The Fall of the Weimar Republic By: Priyanka R., Ian M., Vishu P.
Background The Weimar Republic is the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany. Following World War I, the republic emerged from the German Revolution in November 1918 to replace the imperial form of government. In 1919, a national assembly, convened in Weimar, adopted a new constitution for the German Reich, thus beginning Germany's period of liberal democracy. However, the Weimar Republic had various political and economic problems—such as structural inadequacies of the constitution and hyperinflation—that eventually led to the fall of the Republic.
Article 48 • Article 48 of the Weimar Republic’s Constituion allowed the President to take “emergency measures” without the consent of the Reichstag. • Thus, the President had sole power. • He often misused this to pass many legislative decrees.
Proportional Representation • The system of proportional representation: • This meant that any party with a small amount of support could gain entry into the Reichstag. • Led to the creation of 28 parties. Thus, it was impossible to establish a majority in the Reichstag, and led to frequent changes in the government. • Twenty separate coalition governments were formed.
VerfassungsdurchbrechendeGesetze In the Weimar Republic, a law does not have to follow the constitution as long as it had the support of two thirds of the Reichstag. Moreover, the German states had too much power and often ignored the government.
Wide Political Spectrum • Wide spectrum of political parties • The Social Democrats—who slowly became conservative—became eager to maintain and preserve their holdings in the government. • Catholic Centre Party • The progressive Democratic Party • These three groups formed a coalition that dominated the Republic’s politics. • These parties were accused having betrayed the ideals of the workers' movement by preventing a communist revolution. • Many other, smaller parties also had representation.
Right Wing Retaliation The signing of the Treaty of Versailles (June 1919) caused much distress. German lost money, its army strength and land. Thus, many right-winged parties, such as German National People's Party, The German Workers' Party, German Völkisch Freedom Party, and German Socialist Party, all rebelled against the Treaty’s reparations. The Kapp Putschis a Freikorps (disaffected army officers) rebellion against the Treaty, led by Dr. Wolfgang Kapp on March 1920. It took over Berlin and attempted to overthrow the Weimar republic as soon as it was formed. tried to bring back the Kaiser. Nationalist terrorist groups murdered 356 politicians. In August 1921 Matthias Erzberger, the man who signed the armistice was shot. In 1922, the groups assassinated Walter Rathenau, the SPD foreign minister, because he made a treaty with Russia.
Communist Hatred • Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht, 50,000 Spartacists rebelled in Berlin in 1919. Fueled by the Soviet Bolshevik revolution, the Spartacists tried to bring about a German proletarian revolution. • This event only widened the gap between Social Democrats and Communists. • In 1919, Communist Workers’ Councils seized power all over Germany, and a Communist People’s Government took power in Bavaria. • In 1920, after the failure of the Kapp Putsch, a paramilitary group called the Red Army formed. • Red Army-- consisted of left-wing workers --defeated the Freikorps and regular army units in the Ruhr area and started the biggest armed workers' uprising in Germany.
Hitler’s Rise Political instability in the Republic led to loss of faith and credibility. Von Papen Deal: Hitler would become Chancellor and Von Papen would become Vice-Chancellor. Left winged parties were banned to meet; the Communist Party was suppressed; Reichstag deputies were arrested. Nazi paramilitary exploitation of militaristic culture. Reichstag Fire Decree: The decree invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitutionand suspended many constitutional protections of civil liberties, allowing the Nazi government to take swift action against political meetings, arresting and killing the Communists. The Enabling Act, which Hitler passed, authorized his cabinet to enact legislation without the approval of the Reichstag. Munich Putsch: In November 1923, Hitler’s Nazis tried to take control of Bavaria.
Reparations • Germany was forced to pay reparations to the Allies—as by the Treaty of Versailles. • In January 1923, Germany failed to make a payment, and France invaded the Ruhr. • Thus Germany was forced to print money, in order to pay back France. • Main cause of hyperinflation. • Workers were paid three times a day. Their wives would meet them, take the money and rush to the shops to exchange it for goods.
Great Depression • The American Stock Market crashed in 1929. • This led to a world-wide recession. • Stagnation led to increased pressure to pay back debts to the United States. • Dawes Plan and dependence on American finance worsened Germany’s economic situation.
High Unemployment The French occupation of the Ruhr not only caused hyperinflation, but also augmented unemployment. The loss of production in the Ruhr caused a fall in production elsewhere ncreased unemployment to 2.5 million Germans. By 1932, 1 out of 3 workers were unemployed. and unemployment rose from 2% to 23%
Conclusion The harsh settlement at the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany into irreparable economic debt and forced blame for defeat onto the Republic, decreasing support for the moderate Social Democrats and increasing the support for the left and right extremists The fundamental errors in the Weimar constitution that gave too much power to the president and created many splinter parties through proportional representation made it difficult to rule with clear majorities. The inability of the new Republic to provide stable law and order, because of their reliance on conservative paramilitary groups like the Freikorps, as well as the wreck of the German financial system, allowed Hitler and the Nationalist People’s Party to gain support by campaigning stability and order