Lessons from the Weimar Republic

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Governmental failure bred new societal and political developments in Germany. The post-war era in 1919 caused the majority of the German populace to push for more democracy in their governmental system. Elected officials from the three favored political parties: the Social Democratic Party, the Catholic Center Party, and the German Democratic Party met in Weimar, Germany, to construct a constitution, establish a coalition, and give birth to the new Weimar Republic (Weimar, 7). However, as ideologies among the citizenry grew to favor the extreme left and right sides of the political spectrum, the democratic parties’ share of the vote shrank to less than 50 percent in 1920 (Weimar, 7). German distrust in the Weimar government grew as the Versailles Treaty was signed. The total bill of reparations resulted in a limited army, thousands of unemployed officials, and overall blame for World War 1. Hyperinflation struck the German economy and served as the worst economic consequence, with much of the blame apportioned towards the Weimar government (Weimar, 10). The slowing of trade, decrease in production, and increase in unemployment fueled the rise of opposition and propaganda, particularly among the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Their successful propaganda promising a better economy, workforce, and lifestyle along with their charismatic leader, Adolf Hitler, catered to the political and economic issues in Germany during the early 1930’s (Weimar, 37). The day Hitler was proclaimed chancellor of Germany in 1932 marked the destruction of the Weimar Republic. Currently, Germany is mainly composed of a political party which was not as prevalent in the country’s past: the SPD. The negative outcomes of Hitler’s totalitarian regime as a result of inefficiency in the Weimar system led to future developments for a better government. Today, the lessons learned from the mostly unsuccessful Weimar Republic can be shown through Germany’s current political parties, economic status, and citizenry.

Not every aspect of the Weimar Republic was a failure. The system was formed on the basis of democracy and the need for a well structured, controlled society. Three major groups served as the foundation for the republic: The Social Democratic Party, the Catholic Center Party, and the German Democratic Party. The first of the three proved to be the most democratic. The SPD worked to protect workers’ rights, improve the standard of living for all individuals, stray from excessive military spending, enforce tolerance of religions, negotiate in order to make only reasonable reparations, uphold women’s rights, and impose a free market economy. Edgar Salin speculated: “The conclusion seems inescapable that the success of democracy within the disintegrated German social structure depends upon whether the working class can be won to support a democratic system and will remain steadfast to it.” (Salin, 273) As distrust in the government grew because of consequences from the Treaty as well as highly persuasive and extremist opposition propaganda, the workers did not support the SPD as much as they did during the formation of the Weimar Republic. As Hitler’s totalitarian, racist, and extremely fascist regime was furthered, some individuals such as Edgar Salin recognized democracy as a necessity for maintaining tranquility within the nation. However, Hitler’s rule as well as the Weimar Republic’s governance held essentially the same economic beliefs.

Although the Weimar Republic suffered monetary repercussions, the economic ideologies governing Germany throughout the Republic, Hitler’s regime, and today, show a net benefit. All three systems utilize capitalism and the importance of a free market economy. During the beginnings of the Weimar System, “Germany became a parliamentary democracy with a ‘welfare capitalist’ political economy - in which private enterprise was morally legitimated by welfare measures and strengthened rights of...
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