Why was the Treaty of Versailles unpopular in Germany?
1. It was a 'diktat':
The Germans were not allowed into the discussions at Versailles - they were simply presented with the terms and told to sign. They were allowed to criticise the treaty in writing but their objections were ignored. Some historians feel that the Germans were justified in objecting and that it would have been reasonable to allow them to join in the discussions. This would then have deprived the Germans of the argument, much used by Hitler, that because the treaty was a 'diktat' it was not morally binding. On the other hand, it can be argued that the Germans deserved to be treated harshly, especially as they themselves had imposed a harsh treaty, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, on Russia in 1918. This was also a 'diktat'.
2. Promises had been broken:
Germans claimed they had been promised peace terms based on Wilson's Fourteen Points. They argued that many of the treaty provisions were not in accordance with the Fourteen Points. This is not a valid objection: the Fourteen Points had never been accepted as official by any of the Allies, and the Germans themselves had ignored them in January 1918 (when there still seemed to be a chance of German victory). By November 1918 German tactics (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the destruction of mines, factories and public buildings during the retreat through France and Belgium) caused the Allied attitude to harden and Wilson to add two additional points to his original fourteen - Germany should pay for any damage to civilian population and property and should be reduced to 'virtual impotence' (i.e. disarmed). The Germans were aware of this when they accepted the terms of the Armistice. In addition, most of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles do comply with the Fourteen Points and their additions.
3. Loss of territory:
Germany suffered extensive territorial losses in Europe, including Alsace-Lorraine and the 'Polish Corridor'. However, both were mentioned in the Fourteen Points. The loss of Alsace-Lorraine (taken from France in 1871) must have been expected and in many other areas plebiscites were held - Germany retained South Schleswig but lost North Schleswig after plebiscites, for example. Nevertheless, Germany did lose 13% of her territory and 12% of her population. Millions of Germans were forced to live as minorities under foreign rule and as far as Germany was concerned the principle of self-determination had not been fairly applied. Considerable human suffering must have resulted.
Germany had more grounds for objecting to the loss of all their colonies. The mandate system enabled the Allies to take control of Germany's colonies without actually annexing them - Britain gained German East Africa and parts of Togoland and the Cameroons; France gained the remainder of Togoland and the Cameroons; South Africa gained German South West Africa; Japan gained various islands in the Pacific.
The disarmament clauses were deeply resented. The German army was reduced to a force of 100,000 - Germany claimed this was insufficient for national defence and inadequate for keeping law and order during a period of political disturbance. France wanted a weak Germany and all nations wanted to avoid a future war. Germany was forced to disarm, but other nations did not do so and this gave Germany cause for complaint. On the other hand, the disarmament clauses proved difficult to enforce and Germany was able to begin rearming in secret.
5. War Guilt:
The Germans objected to being saddled with the entire blame for the outbreak of war Article 231, the 'War Guilt' Clause, provided that: The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed on them by the aggression of Germany andher allies.
There are some grounds for objection here. Historians now agree that the causes of the First World War were extremely complex and that several countries helped to precipitate the crisis. The Special Commission on War Responsibility, however, decided in only six weeks that Germany was entirely to blame. The Allies wanted Germany to accept responsibility for the war so that reparations could be justified. Germany denied all responsibility for the war, however, claiming that the declarations of war on Russia and the invasion of Belgium and France in 1914 were acts of self-defence.
Reparations were the final humiliation for the Germans and it is now accepted that the final amount fixed by the Reparations Commission in 1921 (£6,600 million) was much too high. Many contemporaries, notably the British economist John Maynard Keynes, wanted a lower, more reasonable figure to be set which Germany could afford to pay. Germany protested that the figure was much too high and could not be paid. When they defaulted on their repayments, the Allies protested (they needed the money to repay their own war debts). Recent research suggests that Germany could have made their payments without too much hardship.
7. The Treaty was harsh and vindictive:
Germany complained that overall the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh and vindictive. This proved a useful rallying cry for various nationalist groups like the NSDAP and there is little doubt that the Weimar Republic was identified with the shameful humiliation of Versailles. Nevertheless the Treaty could have been harsher, indeed if Clemenceau had had his way the Rhineland would have become and independent state and France would have annexed the Saar.
