To What Extent did the Weaknesses in the Weimar Republic account for the growth and rise to power of the Nazi Party to 1933? The instalment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, the ever continuing rise of Nazism and the final fall of the Weimar Republic. Events of 1933 in Germany through which the birth of the Third Reich was to begin, National Socialism implemented through Gleichschaltung and Hitler’s Weltanschauung would be a reality.
A pivotal year indeed, through which The Nazi Party was able to legally gain control of government and wipe away all traces of the Weimar Republic, a move based not only on political promise but also on securing the base of Hitler’s new Germany from the ailments that affected the Weimar Republic. A system that Hitler not only despised but understood to be fundamentally weak. While Hitler was only one of many enemies and adversaries of the Republic, Hitler’s success was by no means based solely on either the faults of the Republic or on the prowess of his Nazi Party to overcome other competing forces for German government.
It shall also be stated that though all the faults within the Weimar Republic were not directly an advantage to the Nazi Party, they still lead to an overall situation in which any problems the Weimar faced, the Nazis could view as an advantage. Herewith it will be shown that Hitler’s image and the belief in Nazi action which rallied many Germans to his Party over others in the final years of Weimar, highlighted an important fact.
That is, the rise of the Nazi’s relied on the circumstances that it could exploit and the ability of the leaders to succeed in furthering their gains from these failings which ailed the Republic politically, socially and economically. From its beginning in the chaotic and unstable months of 1918, the Weimar Republic was a government without allies in any significant quarter of German society, a regularity which persisted till its death throes and final end in 1933.
Though the mass citizenry were content with the Republic through much of its time in power, at times of crises however, the middle class (Mittelstand) and working classes would react to major problems by voting for extreme political parties whose own goals involved the removal of the Republican system for Germany. Such extreme political parties such as the KDP communists and the NAZI National Socialists were parties who were able to exploit and be given a voice in the Reichstag due to the constitutional flaws within the Republic.
Such flaws within the Republic were the grants of proportional voting and article 48 within the constitution. These were weaknesses due to the disruptions that proportional voting allowed to the stability of active governments and the near tyrannical abuses of the president when enforcing article 48. Examples of such disruption was evident in the constant and fragile coalitions which were employed to run government throughout the Republic’s life due to no clear majorities allowing any party to rule unhindered by oppositional forces.
This effect on disabling any effective government from being in power was a crucial point of scrutiny from the republics opponents who were able to convince the citizenry that democracy was not the solution for Germany’s problems in times of crises. The most vocal opponents of the Republic were located in mostly political and intellectual circles but even within the Republic civil services, there was strong opposition to the idea of Germany being governed as a democracy.
Evidence of the lack of democratic support and a yearning for the reign of a traditional ruler are found within the sentencing punishments given out to right wing associated terrorists and the leniency with which they received. Examples of such actions were the right winged murderers of Kurt Eisner and Gustav Landuer whom were given simple fortress imprisonments as punishment. Strong anti-socialist and communist sentiment was also prevalent within the public services as the judiciary would persecute leftist criminal actions with the severest of punishments which included death.
Even Hitler was to enjoy special treatment after his Munich beerhall Putsch Attempt in 1923. Hitler received a five year prison sentence but uses the time valuably as he gathers his ideas and plans for a second road to power, wherein in shortly after Hitler is able to leave after 6 months. These biases within the judiciary were problematic for the Republic’s ability to contain extremists and use of terrorism against German society as the ‘White Terror’ had spread during the 1920’s.
Military revolt, communist uprisings and common strikes or riots were ever present in the initial months of the Weimar Republic’s life. It was in this time when Chancellor Fredich Ebert’s government was to seek the assistance of the army to help contain uprisings and restore general order to the cities of Germany. The resulting pact between Ebert and the Army’s commanding General Groener was to help establish a relationship of necessity in the eyes of the Army whom would safeguard the new Republic at the cost of allowing the Army to reattain its independence and own influence within German Society.
This was a severe weakness for the Republic’s ability to survive crises as without firm support from and control of the military, it would find another adversary and cultural enclave within society from the Army. The Army saw the Republic as not the correct form for German Government and entrenched this belief within its officers and soldiers over the years. The lack of allies, the independence of the army, vocal ultra nationalists and sabotaging effects of the judiciary were all significant issues with relation to the Weimar not finding strong supporters whom could help the Republic operate through times of crises.
Such an issue was a significant advantage for Hitler as he spurred hatred against the republic during his election campaigns of the 1929-1933 period. This was prevalent because with no real advocates for the Republic against the opponents, the people were persuaded with such bias towards extreme political parties such as the communists and even more so towards Hitler and the NAZI Party that was able to gain the largest composition of votes in the Reichstag in 1932 (230 seats).
The strongest proponents of the Republic were its coalition governments, namely the Socialist Democrat Party, whose leader from 1918 to 1925 was Friedrich Ebert. A successful politician during his reign as early Chancellor and later as President who was able until his death to lead the country through much of the initial hardships facing the Republic. His death was to have a profound effect upon the Republic losing one of its strongest advocates. The questions of whom was to be the new President was to be answered in Paul von Hindenburg’s pressured presidential application.
His victory was to give a better evaluation from the Army towards the Republic and thus improve their relationship, but the Republic now had a elderly President whom was more of a soldier than a politician and had different values towards the office of President. The issue of the Treaty of Versailles was one of significance in creating a new Germany which would have a constrained economy and bear marks of humiliation in declaring that it was the sole instigator of the Great War.
Opponents of the republic were quick to accuse the government dignitaries whom signed the Treaty as being the “November Criminals”. This highlights the fact that from its birth, the Republic had earned a bad reputation from its critics for ‘agreeing’ to the terms and disproval from the general public for it being a foreign government system imposed on the German people by the victorious allies. Hitler’s own attempted Munich Putsch in 1923 which failed in rallying the people in a forced method, taught Hitler that the Republic was not so weak as to be easily overthrown.
