Weimar – The Rise of Extremism History of Germany, week 10
Political violence • State violence (police, army) legitimate • Loss of state monopoly of violence in 1918 (weapons from WWI) • Cult of vigilantism and Fehemorde (vendetta killings) by Freikorps groupings • Violence aimed at state inherently political
Freikorps units occupy Berlin, March 1920 General strike paralyses the rightist coup Workers arm themselves in a Red Ruhr Army Army & Freikorps units put down the workers’ army in April Kapp putsch & Red Ruhr Army
Beer Hall Putsch, 9 November 1923 • Role model of Mussolini’s march on Rome • Political support of Erich Ludendorff, First World War leader • Wavering support of local commandant, von Kahr • Reichswehr forced to block demonstration • Putsch landed Hitler in prison after lenient sentence • Abandonment of putsch tactics • 1931 Hitler swears ‘legality oath’ to use only democratic means – ballot not the bullet
Commemoration of the ‘old fighters’ of Beer Hall putsch vintage Note the neo-Roman imagery Horst Wessel, 1907-33, an SA man allegedly murdered by communists, became the martyr figure of the movement Death cults
Horst Wessel Song • Hold high the banner! Close the hard ranks serried!SA marches on with sturdy stride.Comrades, by Red Front and Reaction killed, are buried,But march with us in image at our side. • Gangway! Gangway! Now for the Brown battalions!For Storm Troopers clear road o'er land!The Swastika gives hope to our entranced millions,The day for freedom and for bread's at hand. • The trumpet blows its shrill and final blast!Prepared for war and battle here we stand.Soon Hitler's banners will wave unchecked at last,The end of German slav'ry in our land.
SPD police chief of Berlin Zörgiebel bans KPD Mayday parades Scuffles & barricades erected in workers’ districts & over 30 killed KPD forms paramilitary ‘Party Protection’ units Blutmai (Bloody May), 1 May 1929
Presidential Rule • Weimar constitution permitted President quasi-dictatorial powers under Article 48 (otherwise two-thirds majority needed) • 1925 Hindenburg elected as candidate of right • Since 1929 Meissner (civil service) & Schleicher (army) contemplating authoritarian reconfiguration of Republic • 1930 SPD replaced by Chancellor Brüning from Centre • lack of charisma & unpopular deflationary policy • 1932 (July): von Papen heads ‘cabinet of barons’ • 1932 (November): Schleicher • 1932 Prussian coup in July • SPD government deposed by army on Papen's orders • Reichstag becomes talking shop • Political parties develop paramilitary wings • Weimar democracy already being dismantled well before 1933
The Depression • Wall St. crash - US transatlantic debts recalled; Social insurance overloads • Borchardt thesis: • Brüning had no alternative to deficit spending • workers had priced selves out of market • Weimar economically doomed • Holtfrerichcounter-thesis: more leeway for Keynesian public works • 6 million+ workers unemployed • Did mass unemployment benefit Nazis or Communists? • if unemployed oneself more likely to vote KPD than NSDAP • but also indirect effect (fear factor among bourgeois) • By 1932 ca. 85% of KPD members were on the dole • KPD switches from factory cells to street cells as organisational principle • Long-term unemployed suffer from demotivation • Breakdown of working-class solidarity
Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) • Founded Dec. 1918 from Spartacus League
Hitler Myth I • No need for a political party – the Hitler ‘brand’ is enough 1932 poster
The Hitler Myth II • The besuited, respectable Hitler We’re taking the nation’s fate in our hands. Hitler for Reich President
Class factors • 1930 Goebbels hoping to break into working-class vote • Some workers vote for & join NSDAP but below national average • Jürgen Falter’s electoral studies • Conan Fischer on high migration between two radical parties Workers of the mind and fist vote for Hitler the front soldier!