17.8 The Rise of Nazi Germany

As World War I drew to a close, Germany tottered on the brink of chaos. Under the threat of a socialist revolution, Kaiser William II abdicated. Moderate leaders signed the armistice and later, under protest, the Treaty of Versailles.

Photo of a man in a suit with a toothbrush mustache, standing and emphatically speaking to a group of men and women seated at tables.

The Nazi Party was active between 1920 and 1945. Hitler served as the party's leader starting in 1921. Initially, the Nazis focused on anti-big business and anti-capitalist rhetoric.


  • Summarize the political and economic problems faced by the Weimar Republic.
  • Analyze Hitler's rise to power.
  • Describe the political, social, economic, and cultural policies of Nazi Germany.
  • Explain why Eastern Europe turned to authoritarian rule.

Key Terms

  • chancellor
  • Ruhr Valley
  • hyperinflation
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Third Reich
  • Gestapo
  • Nuremberg Laws

The Weimar Republic

In 1919, German leaders drafted a constitution in the city of Weimar (VY mahr). It created a democratic government known as the Weimar Republic. The constitution set up a parliamentary system led by a chancellor, or prime minister. It gave women the right to vote and included a bill of rights. However, the Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including political extremists, extreme inflation, and the Great Depression, all of which led to the Republic's eventual fall.

Political Turmoil

The republic faced severe problems from the start. Politically, it was weak because Germany, like France, had many small parties. The chancellor had to form coalitions that easily fell apart.

The government, led by moderates, came under constant fire from both the left and right. Communists demanded radical changes like those Lenin had brought to Russia. Conservatives—including the old Junker nobility, military officers, and wealthy bourgeoisie—attacked the government as too liberal and weak. They longed for another strong leader like Bismarck.

Germans of all classes blamed the Weimar Republic for the hated Versailles treaty, with its war guilt clause and heavy reparations.

End ofPage 725

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments