Monday, April 8, 2013

Not so Ritzy Republics- Part 1

The Weimar Republic began in 1918 when the German kaiser abdicated. It was a coalition of political parties ruling together as none had the popular vote. Problem was that the coalition was unstable and unable to fix the economy. It came to an end in 1933 when Hitler and the Nazi took over.

With the way people lived during the Weimar Republic, it truly was no wonder that Hitler was able to gain mass support for his platform. But what were the conditions in Germany between 1918 and 1933? What would drive a country of ordinary people to attempt the take over of Europe?

In 1918 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I. People from all over the world came to the Peace Talks at Versailles in France. Not only was the settlements of the war debated, but so were issues ranging from Women's Suffrage to territory disputes.  Many went home unhappy, though none more so than the Germans.

German Mark
A "War Guilt" clause in the Treaty of Versailles saddled Germany with most of the blame for WWI. They were required to pay $33 million in damages, dismantle any air force, cap their navy and army each at 100,000 volunteers, and surrender the majority of their territories to the victors. This had an enraging effect on the German people.

Germany was not the only country to fight against the Allied powers. They had been part of the Central alliance, which included Austria-Hungary and Turkey through the war, yet they were the most brutishly punished. Not only this, but before the Peace Talks, pamphlets of President Wilson's (US) Fourteen Points had been dropped in Germany. These points called for idealism and peace, leading the Germans to believe they would not be singled out.

The size of the army and navy allowed Germany left most of their citizens feeling insecure. While it would keep them from starting a war, it also kept them from being able to defend themselves if attacked. The animosity with which the nations treated them after the war left attack as a very real possibility to the German people.

$33 million is a lot of money today, let alone in 1918. Having such a debt crippled the German economy. In an effort to alleviate the pressure, the Republic began to increase their output of printed money. The consequences of this were not truly thought out. While it did hasten the payment process, it also made the German mark (their currency) virtually worthless.

In 1923, a pound of beef cost around 2 trillion marks. This was not because the beef was suddenly worth so much more but because the marks had come to be worth less than the paper they were printed on. To put it in perspective, today one German mark equals 67 American cents. Because the mark was so low in value, many German citizens would use it to paper their walls or to burn instead of firewood. Where previously families might have had nice nest eggs of 10,000 marks, now they had three days of firewood.

A Man's Marks
With the inflation of the mark, there were 2 million Germans unemployed in 1929 and 6 million by 1932. Those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs would have to be payed every hour on the hour to make up for the change in the currencies value. Wives would line up outside their husbands place of work with wheelbarrows in order to cart away the trillions of marks their husbands received as wages. They would then race to the stores to buy food and other supplies before the prices increased. This would go on all day, every day for a while.

Morale was so low from these conditions that when Hitler came on the scene, with his promises to return Germany to glory, he quickly won the hearts of the German people.

Wallpaper Marks

Kite of Marks
Burning Marks

Garbage Marks

Mark Bundles used as Blocks


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