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Historical Insights Germany After World War I

German economic despair was exacerbated by the outbreak of the worldwide Great Depression in 1929. By the 1930s, most Germans relied on aid from the state to stay afloat—soup kitchens ensured Germans didn’t starve. 1923, Berlin, Germany. Credit: FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Germany After World War I

In 1919, Germany stood in ruins, grappling with the effects of World War I. Forced to pay burdensome reparations to the conflict’s victors, the government began printing vast quantities of currency. By the 1930s, the German mark was so worthless, many burned it for fuel. A lost sense of patriotism and sky-high unemployment contributed to growing social unrest that drove many to rally behind Nazism—by 1930, the movement was six million strong. Its leader, Adolf Hitler, promised to end the country’s suffering and restore its wounded pride by destroying the “enemy within”: Jews.