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Essay Plan To What Extent Did The Impact Of World War One Heighten Existing Tensions Within The 2nd Reich Notes
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To what extent did the impact of WWI heighten existing social and political tensions within the 2nd Reich?
Hard to completely decouple political + social tensions, as very much linked. I.E., social
tensions often expressed in the political sphere + political decisions often impact on social
tensions. BUT, broadly, social tensions are tensions in the everyday experiences of
people's lives, while political relate to political parties and the political system. DID NOT heighten existing political tensions:
• Burgfriede (enabling act) agreed by all parties meant laws for loans to finance the war
passed unanimously, even by SPD, which shows large degree of unity as they might be
expected not to support a war, favouring domestic issues.
• While political tensions increasing prewar, w/SPD becoming largest party in 1912 (110
seats + 4.25M votes) showing political disquiet + vote of no confidence in BH after 1913
Zabern Affair, these tensions appeared to be easing dramatically.
• Kaiser declared, "I know no parties any more, only Germans."
• BH even proposed constitutional reform + drafted reforms to undemocratic + unfair 3tier
Prussian voting system, further evidence of political tensions falling due to WWI impact. DID heighten existing political tensions:
• Burgfriede lasted only a few years, with tensions again becoming evident as Lierbknecht
+ 20 others voted against war credits in 1915 + Catholic Erzberger passed 'Peace
resolution' w/212 votes to 116 in 'July crisis' of 1917 calling for end to war + forced BH to
• BUT, could be argued this only exposed existing prewar tensions, not heightening, as
parallels with Zabern Affair + peace resolution, + in both cases Kaiser continued on same
policy path. WWI simply further illuminated the existing cracks + tensions within the 2nd
Reich due to impotency of Reichstag + power of Kaiser enshrined in constitution.
REVEALED not HEIGHTENED existing political tensions
• BUT, WWI did heighten political tensions even further than before WWI, as political
polarisation + move to extremes occurred.
• EG Fatherland party emerged on the RW to support a Siegfried (victory peace) + by 1918 had 1.2M members + EG USPD breakaway from SPD formed with 42 deputies creating
a radical LW party. DID NOT heighten existing social tensions:
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