When the Great War ended, American President Woodrow Wilson argued for fair treatment of Germany by the Allied Powers. Wilson believed that a League of Nations was needed to prevent future wars. However, France and England wanted vengeance after years of German destruction. The resulting Treaty of Versailles imposed terrible hardships on Germany. It stripped Germany of its coal-rich Saar region and of its overseas colonies. Germany was limited to a small army and was forbidden to build large naval ships. The treaty also forced Germany to pay Great Britain and France reparations for the damage caused by the war. The proud German people were humiliated, but they were in no position to oppose the terms dictated by England and France.

Though the war had ended, life in Germany remained challenging after the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was forced to borrow vast sums from America to pay its war debt to England and France. In 1929, the United States experienced an economic depression. With the American economy stalling and many people out of work, America could no longer continue lending money to Germany. Without the income from American loans, Germany no longer able to pay its war debt to England and France. The result was severe depression in Germany. German money became close to worthless. The German people were angry with the Treaty of Versailles because they felt the terms were unfair. Many believed a strong leader could return the German nation to greatness.

Hitler Youth poster


Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) was the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and Führer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945.

In 1923, an agitator named Adolf Hitler attempted to overthrow the German government. He was unsuccessful and sent to prison for nine months. While in prison, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). Hitler suggested that there were easy solutions to German’s economic woes. He blamed Germany’s problems on its weak government and said Germany had lost the war because of “a stab in the back.”

Hitler spoke in a charismatic style that impressed the German people. He blamed outsiders for causing problems in the nation. He argued that if only the pure Germans he called Aryans controlled the destiny of their nation, Germany would return to greatness. Hitler blamed many of Germany’s problems on outsiders but signed out one group: the Jews.

By January 1933, Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi) party controlled Germany. Hitler became a dictator, a leader with complete control. The Nazis acted quickly against all who opposed their rule. They outlawed all other political parties. People who opposed the new regime were often murdered.

Nazi propaganda focused on teenagers by training them to follow Hitler’s beliefs. The Boy Scouts and other teenage organizations were outlawed. Teens were encouraged to join the “Hitler Youth,” where they chanted Nazi slogans and were taught that they had the power to fulfill Germany’s destiny as a world power.


Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on World War I and World War II.

German economic struggle (picture)


To pay for the costs of the First World War, German borrowed heaving from other nations. As a result, Germany experienced a period of hyperinflation as their money lost its value. Baskets of money had to be exchanged for everyday expenses and poverty increased throughout the already poor nation.