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Weimar Republic

Weimar Republic A path to a dead end: the Weimar Republics inevitable failure and the rise of Hitler to power. There were various factors that contributed to the failure of the Weimar Republic of Germany and the ascent of Hitlers National Socialist German Workers Party into power on January 30, 1933. Various conflicting problems were concurrent with the eventuation of the Republic that, from the outset, its first governing body the socialist party (SPD) was forced to contend with. These included the aspect of German imperialism, the unresolved defeat of 1918, financial collapse and the forced struggle against the activities of the National party as well as inflation. Other factors which influenced the failure of Weimar were the structural weaknesses induced by the constitution and the basic lack of support for the Republic among the German people particularly amongst the elite.

All in all, these aspects were the major causes which doomed the Weimar republic to ultimate failure and the eventual ascent of Hillers nationalist party to power. The new socialist government of Weimar (SPD), whose constitution was adopted on July 30, 1919, entered a situation they by no means created. The period during which they were appointed to rule was associated with defeat and misery, and when disorder was nationwide. The situation then, was that of revolution. However, rather than to make a socialist revolution they co-operated with the liberals and with the catholic centre party to lead Germany in a reformed version of her old self.

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In June 1919, they voted to comply with the treaty of Versailles (the vindictive settlement imposed by the Paris peace conference). However, the signing of the Treaty served to promote protest and unrest amongst the soldiers, sailors and the German people generally, and democracy thus resulted in becoming an alien device. The imperial army, for instance, never got over the humiliation of surrender which they felt was a stab in the back by their own countrymen. The sailors at Kiel mutinied in a last desperate effort on October 28 and On November 9, 1919, the streets were filled with crowds marching to demonstrate at the centre of Berlin. Similarly, even before the contingency of these incidents, the centre party, a liberal group who were the coalition government of the acting SPD formed by Phillip Scheidemann, resigned rather than sign the Treaty of Versailles. Besides, German patriotism was strong, in particular because the German people believed they had fought a defensive war and were told their soldiers were unconquered in the field.

Therefore, the humiliating Treaty came as a rude shock to the German people who, correspondingly, blamed the politicians for betraying the soldiers in signing the armistice and saw them as compounding their treason by accepting the peace settlement. They spoke of the November criminals and protested A nation of seventy million suffers, but does not die. These factors propagated in the promotion of anti republican feeling, the conclusions of which were clearly reflected in the results of the election of June 1920. To illustrate, the SPD lost nearly half its seats (many to the USDP) and the right wing parties (DVP and DNVP) increased their share at the expense of the democrats. Defeated on the battlefield, defeated at the conference table, defeated at the polls, the republic embarked on its uncertain career.

Furthermore, compliance with the Treaty of Versailles meant that Germany would have to make reparation payments it could scarcely afford. This fact placed a heavy strain on the already suffering economy of Germany which was bankrupted by four years of war thus ensuing in the ascend of inflation and the occasioning of the respite of payments by Germany in 1922. In January the already traumatic climate in Germany was exacerbated by its evasiveness and reluctance to pay overdue reparations. The French reacted by occupying the Ruhr, a major industrial area of Germany, in January 1923. This was felt a grave humiliation by the German people and eventuated in widespread discontent.

The economic distress caused by the French occupation of the Ruhr and the German passive resistance was enormous. Consequently, workers in the Ruhr mines and factories resisted by striking. However, Germanys currency was already fragile, and in face of the occurring circumstances consequent to the Ruhr invasion and the overprinting of currency, the Mark fell to chronic levels, eventually reaching the value of four billion against the US dollar which therefore generated in massive hyperinflation. Furthermore, the economic instability, on top of the disillusionment and resent caused by the humiliating peace settlement, vast sections of German society came to feel alienated from the Republic. They responded by attacking the democracy and as a consequence it became impossible to control the hostility and discontent. Urban hunger, peasant hoarding, the black market, pilfering and profiteering created social hostilities and individual despair.

In all 35,000 armed men converged on Munich. In addition, the deteriorating economic and social situation also managed to wreak havoc on the political atmosphere of the time and the Republic thus eventuated in having no positive friends and too many enemies. To illustrate, the Republic faced opposition from the extreme left by Spartacists who resorted to force in efforts to overturn the Republic. In March 1920, the Republic was also challenged from the right by the Freikorps who in Berlin launched a pro-Monarchist putsch in an attempt to install Wolfgang Kapp as Chancellor. During this incident troops both refused to defend the Republic or take action against Freikorps. Fortunately, however, the working classes then responded by organising a general strike in Berlin which had the effect of frustrating this putsch. The culminations were that the present regime was able to survive despite the numerous threats. Nonetheless, extremism remained to pollute the atmosphere, the evidence being represented in the alarming amount of political assassinations that continued occurring. In evidence, according to an estimate of the Minister of Justice, rightists committed 354 murders between 1919 and 1923. During this time, when the Republic was suffering most and was being threatened, practically from all sides, Hitler had been making affective attempts to capitalise on the resultant circumstances.

He exploited the economic collapse by blaming it on all those he wished to portray as enemies. These were the same enemies he declared as the November criminals who had brought about Germanys defeat in 1918- those mythical bogeymen who, from inside Germany, had deliberately brought their own country to its knees. Hitlers plan was to seize power in Munich, and, with Bavaria as his base, to launch (as he had explained in public that September) a march on Berlin not unlike Mussolinis march on Rome of a year earlier, but without first being invited to take power, as Mussolini had been. Hitler, however, continued to fail until 1933 when he finally seized power. Nonetheless, the continued disruption caused by his attacks on the Republic, notably his Munich putsch, in addition to the economic crises as well as the resurfacing of the previously unresolved issues promulgated the grounds for an increased anti-republican sentiment which reached a climax in 1923 when the Republic was on its knees due to hyperinflation. It was against this traumatic background that the leadership of the republic was passed to the hands of Gustav Stresemann in August 1923.

Stresemann transmitted himself as a rational and reasonable man who would seek compromise and conciliation rather that conflict, as said by Ramm. His determination and ambition to rectify circumstances in Germany were realised in November 1923 when he introduced a new currency. At the end of 1923, the German currency was stabilised by the introduction of Rentenmark, valued at one billion old Marks. Further stability came with the Dawes plan of April 1924, which provided a modified settlement of the reparation issues. In addition, French troops were then confirmed to leave the Ruhr, and disputes between the two countries then went to independent ruling.

In September, Stresemann called off passive resistance unconditionally. These headed many positive changes in Germany, whose effects were transmitted universally in almost every facet of German life. Likewise Germanys relations with the western nations were considerably improved. The proof came with the Lucarno pact of 1925. By 1929, the German economy revived, or as put by Traynor, it was superficially prosperous. Notwithstanding, the changes Stresemann managed to bring about still had the effect of deviating opposition by both the extremist groups on the right as well as the left. However, while it seemed that politics may have settled down, the circumstances that were to follow in the coming years proved that Stresemann perhaps merely postponed internal problems rather than eradicated them.

The relative stability achieved through the late 1920s by Gustav Stresemann was, for instance, heavily reliant upon foreign investment, loans and economic prosperity, not only in Germany but also in the United States from whence much of Germanys foreign investments originated. Consequently, as the American economy boomed the attractiveness of investment in Germany became overshadowed and the German economy thus, again proceeded to decline in 1928. Additionally, during October 1929, two crises befell the Republic – Gustav Stresemann, the architect of Germanys stability, died and later that month the collapse of share prices began on the New York stock exchange. Had Germanys prosperity and economic stability been self reliant events and circumstances on the New York stock …


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