Account for the failure/collapse of democracy in Germany in the period 1918-1933. Intro
The Weimar Republic was established in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat in World War One, with parliamentary democracy operating from 1919 and introducing an advanced social welfare system. The notion of loyalty to the nation had been particularly influential since Bismark’s wars of unification in the 19th century. The prospect of strengthening their nation by military means, and of it achieving greater status as an international power, had enormous appeal to Germans even if it meant the loss of civil liberties. As the German army was significant in achieving German unification, serving and former soldiers would seek to exploit their prestige by interfering in political process with Hitler using soldiers as an instrument for the achievement of Nazi objectives. The Great Depression directly led to social dislocation across Germany with increasing unemployment, social welfare inadequacies and a democracy that lacked visionary leadership. Economic discontent and war weariness caused growing popular unrest. The key reason for the eventual collapse of the democratic republic was its failure to bring about fundamental socio-economic-judicial change. The Great Depression brought to Germany not only deep economic dislocation and withstanding social distress, but it also brought a deep sense of psychological disillusionment. It was in this atmosphere of national disillusionment that the Nazi Party was able to prosper. The German authoritarian tradition had deep psychological and social roots within the majority of the German populace. Democracy was seen as a novel, untried form of government that had no precedent in German history and through Germany’s spiritual and material collapse after the war, the Republican democratic experiment seemed alien to German tradition. Unrest circulated Germany and culminated in the revolution of November 1918 when the belief spread that the army had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the socialist politicians who negotiated and signed the armistice, branded the ‘November Criminals’. The German army was seen as a formidable fighting force and could have won the war but was defeated, not on the battlefield but by the pacifists and Socialist who had undermined the war effort. The myth easily promoted that it was the anti-war agitators which had fomented unrest amongst civilians and weakened the morale of the troops, and the new civilian government who failed to support the military that was to blame for Germany’s undeserved defeat. This was then quickly perpetuated by the military to criticise and reinforce hostility towards the new democratic Weimar Republic as it became associated with the loss of World War and the humiliation of accepting the peace terms imposed by the victorious Allies. The Treaty of Versailles was regarded as Diktat or dictated peace, as in Article 231 the ‘war guilt’ clause, Germany was forced to take full responsibility for the outbreak and damage of the war to justify making her pay compensations to the Allies in the form of reparations. In addition, Germany’s military was greatly restricted with both the army and navy suffering from heavy reductions in troops and limitations on equipment. Despite the economic severity of the peace terms, the Treaty did however produce a sense of aggrieved nationalism amongst Germans of almost every background. It caused a profound sense of injustice and resentment, a determination not to co-operate with the implementation of the Treaty and the desire to undo its provisions as soon as the opportunity presented itself. For many this would also enhance hatred of democracy and generate desire to return to the authoritarian rule which had in the past, seemed to ensure their nation’s rise to great power and prominence. With the introduction of the constitution in 1919, Germany had become one of the most democratic nations in the world, although this newly-adopted...
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