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How Did the Socialist Ideology Impact German Society in the 1930s?

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Published: 23rd Sep 2019 in History

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How did the socialist ideology impact German society in the 1930s and inspired the oppositional fascist ideology?


Table of Contents

Abstract                                                             pg. 3

Introduction          pg.4

  1. Weimar Republic       pg.5
  2. War Reparations       pg.7
  3. Great Depression       pg. 9
  4. KPD and SPD vs Nazi party      pg.11

Conclusion          pg.15

Appendix          pg.17

Bibliography          pg.18


The National Socialists was able to achieve a massive growth of their movement because of the Weimar Republic idea of a dual strategy, that had the individual social groups following the Weimar Republic due to promises that would affect the general public. Along with keeping conflicts of interest at bay by the republic making a movement that claimed that they stood above classes. Regardless of the fact that the National Socialist had two very contradicting agitations, the contradictions weren’t bothersome to the point of conflict. After world war one, Kaiser Wilhelm II was abdicated due to lack of peace in foreign affairs and in Germany itself. The Weimar Republic came to be and officially took leadership of the war. Once the Treaty of Versailles came into play and war reparation became official it leads to difficulties in Germany. After the Weimar Republic came to an understand and created a payment plan that allowed the economy to rise again the Great Depression in the United States happened.

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The Great Depression no only affect America, every other capitalist county that relied on the United States because of the Young Plan. When the depression happened it caused the German industries and factories to shut down or decrease in size because the United States the largest buyer of German products and once the United States stop buying, it affected the economy. The Great depression most likely had the largest hand in the influence of the rising Nazi party. The reasoning is that once the United States made it so immigrants had to prove self-sufficiency, the follower of the Nazi party started to strip people of their financial holdings.  Once the KPD became involved it leads to the Nazi’s blaming a fire that no one to this day knows who started on the community to manipulate the president along with the people of government to permanently suspend any and all constitutional rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, to get Hitler into presidency. All of this happened due to a false premise of the communists were planning to overthrow the state, when in actuality the communists tried to enforce the rising of their home country. As a result, over time Germany had given way for Nazi totalitarianism, the right wing is also known as fascist would use their political power the go against the democratic system, they would blame the country’s defeat in WWI on the socialist and the Jews.

Weimar Republic

In 1918, after WWI, to gain peace Germany had to exile Kaiser Wilhelm II and accept the Treaty of Versailles. Kaiser Wilhelm II was abdicated due to the fact that he was known for his verbal outburst the cause havoc in foreign affairs. Also with his plan to gain diplomatic power over Britain by putting a fleet of warships in the north sea. However, the naval buildup leads to major financial problems for his government. During the later parts of 1918, the general population of Germany was at unrest due to the fact that Wilhelm caused naval mutiny, it forced the civilian political leaders to abdicate Wilhelm to preserve order within the country. Because of the exile and the Treaty, the Weimar Republic was created as a form of government during that time. The Weimar Republic was a democracy which was considered as a left-wing government along with communism, this means that the Weimar Republic was a government the listened to the issues of its citizens. In late 1918 through 1933 the Weimar Republic created a semi-presidential system that had divided powers between the president, a cabinet, and a parliament. The Weimar Republic, rather than one type of government, it was a collective mixture of five very different types of government, which were a mixture of left and right wing. The forms of government was a representative democracy, a federal republic, authoritarianism, semi-presidential, and lastly, parliamentary. Representative democracy is considered to be a left-wing government which allows the citizens to have a representative to give their say to what goes on in the government. A federal republic, also a left-wing government,  is a combination of semi-presidential, parliamentary and representative democracy. Reason being, the definition of a federal republic is a country that is governed by representatives and an elected leader and a parliamentary government is where the executive power is located within the cabinet filled with members of the legislature. The most right-winged government that is combined in the Weimar Republic is the authoritarian government. The authoritarian government is more a principal rather than a form of government, because of the definition of authoritarianism is where blind submission to authority rather than individual freedom is preferred. The reason the Weimar Republic can be associated with communism is the fact that the Weimar Republic has a mixture of left and right winged government. Whereas communism focuses on having equality within the entire country and used the government to enforce that, the Weimar Republic uses similar ideals as communism with the influences of democracy and enforces said ideals with the influence of an authoritarian government. 

Germany at end of WWI lost and the side effect was that Germany was in turmoil. In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed without German representatives. In clause 231 in the treaty it states, “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”This meant that to finalize the peace in Germany after WWI, the Weimar Republic had to accept punishments that would be inflicted upon their allies, this also meant a major decrease in Germany’s military power, outside of Europe, Germany lost all of its colonies which is around 13 percent of its European territory and one-tenth of its population[1] along with paying war reparations, this part of the Treaty of the acceptance of war guilt. The reason behind the War Guilt[2] Clause was due to the fact that Germany was the reason behind the start of the war.

