Germany, First World War and Birth of the Weimar Republic
In the early years of the twentieth century, Germany waged the First World War (1914-1918) against the Austrian Empire and the Allies (England , France and Russia). Since of the fighting, all the wealth in Europe were exhausted. Germany also annexed France and Belgium. Unfortunately, however, the Allies, bolstered by the US entry in 1917, prevailed, crushing Germany and the Central Powers in November 1918. The National Assembly met in Weimar and established a democratic constitution with a federal structure. Members of the German Parliament is elected on the basis of fair and universal votes cast by all citizens, including women. Germany had lost its overseas colonies. The War Guilt Clause holds Germany responsible for the conflict and the loss suffered by the Allied nations. Throughout the 1920s, the Allied forces invaded Rhineland.
Germany had fought the First World War against the Allies (England, France and Russia).
(i) However, it was defeated in 1918 and suffered great loss of life and property.
(ii) The emperor of Germany abdicated and Germany became a republic known as the Weimar Republic.
(iii) But the Weimar Republic was weak and was ultimately replaced by Hitler who became the dictator of Germany.
(iv) A humiliating and harsh treaty known as the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on Germany by the Allies.
(v) Its overseas possessions or and colonies were taken away.
(vi) It was made to accept the ‘war guilt’ and had to pay a huge compensation of £ 6 billion to the Allies.
(vii) The Allies also occupied the resource rich Rhineland.
Effects of the First World War
The war had a devastating impact on Germany both psychologically and financially.
(i) The New Republic carried the burden of War Guilt and national humiliation.
(ii) It was financially crippled by being forced to pay compensation.
(iii) Supporters of the Weimar Republic, the Socialists Catholics and Democrates, were attacked by Conservatives and Nationalists.
(iv) The value of the German Mark Fell. The US Dollar was equal to 24,000 marks in April 1923 and by August, it was equal to 46,21,000 marks. Prices soared and there was an economic crisis in Germany.
Hitler’s Rise to Power
Hitler fought in the First World War, became a corporal and won medals.
(i) The humiliating Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany made him angry.
(ii) In 1919, He joined the ‘German Workers Party’, He took over its organisation and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers Party. This party came to be known as the Nazi Party.
(iii) During the Great Depression, Nazism became a mass movement.
(iv) Hitler was a powerful speaker; with his words he was able to move the minds of the people.
(v) He promised employment for those looking for work.
(vi) He promised a secure future for the youth.
(vii) He won the support of the common people by promising to undo the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles.
(viii) He won the support of the landlords and the industrialists by promising to oppose socialism and communism.
(ix) The Nazis held massive rallies and public meetings to demonstrate the support for Hitler and develop a feeling of unity among the people.
(x) Red banners with the Swastika and the Nazi Salute were a part of the show of power.
(xi) Nazi propaganda skilfully projected Hitler as the messiah and saviour of the people.
(xii) All those who opposed Hitler were sent to concentration camps.
Hitler’s World View
The Nazi ideology was synonymous with Hitlers World view.
(i) According to Nazi ideology there was no equality between people, but only a racial hierarchy.
(ii) In this view, blond, blue eyed Nordic German Aryans were at the top, while Jews were located at the lowest rung and regarded as the arch enemies of the Aryans.
(iii) Hitler’s racism borrowed ideas from thinkers like Charles Darwin.
(iv) Herbert Spencor gave the idea of the survival of the fittest.
(v) The Nazis argued that the strongest race would survive and the weak ones would perish.
(vi) The Aryan race was the finest. It had to retain its purity, become stronger and dominate the world.
(vii) Hitler believed in the concept of Lebensraum or living space for the German people. Therefore, he believed that new territories should be acquired for the settlement of German people.
(viii) It would also enhance the material resources and power of the German State.
(ix) The Nazis, in order to create a superior Aryan racial community of Germans, started to eliminate ‘inferior’ races like the Jews, Poles and Gypsies.
