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Rise Of Nazi Germany

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The Rise of Nazism in Germany

Germany's defeat in World War One created political, economic and social instability in the Weimar Republic and led to the rise of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) or Nazi party.

The First World War placed increasingly heavy strains and sacrifices on the German people. The gap between the rich and poor widened and divisions between classes increased. It had direct effect on the workers' living standard as earnings fell and food shortages grew. Food was sold on the growing black market but the prices were high and the poor could not afford to buy. This led to a crisis in the cities and as many as 700 000 died of hypothermia and starvation in the winter of 1916-17.

In order to force the German people to bear the hardship of the war, chancellor Bethmann Hollweg promised political reform in a speech in the Reichstag in February 1917. This promise led to political unrest and an organized strike of 400 000 ammunition workers in Berlin, which threatened to cripple arms production. However, as long as the military held their dominant position and the possibility of victory remained, the prospects of reform seemed remote. After the chancellor was forced to resign in July 1917 military repression increased. There were severe restrictions on the right of assembly, stricter control of meetings to discuss grievances, a return to military service for striking workers and the banning of all anti-war material. In September 1918 the military effort suddenly collapsed. The allied powers, in particular President Wilson of the United States, demanded that Germany be transformed into a democracy. On November 1918 the SPD declared the abdication of the Kaiser and the birth of the new Weimar Republic.

On 28 June 1919 the German government signed the Treaty of Versailles imposed on it by the victorious powers. Clause 231 blamed Germany for causing the war and vast majority of Germans rejected this. They blamed the Weimar government for losing the war and signing the outrageous Treaty. Linked to this was the demand for financial compensation for the cost of the war paid to France and Britain. This shocked the Germans severely as it would be hard to pay reparations since the war had weakened the country. Germany's army personnel was to be reduced to 100 000 and was forbidden to produce "offensive" weapons. There was to be no air force or submarines and the navy was to be reduced to six small battleships and six cruisers. Perhaps the hardest condition to bear was the territorial losses. Germany's land was reduced by 13 % and all of its colonies were confiscated. Finally, because of French fears of another attack, German territory of Rhineland was to be permanently demilitarized.

Political conflict also arose

within the Weimar government. The Worker's Councils Congress demanded further reforms but was rejected by the SPD. The far left-wing, called the Spartacist League or the Communist Party, created an uprising, which was crushed by the Free Corps Ð'- a group of former army officers who later became active Nazis. The leaders of the rebels, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were arrested and murdered. These factors led to a permanent split between the SPD and the USPD.

Army reductions, demanded by the Versailles Treaty, triggered

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