War Reparations

 Due to the fact that Germany was the main loser of the war, the county was forced to pay of said war. Since the overall sum of the war was around the price of 269 billion marks, the county’s economists believe that the country would continue to stay in debt until the year of 1988. Regardless of the fact that later in the year, the reparation decreased to 226 billion marks, the amount would still leave the country in a large amount of debt. In 1923, Germany was able to provide what would be used as war reparations, the by default lead to the occupation of the Ruhr in the industrial area by French and the Belgian troops blocking the western border of Germany[3], which was the main area for German coal and steel industries. This lead to Germany having to put steep inflation on their economy and the government was forced to print out more money to pay their debts, this was called the hyperinflation crisis. The power of Germany money simply became insignificant and by the end of 1923, the average German would not have been able to afford a loaf of bread. This caused an international crisis which resulted in the implementation of the Dawes Plan. The Dawes Plan was created in 1924 by Charles G. Dawes to try to resolve the reparations caused by WWI. The plan was meant to be a way to end the allied occupation and to make a way for a payment plan to be enforced. As a result of the German economic depression due to the war, Germany was forced to create a new form of currency called Rentenmarks, which just meant they removed the zeros of the previous currency.  When the German government did that it did help stabilize things, but there were still issues caused by the war reparations. In the year 1924, Germany’s economy improved due to a payment plan, called the Young Plan. The Young Plan was a created after the Dawes Plan failed to complete payment for the war reparations. The Young Plan was able to reduce the further payments by 20 percent. This meant that the plan divided the annual payment into sets of two billion Marks, but as a result, it would mean that whatever the amount was that equated to one-third of the amount, interest would be collected over time and would be financed by a consortium of American investment banks coordinated. The Young plan meant that Germany, along with other European countries would rely heavily on the dynamics of the U.S economy. As that would mean if there was a drop or an increase in the U.S economy, it would affect the economy of Germany and the other European countries as well.

The people of Germany felt that the war reparations as a national humiliation, so because of that thought process, the German government worked to find ways to undermine the validity of the Treaty of Versailles and any reason for Germany to not have to pay for the reparations. In March of 1930, the German government completely collapsed and was soon replaced by a new leader named Chancellor Heinrich Brüning. In 1931, Germany went through another economic crisis, where the largest bank in Austria collapsed and as a result lead to a banking crisis in Germany and Austria. In response, Brüning stated that Germany was forced to suspend reparation payments because of the banking crisis. Before this point, Germany had made an arrangement with France that made so that France would help provide financial support to help stabilize the country. Since Germany stopped paying the reparations, France wouldn’t help them with stabilizing the country and Brüning wasn’t able to make any form of concessions or reverse policies. So as a backup plan Brüning tried enlisting the British for economic support but failed because Britain was in a similar situation with France and the United States.

Great Depression

In 1929, the United States economy collapsed, when the German economy was gradually getting better. However, the Weimar Republic could not withstand the abundant amount of economic destruction the Great Depression in 1929 in the United States caused. The Great Depression affected all the capitalist countries due to the Young Plan that forced Germany along with other Capitalist countries in Europe to rely on America for economic means. Germany was very reliant of America because of the loans that America gave the country so they could make payments on the war reparations. Because of the Great Depression, there were no more loans given out from America and since the German was used to having America give them money once it stopped the Germans didn’t know how to deal with the repercussions of the loss of money. Banks in Germany began to struggle giving out money along with credit, it was to the point, wherein 1931, most of the bank in Germany and in Austria folded. The United States was previously the largest purchaser from Germany in 1930, had to now put up tariffs barriers so American could protect their own companies. After the tariffs were put up German industrialists lost access into the United States market and soon realized that credit was almost impossible to get. The aftermath of the Great Depression was many industrial companies and factories in Germany either did one of two things: shut down or shrink in size. Because of the industrial companies and factories lack of financial stability, in 1932 German industrial production was at 58 percent of its 1928 levels.

The overall effect caused by the decline was a massive unemployment rate. The people of Germany wasn’t able to afford the food prices and because of that, there was never a real food shortage. However, millions found themselves without the necessities to live, especially the children. Thousands of children died because of malnutrition and undernutrition, the majority died from hunger-related diseases. The Great Depression doesn’t just affect the lower class people, it affected the entire country. Many Germans that were considered white collared or blue collared in the year previous to the Great Depression were now unemployed and continued being unemployed for over a year. British novelist Christopher Isherwood[4], who lived in Berlin during the worst of the depression, described its scenes: “Morning after morning, all over the immense, damp, dreary town and the packing-case colonies of huts in the suburb allotments, young men were waking up to another workless empty day, to be spent as they could best contrive: selling boot-laces, begging, playing draughts in the hall of the Labour Exchange, hanging about urinals, opening the doors of cars, helping with crates in the market, gossiping, lounging, stealing, overhearing racing tips, sharing stumps of cigarette ends picked up in the gutter.” The Great Depression was a major influence on the rise of the oppositional fascist party also known as the Nazi Party. Due to the fact that once the United States enforced the LPC[5] clause, it was harder for immigrants to come over to America. So, as a result, the Nazi Party would strip the Jewish citizens of Germany of their financial holdings and prevented them from leaving the country.

