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After WWI, Hundreds of Politicians Were Murdered in Germany

October 26, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore


Freikorps units taking to the streets in Berlin during unrest in the years of the Weimar Republic, circa 1923.

Shot in front of their children. Attacked with acid. Murdered while walking away. Germany’s Weimar Republic was a dangerous place for politicians and government officials—and for hundreds of them, it was deadly.

Between 1918 and the mid 1920s, Germany was rocked by murder after murder. The victims all had a connection: they were killed for political reasons. And their deaths were made possible by right-wing extremist groups that played on racism, nationalism, and economic anxiety to stoke fear and hatred. By 1922, at least 354 government members and politicians had been murdered, setting the stage for the Nazi Party, World War II and the Holocaust.

Did WWI Lead to WWII? (TV-PG; 2:18)

The wave of politically motivated murders by paramilitary terrorist groups had its roots in Germany’s defeat in World War I. Over 2 million Germans—including 13 percent of the country’s men—had died during the war. The war effort had sucked Germany’s economy dry. And with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany took on not just the responsibility for the war, but a new governmental structure, new borders, a harsh disarmament plan, and massive reparations.

The country’s leaders signed on to the treaty, but everyday Germans were appalled by its severity. As Germany limped toward a new political reality, adopting a new constitution and forming new political bodies, the country’s economy became even more precarious. Prices began to rise and inflation set in. Food shortages swept through the country; returning soldiers, traumatized and disillusioned by the war, had trouble reintegrating into society.

Against this background, Germany had to create a new government and try to reinstitute law and order. But the ministers and politicians of the newly established Weimar Republic had formidable enemies: their own people. The new republic saw pitched battles between increasingly polarized left and right-wing groups. The early government was seized by left-wing revolutionaries, and communist uprisings roiled the streets.


German Freikorps soldiers, attempting to overthrow the Weimar Republic and reinstall the monarchy, in Berlin, Germany on March 13, 1920. The flag they hold is that of the Imperial German Navy.

In response, private armies called Freikorps fought back. These groups were funded by former officers of the German army, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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