The Interwar Years covers the period between 1919-1939, and it details the state of the world after World War I and prior to World War II. Important events to include during this period include the Paris Peace Conference, the "Roaring 20s", which saw a period of economic prosperity, and the Great Depression of 1929. Several ideologies were also being introduced during the interwar years, such as the concept of Self-Determination as promoted by Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.

Austria During the Interwar Years

During World War II, the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian empire already had problems in maintaining political unity because of the rising nationalism within its immensely diverse empire which included German, Czech, Romanian, Serbian and many other lands. Before World War II and into World War II, Austria-Hungary produced an average of nearly 105 million quintals of wheat and rye annually between 1909 and 1913, sufficient to satisfy domestic demand in these categories, which averaged around 100 million quintals. The war, however, introduced a deficit between the supply of grain and the demands of the population. In 1914, this deficit totaled only around 9.8 million quintals. In 1915, it more than doubled to 20.6 million quintals, and in 1916 nearly doubled again to 37.1 million quintals. By 1917, it stood at 37.8 million quintals (1). As the Treaty of Saint-Germain demanded reparations and dismantled the Austro-Hungarian empire causing lost of natural resources and workforce, Austrian agricultural production fell 53 percent from pre-war levels and starvation was a persistent problem in Austria. With the supply of domestic grain failing to provide for close to 53 percent of the need, Austria-Hungary has lost its autarky and its ability to feed itself. As a result of this meltdown, inflation and unemployment hit Austria. In 1919, six crowns (Austria's currency) equaled one U.S. dollar. In January, 1921, it was 177 crowns to the dollar. In August, 1922, 83,000 crowns. In late 1922 Austria's federal government managed to stop the spiraling inflation with help from the League of Nations in the form of a loan and the League's insistence on austerity measures. Despite the help from the League of Nations, unemployment even rose to an estimated 25%.

Because of the spiraling economy, Austria experienced political instabilities and polarization as Austro-fascism and anti-semitist ideas became popular. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, paramilitary political organizations were engaged in strikes and violent conflicts. In February 1934
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, the political conflict called the February Uprising or the Austrian Civil War occurred when the Austrian government suspended the Parliament and began to suspend the civil liberties of the Social Democratic Party. As a result, members of the Social Democratic Party were imprisoned and the violence spread all over the major cities of Austria. In the end, there were 1000 casualties from both sides and the governing Austro-fascist party won and consolidated the power by eliminating the multi-party system. Though the government sought to preserve Austrian independence, in February 1938, under renewed threats of military intervention from Germany, Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg was forced to accept Austrian National Socialists (Nazis) in his government. On March 12, Germany sent its military forces into Austria and annexed the country ("Anschluss"), an action that received enthusiastic support among most Austrians.

(1) Kurt Schuschnigg

France During the Interwar Years

Despite the fact that France was one of the victors in the First Great War, the threat that was posed by the defeated German state still lingered. It was due to this potential threat, in conjunction with the heavy losses sustained by France, that the notion of severely punishing that Germans became quite popular. It is believed that France was harmed the most from the war with 1.5 million dead and 700,000 disabled out of a population of barely 40 million. Much of Northern France was devastated during the years of conflict, further exacerbating the tension between the two states and contributing to France’s desire to seek vengeance upon the defeated nation. During this time period France also began to feel the effects of moral anguish and suffering. Even though Germany had lost territories, it still possessed a population of 60 million, which was younger than France's. This created a ratio of men of army age in 1919 of 2:1 as well as an industrial potential of 4:1, both in the favor of Germany. To worsen things France lost its powerful ally against Germany, Russia, due to the revolution by Lenin.

France's main aims at the end of the war were regaining Alsace - Lorraine and dismantling German territory, as was done to France in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian war. More extreme groups in France suggest that Germany should be crippled by undoing German unification of 1866 and 1871. During the Paris peace conference Premier Clemenceau supported that, among other things, German territory should be pushed back to the Rhineland due to France’s desire to have the Rhine as a geostrategic springboard to keep the Reich militarily in check. This would not involve French annexation, but rather it would lead the creation of German speaking states probibly administered by the League of Nations. However, despite the strong efforts put forward by France for this decision its Anglo-Saxon allies opposed these plans. Lloyd George of Britain and President Woodrow Wilson of America opposed anything but temporary occupation along the Rhine with no German loss of territory. This form of opposition to a policy of crippling Germany caused France to pursue a policy of containment.

