COLLAPSE OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC

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On November 1918, the first republic (Weimar Republic) is declared in Germany. It is however unable to survive, and only 25 years later replaced by the dictatorship of Hitler. It faced many problems and was doubtful from the start. This new government had accepted the post-war treaties, and so was hated by the Germans due to the loss of territory, reparations, and the "war-guilt clause". There were both external and internal causes that led to the republic's death. For example, the Treaty of Versailles and were the external causes, while the July 1932 elections and the flaw in the constitution were internal causes. There are some factors that are required for the democracy to begin and flourish and Germany, as we saw, wasn't ready yet. There were many useful lessons from the fall of Weimar Republic which can be extremely helpful in continuing the democracy in United States.

The treaty of Versailles was considered as extremely harsh and vindictive within Germany. The military, territorial and economic clauses of the treaty aimed to weaken Germany to a containable level. However, it was the ignominious war guilt clause, which placed the guilt for the outbreak and continuation of the war on Germany, which caused the most problems. Also, as a result of the Versailles treaty, Germany was to assume a democratic system of Government. The democrats had to cope with huge economic problems. Following World War One, Germany was on the verge of bankruptcy due to the enormous expense of the war. In 1921, the allies declared a total reparation figure of 138 billions of Goldmark. The unacceptable reparation payments brought popular hostility to the government. Especially the hostility of France brought German economy to a collapse. As Germany failed to meet the reparation targets in 1923, France responded with the invasion of Germany's industrial heartland, the Ruhr. This reaction was of course way too hard to bear. Indeed, it resulted in hyperinflation, as the workers refused to work under French occupation. By November 1923 currency trading had reached 4.2 trillion Reichsmark to the US Dollar, contrary to 4.2 Reichsmark in 1914. The impact upon the policy was disastrous: Those who were touched the most by the hyperinflation in 1923, the middle classes, stopped voting for the SPD, to the profit of the extremist parties. Another factor that can be tied into this was the crash of United States' stock market. Following the October 1929, Wall Street Crash, the world economic crisis developed. This brought an almost universal depression and Germany was hard hit. The significance of the Great Depression for the future of Weimar is outlined by Geary, who said that "the economic crisis acted as a trigger, occasioning the abandonment of a political system that had already lost its credibility". By 1932 there were over six million people unemployed, living standards had collapsed, and business and industry were at a stand still. The social problems of unemployment, lowered standards of living and street violence, saw many German people look for new alternatives.

The Weimar Republic was already weak in its constitution. The system of proportional representation meant that no party ever held the majority of all seats in the Reichstag. The parties were thus forced to enter coalitions, to the expense of a stable government. No party could ever gain a majority in the Reichstag, leading to constant conflict between coalitions, with no party able to carry out its political agenda. Each group had a narrow, inflexible focus on its own needs and the resulting in fighting made it impossible to accomplish anything of substance democratically. In addition to the traditional lack of respect for democracy in Germany, the political parties had very little experience in democratic regimes, which would prove a problem throughout the Weimar Republic's life. There was another feature of the constitution which helped the downfall: Article 48. Initially...
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