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Who was worse off during the interwar years, Germany or Britain

Updated on June 26, 2013

A map of Europe in 1919


Although during the interwar years Britain were in an extremely trying position with economic and social troubles rife especially in northern England, undoubtedly Germany were a lot worse off. The government at the time the Weimar were failing the due to a number of reasons. They had no strong uniform policy and there sympathy toward minorities such as the Jews and communists were ostracized by the old ruling class and protestant middle class. They also gained lots of negative due to the activity of one man Hitler, After the kapp putsch in Munich were he cornered three generals and persuaded them to join his nazi party. He was put on a widely publicized 14 day trial in court during which he preached the newly popular policies of his parties and tried to gain supporters. He scrutinised the military cliques and inspired young Germans by telling them they weren’t a defeated race in fact they were the greatest race in the world, “Aryans”

The trial of Hitler

During this influential trial ( mentioned in the introduction) he scrutinized the Weimar republic for failing the German people by accepting the treaty of Versailles which he labelled a “Diktat”. He gave out about the the demilitarization of the Rhineland and also sudetan Germans living in Czechslovakia .He said the anchluss should not be forbidden and also how the 100m reparations of the war guilt clause were much to harsh. These reparations made life in Germany extremely hard for the average person as the Weimar government struggled to get the funds necessary to repay them. Also the fact that there were no military aircraft aloud and the army was reduced to 100,00 resulted in huge job losses. A Mammoth crash on the wall st. stock exchange led to American banks calling in German loans, there was 6 million job losses and an utter collapse in tax revenue. Also all merchant ships over 1600 tonnes had to be surrendered to Belgium or other countries made life impossible and as Hitler began to gain high profile support from people like Hugenber who owned some very (influential newspapers) and thyssen (who at the time was head of the steel manufacturing giant United Steel) change was inevitable.

The occupation of the Rhineland

In 1922 Germany failed to repay their 100m and the French president Poincare authorised the seizure of the Rhineland by 70,000 French and Belgian troops. As the disgruntled workers fled the factory they sabotages their machinery the Germans oil and other products were now forfeited and he economy was left paralysed. Hyper inflation occurred and the price of the mark rose from 4.2 mark to the $ up to 4.2mil to the $ , 300 paper mills and thousands of printing presses had to work 24hr shifts just to keep up. The fabric of life collapsed as wages were given in wheelbarrows or suitcases and the rate of suicide skyrocketed as middle class people and pensioners who had saved all their life lacked the money to buy a loaf of bread. People on fixed incomes sank deeper and deeper into poverty and a system of primitive barter was reintroduced. In a desperate attempt to try a return some degree of normality to the crumbling market.

Hitler was worshipped by the working class Germans

Hitlers rise to power

As the Weimar republic Hitler and the Nazi party’s popularity was riding exponentially. In the elections of 1930 the Nazis secured 107 seats while the communists got 77 seats also in the 1932 presidential elections Hitler gained 37% while the esteemed Hindenberg beat him with 53% it was an extremely telling figure. In July of that year the Nazis gained an overwhelming majority of 230 seats but Hitler refused a coalition government as he want a single party at all costs. Hitler was now being supported by the influential Protestant middle class and conservative older voters who feared the onset of communism and supported Hitler’s policy of restoring German order, discipline and supremacy. The country descended into further turmoil as inter-government fighting began the Von Papen began plotting the downfall of Chancellor he viewed Hitler who in “2 months will be pushed into a corner so hard he’ll squeak” but in January 1933 Hitler was appointed by pres. Hindenberg as chancellor and Von Papen was made vice chancellor.

Hitler speech with subtitles

Life in Britain

Although Germany was much worse off, Britain suffered too the main difference between the countries though was the strength and audacity of the British government in comparison to the weak failing Weimar government. After WW1 the British economy suffered inflation as the old reliable national industries like steel and iron were being overtaken by sophisticated firms in the USA and Germany. The loss of these industries lead to job losses especially in Northern England where there were great job losses these led a general strike being threatened and the weakening of industrial relations .The govt. had to act so they brought in the national insurance act and also the housing act which tried to encourage the purchase of houses to stimulate the economy and also the dole although it seemed the working Englishmen found claiming Dole very demeaning as they were forced to publicly queue outside the post office so they did anything they could to not be forced to claim it The “hunger chancellor” Winston churchill had to be extremely cut throat and balancing the budget was always his number 1 priority and between 1932-1937 they managed to balance it each year, which was a phenomanal achievement at the time. They reverted to the gold standardl protectionism and interest rates were cut, yet despite this the British banks remained strong and the unemployment level was half that of germany.

Winston Churchill - Chancellor of the exchequer

The Jarrow March

It seemed to many people looking on that two Englands existed, the prosperous Southeast where national income was up 20% and industry production up 40% but then there were black spots like the village of Jarrow. A once affluent village which suffered huge job losses when shipyards like Palmers closed leaving 8000 skilled workers unemployed and aggravated. 30% of people lived below the poverty line and infant mortality rate was double that of the more prosperous areas. The local Labour MP Elen Wilkinson decided to organise a petition to reach parliament 11,000 people signed it and it gained acceptance from all political parties. So they made an “organised peaceful protest against bias” their goal was to bring jobs back to Jarrow not more dole.200 men marched the distance of 350 miles to London for 50 minutes at a time making overnight stops on a donated second bus with a goal to “tell the people”.

The Jarrow crusade

Do you think that the actions of Winston Churchill were justified

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Although times were extremely bad in England at the time and the working class folk had to work twice as hard just to meet ends meet, the situation in Germany was undoubtedly worse as hyper inflation destroyed all facets of the normal German life. One can't help but overlook the fact that the misdemeanour's and failures of the Weimar republic contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler.


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    • Aidan Mc Donnell profile imageAUTHOR

      Aidan Mc Donnell 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Mel,

      I hope I can continue to write hubs that you find interesting :)

    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for your well written insight into those terrible times. A thoughtful comparison, Thumbs up from me and interesting.


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