Demise of the Weimar Republic
The demise of the Weimar Republic did not occur due to one sole reason, but because of a number of short and long term factors. The economic, political and international pressure placed on the people of Germany ensured the loathing of the forced governmental rule. The immediate impact of the Great Depression of 1929, which has been debated and considered by most historians to be the dominant factor in the downfall of the ‘democratic experiment’ which subsequently led to continuous political instability ultimately saw the collapse of the first democratic government of Germany.
Some historians generally blame the fall of the Republic on president von Hindenburg’s abuse of constitutional powers. Historian David Martin states that the “survival of democracy depended on his (Hindenburg’s) integrity and decisions. Unfortunately, his actions made a major contribution to its destruction”. More deadlocks within the Reichstag and civil unrest gave Hindenburg no choice but to give the people what they wanted, which was a strong leader in Adolf Hitler. The Weimar republic was not welcomed by Germany after her defeat in world war one in 1919.
Germany had never had a democracy before and felt that the Allies had forced this treaty upon them. Even Prince Max of Beden did not want a democracy for Germany. Because this new government had signed the treaty they were now known as the ‘November Criminals’ and were loathed by everyone. According to Henig, ‘It was the acknowledgement of defeat.. which they found so hard to accept. ’ The historian Friedrich Meinecke observed that, for true Germans, loyalty to the ‘Fatherland required disloyalty to the republic’.
In a sense the Weimar Republic was a “democracy without democrats” Treaty of Versailles The military defeat of Germany in November 1918 came as a genuine shock to most Germans, who had believed that Germany would be victorious in the war. When seeking armistice in the same month, Germans expected the peace settlement to be based on President Wilson’s 14 points and although they also did not expect a soft treaty, it was greater then imagined. The Treaty was a complete humiliation for Germany and was a dent to national pride.
It had to be accepted however as the allies threatened To resume war again and still maintained a naval blockade so consequently on the 28th of June, 1919, the Treaty was signed. As a result of the Treaty, Germany lost all of its colonies including Alsace and Lorraine. The army was reduced to 100,000 men, with further restrictions placed on naval and air force. 33 million dollars of reparations had to be paid and these economic provisions of the treaty effectively weakened Germany’s capacity to pay by 1924.
The Weimar Republic and the democracy were weakened because both were always associated with the Treaty of Versailles. This was a constant theme used by those who opposed the republic and the democratic system. Because this new government had signed the treaty they were now known as the ‘November Criminals’ and were loathed by everyone. According to Henig, ‘It was the acknowledgement of defeat.. which they found so hard to accept. ’ Period of Hyperinflation Hyperinflation gave the people of Germany another reason to find fault in the democratic Weimar Government.
Louis Snyder wrote that it was “these people who later turned to Adolf Hitler as the messiah to lead them out of financial chaos”. Immediately after the war, Germany had little capacity for economic recovery as key industrial resources had been lost in the Treaty and had little export trade and consequently unable to attract any major foreign investment loans. To get more finance, the German government’s response was to print more money so the value of German currency continued to fall. Before the US dollar has been 4. 2 marks, by 1920 it was worth 64. marks thus German taxation increased. Anyone with access to even a few pounds became a trillionaires over night. The losers of the hyperinflation were those with a fixed income, the working class, people living off their savings and wage earners. By June 1923, the government had lost control of the economy, as strikes swepped the country as workers protested about the rising unemployment and the failure of their wages to keep up with the cost of living. In August, the govenment finally fell, with President Ebert called or the leader of the German people party, Streseman, to form a new party. He formed the ‘great coalition’ which brought together left and right wing. In the next six years, German society picked up with the induction into the League of Nations, the Dawes plan of 1924 which provided foreign loans to Germany and the Young Plan which saw the reduction in Germany’s reparation figure by 95 million. The downside of Germany’s new economic prosperity meant that society was living off borrowed money and was over-dependant on foreign loans and investment.
The economic power was concentrated in the hands of influential industrialists and bankers and employment was still on the rise. Within these six years, the Weimar republic surprisingly enjoyed a period of relative political stability. President Ebert’s sudden death in 1925 followed President Hindenburg into the role. He’s election reconciled many in the army to support the republic goldern years– that “this was merely nothing more than depictive stability” d. packart. The Depression Historian W.
M Simon wrote, “The depression had created a situation in which parliamentary government broke down, opening the way to presidential government by decree…The more openly the political parties became parliamentary pressure groups, the more the parliamentary process (and the democratic process) as a whole fell into discredit”. The great depression of 1929 occurred very suddenly and ended the period of relative affluence for Germany. The depression was the result of substantial amounts of investment from overseas and the high interest rates of 1928 which consequently left the economy with a reduction in economic activity and employment.
Consequently social spending reduced and people were left without food and shelter which created overall bitterness. In response the government chose to follow a policy of deflation in which they cut expenditure and attempted to balance the budget. Throughout this extremely stressful time, the fear of communism had increased enormously. Membership of the Communist Party grew enormously and most feared that if a revolution occurred, German people would have their private property confiscated.
Therefore, most were heartened by the strongly anti communist position taken by Hitler and his Nazi Party. “dependent on the American economy, made Germany vulnerable to the instabilities of the world markets” W. link 1970. Rise of the Extremists and Hitler/National Socialists – Failure of the German Democracy 1930-33 By 1930 Mullers government had failed to deal with the Depression. Bruning was appointed chancellor and in July his budget passed the Reichstag using article 48. At the same time the Nazi’s attacked the republic, critizing its weak parliamentary system.
They promised to revitalize Germany with determination and conviction, offering hope to the middle class, small business operators and rural/farming population “The Depression put the wind into Hitler’s sails” (Taylor). In September 1930, the Reichstag Elections saw the Nazi’s win 107 seats in the Reichstag in which they previously held 12. the Reichstag became virtually unworkable as the Nazi’s, communists and Nationalist all opposed Bruning. Another critiscm of the Weimar constitution was Article 48 where in an emergency the president could override any laws, the opinions of the Reichstag and the people.
He could also have total control of the army to ‘restore order’. With the army on his side and the republic disregarded, the President would have total control. Evidently from the above paragraphs one can conclude that the Weimar Republic did not collapse due to one reason but was a process consisting of a number of long and short term events. The Republic was flawed and weak from its beginning in 1919 and it was a miracle that it survived until 1933 in a country that opposed the Republic as a whole.