In 1919 the United States of America and Britain offered France a "guarantee" treaty to come to its aid in the event of any future German attack. But the United States Senate, worried about a continued American commitment to Europe, rejected the Versailles Treaty in November 1919, undoing the American guarantee as well as also the British guarantee, do to this France became quite disillusioned with the League of Nations. Due to fear of future German attack France turned to lesser powers such as Belgium, through a Franco - Belgian military convention signed on September 7th 1920. In an attempt to replace Russia in the east France signed a series of military conventions with nations such as Poland in 1921. France also exchanged letters with Czechoslovakia in 1924 which would lead up to the additional French agreements with both Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1925. In 1926 and 1927 France made agreements with Romania and Yugoslavia respectively, thus creating a "slavic corset" that will attempt to squeeze Germany. The problem with these agreements was that the nations of the "little Entente" had poor relationships, undermining any cooperative defense against Germany as well as giving France more liabilities and commitments.

Treaty of Versailles

After the intense fighting of the Great War, the French were out for blood. They wanted above all else to get revenge against Germany for the massive amount of damage inflicted upon them during the Great War. The most notable demands in the Treaty of Versailles, with regards to France, were as follows:

-Articles 45-50: These articles essentially state that Germany must cede the Saar Basin to the League of Nations, and furthermore must surrender the mineral rights to France. The Saar Basin was an important region as it contained massive amounts of coal, an essential material for the process of industrialization. After fifteen years the people of the Saar Basin would then hold a plebiscite to see which nation the Saar Basin would join.
-Articles 51-79: These articles state that the Alsace Lorraine region must be returned to France free of debt, as these territories had been lost by France to Germany during the Franco-Prussian war. Furthermore the French government was allowed to seize all property of the German state in this region. Germany must then pay for all of the expenditures for things such as the cost of troop mobilization in Alsace Lorraine.
-Economic Conditions: Germany was to pay the cost of pensions to the French soldier who were wounded, sick, et cetera as calculated by France. On tops of this Germany was also forced to give France 7 million tons of coal per year for ten years plus the amount of coal that would have otherwise been produced in the regions of Nord and Pas de Calais if they had not been destroyed. To round of these demands the French also asked for thousands of tons of other resources as well as for the amount of livestock that they had lost during the fighting.
-War Reparations: Germany was also forced to pay a net sum of 100,000,000,000 marks in a series of installments, 20,000,000,000 marks before 1921 without interest, another 40,000,000,000 marks between 1921 and 1926 at 2.5% interest, and finally a second 40,000,000,000 marks to be paid for by a date set forth by committee at 5.0% interest. From this total amount France was to receive a portion of it so that it could rebuild.

As predicted by John Maynard Keynes, these reparations would prove to be insufficient for rebuilding France. The massive damage inflicted upon Germany through the Treaty of Versailles would also prove to be detrimental to France in that it robbed them of a potential ally who could have helped them develop their own industry.

Pre-Depression Era

After four years of constant conflict, much of Northeast France lay in waste. Robbed of an entire generation of potential greats as well as a valuable source a labor, France had a difficult time during the process of rebuilding. During the 1920’s France began to prosper once more as opposed to some of the other victorious nations such as Britain. Although France had been devastated by the fighting of the war, it was beneficial in that it forced the government to spend ridiculously large sums of money on reconstruction, which thus in turn led to large-scale innovation in fields of the economy such as textiles, coal and steel. This gave France an edge over nations who were not forced to modernize after the war. This superior edge in technology, when combined with the massive economic boost that stemmed from the acquisition of the Saar Basin, Alsace and Lorraine territories secured France a place on the global stage. However, in order to achieve this effect the French government began to plunge into debt in its efforts to reconstruct. This debt was to be paid for by the war reparations that were set forth in the Treaty of Versailles. The large debt also forced the government to undergo taxation reforms in order to more fairly distribute the debt across the people. During this time period France experienced a large influx of tourism which led to an increase in the states coffers and further reduced the burden of rebuilding. In 1928 the American government cut off the cash flow to the Weimar republic, effectively signaling the end of Dawes Plan. Two years after the Americans halted the flow of cash to Germany; the German government began defaulting on the war reparations payments, and two years after this occurred the French government, who was using the money from the reparations payments to pay back their own foreign debts to the American’s for their reconstruction efforts, began to default themselves on their own loans. This was the end of the French government’s prosperity.

