Impact of the First World War
Effect on Economy
- The First World War severely weakened the German economy. Germany lost substantial amounts of territory, industrial equipment, and raw materials, directly influencing post-war unemployment and inflation.
- Reparations outlined by the Treaty of Versailles increased economic strain. This involved paying £6.6 billion to the Allies, damaging Germany’s ability to recover economically.
- The financial crisis was exacerbated by the Ruhr Crisis in 1923 when French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr region, a key industrial area, leading to the collapse of German currency.
- The war led to severe social unrest. Many Germans felt humiliated and betrayed by the government for signing the Treaty of Versailles; this led to political polarisation.
- There was a significant increase in discontent and bitterness among ex-soldiers and the working class who suffered the most from the immediate aftermath of the war. This discontent became a fertile ground for extremist parties.
- Changes in the roles and expectations of women were also catalysed. Many took on jobs previously held by men during the war, bringing a shift in societal views and contributing to the evolution of gender roles and relations in Germany.
- The political landscape changed with the establishment of the Weimar Republic, Germany’s first democratic regime. However, its association with the Treaty of Versailles undermined its popularity.
- The political system was unstable with numerous uprisings, including the Spartacist uprising (1919) led by left-wing radicals, and the Kapp Putsch (1920) led by right-wing extremists.
- The conditions post First World War fostered extremists’ growth, such as Adolf Hitler, ultimately leading to the rise of the Nazi Party.
- The war and its aftermath sparked an era known as Weimar culture which was characterised by groundbreaking innovations in film, arts, and architecture, and the emergence of new, controversial ideas which challenged traditional norms and values.
- This period also saw the rise of a nihilistic attitude among many Germans, who were disillusioned by the effects of the war and felt alienated from traditional social structures and values.
Change in International Relations
- Germany’s international status was significantly diminished, moving from one of the great European powers to a pariah state due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
- The war-altered balance of power in Europe, leading to fractured international relations marked by mutual distrust and animosity, which would have a fundamental impact on the unfolding of events leading to the Second World War.