* Read the article by Ruth Henig in MHR (April 2002)
Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany
Causes of inflation:
The Weimar Constitution
Elections to the Constituent (or National) Assembly took place on 19 January 1919. There was a high turn-out (83%) and all adult men and women were entitled to vote. These elections were, in fact, the first completely democratic elections ever to take place in Germany.
The SPD emerged as the largest single party with 38% of the vote (163 seats out of 421) but anti-socialist parties like the DNVP, DVP and DDP all did well. The KPD and the DAP both boycotted the elections, but otherwise there was a reassuring commitment from most of the other parties to the new Republic.
The Assembly began its work on 6 February 1919. It met in Weimar, hence the name 'Weimar Republic', because Berlin was still torn by political unrest. By 10 February agreement had been reached on an interim constitution and the following day the Assembly elected Friedrich Ebert as President. Ebert asked Philipp Scheidemann to become Chancellor and form a government. The SPD then formed a coalition with the Zentrum and the DDP.
On 31 July 1919 the full Weimar Constitution, which owed much to the efforts of a liberal lawyer, Hugo Preuss, was formally approved by the Assembly. It is important to note, however, that the DNVP, the DVP and the USPD all voted against the new Constitution.
The Weimar Constitution:
The Constitution was a complex document that had 181 separate articles. The first Article of the constitution declared that 'The German Reich is a republic. Political power is derived from the people.' The Constitution established a federal system of government in which political authority was divided between the individual states (La;nder) and the central, or federal, government. The powers of the states were relatively limited, however.
All Germans over the age of 20 were entitled to vote in a secret ballot. The constitution also made provision for the holding of a referendum on any issue.
The President, the head of state, was elected for a term of 7 years. He had considerable powers: he could summon and dissolve the Reichstag; he appointed the Chancellor; he appointed all important officials, both civilian and military; he was commander-in-chief of the armed forces; he had special emergency powers to suspend civil liberties and rule by decree under Article 48 of the Constitution; he also had a legislative veto (but this could be overridden by a referendum).
It was expected that Germany would be governed by ministers responsible to the Reichstag, but under Article 48 of the Constitution, the President was given powers to intervene in an emergency. Between 1930 and 1933 Germany was governed continuously on the basis of these emergency powers, something that the framers of the Weimar Constitution had not anticipated.
The Reich Chancellor, normally, but not always, the leader of the largest party in the Reichstag, was responsible for forming a government. The Chancellor determined the main lines of policy and was answerable to the Reichstag. He could be dismissed after a vote of no-confidence.
The Reichstag, the lower house of the legislature or law-making body was elected every 4 years by a system of proportional representation. Germany was divided into 35 equal electoral districts. Each political party drew up a list of candidates and in the elections voters voted for the party as a whole rather than for individual candidates. For every 60,000 votes a party gained in each district, it was awarded one deputy. Party officials chose their allocated number of deputies from their respective party lists. If a party did not obtain 60,000 votes in any particular district, but did obtain over 30,000 votes in several districts, these votes would be added up and translated into an appropriate number of deputies. Significantly, the total number of deputies in the Reichstag was not fixed - it depended on the total number of votes cast.
The individual states (Lander) also had to adopt a democratic form of government and all state monarchs, e.g. in Bavaria, and Prussia, were replaced. The 17 individual states looked after some of their own affairs (education, law, police) and had their own law-making body or Lantag but the federal government controlled taxation, the armed forces, foreign policy and communications. The state parliaments (Lantag) sent representatives (67 in total) to the Reichsrat.
The Reichsrat, the upper and less important house of the legislature, was much less powerful than the Reichstag. The Reichsrat was little more than an advisory body. It was able to veto legislation passed by the Reichstag but this veto could be overridden by a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag. Each state had 1 vote in the Reichsrat for every 700,000 of its inhabitants. Any laws passed by the Reichstag automatically prevailed over laws passed by the state parliaments or Lantag and in an emergency the federal state had powers to intervene in state affairs.
The Weimar Constitution contained a Bill of Rights which guaranteed personal liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, legal equality and religious freedom. It also guaranteed a minimum provision of social services, including 'a healthy dwelling for every German' and various new labour laws to protect workers and improve their conditions.
