Social And Political Tensions In The Second Reich

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To what extent did the social and political tensions that existed within the Second Reich increase during the First World War? The Second Reich in Germany consisted of several tensions both socially and politically. These were consequences of industrialisation, the flawed constitution and growing political agitation. Initially after war broke out in 1914, these tensions seemingly disappeared, and the country was swept up on a wave of patriotism, fighting a defensive war together. Politically, the Burgfried technically united all political parties. However, this unity did not last long, and the socio-political divisions that previously existed were to intensity further, creating a state of unrest and resentment. Shortages of food and labour…show more content…
On 4 February 1915, in response to the German submarine blockade of Great Britain, the Royal Navy seized all food destined for Germany which led to extreme food shortages. Prior to this, Germany had imported 25% of what was consumed and was not self-sufficient in terms of food. In response to this, a War Food Office was set up in 1916 but its actions were often counter-productive for example when they ordered the killing of 9 million pigs due to that fact they consumed grain. This consequently led to less pork and fertiliser and ultimately had a negative impact. Following the Auxiliary Service Law in December 1919, which required all able-bodied Germans to work for the war effort, there was a sharp increase of social unrest as Germans felt their rights being curtailed. The winter of 1916-17 was the peak of discontent as the severe food and fuel shortages were at their worst. Civilian deaths from starvation and hypothermia increased from 121,000 in 1916 to 293,000 in 1918 and infant mortality increased by over 50% over the duration of the war. This led to huge resentment among Germans as they questioned the injustice of the loss of lives. 16% of the 1.8million who died at war were conscripted and all families were somehow impacted by the war, which consequently led to a decline in the popularity of the Royal Family. People famously said “what family is going to survive war with all six sons alive?” in reference to the Kaiser’s six sons as awareness was spreading that there was an inequality of sacrifice among classes. The divisions between classes which had previously existed were now even greater. Peasantry and rural producers felt alienated by government regulations and were now hampered by the lack of labour and there was also huge resentment towards the Junkers who maintained their tax privileges until 1916. The urban working class also suffered due to the rise of the black market, which was the source of
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