"Doomed from the start" How accurate is this statement regarding the Weimar Republic?
The Weimar Republic was created in 1919 with the abdication of
Wilhelm II. The new government was the body that signed the
Treaty of Versailles, and to many, that was a betrayal. The
consequences of Versailles were severe to Germany, and many were
looking for someone to blame, the government was the ideal scape
goat. Communists and the right saw an opportunity to create a
state that they wanted, and were prepared to challenge the new
republic. Many richer Germans had lived well under the Kaiser,
and distrusted the new government. Considering all of these
points, it would seem that the collapse of the republic was
inevitable, but was that the case?
From the start, the new Weimar government faced opposition
from both left and right. The Left wing Spartacist group, lead by
Luxemburg and Liebknecht, admired the new Russian Communist
political system, and with the fall of the Kaiser, saw an
opportunity to attempt to place Germany into a similar system. In
January 1919 they revolted, and tried to take control of Berlin,
with the support of the USDP they proclaimed a new revolutionary
government. However, Ebert had already won the support of the
military with the Ebert-Groener pact, and the troops suppressed
the revolt. This pact was significant, the government had
associated itself with the right, and perhaps this early incident
is one of the factors which would convince the government to
appoint Hitler Chancellor in 1933.
The Right were next to revolt. In 1920 the Kapp Putch revolt occurred. Monarchists seized government buildings in Berlin, and even forced the government to flee to Stuttgart. The rebels however, surrendered on March 17 as unions declared a general strike. The government had another close escape.
The early major activities of Hitler included his 'Beer Hall Putch' where he tried to seize control of The Bavarian government. His revolt was like the others, crushed, but clear opposition to the republic had been established.
The political instability was exacerbated by the financial
implications of the Treaty of Versailles. By 1921, the level of
reparations had been fixed to 132,000,000 gold marks. It was
clearly evident that the weakened Germany would not be able to
pay. By January 1923, the French were angered at Germany's poor
payment record, and occupied the Ruhr region. The citizens of the
Ruhr began to hate the French who were exploiting them, and so
again needed someone to blame. They decided to blame the people
who had agreed to pay reparations, the government. By November
1923, a situation of hyperinflation had developed. money was
becoming more and more worthless by the day. The middle classes
had their savings devalued considerably, and there was general
The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the new government, and this treaty was causing great anguish. The people had no one to blame but the government, the majority of the country were angered, and it could be considered that with universal criticism, and perhaps some hatred, the new republic was doomed to fail.
However, the mid 1920's witnessed what Thompson called the
'Lacarno Honeymoon' 1923 saw Stresemann appointed as Chancellor.
Stresemann developed a policy he called 'Fulfilment'. This was to
try and show good faith in attempting to carry out the terms of
peace, so to show how impossible the task was, and to try and
persuade the allies to be more lenient. In 1924 came the Dawes
Plan. This reorganised the Reichsbank, and levels of reparations
were set to prevent a balanced budged, and to prevent inflation.
This would prove essential in Germany's improving economy.
Stresemann was significantly involved in introducing the
Rentenmark. This began to stabilise the currency and began to
settle inflation. This improved economic situation was reflected
in the general economic improvements recorded. Between 1920 and
1925, car sales had increased by over 250%, and production from
the staple industries was beginning to return to pre war levels.
Investment was pored into Germany, as the allied supervision was
attractive to investors. National border anxieties were settled
in 1925, when the Locarno treaties were signed in London. A
greater feeling of security began to embrace Germany for the
first time in over ten years. By 1926, Germany had joined The
League of Nations, and Germany had a voice at the international
level. Germany could now do more for her people abroad and at
home, by 1929 even the withdrawal of the allies from the
Rhineland was on the cards.
The German people were more uplifted during the late 1920's,
and cultural improvements were occurring throughout the country.
There was greater production and use of literature, music, and
theatre. Germany was beginning to get back on its feet after a
hard war, and relations with the allies and between the
government and the people were improving. The extremist NAZI's
had only 12 seats in 1928, and had little or no voice in national
government. The socialists were in control with 153 seats and had
a steady recovery in progress with no radical changes planned.
The government it's self had progressed form an imperial
autocracy to a democratic republic. There was universal suffrage
for all over 21, their head of state could be changed every seven
years if the people were unhappy.
There was optimism for the republic, the economy, and German culture. This optimism was dashed however, by the world depression and the Wall Street crash of 1929. Investment was withdrawn from the economy, causing it to go into decline again. This caused unemployment to reach record levels of six million. Many people began to turn to Hitler, who preached employment and greatness, this is reflected by the Nazis gaining 107 seats in the 1930 election. This shows people were looking for a more extremist solution. There were thousand of demonstrations against the government from most political groups. 13,00 Nazi demonstrations took place during 1930 alone. Bruing relied on decrees to keep order.
The depression created the very situation that Hitler had been
waiting for. The Nazi's believed that only a national catastrophe
would see them win power, and they were correct. The Nazi's
stirred up opposition to the government and republic, by linking
the government to Versailles, and linking Versailles to all of
Germany's problems. The Nazi's also blamed other political
groups, especially the communists. Hitler had such a wide appeal.
He was attractive to the workers because he promised employment,
and appealed to the middle classes because they distrusted the
current government. Hitler also promised that he would act
legally and with order. However, the elections of 1932 saw the
Nazi's lose two million votes at the expense of the communists,
the KPD. The country was showing signs of splitting into two. The
one thing that both groups had in common was that they wanted to
change the system of government. That did not bode well for the
Weimar republic. By now is was clear that the country was going
to go one way and the republic was doomed. There was a great fear
of civil war amongst the people, and they had to choose who they
wanted to prevent this, and unite the country. Hitler was an
excellent orator, and had a strong personality and promised
greatness for the German people. By March 1933 it was clear that
more people had turned to the Nazis, who gained 92 more seats,
and the communists lost 19. The Nazi revolution was beginning. By
this time, the Reichstag saw a Nazi majority and was headed by a
Nazi Chancellor. Key Nazi points were soon introduced as law.
Point 25 of the Nazi 25 points, Centralisation, was evident when
Hitler subordinated the local governments. By May, trade unions
were banned, the S.D.P was dissolved, and by June, the Nazi party
was the only legal party. When Hindenburg died a year later,
Hitler appointed himself Fuhrer, and the Weimar republic came to
From the very start, the Weimar republic faced opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. There was potential for the reintroduction of a monarch, or even a communist state, and several attempted revolutions occurred. The public blamed their problems on the Treaty of Versailles, and in turn, blamed the government that signed it. The new government had inherited a difficult situation. It was inevitable that the new government would have faced difficulties from the start, but to say doomed is unfair. The republic was beginning to overcome it's difficulties during the mid 1920's as economic, political, and cultural improvements were occurring, and if it hadn't been for circumstances, mainly the Wall Street Crash, the republic may have prospered for many years. These circumstances gave the extremists, the Nazi's, an opportunity for advancement as the people searched for a more radical solution to the depression. It was not evident that the republic was doomed from the start, but it was evident that the republic was doomed from 1930, when the country was splitting into two groups, left and right, who both wanted an end to the republic, and a change to another political system, communist or Nazi. Hiden states that, "No one factor was responsible for the collapse of the Weimar republic, but the combination of factors and circumstances that lead to it's down fall."