KPD and SPD vs. Nazi Party

 As the Nazi repression continued to increase the group that was most affected in Germany was the KPD. The reasoning for them being the most repressed was when the Brown Skins[6] raided the Communists of Germany’s headquarters and then the Nazis banned their official newspaper. The KPD also was known as the Communist Party of Germany was a major political party during late 1910 to the early 1930s until the party was banned in 1956. The Communist Party of Germany was founded by Rosa Luxemburg[7] however when she died the Party slowly over time became more committed to Leninism[8] then over time Stalinism[9]. During the years of the Weimar Republic, the KPD had more similarities with the Soviet Union rather than not. The KPD was at the time the largest communist party in Europe and was also seen as the “leading party” of the communist movement. The Social Democratic Party also known as the SPD believed and accused the Communist Party of Germany of having to pursue a sectarian policy called social fascism. Social Fascism is a theory that supported by the Communist International or also called Comintern, during the early parts of the 1930s. By the SPD saying this about the Communist Party of Germany, it says that they are the enemy of the general population.

As the German population began to lose hope in their democracy, the capitalist system was able to approve the economic conditions of the country. The Nazi took advantage of the country’s situation and was able to make a profit by make propaganda posters against financial capital, the parliamentary system, the Jewish citizens of Germany, and Marxists. When the burning of the parliament occurred the Nazi used that situation to force the blame onto the communist and sway the president at that time, Paul von Hindenburg[10], to believe that the communist was planning to start a violent uprising to prevent the country’s national renewal. Nazi’s told the president that emergency legislation was needed to stop the violent uprising from happening. The following decree called, the Reichstag Fire Decree, happened to protect the people and the state and as the end result, it led to the abolishment to a number of constitutional protections. The Decree also means that is would suspend the right of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, along with many other constitutional rights. Because the Nazi’s was able to sway the president and was about to get the abolishment of numerous obstacles, they were able to pave a way for Nazi Dictatorship. While the emergency constitutional powers were in full force, Adolf Hitler used those said powers to issue a Decree of Protection on the people of Germany. This Decree places multiple constraints on people to ban political meetings and marches. By doing this it stops the public from re electing a new leader, which keeps the power within his hands rather than the people of Germany. While Hitler first move was temporary, this would lead to the more permanent version, which was placing a permanent suspension of civil rights. Regardless of the fact that who started the fire still remains a mystery, but the fact the Hitler and his coalition party used propaganda tactics to blame the fire on the communists. As the Reichstag Fire Decree allowed the followers of Hitler, also known as the Brown shirts, to arrest political opponents, without any real charge, it gave the central government the power the out rule the state and local politicians and laws. It also gave the central government to overthrow the state and local government. In a matter of months, the Nazi party was able to completely destroy Germany’s version of free press. As a result of destroying Germany’s free press, it led to the Nazi party’s publishing house called Eher, had become the largest publishing house in Germany history and their newspaper, which held a lot of their version of propaganda had been able to reach a circulation over one million. Because of that the Nazi’s were able to get their version of a “perfect” country out into the public.


The Nazi Party came to be through the use of manipulation and propaganda. Rather than creating a party for the benefit of the country, Hitler chose to make a party based on hatred and lies. When the Coalition party chose to make the situation of the burning of the parliamentary based around the causation of the Communist it lead to the destruction of the country rather than an upbringing. When the Great Depression of the United States happened what it caused in Germany will continuously affect the country’s economy, however, when Hitler chose to strip the basic rights of the people of Germany it caused a civil disruption. Similar to when the brown shirts made it so the communists along with the Jewish people of Germany couldn’t leave the country to go to the United States during the Great depression. The way the brown shirts prevented the people of Germany was just stripping them of the money and belongings where unjust. The reason why the Nazi felt the need to be so vicious towards the Jewish people along with the communist was based off the fact the the Weimar Republic was similar to the communist party and had followers that were in the communist party. So, as a result, the Nazi party felt as if the reason for Germany being so far back in debt was solely due to the communists and their followers. Hitler was not the only one that felt as if the communist party had caused the lack of economic stability in their nation, but because Hitler had such a large part in the downfall of the Weimar Party along with the Communist Party of Germany, most people only recognize him as the main person that caused the downfall of the communist party until the Soviet Union came into power.



  1. The darker tan are the parts of Germany that were taken


4. Christopher Isherwood, Anglo-American novelist, and playwright is best known for his novels about Berlin in the early 1930s.



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[1] Look at appendix

[2] War Guilt – The War Guilt Clause was added in order to get the French and Belgians to agree to reduce the sum of money that Germany would have to pay to compensate for war damage.

[3] Look in Appendix

[4] Look at Appendix

[5] LPC clause – Liable to become a Public Charge is the term used in the United States to classify prospective immigrants who are denied entry due to their lack of sustainable living means.

[6] Brown Skins –

[7] Rosa Luxemburg – a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist, and a revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28.

[8] Leninism – A political theory for the organization of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism.

[9] Stalinism – Governing and related policies implemented from around 1927 to 1953 by Joseph Stalin (1878–1953). Stalinist policies and ideas as developed in the Soviet Union.

[10] Look at appendix


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