Depression Era

On October 29th, 1929 the stock market in New York crashed, which would set forth a series of events that would inevitably lead to the global economic crisis. One of the most important effects of this crisis was the fact that poverty became quite visible during this time as conditions worsened. Another important effect that occurred during this time period was the massive polarization of the government as people turned to extremes for results. The Wall Street crash gradually began to have its effects on the French economy, with the full onset of the problems setting forth in 1932. The collapse of the French economy occurred due to difficulties faced by the international community as well as conditions that were brought about by the French governments own decisions. Internationally, the economic slowdown resulted in a decrease in tourism, removing one of the main supports for the French economy. Also, the pursuit of protectionist trade policies by foreign nations drastically reduced the demand for French luxury items, resulting in a decrease in production and an increase in unemployment. One of France’s own decisions that negatively affected there economy was the adoption of the gold standard, in which currency can be exchanged for pre-set amounts of gold. This gold standard was detrimental to the French economy in that it caused the price of the Franc to remain high, making it less competitive in the declining global market. The effects that were characterized by this time period were further compounded by political squabbling between parties of differing opinions, the results of which were shown through a series of governments characterized by their overall ineffectiveness as well as their short life span. This general dissatisfaction with the government reached its boiling point in 1934 when the people of France attempted an overthrow of the government. The causes of this attempted overthrow was the governments own ineffectiveness in handling the growing the economic crisis as well as being comparatively less active than the emerging Nazi party in Germany. The attempted overthrow of the government was astounding in that it was a combination of both left-wing and right-wing activists who gathered together against the government. The government response to this was the police showing up and dispersing the crowds by use of force, the results of which were 21 dead and thousands more injured. This also resulted in the Prime Minister at the time, Édouard Daladier, resigning from his position in government. The next major event in France during this time period was the emergence of the Popular Front, which emerged in response to the worsening economy. This group was formed in 1936, and was primarily composed of liberals, socialists, and communists, the latter of whom joined after seeing what had happened to the communists in Germany and feared similar events in France, and in a way compromising with the capitalist democracy that they were trying so hard to change.


Germany During the Interwar Years

Collapse of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Germany was the name given to the period of German history from 1919 until 1933. It got its name from the fact that the constitution for the post war republic was drawn up at the town of Weimar in South Eastern Germany. The town was chosen for the constituent assembly because it was peaceful compared to revolution torn Berlin and as a signal to the Allied peacemakers in Paris. The hope was that the Allies would treat more leniently a new peaceful German Republic rather than the militaristic empire that had led Germany into war.

1. The of Turmoil, 1919-1923

The Republic
As the First World War drew to a close, morale in the army and at home collapsed. A series of defeats led to strikes throughout Germany. The Sailors at the Kiel naval base mutinied rather than sail to for a final showdown with the British fleet. Soldiers, sailors and workers formed councils or soviets with echoes of events in Communist Russia.
The Kaiser, William II abdicated and went into exile in Holland. A republic was proclaimed with the SPD leader Frederich Ebert as Chancellor (Prime Minster). The first act of the new government was to sign the armistice with the Allies. Many including Adolf Hitler saw this as an act of treason and the men who agreed to surrender became known as the “November Criminals.”
The new republic faced a host of problems. These included:
  • Over two and half million Germans had died in the war and four million were wounded.
  • The army and many other Nationalist groups in German society were unhappy that the Kaiser had been forced to abdicate. Some of these owed a very shaky allegiance to the new republic. Many were completely hostile and viewed the government with contempt.
  • Economic problems were serious, including rising prices, unemployment and a continued Allied blockade.
  • Germany faced the prospect of a harsh treaty that was being negotiated in Paris.

