of a democratic workers' council republic in the Free State of Bavaria.

Ernst Thälmann - Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands
It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed Weimar Republic.
Its capital was München - Munich.
For the rest of the period, however, until the Machtergreifung by the NSDAP in 1933, the  Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands - (KPD), led by  Ernst Thälmann (a deserter from the German Army in 1918), continued to harry the Wiemar Government, which was severely crippled by hyper inflation, mass unemployment, the continuing repayment of reparations and a depressed economy originating from the American Stock Market crash of 1929.

Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP)
Anton Drexler

While the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands - (KPD) was initially the strongest group opposing the Weimar Republic, other groups, orientated towards the right, and in many cases supported to some extent by the Reichswehr,  emerged from the political confusion immediately after Germany's defeat.
One of these groups was a tiny party, known as the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - (German Workers Party), - which was initially called the Politischer Arbeiterzirkel (The Political Worker's Circle), - and was created by Anton Drexler and Karl Harrer in 1919.

Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
NSDAP - Emblem
Anton Drexler was born in Munich, and was a machine-fitter before becoming a railway locksmith in Berlin in 1902.
He joined the Fatherland Party during World War I.
He was a poet, and a member of a number of völkisch groups who worked together with journalist Karl Harrer, Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart.
Karl Harrer (8 October 1890 - 5 September 1926) was a German journalist and politician. He died, not quite 36, of natural causes in Munich.
The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, which Drexler initially headed, was created at the explicit instigation of a powerful, yet shadowy group known as the Thule-Gesellschaft, which was at the time headed by  Rudolf von Sebottendorf, and whose members included Rudolf Heß, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Julius Lehmann, Gottfried Feder, Anton Drexler, Dietrich Eckart and Karl Harrer, with the intention of encouraging right wing support among the workers.
A year later, in 1920, Adolf Hitler reconstituted the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei into the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - (National Socialist German Workers Party).
After Hitler took over the Party there followed the 'Kampfzeit' (time of struggle as it was known to the 'Alter Kämpfer' - 'the old fighters')

Alter Kämpfer Celebrating the
9th November 1923 Putsch
Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 9. November 1923

Alter Kämpfer (German for "Old Fighter"; plural: Alte Kämpfer) is a term referring to the earliest members of the Nazi Party, i.e. those who joined it before the Reichstag elections of September 1930, with many belonging to the Party as early as its first foundation in 1919–1923.
As the party's "Old Guard" and of proven dedication to the movement during its "Period of Struggle" (Kampfzeit) in 1925–1933, they were distinguished from the flood of new members who joined in 1933 and later for opportunistic reasons. 
The oldest members, those who had participated in the abortive 1923 Munich Putsch, were  decorated with the Blood Order.

Victims of the Munich Putsch
 Munich Putsch - 1923
The Alte Kämpfer also enjoyed more tangible benefits of their status.
Nazi propaganda glorified them as a small handful of fighters against almost impossible odds.

The Munich Putsch  was a failed attempt at revolution that occurred between the evening of 8 November and the early afternoon of 9 November 1923, when Adolf Hitler, Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff, and other heads of the 'Kampfbund' unsuccessfully attempted to seize power in Munich.
Party Members marched to the Odeonsplatz where, in front of the Feldherrnhalle, the Munich Police opened fire

Festung Landsberg
Hitler and Maurice in Landsberg
Hitler was injured, and sixteen members of the NSDAP were killed.
Two days after the putsch, Hitler was arrested and charged with high treason in the special People's Court.
Hitler was sentenced to five years in Festungshaft (literally fortress confinement - imprisonment) for treason.
 In the end, Hitler served only nine months of this sentence before his very early release for good behaviour.
It was during his imprisonment that Hitler wrote his political testament - 'Mein Kampf'.
On his release, Hitler reconstituted the Party, and dedicated himself to achieving power through legal means.
Reichstag - Berlin

During the 'Kampfzeit' the Communists and the National Socialists battled in the streets and at the polls for the heart of the German people, while the centre parties struggled to maintain their positions.
During the Weimar Republic some 40 parties were represented in the Reichstag.
This fragmentation of political power was in part due to the peculiar parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic, and in part due to the many challenges facing German democracy in this period.
These parties included the Deutsche Demokratische Partei (DDP), the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), the Deutsche Volkspartei (DVP), the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP), the Zentrumspartei - The Centre Party, and many more smaller, local and special interest parties.
And, of course, at the extreme left was the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands - (KPD), and at the extreme right the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).
The Great Depression in Germany provided a political opportunity for for the National Socialists.
Germans were ambivalent to the parliamentary republic, which faced strong challenges from right- and left-wing extremists.
The moderate political parties were increasingly unable to oppose the more extreme parties. The elections of September 1930 resulted in the break-up of a grand coalition and its replacement with a minority cabinet.

Paul von Hindenburg
Its leader, chancellor Heinrich Brüning of the Centre Party, governed through emergency decrees from the president, Paul von Hindenburg.
Governance by decree would become the new norm, and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.
The NSDAP rose from obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote and 107 parliamentary seats in the 1930 election, becoming the second-largest party in parliament.
Brüning's austerity measures brought little economic improvement and were extremely unpopular.
Hitler exploited this by targeting his political messages specifically at people who had been affected by the inflation of the 1920s and the Depression, such as farmers, war veterans, and the middle class.
In 1932, Hitler ran against von Hindenburg in the presidential elections.
The viability of his candidacy was underscored by a 27 January 1932 speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf, which won him support from many of Germany's most powerful industrialists, however, Hindenburg had support from various nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, and republican parties, and some Social Democrats.

Hitler über Deutschland
Hitler used the campaign slogan "Hitler über Deutschland" ("Hitler over Germany"), a reference to both his political ambitions and to his campaigning by aircraft.
Hitler came in second in both rounds of the election, garnering more than 35% of the vote in the final election.
Although he lost to Hindenburg, this election established Hitler as a strong force in German politics.
The absence of an effective government prompted two influential politicians, Franz von Papen and Alfred Hugenberg, along with several other industrialists and businessmen, to write a letter to von Hindenburg.
The signers urged Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties", which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people".
Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor after two further parliamentary elections - in July and November 1932 - had not resulted in the formation of a majority government.
Hitler was to head a 'short-lived' coalition government formed by the NSDAP and Hugenberg's party, the German National People's Party (DNVP).
On 30 January 1933, the new cabinet was sworn in during a brief ceremony in Hindenburg's office.
The NSDAP gained three important posts: Hitler was named chancellor, Wilhelm Frick Minister of the Interior, and Hermann Göring Minister of the Interior for Prussia.

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