Essay on Weimar Germany

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Weimar: Destined for Failure by a Weak Constitution and Poor Popular Support?
A thread that runs throughout many analyses of the legacy of theWeimar Republic contains the idea that the fledgling German democracy was somehow doomed from the start. With a constitution that contained items such as Article 48 – a constitutional provision that permitted the Weimar President to rule by decree without the consent of the Reichstag – and a clause that allowed the Reichskanzler to assume office in the event of the death of the President, there were certainly structural inadequacies that, in hindsight, may not have been the wisest choices by the framers of the Weimar Constitution. Craig took aim at the consttutional inclusion of proportional representation (Verhältniswahlrecht) in elections to the Reichstag, arguing that the resultant plethora of German political parties “made for an inherent instability that manifested itself in what appeared to the bemused spectator to be a continuous game of musical chairs” in the near-constant shuffling of Weimar coalitions and ministries. Eyck described the enormous number of political parties under proportional representation as “these many cooks [who] brought forth a broth which was neither consistent nor clear.” Mommsen, however, disagreed that proportional representation was a root cause of Weimar political instability, calling Verhältniswahlrecht “at most a symptom” of the problems, and adding that the “reluctance to assume political responsibility” by Weimar political parties was the source of instability.

Left: Weimar President Friedrich Ebert

Other historians have pointed to the seeming lack of enthusiasm many Germans felt for the new government as contributing to a “doomed” Weimar. Erdmann argued that Germans faced a difficult dilemma in 1918-1919, faced with the choices of “social revolution in alliance with the forces pressing for a proletarian dictatorship,” or “a parliamentary republic in alliance with conservative

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