The Spartacus Revolt
Even before the constitution had been drawn up there was a serious challenge from the left. Many hoped to see a Russian style revolution in Germany. The left wing Spartacus movement led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg began a revolt in Berlin in January 1919. They seized building throughout the city. The government fled the city.
Many feared the “red plague” and the defence minister Gustav Noske used the army and the Freikorps to crush the revolt. The Freikorps was a volunteer militia made up of ex army men set up to defend the borders of Germany. It was strongly anti-communist and took brutal steps to restore order with summary executions becoming common place. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were shot and the revolt was crushed. In Bavaria another Communist revolt was defeated with Freikorps help in May. Political violence had marred the foundation of the new state.

The New Constitution
Despite the Spartacus revolt, the majority of Germans voted for parties in January 1919 that favoured the new democratic republic. These parties were the SPD, the liberal DDP and the Catholic Centre party. The constituent assembly met at Weimar in February 1919 and Ebert was chosen as president.
The new constitution was very democratic. Germany was to be a Federal state with the states or Lander retaining considerable control over their own affairs. The parliament (Reichstag) was to be elected every four years with a system of proportional representation that meant it was impossible for one party to get an overall majority.
All people over the age of twenty could vote. The Reichstag dealt with issues such as tax, trade, defence and foreign affairs. As there were a large number of political parties, there were many coalition governments. During the fourteen years of the Weimar Republic, there were twenty separate coalitions. The longest government lasted two years. This political chaos caused many to lose faith in the new democratic system.
The head of state was to be the president who was elected every seven years. The president was the commander of the armed forces and was designed to a largely figurehead position. He did have the power to dissolve the Reichstag and to nominate the Chancellor who was to enjoy the support of the Reichstag. Crucially under Article 48, the president could declare a state of emergency and rule by decree. He could also veto laws passed by the Reichstag that he did not like.

The Main Political Parties

The parties of the Republic
  • The SPD (Social Democrats) were a moderate socialist party and the largest of the parties committed to the Republic. It was strongly anti-communist.
  • The Centre Party (Zentrum) was set up to defend Catholic interests in 1870. It drew support from all classes. It was present in every Weimar coalition government until 1933. The BVP was its Bavarian ally.
  • The DDP (German Democratic Party) was a middle class Liberal party. It lost support rapidly after 1920. In 1919 it received 19% of the vote. By 1932 this was down to 1%.
  • The DVP (German People’s Party) had reservations about the new Republic and at heart they were Monarchists. They were supported by the middle-classes. The outstanding political figure of the Weimar Republic, Gustav Stresemann, was the leader of this party. Its highest point of support was in 1920 when it received 14% of the vote. By 1932 this was down to 2%.

The opposition of the left
  • The USPD (Independent Socialist Party) had broken from the SPD in 1917 because they did not support Germany’s continued participation in WWI. It declined rapidly after 1920 with the rise of the Communist party.
  • The KPD (Communist Party) was formed from the Spartacus Union that had led a revolt against the Weimar government in January 1919. It was very closely allied to Moscow and it refused to co-operate, in any way, with the parties that supported Weimar. They were especially hostile to the SPD. This refusal to support Democratic parties went as far as allying with the Nazis (their sworn enemies) in Reichstag votes. This was in order to further destabilize the Republic

The opposition of the right
  • The DNVP (German National People’s Party) was set up in 1918. It was composed of supporters of the old Monarchy. It had strong rural support especially in Protestant areas. They were Hitler’s coalition partners when he came to power in 1933.
  • The NSDAP (National Socialist German Worker’s Party) was founded in Munich in 1919. At first it favoured the violent overthrow of the Weimar Republic. But after the failed Putsch of 1923 it adopted a legal approach to achieving power. The onset of the Great Depression and the economic chaos of the 1930s greatly aided its rise. It came to national prominence in 1930 when it won 18% of the vote and by 1932 it was the largest party in the Reichstag.

