Germany and the Great Depression

Topics: Unemployment, Great Depression, Socialism Pages: 13 (2572 words) Published: September 24, 2014
How did the depression in Germany (1929-1933) affect different social groups?

The great depression, a huge economic slump caused by a crash in the American stock market, had a global effect on a large number of countries, especially those who manufactured food and raw materials.1 Germany was in a particularly bad place financially after world war one and had been borrowing a large amount of capitol from the US to repay their allies and when the stock market crashed they were unable to continue doing so and were required to begin repaying their debts. 2 Unfortunately Germany’s government had come to rely on these loans from the US and therefore had to change what money was being invested in which caused the German government a lot of tension. There was also the dramatic occurrence known as a banking crisis where several important banks including the National Bank had to close their doors and state that Germany’s entire financial system needed to be reconstructed from scratch with assistance by the government.3 These occurrences not only created horrible results for Germany’s economy, they had an overall affect on the German people in many different social groups. “The worldwide economic crisis, which followed upon four terrible years of war and the hyperinflation of the 1920s, had a profound effect on Germany’s social fabric.”4 It is possible to see within Germany’s class system that the depression had a somewhat negative effect on all levels of class. The great depression not only affected Germany’s working class, with high unemployment rates resulting from it; it also caused problems for the upper class, middle class, landowners and farmers. This lead to a large amount of political uncertainty and can even be suggested was one of the reasons for the rise of the communist party.

During the war the working class made up the largest percentage of Germany’s population at around 70 percent.5 Unfortunately this couldn’t last and in 1929 Germany’s unemployment rate had increased by an average of 35 percent from the previous year.6 Germany had the highest unemployment rate of all the affected countries, even higher than the US.7 It was suggested to overcome the crisis that workers should work an extra two hours per day for the next ten years with no extra pay, this created a large amount of tension between the government and the workers.8 While citizens had hoped their standards of living would improve at the end of the war, inflation meant this wasn’t going to happen. Standards of living became much worse due to the mass unemployment. Most families had to rely on government payments and food rations to support themselves. It is no wonder that the German working class citizens were unhappy with the government when “persistent severe depression and accompanying mass unemployment can cause great social distress, lead to public disorder and an escalating discontent with the established order.”9 For those who could keep their jobs, there were still large differences in wages both between the level of skills workers had, and of course the difference between men and women. A skilled worker for example would earn thirty six percent more than an unskilled worker in the same company, a miner with qualifications would earn forty six percent more than his assistant. 10These wages unfortunately were still not enough for people to provide for their families. Women earned around half of what a man in the same role would have earned. This meant that they were less likely to be unemployed as they could be expected to perform the same jobs as men at a far lower cost. However some families were lucky enough to take in a dual income with both parents being employed, this caused a lost of anger with the unemployed who were unable to provide for their families at all.

Horsfall Carter wrote in 1932 that the registered unemployment rate was over six million people, and around forty percent of these held trade union memberships.11 Trade...

Bibliography: Primary Sources:
W. Horsfall Carter “Germany Struggling To Her Feet” in Fortnightly Review 131 (1932).
Secondary Sources:
Crafts, Nicholas, and Fearon, Peter. “Depression and Recovery in the 1930s: An Overview,” in The Great Depression of the 1930s: Lessons for Today, 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
James, Harold. “Monetary Policy and Banking Instability” in The End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).
Kitchen, Martin. “The Weimar Republic: 1919-1933” in A History of Modern Germany, (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell).
Petzina, Dieter. “Germany and the Great Depression” in Journal of Contemportary History, 4:59, (1969),
Tauger, Mark, B. “The Failed Restoration of the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s” in Agriculture in World History, (Online: Taylor & Francis, 2010),
Tomka, Bela. “Social Classes and Strata: Expanding Centre and Fading Contours” in A Social History of Twentieth-Century Europe (Online: Taylor & Francis, 2013),
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