The rise of National Socialism in post-WWI Germany is an understandable reaction to the problems of the Versailles Peace Treaty, considering the German attitudes and beliefs at the time. These attitudes and beliefs were the result of generations of Prussian militarism, extreme racist nationalism, and, most importantly, the failure of the Treaty of Versailles signed in June of 1919. The rise of the Nazi party, and their extremist National Socialist doctrine appealed directly to these attitudes and beliefs that permeated Germany society after the first World War.
Since the unification of Germany in the late 19th century, attitudes of nationalism, Prussian militarism and expansionism saturated German society. As one can clearly see in the writings of the influential German historian, Heinrich von Treitschke, war and territorial expansion were seen as being necessary to the preservation and advancement of German society. He states that, “War is for an afflicted people the only remedy… Those who preach the nonsense about everlasting peace do not understand the life of the Aryan race, the Aryans are before all brave.” The mobilization of the people and resources, for the purpose of making war, were believed to be the means of preservation and advancement of German society. These ultra-nationalistic attitudes and beliefs resulted in widespread German enthusiasm with the coming of war in 1914. As expressed in a German newspaper, The Post, “Another forty years of peace would be a national misfortune for Germany.”
With the armistice that took effect November 11,1918, the Great War had come to an end, four long years after it had begun. The German military machine had lost the war, and with it, hopes of German dominance in European affairs. Utterly defeated, the new German government (the Kaiser had abdicated at the end of the war) had no choice but to comply with the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, despite the fact that Germany was allowed no say in the terms of the treaty. As a result of this treaty, Germany was stripped of all her colonial possessions as well as valuable continental territories, most importantly, Alsace-Lorraine, the Saar, and the Polish Corridor. Her armed forces were restricted to 100,000 men, and restricted from occupying the Rhineland. Furthermore, Germany was held responsible for the war and therefore had to pay reparations for all damages resulting from the war.
The terms of this treaty brought about terrible economic conditions in Germany. Unemployment was widespread and a whole generation of young Germans was left hopeless and without direction. For many Germans during these terrible times, mere survival was a challenge. This wretched condition is apparent in Heinrich Hauser’s description of Germany’s unemployed who lined the highways, homeless and destitute, with no place to go. As he describes it, “unskilled young people, for the most part… had been unable to find a place for themselves in any city or...