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To What Extent Did the Weaknesses in the Weimar Republic Allow for the Rise and Power of the Nazi Party to 1933?

By juliamhairi May 06, 2013 1477 Words
To what extent did the weaknesses in the Weimar Republic allow for the rise and power of the Nazi Party to 1933? The Weimar Republic was the federal and democratic government that was adopted in 1919 by a constitution. Under Weimar constitution, Germany was divided into 19 states. All citizens had the right to vote, electing members of the Reichstag or German Parliament along with the President. Weimar Constitution was a brilliant document but many weaknesses, extremists on the left and right rejected the authority of the Weimar Republic, the citizens dismissed the government due to many faults making the republic difficult to assert its authority which led to an extent, the rise and power of the Nazi party through the acceptance of the terms of The Treaty of Versailles which caused it to fall into financial ruin, failed solutions to economic issues and constitutional weaknesses which finally led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and rise of the Nazi party. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles is seen as the undermining of the Weimar’s republic to its country politically, economically and socially. The treaty produced aggressive nationalism within Germany and translated a hatred of democracy and desire to turn to an authoritarian rule which would ensure the nation to rise to great power. The Treaty of Versailles was the peace settlement signed after world war one which held many consequences for the people and government of Germany. Many aspects combined helped undermine the ability of this new democratic republic to govern successfully including the ‘War guilt clause 231’, requirement to pay reparations, armed forces and Germany’s empire. By signing the treaty, Germany was held accountable for the cost of the war and the Treaty dictated that compensation would have to be paid to the Allies. These payments, called reparations, would be paid monthly and would total some £6,600 million- Source this affected Weimar economically as it made it difficult for the government to cope with the financial strain which eventually led to financial ruin. The reaction of the ‘War guilt clause’ subsided as in having to accept that the Germans were responsible for the war, the government doomed itself to ridicule politically and socially. This led to majority of the population and opponents to disapprove the government politically. The population became abrupt with the signing of the treaty and difficult to accept the terms as it symbolised Germany’s humiliation and defeat. This created a underlying bitterness to which Hitler’s viciousness and expansionism appeal as it increased the Germany’s population to support him due to his promise to return German nationalism within citizens through the reversal of the Treaty of Versailles in particular the War Guilt Clause, “We demand that the German people have rights equal to those of other nations; and the peace Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain shall be abrogated”-source thus leading to the growth and rise of Hitler and the Nazi party as Hitler used the nations mistrust for the Weimar republic to gain their interest in his opposition of the Weimar Republic including their weakness of signing the Treaty of Versailles, an unpopular decision. The new Weimar government showed the undermining of its countries many economic problems. The severe economic problems that were faced reduced even more support due to reparation repayments and the occupation of the Ruhr which led to hyperinflation of 1923. These weaknesses led to the rise in recognition and popularity of Hitler as a ‘Hero’ to the nation. Reparation repayments had caused more strain on the Weimar Republic financially. December 22, Germany had defaulted the payments on coal and timber; this resulted in French and Belgium take over in the Industrial area in management of delivery. As a result German workers adopted the policy of Passive resistance. However, 132 Germans were killed and 15,000 were expelled from their homes. This aggregated Weimar’s social weaknesses as it decreased reputation further more due to humiliation of being invaded whilst the government didn’t insist on protection. The government had increased their national debt and their solution was to print more bank notes which quickly lost their value. This affected citizens dramatically as savings lost all value over night while elderly’s pensions were affected most. This corrupted solution increased anger towards Weimar as those who suffered blamed democratic parties and encouraged hate towards the government and desire amongst nation for change, leaving desperation among citizens for new authority, leaving opportunity for Hitler and Nazi party to rise. Due to the financial and political problems during 1923, this provided an opportunity for Hitler and his Party to attempt the Munich Putsch. November 1923, Hitler and Ludendorff, supported by 600 SA, attempted a takeover of the government by storming a meeting held by the Bavarian PM in a Beer hall in Munich. The Putsch ended as a failure due to Nazis surrounded by 100 police and troops resulting in the death of 16 Nazis. Hitler was imprisoned for 9 months. Despite the failure of the Putsch Hitler only got 9 months for treason showing the opposition of Weimar as courts were sympathetic to right-wing extremism. This helped the rise and power of the Nazi party as imprisonment encouraged Hitler to overthrow the Republic in a more thorough manner, especially in terms of the army. Thus the economic state of Germany due to the Weimar Republic helped establish the rise and power of Hitler and the Nazi party in arrears to its failures it brought Hitler to become a national prominence to German citizens and the nation, upholding a leadership reputation. The Weimar Republic was devastated by the Wall Street crash in 1929 and the Great depression that followed. America had propped up the Weimar Republic with huge loans in 1924 due to the Dawes Plan and in 1929 with the Young Plan, what occurred to the American economy had to impact the Weimar Republic's economy. Both plans had loaned Weimar money to prop up the country’s economy especially after the experiences of hyperinflation in 1923. America needed these loans back to assist their own financial reckoning. Stresemann evaluated Germany’s financial situation which was a lot more fragile than some would have liked to accept. “The economic position is only flourishing on the surface. Germany is in fact dancing on a volcano. If the short-term credits are called in, a large section of our economy would collapse." Companies throughout Germany such as the Ruhr went bankrupt and workers were laid off in their millions and unemployment affected nearly every German family. The government responded by cutting spending and increased taxes in an effort to balance the budget; this only worsened the Depression as it took money out of the economy and in 1931 Chancellor Bruning tried negotiating a year moratorium on reparation payments with the US but failed as allies cancelled reparation payments all together. Nationalist feeling that the Weimar Republic had betrayed the German people ran high. Between 1921 and 1933 the support of democracy retreated in the right-wing opposition and parties in the Reichstag. If it weren’t for the duration of the Depression, the Reichstag might have survived. The Great Depression established the rise of Hitler as he offered extreme solutions to the German general public; they had turned to Nazism due to their desperation from the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic during the economic downfall. Hitler used this time to gain support from the nation and Nazi success in the elections grew. The number of Nazi seats in the Reichstag rose from 12 in 1928 to 230 in July 1932. Hitler used the depression to great advantage as for every problem the Nazi Party had come up with an explanation or promise such as the promise to get rid of the Weimar government with the replacement and rise of himself and the Nazi party.

The Weimar government also helped Hitler's rise to power because of its many weaknesses; it had many enemies, it had proportional representation, Article 48, the president had too much power and the states could be hostile to the national government. Most importantly the proportional representation helped Hitler. Proportional representation meant that the governments had to be coalitions. In November 1932, Hitler, in the Reichstag elections, the Nazi Party won 37.3% of the votes (230 seats) proving the Nazi party to be the most popular party. President Hindenburg however, despised Hitler and appointed Franz Von Papen as his chancellor. General Von Schleicher stopped supporting Von Papen and decided he himself should become chancellor. This triggered off a power struggle between Von Schleicher and Von Papen, which ended up with them handing power to Hitler. – Then discuss Enabling act then final rise of the Nazi Party - Constitutional weaknesses such as power to president which led to enabling act (allowed Nazi party to grow)

http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/ASLevel_History/week4_versailles.htm

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