The Treaty of Versailles
The news of the treaty came as a complete shock to the new government and to the German people. Virtually all sections of German opinion denounced the treaty. It was known as the Diktat as Germany had been forced to sign the treaty. On the day it was signed, Germany’s Protestant churches declared a day of national mourning.
Germans were outraged at the loss of her colonies and her territory and population to France, Belgium and Poland. She also resented the limitations placed on the size of her army and navy, the ban on an air force and tanks and the demilitarisation of the Rhineland.
She felt that the principle of self-determination had been ignored in the case of the Germans of Austria and the Sudetenland. She believed that the War Guilt Clause and the reparations payments were unjust. One effect of the Treaty was an immediate lack of confidence in the politicians that had signed it. This was reflected in the poor performance of the parties that supported the republic in the elections of 1920.

The Kapp Putsch
Right wing dissatisfaction with the new government was worsened when the government moved to disband Freikorps units. A nationalist politician, Wofgang Kapp led a revolt in Berlin backed by the Freikorps and the military commander of Berlin. The regular army refused to crush the revolt and the government fled to Stuttgart. Its call for a general strike was carried out by the trade unions in the city and the putsch collapsed. At the same time a communist revolt was crushed in the Ruhr, the industrial heartland of Germany, with over a thousand dead.
Right wing assassinations were to plague the early years of the new republic with leading politicians such as Matthias Erzberger and Walther Rathenau assassinated. Many of the murderers were treated with great leniency by the courts but the murders did have the effect of strengthening support for the institutions of the republic.

The French occupation of the Ruhr
In 1921 the Allied Reparations Commission presented the government with a bill for reparations of £6.6 Billion. The Germans could not pay the amount owed and over the Christmas and New Year, 1922-3, they defaulted on their payments.
Seventy thousand French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr. They intended to use the produce of Germany’s industrial heartland as payment in kind for reparations. The German government began a policy of passive resistance and called a general strike. Some began a low level terrorist campaign. The French reacted brutally with aggressive house searches, hostage taking and shooting over a hundred Germans.
The economic effects of the occupation were catastrophic. The loss of production in the Ruhr caused a fall in production elsewhere and unemployment rose from 2% to 23%.Prices rose out of control as tax revenues collapsed and the government financed its activities through the printing of money. By November prices were a billion times their pre-war levels. (hyper inflation)
The rise in prices hit the middle classes and those on fixed income very hard. Many who had saved money found that their saving were worthless. (back)

2. The Stresemann Era

During the dark days of 1923, Gustav Stresemann was appointed chancellor and his policies would help to transform the fortunes of Weimar. He had been a strong supporter of Germany’s involvement in World War I and advocated unrestricted submarine warfare as the only means to defeat Britain.
At first, Stresemann felt no loyalty to the new Weimar Republic and he opposed the Treaty of Versailles. He set up his own party the German People’s Party (DVP). However his views developed and he advocated a great coalition from the SPD to the DVP to consolidate democracy against the extremes of left and right.
He became Chancellor in August 1923. His government lasted a hundred days until November 1923 but he remained as foreign minister in successive coalitions until his death in October 1929. As Chancellor he took the crucial step of ceasing financial support to the general strike in the Ruhr. He introduced a new and stable currency (the Rentenmark) that ended the hyper-inflation. He also crushed a communist revolt in Saxony and faced down the threat from Hitler in Bavaria.

The Period of Prosperity
Over the next six years, as foreign minister he sought to improve Germany’s international position, cooperate with France and Britain in order to secure a revision of some of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. This policy became known as fulfilment.
He achieved a large measure of success. Under Anglo-American pressure France withdrew from the Ruhr. Stresemann accepted the recommendations of the Dawes committee for a settlement of the reparations issue. A moderate scale of payments was fixed rising from £50 million to £125 million after 5 years and a 2-year moratorium (suspension) on reparation payments was set. A loan of $800 million was raised for Germany, mainly in America. For the next 5 years American loans poured into Germany which greatly improved the economic position.

