HS-102 Readings

The Weimar Republic

HOW WAS THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC FOUNDED?

WHAT SUPPORT DID IT HAVE ?

WHAT WAS LACKING IN SUPPORT FROM WITHIN GERMANY, AND WHY?

WHAT WAS LACKING  IN SUPPORT FROM OUTSIDE GERMANY AND WHY?

WHAT THREE DISTINCT PERIODS OF TIME CHARACTERIZE THE HISTORY OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC?

WHY DID THE NAZI PARTY BECOME SO POWERFUL IN THE REPUBLIC DURING THE DEPRESSION, AND HOW DID THIS AFFECT THE POLITICS DURING 1931-1933?

WHAT WAS HITLER'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC? HOW DID HE SUBVERT AND DESTROY THE REPUBLIC?

    The Weimar Republic was founded at the end of World War I, with Germany in a state of near-anarchy. The Social Democratic Party was the leading party in the creation of the Weimar Republic. It was the only party with sufficient credibility and acceptance by Wilson to negotiate an armistice agreement. It was, however, not in the mainstream of German politics since it primarily represented the working class.

    The new government lacked support from the majority of the German people, many of whom identifed it with defeat and with the "Versailles Diktat". Although it was a Republic, the kind of government the Allies would want to deal with, it was also the government of the former enemy and therefore not accepted on an equal basis. The reparations demands and other features of the Versailles Treaty, as well as the fear of a revived Germany, prevented normal foreign relationships from developing.

    The history of the Weimar Republic may be divided into three distinct
periods:

    1918-1923 was a time of political and economic instability.  The government was constantly under attack from right-wing groups who criticized it for betraying German national interests. Assassinations and attempted coups characterized the politics.

    Economically, it was a time of great crisis because Germany could not cope with reparations payments in addition to the enormous burdern of recovery. There was a massive hyper-inflation in 1923  which wiped out the savings of millions of middle class Germans. It is from this group that Hitler would later receive his greatest support.

    1924-1929 was a time of stability and economic recovery, based upon the flow of private investments from the United States. The German economy recovered and negotiations with England and France brought the government a measure of equality and an involvement in normal diplomacy.

    1929-1933 brought depression, and with it, the return of political instability. Moderate leadership, the parties of the Center, were unable to resolve the economic problems. Extremist parties, particularly the Nazis, gained widespread but not quite majority support. In 1932, the Nazis became the largest single party in the Reichstag. They refused to cooperate in forming a governing coalition unless Hitler was appointed as
Chancellor. After more than a year of rule by Presidential decree (in the absence of a majority coalition), Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January, 1933.

    Once Hitler had the power of Chancellor, he maneuvred to concentrate complete power in his hands. Within a year he had destroyed the Weimar Republic, the government which he had labelled the "Guilty Men of 1918."