Post World War I Germany

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Following World War I, Germany found itself a crippled state with a nation of unsatisfied people, due largely to pre-war political conflict, domestic negligence during the War, and consequences of the Treaty of Versailles. For the next decade, Germany was burdened with many economic, social, and political woes. The nation had lost much of its land, including crucial mining regions, and its military was drastically reduced, marked by the demilitarization of the Rhineland. In addition to the crumbling of German pride after the War, the country was plagued by hyperinflation and unemployment. The people of the nation were beginning to lose faith not only in their government, but also in democracy itself. Relevant History Prior to World War I Under Otto von Bismarck’s leadership, Prussia underwent three wars that led to the formation of Germany in its modern form: the Schleswig-Holstein War (1864), the Austro-Prussian War (1866), and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The Schleswig-Holstein War was fought by Austria and Germany together against Denmark over control of the small principalities of Schleswig and Holstein located in Northern Germany. Soon after, Germany and Austria disputed the territorial standing of the new provinces. Due to careful political fashioning by Bismarck, Prussia gained a victory in this dispute through the Austro-Prussian War. This war determined hegemony over all of the Northern Germanic sovereign states. Fear of the expanding Prussian power, as well as disputes over the annexation of Luxembourg and candidacy for the vacant Spanish throne, eventually brought on a war between Prussia and France in 1870, which resulted in an initially crushing Prussian (German) victory. This victory, executed by the combined force of all German states (excluding Austria) through alliances spurred in support for a unified Germany, resulted in the unification of the southern and northern states in a new German state largely headed by Prussia in 1871. This became a federated Germany with a constitution largely drafted by Bismarck, who also negotiated the proclamation of Prussian King Wilhelm as the new German emperor—the Kaiser. The unification of Germany introduced several factors into German society that would allow for Nazi control of Germany a half-century later. Primarily, it created a sense among the majority of Germans that the military deserved an elevated position in society. Additionally, the identity of the German state became associated with military victory. Many Germans began to see themselves as a people selected by the special providence of God.

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