The judiciary (judges) had an important role in ensuring that laws were fairly applied and enforced. The judiciary was also responsible for punishing all those who broke the law. The Supreme Court was also responsible for interpreting the constitution.
The Constitution could be altered by legislation, but this required a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag.
The Weimar system of government was a hybrid affair based partly on the British parliamentary system and partly on the American federal system with its directly elected President. It has been called 'a masterpiece of liberalism' (Martyn Housden) and it was a sincere attempt at introducing democratic government in Germany in place of the traditional authoritarian system of the German Empire headed by the Kaisers. John Hiden has described the finished constitution as 'a synthesis between, on the one hand, progressive political and social ideas and, on the other, the desire to protect traditional institutions'. Given this idealism, it was most unfortunate that the Weimar Constitution contained a number of serious flaws and was from its earliest days unpopular with key sections of German society (landed elites, bureaucrats, the military).
The weaknesses of the Weimar Republic:
The Weimar Republic was closely associated with the humiliating and unpopular Treaty of Versailles, with its arms limitations, territorial losses, reparations and war guild clauses. It was therefore always associated with defeat and dishonour and could never be accepted by German nationalists. Although several historians have argued that it is wrong to blame the Treaty of Versailles for the ultimate defeat of the Weimar Republic, the Treaty of Versailles continued to poison the political atmosphere in Germany. Whenever a major problem, such as hyperinflation , hit Germany, it was easy for critics to blame everything on Versailles and so reinforce the 'stab in the back' or 'dolchstoss' myth.
There was, in addition, a tradition lack of respect for democratic government and a great admiration for the army and the officer class as the rightful leaders of Germany. In 1919 the view was widespread that the army had not been defeated: it had been betrayed, 'stabbed in the back' by the democrats and socialists who had needlessly agreed to the Treaty of Versailles. What most Germans failed to appreciate was that it was General Ludendorff who had first suggested an armistice when the Kaiser was still in power. Many Germans believed that the nation had been betrayed by the 'November Criminals' and so right from the start the Weimar Republic was unpopular.
The parliamentary system introduced by the new Weimar Constitution had several weaknesses, the most serious of which was that it was based on a system of proportional representation. It was intended to ensure that all political groups would be fairly represented in a very democratic system. Unfortunately there were so many different groups that no party could ever win an overall majority. A succession of weak coalition governments was inevitable and no party was able to carry out its programme. Between 1919 and 1928 there were 15 different cabinets, none lasting for more than 18 months, and some only surviving for three.
Coalition governments found it difficult to agree on a common set of policies and the German electorate became increasingly exasperated by political in-fighting and frequent changes of government. Only 8 of the 21 coalition governments between 1919 and 1933 had majority support in the Reichstag and generally it was too easy for anti-democratic parties like the KPD and NSDAP to gain seats. The result, inevitable, was a succession of weak coalition governments. The Weimar Republic was, in consequence, characterised by political instability (except during the Stresemann era, 1923-29)
The various political parties had very little experience of government. Before 1919 the Reichstag had not controlled policy - the Chancellor had the final authority and was the one who really ruled the nation. Under the Weimar Constitution it was the other way round - the political parties were not used to operating on a national scale or to working with each other. Co-operation between parties was made more unlikely by the fundamental differences between them.
The constitution allowed for plebiscites to be help on specific issues. This was very democratic but it also enabled those parties opposed to democracy to put their case to the public and undermine the system. A good example of this was the referendum over the Young Plan in 1929 which helped Hitler and the NSDAP to have a platform for their right-wing, nationalist views.
Communists and nationalists did not believe in the republic anyway and refused to support the SDP. The right-wing parties never gave the new constitution their wholehearted support. Disagreements became so bitter that some of the parties organised their own private armies, for self-defence to begin with, but this increased the threat of civil war and unrest. There were numerous outbreaks of violence and various attempts to overthrow the republic, e.g. the Kapp Putsch, 1920 and Hitler's Munich Putsch, 1923. Successive governments seemed incapable of preventing these outbreaks of violence and were easily discredited. An increasing number of people began to favour a return to strong, authoritarian government that would maintain strict public order.