The Locarno Pact
In 1925 he took the initiative that led to the Locarno Pact. Under this agreement Germany recognised her Western frontiers as final and agreed to use peaceful means to ensure revision of her frontiers in the east. Stresemann was a German nationalist and was not prepared to give up what he saw as legitimate demands for the return of Danzig and the northern half of the Polish Corridor.
In September 1926 Germany joined the League of Nations with a permanent seat on the Council in recognition of her status as a great power.
As part of this policy of co-operation, the first of the three Rhineland zones which had been placed under Allied military occupation by the Treaty of Versailles were evacuated in 1926. In 1927 the Inter-Allied Control Commission to supervise German disarmament was withdrawn.
The Young Plan agreed in 1929 greatly reduced German reparations to a figure of £2 billion and Repayments were to be made over a period of 59 years. Stresemann also won complete allied evacuation of the Rhineland by June 1930 (five years ahead of schedule).
It is hardly surprising that when he died of a stroke in October 1929 at the early age of fifty-one Stresemann’s reputation stood very high. He had also become a focus for hopes of European peace. Hitler is reported to have remarked that in Stresemann’s position “he could not have achieved more”.

Cultural Achievements in Weimar Germany
The Weimar Republic, however weak its economy and its political system, was one of the most fertile grounds for the modern arts and sciences in history. The republic also saw greater sexual freedom and tolerance. Berlin, in particular, became a thriving centre of many new art movements such as expressionism. Its status in the world of the arts resembled the place of New York after 1945.
The Bauhaus school near Weimar, moreover, revolutionized architecture, and the theatres in Berlin and Frankfurt led the way internationally in the types of plays that were performed. Thomas and Heinrich Mann and Bertolt Brecht were world famous writers. Philosophy also flourished.
Great film companies made German cinema one of the most notable in the world (a position it never again achieved). Fritz Lang’s work was regarded as pioneering at the time.
Leading composers of music taught and heard their works first performed in Weimar Germany. Cabaret became very popular and the singer Marlene Dietrich’s became world famous.
In the academic world, the Weimar Republic "inherited" excellent universities and science centres from the Wilhelmine period. Göttingen was the world's most famous centre for physics, and German was the international language in physics and chemistry. Albert Einstein lived and taught in Berlin.
Not everyone was happy with the new cultural freedom in Weimar. To the right, Weimar Culture confirmed the image of a hedonistic, amoral, and degenerate society. The fact that many leading artists associated with the Communist Party (which was fashionable in intellectual circles all over Europe) and the strong representation of Jews in the new artistic movements increased this hostility.
When the Nazis came to power most of the leading figures of Weimar culture had to emigrate. A mass exodus of academics, physicists, film directors, and writers took place and many went to the United States, which inherited Weimar culture. 20 Nobel prize winners left and over 2000 people involved in the arts. (back)

3. The Collapse of Weimar, 1930-1933

The Great Depression and Germany
Stresemann’s death could not have come at a worse time for the young republic. The onset of the Great Depression was to have dramatic effects on Germany
The German economy’s recovery after the inflation of 1923 had been financed by loans from the United States. Many of these short term loans had been used to finance capital projects such as road building. State governments financed their activities with the help of these loans.
German interest rates were high, and capital flowed in. Large firms borrowed money and depended heavily on American loans. German banks took out American loans to invest in German businesses. The German economic recovery was based on shaky foundations.

The Wall Street Crash
The German economy was in decline prior to the Wall Street Crash. There was no growth in German industrial production in 1928-9 and unemployment rose to two and a half million.
On the 24th October, “Black Thursday”, there was panic selling on the New York Stock Exchange reacting to a business crisis in America. Early the following week, “Black Tuesday”, 29th of October, panic selling set in again. 16.4 million shares were sold, a record not surpassed for forty years. Share prices went into freefall. Ten billion dollars was wiped off the value of share prices in one day.