(x) Millions of Jews, Gypsies Blacks and even Russians and Poles were considered undesirables and were to be eliminated by putting them to death.
The Youth in Nazi Germany
Hitler was greatly interested in the youth.
(i) He felt a strong Nazi society could be established only by teaching the children Nazi ideology.
(ii) All schools were ‘cleansed’ and purified which means that teachers who were Jews or seen as ‘politically unreliable’ were dismissed.
(iii) Children were first segregated and German and Jewish children could not sit together or play together.
(iv) The Jews and undesirable children were thrown out of schools and later on killed in gas chambers.
(v) Good German children were subjected to a process of Nazi schooling, a period of ideological training.
(vi) School text books were rewritten and Racial Science introduced to justify Nazi ideas of race.
(vii) Children Jews and worship Hitler.
(viii) Youth organisations promoted the spirit of National Socialism among the youth.
(ix) Ten year old children had to join ‘Jungvolk’ and at 14 years of age all children had to join the Nazi youth organisation ‘Hitler Youth’. were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate
(x) As members of Hitler Youth they learnt to worship war. glorify aggression and violence, condemn democracy and hate Jews and other undesirables.
(xi) The youth around the age of 18 had to serve in the armed forces and enter one of the Nazi organisations.
The Nazi Cult of Motherhood
In 1933, Hitler said ‘In my state the mother is the most important citizen.’
(i) Girls were told that they had to become good mothers and rear pure blooded Aryan children.
(ii) Girls had to maintain purity of race, distance themselves from Jews and teach their children Nazi values.
(iii) All mothers were not treated equally; women who bore racially undesirable children were punished while those who produced racially desirable children were awarded and given concessions.
(iv) To encourage women to produce many children, Honour Crosses were awarded. A bronze cross for four children, silver Cross for six children and a gold Cross for eight or more children.
(v) All ‘Aryan’ women who deviated from the prescribed code of conduct were publicly condemned and severely punished.
(vi) Those who maintained contacts with Jews, Poles and Russians were paraded through the town with shaved heads and blackened faces.
(vii) Many received jail sentences and even lost civic honour, their husbands and families for this criminal offence.
The Art of Propaganda
The Nazi regime used language and media with care and often to great effect.
(i) Media was used to win support for the regime and popularise the world view.
(ii) Nazi ideas were spread through images, films, radio, posters, catchy slogans and leaflets.
(iii) Socialists and liberals were shown as weak and degenerate and attacked as foreign agents.
(iv) Propaganda films created hatred for the Jews and referred to them as vermin, rats and pests.
Ordinary People and Crimes Against Humanity
(i) Many saw the world through Nazi eyes and spoke their mind in Nazi language.
(ii) As they were influenced by Nazism they felt hatred and anger when they saw someone who looked like a Jew.
(iii) They marked the houses of the Jews and reported suspicious neighbours to the Police.
(iv) They really believed that Nazism would bring prosperity and improve general well being.
(v) Not all Germans supported Nazism.
(vi) Many Germans were afraid to oppose Nazism because they would be put to death for opposing the Nazis.
(vii) Because of Nazi propaganda the Jews themselves began believing in Nazi stereotypes about themselves like having hooked noses, black hair and eyes, Jewish looks and body movements.
Knowledge about the Holocaust
Information about Nazi practices and atrocities had trickled out of Germany during the last years of the regime.
(i) Only after Germany was defeated in the Second World War, the world came to see and realise the horrors of what had happened to the undesirables in Germany.
(ii) Jews wanted the world to remember the atrocities and sufferings they had endured during the Nazi killing operations.
(iii) Many inhabitants wrote diaries, kept note books and created archives about the Nazi atrocities.
(iv) When the war seemed lost, the Nazi leadership distributed petrol to its functionaries to destroy all incriminating evidence in offices.
(v) The memory of the holocaust lives on in memories, fiction, memorials and museums in parts of the world today.