Although the Constitution introduced political changes designed to provide Germany with a democratic form of government, within the new Republic much remained unchanged. The structure of German society remained the same with former ruling elites still controlling the civil service, diplomatic corps, the judiciary, commerce, industry and education. Many of these groups were potentially hostile to the Republic and in a good position to undermine it. Unwilling to transfer their loyalty from an imperialist Kaiser to a democratically elected President, they were to prove a dangerous and subversive influence on future events.
The President was also in a position to undermine the power of the Reichstag and democratic government. The President had extensive powers under Article 48 of the Constitution - he could appoint and dismiss governments and suspend civil rights, without parliamentary support, in times of emergency. The first president, Ebert, used Article 48 rarely and was committed to sustaining democracy. Hindenburg, President from 1925-1934, used Article 48 frequently and did much to undermine democracy.
I work alone or with one or more co-facilitators (dependent on your needs) to give African drum workshops for schools in West Herts, Beds and Bucks. I also do whole day projects in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, East Herts and West Essex.
Sessions include drumming with joyous traditional songs, and optionally also African dance for Year 2 upwards if my colleague Justine comes along too. Class sizes are usually 30 (larger groups are possible) but smaller groups often work better. We offer a series of packages which experience proves work well. Please select your school type:
After teaching professionally in schools for more than five years, we know what works well for each age group, and can focus, inspire and delight pupils while enhancing their multicultural education.
At least one teacher must be present at all times to maintain order, along with additional class assistants for any children who need support to focus their learning and prevent continual disruptions. The more focused the class can be, the more we'll achieve. (I am First Aid trained, if that helps with staffing issues.) Experience has shown us that when teachers actively participate in the classes their pupils get far more out of the session, as it sets a good example of co-operation to the children, who will be more inspired and focused, and enjoy seeing you make mistakes too :-)
Using the hall is much better, especially if we're working towards a performance, but if not available, a classroom is OK for a smaller group so long as the tables are moved out of the way to make a large enough space for a circle of chairs.
Notable recent assignments include:
- St. Michael's Woolmer Green School, Welwyn
- University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
- Lincroft Middle School, Oakley
- Tring School, Hertfordshire
- Etonbury School, Stotfold
- High Worth Combined School, High Wycombe
- Margaret Beaufort Middle School, Riseley
- John Gibbard Lower School, Sharnbrook
- Burnham Upper School, Slough
- Prestwood Infant School, Buckinghamshire
- St. Mary's Primary School, Beaconsfield
- Woodland Middle School, Flitwick
- Queens' School, Bushey
- Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies
- Helmdon Primary School, Brackley
- City & Islington College, London
- Redborne Upper School, Ampthill
- Christ The Sower Ecumenical School, Milton Keynes
- Kingshott School, Hitchin
- Belhus Chase Specialist Humanities College, Essex
- Arnold Middle School, Barton
- Templefield Lower School, Flitwick
- Pinchmill Lower School, Felmersham
- Lordship Farm JMI School, Letchworth
- The Grange Junior School, Letchworth
- Queenswell Primary School, Barnet
- Sir William Ramsay School, Hazlemere
- Biddenham Upper School
- Sacred Heart Primary School, Luton
- Alfriston School, Beaconsfield
- Swing Gate First School & Nursery, Berkhamsted
- Meadow Wood School, Bushey
- St. George's School, Harpenden
- St. Andrew's Lower School, Biggleswade
- Park Street School Multicultural Event, St. Albans
- Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, Aylesbury
- Commonswood School, Welwyn Garden City
- Haynes Lower School
- Hertswood School, Borehamwood
- Greenacre School, Chatham, Kent
- Benington Primary School, near Stevenage
- Oakleigh School, Whetstone
- Our Lady Catholic Primary School, Welwyn Garden City
- Leedon Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Rothwell Junior School, near Kettering, Northants
