Effects of world war 1 on the German people

by Ben Alford

Effects of WW1 on the German people.. (The home front)

The cost of the war on Germany was 1,773,700 dead and 16% of those were conscripted by the total war effort. 4,216,058 men and women were wounded. The effect of the war caused No large-scale breakdown of discipline until the final few weeks of the war and afterwards. By the winter of 1916-17, declining living standards and the military situation began to affect the everyday lives of ordinary Germans. Food and fuel shortages, partially because of the exceptionally cold winter – ‘turnip winter’. Civilian deaths from starvation and hypothermia increased from 121,000 in 1916 to 293,000 in 1918. Infant mortality increased by over 50% during the course of the war Flu epidemic killing more people than the war

  • —  Inflation meant workers worked longer hours and wages rose by 50-75% while average prices doubled between 1914 and 1918
  •  Social discontent grew massively in the final years of the war


Was a A political truce was agreed between all political parties and the laws for necessary loans and finance were passed unanimously

  • As the Kaiser said to the Reichstag, ‘I know no parties any more, only Germans’
  • Even the Social Democrats promised to support a defensive war
  • Government successfully portrayed the war as defensive
  • Many Social Democrats were genuinely patriotic
  • Failure to win by Christmas did much to undermine spirit, but it wasn’t until the second half of the war that people started to turn against it, because of propaganda


German economy

  • German banks and export industries were badly disrupted by the long war and British blockade
  • Germany’s capacity to produce enough food to feed the population was limited and relied on imports. Hence why the blockade was so effective and caused the turnip winter
  • The ability to import raw materials was severely curtailed, and things like oil, rubber and nitrates were vital for war production
  • Sale of war bonds only real attempt to narrow the gap between income and expenditure
  • Idea of raising taxes, which would burden the rich most, was rejected on political grounds
  • 16% of cost was met by taxation, the rest from funding like war bonds and printing more money
  • Printing more money started inflation in Germany and reduced the value of the mark internationally

War Raw Materials Department

  • It oversaw a range of companies whose job it was to acquire, store and distribute the most vital raw materials needed for the war effort
  • Established a chemicals section and backed the construction of new plants to produce nitrates
  • Within 6 months most essential supplies were provided
  • Issued rationing and created substitute foods to replace imprted goods, these were usually very bad and tasted nothing like they were supposed to.

Auxiliary Service Law 7 total war

  • —  By the end of 1916 the economic situation was so bad the SAC wanted to intensify war effort with a clear set of targets
  • —  The Hindenburg programme aimed to increase arms production massively by placing contracts directly with heavy industry
  • —  Auxiliary Service Law was supposed to achieve ‘the mobilisation of the entire civilian population for war service’
  • —  Demanded service for all able-bodied Germans and curtailed freedom of workers to change jobs
  • —  Limits to how far this policy could go because of the reaction of key interest groups
  • —  Authoritarian Germany failed to achieve the same degree of mobilisation as democratic Britain
  • —  Government financial policy was unchanged
  • —  Industries were not nationalised
  • —  The property rights of landowners were left relatively untouched
  • —  The consequences of this policy were disastrous for the Kaiserreich in the long-run

Political change

  • Kaiser exerted no real control during war, Kept in the dark about military developments and his advice was rarely sought
  • Didn’t even try to present caring image of himself in propaganda
  • Bethmann did not have popular backing and as his power base was built on the support of the Kaiser, he became more and more isolated and incapable of resisting the interference of the military
  • Falkenhayn ditched and replaced with popular hero Hindenburg
  • On 29 August 1916 Hindenburg and his deputy Ludendorff became joint leaders of the Supreme Army Command
  • Chancellor and Kaiser’s positions were severely weakened



Posted for History by student notes admin


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