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The Fall of Germany in World War I


None of the European power wanted World War I, but they feared 
Germany. Germany was newly unified, and was beating the European 
powers in population and Industry. France wanted to recover the 
Alsace-Lorraine. Britain was a country used to being on the ocean, so 
they felt threatened by Germany's colonial expansion and William II's 
insisting on a large navy. Russia and Austria feared pressure on their 
unstable empires. In 1887 William II refused to renew the Reinsurance 
treaty with Russia, but continued the Triple Alliance of Germany,
Austria-Hungary, and Italy. In 1894 Russia made an alliance with 
France, and Great Britain settled it's differences with France in the 
Entente Cordiale in 1904 forming the Triple Entente.

 The assassination, with Serbian Knowledge, of the liberal 
Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinan in Sarajevo in June 1914 was the 
spark that set off the war. Germany assured Austria full support, 
which resulted in an Austrian ultimatum that Serbia could not accept. 
Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia mobilized to defend Serbia, 
then Germany declared war on Russia. Germany also declared war on 
France. Germany wanted a quick defeat of France. To avoid the French 
frontier, German forces moved through neutral Belgium thinking they 
would take Paris by surprise. The Germans encountered more resistance
than expected in Belgium, giving France time to prepare. [Caidin 207] 
This violation of international law destroyed all sympathy for the 
Central Powers. Although German forces nearly reached Paris, the 
British and French Miraculously turned back the Germans at the Battle 
of Marne. The two sides dug trenches for a war that would last four 
years. The Russians then attacked sending Germany into a two front 
war. The Germans defeated the Russians Many times on the east, but the 
Allies blockaded the Germans on the east by cutting off food and raw 
materials, The Germans became desperate to break the blockade, so they
declared unrestricted submarine warfare. [Villiers 176] After several 
American ships were sunk, the United States entered the war in 1917. 
The Russians were in the middle of several revolutions so they were 
not a threat to Germans. In 1918 when the Germans did not have to 
worry about the east, they launched an all out offensive attack in the 
west, but the United Allies slowly turned the tide. Realizing the 
situation was hopeless the German High Command urged William to let a 
new civil government sue for peace. Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President 
from 1913 to 1921, insisted on dealing with citizens. William 
grudgingly appointed Prince Max of Baden as chancellor. Even Though 
Wilson was negotiating with the chancellor there were still many
problems. Fighting continued, sailors mutinied, socialist staged 
strikes, workers and military formed Communist councils, and 
revolution broke out in Bavaria. [Grolier] Prince Max announced the 
abdication of William II and resigned.

 When Germany surrendered and changed its government, it 
expected a negotiated peace rather than the harsh terms of the
Versailles treaty of 1919. The allies were determined to receive 
reparations for their losses and to see that Germany was never in a 
position to harm them again. Germany lost the Alsace-Lorraine to 
France and lost West Prussia to Poland. It also lost all its colonies 
and had to give up most of its coal, trains, and merchant ships, as 
well as its navy. Germany had to limit its army and submit to Allied 
occupation of Rhineland for 15 years. Worst of all, the Germans had to 
accept full responsibility for causing the war and, consequently pay 
its total cost. The Germans did not consider themselves anymore guilty 
than anyone else and could not possibly pay all of the costs demanded. 
The Versailles treaty seemed fair to the Allies point of view, but it 
did not ensure a lasting peace. By accepting the treaty the German 
Government gained a bad name among its people. [Encarta96] The war 
reparations put a enormous strain on a country already bankrupted by 
four years of war. In Weimar in 1919 a nationalist assembly, led by 
the Social democratic party, wrote a democratic constitution for the 
new German Reich. But the prospects of the Weimar Republic, as it was 
familiarly known, were dim. For most Germans the government was 
defeated and was controlled by the Versailles treaty, which they 
regarded as only temporary.[Encarta96] The Parliamentary government 
was opposed by conservative militarists and revolutionary scientists. 
Both sides frequently tried to overthrow the government with small 
armies. For instance the military Kapp Putsch in 1920 and, the 
Uprising of the Communist Sparticists in 1919 under Karl Liebknecht 
and Rosa Luxemburg. The economic situation made matters worse because 
the German government could not pay off reparation requirements, so 
France invaded Ruhr in1923 to take over coal mines. The government 
encouraged the workers to resist passively, printing large amounts of 
currency to pay them. The result was an inflation that wiped out 
savings, pensions, insurance, and other forms of fixed income, 
creating a revolution that destroyed the most stable elements of 
Germany. Aided by the Dawes plan of 1924, which set reasonable amounts 
of reparations and provided for foreign loans, the brilliant German
Minister Gustav Stresemann reorganized the monetary system and 
encouraged industry. Stresemann introduced a new currency, and paved 
the way for more reasonable reparation schedules. For five years 
Germany enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. In 1926 Germany joined 
the League of Nations. In 1929 when the worldwide depression hit it 
plunged the city into disaster. Million of unemployed, disillusioned 
by capitalist democracy, turned to communism or to the party of 
National Socialism (Nazism) led by Adolf Hitler. In notable efforts 
called the Munich Putsch of 1923 Hitler and the Nazis made a farcical 
attempt to seize power in Bavaria. From 1930 on the government 
functioned by emergency decree. The Communist profited briefly from 
radicalization, but the main beneficiary was the Nazi party. The Nazi 
party had twin attractions of appearing to offer radical solutions to 
economic problems while upholding patriotic values. [Encarta96] By 
1932 it was the largest party in the Reighstag. The next year 
President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor after 
allowing himself to be convinced by generals and right-wing 
politicians that only the Nazi leader could restore order in Germany 
and that he could be controlled.



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