- Heathlands School For The Deaf, St. Albans
- Brington Primary School, Northants
- Arnett Hills School, Rickmansworth
- St. Michael's C Of E Junior School, near Chelmsford, Essex
- All Saints Primary School, Hollybush Lane, Datchworth
- Harrold Priory Middle School, North Beds
- Oaklands Primary School, Welwyn
- Graveley Primary School, Ashwell Common, Hitchin
- New Chapter Primary School, Coffee Hall, Milton Keynes
- Downham Feoffees Primary School, Little Downham near Ely
- Rockingham Primary School, Corby, Northants
- Christ Church C of E (VA) Primary School and Nursery, Ware
- Copthall School, Barnet
- Eden Therapeutic Education, Luton
- Forres School, Hoddesdon
- St John Rigby Catholic Primary School, Bedford
- Goldington Green Lower School, Bedford
- Clore Shalom School, Shenley
- Bewick Bridge Community Primary School, Cambridge
- Priory Academy, Dunstable
- Monkston Primary School, Milton Keynes
- Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Primary School, Corby
- Cherry Trees Nursery School, Bedford
- St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Thame
- Shenley Primary School, near Radlett
- Macintyre School, Wingrave
- Ravensden Lower School, Bedford
- Sir Christopher Watton Academy, Wellingbrough
- Kiddi Caru Nursery, Bedford
- Artisan's Kindergarten, Harpenden
- Focus School, Cheshunt
- Radlett Lodge School, Hertfordshire
- Alban City School, St. Albans
- Stonehill School, Letchworth
- Maple Cross JMI School, Rickmansworth
I have also taught Wider Opportunities and 6-week Sound Bites projects at many Bedfordshire schools:
- All Saints VA Lower School, Shefford
- Ashton St Peter's VA School, Dunstable
- Aspley Guise Lower School
- Balliol Lower School, Bedford
- Beauchamp Middle School, Bedford
- Bedford Academy Upper School
- Bromham VC Lower School
- Camestone Lower School, Bedford
- Campton Lower School
- Cauldwell Lower School, Bedford
- Chalton Lower School
- Chiltern (formerly Glenwood) Special School, Dunstable
- Christopher Reeves Lower School, Podington, Wellingborough
- Church End Lower School, Marston Moretaine
- Clipstone Brook Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Cople Lower School, Bedford
- Cotton End Lower School, Bedford
- Cranfield Lower School
- Dovery Down Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Eaton Bray Academy School
- Edith Cavell Lower School, Bedford
- Elstow Lower School, Bedford
- Fairfield Park Lower School, Letchworth
- Flitwick Lower School
- Fulbrook Middle School, Woburn Sands
- Gilbert Inglefield Middle School, Leighton Buzzard
- Gravenhurst Lower School
- Great Barford Lower School
- Greenfield Lower VC School
- Greenleas Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Hadrian Lower School, Dunstable
- Harrowden Middle School, Bedford
- Hawthorn Park Lower School, Houghton Regis
- Heathwood Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Hockcliffe Lower School
- Houghton Regis Lower School
- Husborne Crawley Lower School, Woburn
- Icknield Lower School, Dunstable
- John Donne VA Lower School, Blunham
- Kempston Rural Lower School, Bedford
- Kingsmoor Lower School, Flitwick
- Kymbrook Lower School, Keysoe
- Langford Lower School
- Leighton Middle School, Leighton Buzzard
- Linslade Middle School
- Livingstone Lower School, Bedford
- Meppershall Lower School
- Oakley Lower School
- Pilgrims Pre-Prep School, Bedford
- Potton Lower School, Biggleswade
- Priory Lower School, Bedford
- Pulford Lower School, Leighton Buzzard
- Pulloxhill Lower School
- Putnoe Lower School, Bedford
- Raynsford VC Lower School, Henlow
- Riseley Lower School
- St. Christopher Lower School, Dunstable
- St. James Lower School, Biddenham
- St. Leonard's VA Lower School, Heath and Reach
- St. Mary's Lower School, Stotfold
- Shefford Lower School, Bedford
- Shelton Lower School
- Shortstown Lower School, Bedford
- Silsoe Lower School
- Southcott Lower School, Linslade
- Southill Lower School
- Southlands Lower School, Biggleswade
- Stondon Lower School
- Sundon Lower School
- The Firs Lower School, Ampthill
- The Hills Lower School, Bedford
- Thornhill Lower School, Houghton Regis
- Thurleigh Lower School
- Tithe Farm Lower School, Houghton Regis
- Thomas Whitehead C of E Lower School, Houghton Regis
- Toddington St. George Lower School
- Watling Lower School, Dunstable
- Westoning Lower School, Flitwick
- Wilden Lower School
- Willington Lower School
- Woburn Lower School
- + various Summer Holiday Clubs and After-School Clubs