Hitler realised that to be able to rise to power, it had be to be done legally and through the Reichstag. The strongest advantage that the NAZI Party could ever aspire to gain and to which Hitler is noted too of been aware, was that of the mass citizenry rallying behind their cause. The idea that the people would in a time of desperation look for a strong leader was known to Hitler. One of the most direct effects upon the wellbeing of the citizenry of a country would be the state of the nation’s economy.
This has been a precarious issue for the Republic. Germany’s hyperinflation in 1923 exposed the costs of running the Great War without backing the extra borrowing behind any credible assets. The fact that the Ruhr occupation sped the process past a reasonable inflation point was due to the government’s passive resistance stance requiring increased Reich marks being in circulation, as well as the occupation cutting off 85% of Germany’s primary coal deposits which fuelled German industry.
This example led to the people of Germany being amazed at the sheer ridiculous cost of basic goods which by November 1923 were costing billions of Marks. What was more damaging to the Republic’s standing with the people was that this economic position relayed a perception that the democratic system had led to an irresponsible economic state. This view was furthered by the fact that another coalition government (Chancellor Cuno) had resigned during the period, being unable to deal effectively with the problem.
Though allowing for the instalment of Chancellor Stresemann into government and thus a path to recovery under his leadership had eventuated, the period of hyperinflation left a psychological scar upon the working and middle classes of people who suffered most from the effects of hyperinflation. When another economic crisis was to occur in the form of the Great Depression in 1929, it was to give a call back to the hyperinflation period of 1923 and thus raised the angst among the people for affirmative and strong leadership to tackle the problem.
Something which Hitler was gifted aptly in, promising to fix the problems of the country’s unemployment, feeding and housing as he campaigned diligently during the 1929-1933 period. The vulnerability of the Republic was based on its short term funding from overseas investors for long term programmes such as social welfare payments and also for private business projects. Within a period of 5 years in which the Republic was heavily dependent on overseas investment, it is apparent that of all the issues which could threaten the Republic, the collapse of the German economy in this period would be the most catastrophic.
Evidence of public outcry against the Central coalition government is provided by the electoral swings taken from 1928 and 1929 from the centre parties to extremist parties. From a collection of 301 central seats acquired, seats left were to the communists (54), DNVP (73) and Nazis (12) in 1928. The 1930 elections saw voters swing to either extreme side of the political spectrum, enabling a total of 225 seats to be held by Communists (77) DNVP (41) and the National Socialists (107).
This was the time for Hitler to sway the population to his Party and ascend to control of the Republic as the people had lost their wealth, their jobs and belief in the Republic to be in their best interests. This was a period in which the constant weaknesses within the Republic were to be most damaging and help combine into giving the Nazis and Hitler the ability to exploit the greatest crisis the Republic ever faced in terms of social needs, political abuse and economic recovery.
A period where after many years in the wilderness, Hitler and the NAZI Party would be able to flex their prowess and determination to gain control of Germany through the Reichstag and not only have to rely on the Weimar’s internal weaknesses to gain popularity. A point where Hitler’s leadership and inspiration had previously been needed to keep the NAZI united, but now utilized in political propaganda which could broadcast Hitler’s message all across Germany. This was thanks duly to the efforts of Hitler’s lieutenant Joseph Goebbels.
His creation of short, precise and appealing messages, campaigning organisation and the general message which was portrayed to the public was highly effective and gaining the attention of the people and rallying them to the NAZI party. The use of the SA Storm Troopers and SS bodyguard units were to prove during their existence as effective military elements for the party’s intimidation of the populace and elimination of rival political opposition, namely, the communists, helped Hitler gain control of political territories and build bases of support, namely Bavaria where he had central command located.
The Republic’s own leadership position was untenable and compromised after the Great Depression occurred as both Ebert and Stresemann, the strongest central political leaders that had been in charge or influential in the government had passed away. New political manipulators had arisen such as Army General Scheicher, Heinrich Bruning of the Centre Party and Franz Von Papen and were to prove unable to successfully navigate the period’s advantage to the NAZI party and ultimately failed to contain Hitler.
Hindenburg had proven susceptible to his friends and advisors in installing different leaders and constantly using the decrees of article 48 to enforce minority government legislation through, effectively eliminating the Reichstag’s legislation purpose and the ideals of the Republic redundant. Such problems for the Republic and strengths for the Nazis helped complement each other in helping the Nazi’s gain citizenry support. The Republic’s few friends such as the Social Democrats would prove unable to stop the Nazi’s and their momentum through the 1930-33 period.
Hitler as an inspirational leader, whose party would have a clear majority, would be invited finally by Von Papen into a coalition government where Hitler was finally Chancellor in 1933. This momentous event was brought about not just by the strengths of the Nazi Party and its appealing nature, but based on the fundamental flaws and issues within the Weimar Republic which was unable to survive an external economic disaster in the same political shape as it entered 1929.
It is of One’s own perspective therefore, that the Nazis greatest strengths could only be fruitful in an environment in which the Republic was in crises, a condition which proved constant from 1929 onwards. Bibliography: Craig, G A1980. GERMANY 1866-1945. Oxford University -useful book which provided much detailed analysis of the issues which occurred within the Weimar period 1/3/11 MASON K. J 2004. REPUBLIC TO REICH. MCGRAW HILL -provided bulk of information used on describing events during the period and was valuable 20/2/11 Johnclare. net/unknown/ Germany 1919-33 Revision/ 1/3/11 http://www. johndclare. net/Weimar_revision. htm