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Reasons for Upheaval in Germany after the First World War (GCSE Example Answer)


Last updated 11 Apr 2020

Here is an example answer to a 12 mark question on the reasons why Germany was in a crisis after the First World War.

Explain why Germany was in a crisis after the First World War

Marks: 12 marks

Stimulus 1 Political upheaval

Stimulus 2: Economic problems

[Examiner commentary following each paragraph and at the end is provided in italics]


Germany’s crisis initially developed towards the end of the war, as defeat loomed. Protests and strikes characterised both the political and economic problems facing Germany. Importantly too, these protests were across Germany and not concentrated in particular areas. In Stuttgart for example, workers at the Daimler Plant (an automobile company) went on strike. In Hanover, soldiers refused to control people rioting in the streets. In Kiel and Hamburg, the Navy even mutinied in October 1918. On November 7th in Munich, workers went on strike and protested in the street. Led by a communist called Kurt Eisner, they even announced they were separate from Germany. This caused a crisis after the war because Germany was clearly economically and politically unstable.

[An introduction is not necessary for 12- mark questions. In the interests of time, it is best to go straight into the demands of the question. The link back to the question at the end of the first paragraph is crucial because the opening paragraph gives context to the problems Germany faced after the war. Without this, the content would not earn any marks.]

The cost of the war meant that Germany’s debts trebled between 1914 and 1918, from 50 to 150 billion marks. Trying to rebuild a peacetime economy therefore would be extremely difficult. Moreover, of the 11 million troops mobilised to fight in the war, 2 million had died and 4 million were wounded. This meant that 55% of all troops were casualties. Elsewhere, the British Navy had formed a blockade of German ports, which meant that 750,000 had died of food shortages within Germany. Together, mobilising such a depleted, demoralised workforce for peacetime Germany would be extremely difficult and would limit the extent of economic recovery necessary in the short and medium term, which added to the crisis Germany found itself in.

Ensuing defeat during the war also created a huge political vacuum that had to be filled. The forced abdication of the Kaiser on November 9th (who no longer had the trust of the army) and the Kaiser’s Chancellor Max von Baden meant that different political groups wanted to fill the void. A situation developed where many people were fearful of a communist revolution. It needed Philipp Scheidemann, leader of Germany’s largest party, the SPD (Social Democrats), to address the Berlin crowd about the Kaiser’s abdication. Friedrich Ebert of the SPD then became Chancellor. However, within two days the Armistice was signed on November 11th and for many in Germany (both on the far left and right), the country had been betrayed and experienced der dolchstuss. Such emboldening of the far left and right in Germany further plunged the country into crisis.

[The longer-term manifestations of ‘crisis’ are explored here which demonstrates excellent conceptual focus on the question.]

Indeed, this led to an ongoing political crisis of intense violence. Between 1919 and 1922, 376 political assassinations took place. Political parties had to hire lots of ‘protection’ in the process (such as the Red Front Fighters who fought for the Communists and the Steel Helmets who fought for the Nationalists) which only added to the crisis in the medium term. There were also two uprisings. The first was in January 1919 (led by the Communist Spartacists) and the second was led by the nationalists in March 1920 (known as the Kapp Putsch). Indeed, such was the violence and unrest, the new government had to meet in Weimar, in the centre of Germany (178 miles from Berlin).

Overall, given the fact that Germany had lost the war, the economic damage incurred from this, the political vacuum created by the Kaiser’s abdication and the rise of both far left and far right groups which saw violence on the streets, Germany was without doubt in a crisis after the war.

[Whilst not essential, a conclusion that summarises the central themes /reasons for Germany in crisis reinforces the analysis.]

Overall Examiner Comments:

Level 4, 10-12

A confident answer that moves beyond the stimulus points effectively. The student recognises that the question is looking at Germany directly after the war. Usually, the temptation is to go down the well-trodden path of Versailles and hyperinflation, but this doesn’t help to explain the immediate crisis Germany found itself in. The answer is focused and showcases detailed, wide-ranging knowledge.

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