Effects on Germany
As a result American demand for imports collapsed. American banks saw their losses mount and they started calling in their short term loans with which so much of German economy had been financing itself for the past five years.
Firms began to cut back drastically. Industrial production fell quickly and by 1932 it was 40% of its 1929 level. To make matters worse in 1931 a number of Austrian and German banks went out of business. . Unemployment rose from 1.6 million in October 1929 to 6.12 million in February 1932. 33% percent of the workforce were now unemployed.
By 1932 roughly one worker in three was registered as unemployed with rates even higher in industrial areas of Germany. Matters were made worse by the fact that the drastic fall in people’s income caused a collapse in tax revenues. Many soon were not in receipt of unemployment benefits as state governments could not afford to pay it.
It was in this economic chaos that the Nazis and Communists thrived.
Crime and suicide rates rose sharply and many lost hope. People deserted the democratic parties in droves and turned to either the Communists or the Nazis. In the election of 1930, the Nazis made their electoral breakthrough winning 107 deputies while the Communists won 77. Both parties were opposed to the democratic system and used violence against their political opponents. Hitler’s Brownshirts clashed frequently on the streets with their Communist enemies.

Bruning (1930-2)
The new chancellor, the Centre politician Heinrich Bruning, followed a policy of economic austerity where government spending was cut in order to keep inflation under control and keep German exports competitive. He increased taxes, reduced salaries and reduced unemployment assistance.
While it was sound economic thinking at the time, it only worsened the situation. The banking collapse in 1931 made matters even worse. Bruning was so unpopular that when he travelled by train he had to keep the blinds down as when people caught sight of him, they threw rocks! He was nicknamed the “hunger chancellor”.

The end of Parliamentary democracy
Given the unpopularity of Bruning’s policies, he found it very difficult to get a majority in the Reichstag. He relied on Article 48 and the emergency powers of the president to get laws passed. By 1932, parliament was being largely ignored.
Some of the advisors to the President including General Kurt von Schleicher wanted to include the Nazis in government which Bruning opposed. They wanted to bypass the Reichstag completely and bring in a right wing authoritarian government.
Hindenburg lost confidence in Bruning and they quarrelled about land reform. Bruning was replaced as chancellor by the equally unpopular von Papen. His cabinet of barons had absolutely no support and this was shown in the election of July 1932.
The result was a disaster for democracy in Weimar Germany. The Nazis received 37% of the vote and 230 seats while their communist enemies got 89 seats. A majority of Germans had voted for non-democratic parties. Political violence intensified with twelve people killed on the day of the polls.
The election of November 1932 saw a decline in Nazi but they still remained the largest party in the Reichstag. Communist support continued to rise and this worried many industrialists. Von Papen was replaced as chancellor by von Schleicher.
Von Papen immediately began to plot against von Schleicher and met Hitler. They agreed that Hitler would become the chancellor of a government made up mainly of von Papen’s supporters. Hindenburg who disliked Hitler, was persuaded to appoint him chancellor on the 30th of January. The Weimar Republic collapsed.

Number of seats gained by political parties after the July elections of 1932
The Nationals Socialist German Worker's Party (Nazi Party)
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP)
Communist Party of Germany
Centre Party
The German National People's Party (DNVP/Conservative Party)
Bavarian People's Party
The German People's Party (DVP/Nationalists)
The German Democratic Party (DDP/Liberals)
CSVD (Protestants)
RPDM (Business Party)
DBP (Farmers)
BL (Farmers)
CNBLP (Peasants and Farmers)
VRA (Justice Party)
During the mid-20's, the Nazi Party was merely another party on the sidelines with a small amount of seats and support from the public. As the democratic government continued to fail to improve the conditions in the country in order to regain the trust of the people, the Nazi Party flourished. The weaknesses of a democratic government shone and the authoritarian systems took advantage. Though the method of proportional representation created an unstable government that the democratic parties could not sustain, it was through this method that a previously weak party grew in strength. Because the percentage is evenly represented in Parliament, the Nazi Party was able to increase in size in the Reischtag. The situation in Germany at the time contributed to the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party. The economic crisis proved too much to handle as the government couldn't agree with anything. A few years prior to the 1932 election, the Nazi Party and the Communist Party held the many of the seats. Due to their opposing ideologies, agreement and cooperation couldn't be achieved. In addition, those in power implemented policies that only made conditions worse which only aggravated the people.