Modern History Higher School Certificate
b. To what extent did the weaknesses in the Weimar Republic account for the growth and rise to power of the Nazi Party in 1933
The Weimar Republics weaknesses were sought as the catalyst to why the growth and rise to power of the Nazi Party had begun in 1933. The Weimar republic was a government attempting a democracy in a country that was full of political, economic and personal trauma. Hitler??™s rise to power was not simply due to the collapse of the Weimar Republic but a combination of tumultuous political and economic events within a struggling nation and a country looking for a ??? drummer boy ???.
The Weimar republic came about in the midst of civil war and great unrest winning 165 out of 423 seats giving them a minority government. This meant that to govern Germany the socialists would require support of the other parties, which in itself was an interesting place to start.
The national assembly met in a small town named Weimar with the task of creating a lawfully elected government to make peace with the allies post the war and to create a constitution for the republic which would lay down new laws to govern Germany. Frederick Ebert was elected president and Phillip Scheidemann the first Chancellor. The government worked fairly well as long as democratic parties held majority.
The Treaty of Versailles in 1919, it could be said was the beginning of the end for the Weimar Republic even from this early point. The Treaty opened as a peace conference in Paris in January 1919, it was a meeting of the victorious allies who would decide how Germany would be managed and run, and it was to have much of its political decisions set down from a group of countries it had been fighting.
The treaty made Germany and other defeated enemies sign based on the premise of the fourteen points by President Wilson of the United States. Wilson believed that the war could be outlawed by setting up a new organisation called the League of Nations.
However, while delegates discussed the treaty it was said that the general opinion was that Germany be declared guilty of aggressive war, punished and weakened economically and militarily. Payment was asked for and the Weimar Government was part of the campaign to oversee the treaties ruling.
The Weimar government begun on extremely shaky foundations due to the revolution, hunger, civil war and the support of this treaty. This new democratic government was accused of having now betrayed the country, the treaty itself aimed to weaken Germany and now this government had the not so pleasant task of enforcing the treaty. Germany was to have its economy sliced and be forced into a position of repaying its debts. Germany was in effect held hostage to the larger nations and France was in glee.
It was stated by Hitler while in hospital at this time decided ???…I knew all was lost??¦. In the days that followed my own faith become known to me??¦ and I decided to go into politics…??? . Hitler soon after gained complete control of the Nazi party in 1926. Hitler was in these earlier times building a resolution to come back and fight for change. Being a man of determined and a strong sense of authoritarian rule he was quietly building strength and resources with the ever increasing Nazi party. Hitler spoke to the people promising change and hope. The people were ever so ready for just that.
The Weimar government entered a period of a small amount of stability with the effect of the Dawes plan which assisted in scaling down the reparation payments and a small time of prosperity came upon Germany. The currency was stabilized in this period which led to a more favourable international climate.
In March 26th Germany entered the League of Nations and was given a seat on the council it was a time of international rest and a certain amount of support. However, this period of perceived gain was to be brutally wiped. Against these indisputable gains there was evidence of disturbing faults in the economic and political structure of the Weimar Republic and the sharp political divisions were increasing. The Nazi party ever so aware of these shortcomings were building a stronger body of force within its people and army ranks. Change was abound.
Political instability was becoming now an endemic problem. Against this backcloth there played out many political manoeuvres that led to the final demise of the republic. So in this we also have a brewing hostility within the army ranks with an ever increasing Nazi party that only became stronger and more determined for change and an athoritive leadership.
The German economy was showing signs of strain from 1928, investment had begun to fall and unemployment was on a rise. There was a growing crisis of budget deficit and a failure in government to find acceptable solutions, which led to further dissolution and a growing support for the alternative offered by the communists and the Nazis.
With Hitler now regaining complete control of the Nazi party and the demise of the economy the power base for Hitler was on the ever rise. Political uprisings ever present and a nation searching for change. In October 1929 with the event of the collapse of the Wall Street stock exchange because of the vast sums of money lent by America, the Americans were demanding pay back. In turn, German firms were forced to cut production and Germany??™s prosperity was at an end, Hitler??™s opportunity was coming.
Due to the depression the Young Plan was put into place to decrease the yearly payment towards the allies. Hitler??™s position getting ever stronger he was well and truly making his force be felt, his strong charismatic strength fed the ever increasing woes of an again struggling country. The election of 1928 saw Germany ruled by a socialist coalition under Herman Muller, with this breaking up after the socialist objected to further cuts in unemployment.
An ageing president Hindenburg, disliked the Weimar system of democracy, in particular he disliked the socialists and did not support Muller. In his place the ever frail Hindenburg appointed Heinrich Bruning as Chancellor, from this time on the Weimar Republic ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. Bruning was determined however to follow a policy of ridged financial change, with one of his first proposals pushing through that government salaries be taxed 2.5% and it could be said that one of the most fateful events in the history of the Weimar republic occurred as bruning and Hindenburg invoked article 48 and put through the tax changes by a presidential decree. Economists have debated that these strict economic policies were in effect the fall of Weimar and laid a path for Hitler to ride on.
The growing political unrest and economic decline, Hindenburg pulled his support on Bruning with Bruning resigning. The road to power found in Brunings place the ever frail Hindenburg appointed Fritz von Papen who was strongly conservative, to become chancellor. On the 20th of July 1932, Papen showed his true colours when he dissolved the social democratic government leading to a wave of violence. Papen??™s rein was replaced by Chancellor Schliecher whom Hindenburg preferred. Yet Papan become a strong alley to Hitler.
With meetings between Hitler and Papen saw Schliecher resign, the dissolution of the Reichstag and the proclamation of the state of emergency. With Hindenburg sworn in again and Hitler moved into a position of chancellorship in a rapid of series of moves, Hitler consolidated his own position and crushed all potential sources of opposition. On the 31st of January 1933 in a broadcast to the German people, Hitler condemned the short comings of the Weimar Republic and promised a complete break with the past. One by one the opposition parties were forced into dissolution.
As soon as Hitler became chancellor the Nazi propaganda machine begun, Hitler had a personal wave of resolve to bring an end to the democratic heads of government, he saw and understood authoritarian power and lived and breathed his life in its wake. History tells the story of a man filled with revenge and full of supported power.
In conclusion the Weimar republic held a fragile government due to economic and political upheaval within the country itself, as well as the economic crisis of an entire nation. The Weimar attempted to provide a democratic government at a time in history that had its people crawling on their knees. In this it could be raised what chance any government had in maintaining a sense of democracy when its people were barely able to feed themselves. The rise of Hitler it could be said was a combination of a one man??™s search for power up against a nation that had lost its way and was searching for a way out. Hitler became our most followed drummer boy known.
 Footnote: ???Drummer Boy??™-quote from W.Simpson book ???Hitler and Germany??™. Quote from Hitler??™s speech to the industry club at Dusseldorf in January 1932. ???People say to me so often:??? you are only the drummer of national Germany???
* ???Hitler and Germany??™, B. J. Elliot, Modern Times- Second edition, Longman- London and New York, published 1991.
* The Collapse of the Weimar Republic, Chapter two, school worksheet.
* ???Hitler and Germany??™, Cambridge topics in history, William Simpson. Documents and commentary. Cambridge university press. 1991.
* Hitler??™s Path to Power. 15/03/11 Slideshow sheets. Class work.
* The Effects of the Versailles Treaty. Slideshow sheets. 24/02/11
* Consolidating power 1933-4 mind map worksheet.
* The rise of the Nazi Party through the mechanisms of democracy worksheet booklet
* The troubled life of the Weimar republic, Worksheet
* Weimar Governments 1919-1933, Class Handout.