IBDP Essays about the Weimar Republic

Fritz Lang's Metropolis remixed with Vangelis's soundtrack to Blade Runner.

Terrific video presentation (sans sound) from one of my Grade 10 students presenting the work of Otto Dix and features of German art from the Weimar period.
Video my senior students made about this time in Freising's history during Weimar

IBDP History Paper 2 November 2011
7. “Weakness in the constitution and the failure of political parties to support democracy caused the failure of the multiparty state in Weimer Germany (1919-1933).” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

The Weimar constitution by democracy’s most literal interpretation created one of, if not, the most democratic state in the world, in theory. The Weimer constitution and the provision’s it contained allowed for a vast breadth of political parties all representing Individual, particular ideologies. It is, however the unrestrained, extreme form of democracy that the Weimer constitution, and the political parties it caused that was the fundamental weakness, that caused the ultimate failure of democracy.
Proportional representation was a centerpiece of the Weimar democratic system, and was, in part it’s undoing, a point articulated in Richard J. Evans’s 2003 book “The coming of the Third Reich”.  Proportional representation was a system of voting whereby the size of any voting block in Germany would receive exactly equal to that scale in the Reichstag. This sounds, in theory exactly what a democratic system should strive for, but that is in theory, but reality is not theoretical. In practice, from1919-1924 at a time when in McGonigle words in the legacy of war  “ The November criminals hung like a giant shadow over the period of Weimar Germany”, already detracting from the legitimacy of the Weimar state which needed strong leadership. The German people saw their nation being fractured by unrest, with the Spartist revolt January 1919 or the declaration of an independent Bavarian communist state in a April 1919. In this time the Weimar government seemed unable to control unable to control Germany, with 11 parties actively holding seats in the Reichstag in 1920 and 28 at its highest point in later years, the largest party only holding 37% of the seats in 1920, and no party ever gaining a majority. This lack of a majority made decisions far harder to come by and less speedy always needing a coalition to form a government.
Coalition’s often needed more than two political parties to be able to form a majority as in the election of 1920, further compounding the problems of Weimar. The amount of political parties created by the proportional representation also allow for more extreme voices, voices often openly hostile to the idea of democracy such as the KDP or NSDAP. The instability caused weak government unable to truly rule, weak government through time, caused a lacking in trust and patience for the established political order. This is despite what seemed an end to troubles for some in the golden years, but was in fact the result, not of parliamentary democracy but of the presidential power Gustav Stresemann, working on borrowed money. This established political order who, because of the plurality of proportional representation was never able to rule, but blamed for that fact. This despair amongst the general public, made them seek after the catalyst of the 1929 wall street crash smaller fringe parties promising end to political deadlock. As the leader of the the once fringe NSDAP Hitler said at his annual Nuremburg rally in 1932, “They say we don't want to work with other political parties – I have to admit on thing these gentlemen are right- I have one goal to sweep these 30 political parties out of Germany” Proportional representation and political volatility it created, manifested an atmosphere of such extreme democracy that it hindered the function of democracy, and as a result did not support democracy in practice.
The weakness of this proportional representation parliamentary system was contrasted and contradicted by Article 48 of the Weimar constitution. Article 48 allowed in times warranting quick action the issuing of dictatorial decrees. Article 48 was not, however a designed to be a means of government but an extreme measure in times of emergency. The first President of the Weimar government Freidrich Ebert, used this power on 136 occasions, to control unrest in the early years of the Weimar democracy. Many of these instances help maintain the continuation of Weimar democracy such as the organization of the Freikorps to restore order to a ceded Bavaria workers republic, or to squash a rebellion in the Rhineland. In the short term it could be fairly asserted the Article supported democracy, but in the long term is served to undermine the parliamentary authority by showing its inadequacy, and showing the strength of authoritarian power. It must however be noted that in some instances Article 48 was even used to depose fairly elected governments such as in Saxony, further and in a most blatant way detracting the constitution claim to supporting democracy. Article 48 throughout the Weimar republic increasingly became seen as not responding to specific emergency but as replacement for parliamentary leadership.
It could be contended as it is in Richard J. Evans afore mentioned book that the misuse of Article 48 is not to be blamed on the constitution but on the men who misused. It is for men to decide whether they wish to follow the spirit of the laws they work with. Under this premise it could not be argued that the constitution failed democracy but democracy failed the constitution.
To say the Weimar constitution and the failure of political parties caused, soley the failure of Weimar would naive and overly simplistic; It is however true the Weimar constitution, contained within the Trojan horses of proportional representation and Article 48. On the surface it seemed these notions seemed to add stability and longevity to a new Germany state. How far from the truth this thoughts would turn out to be. Instead these fundamental sections of the constitution served to destabilize and undermine, the democracy in it’s infancy not support it. They caused democracy to fail and people to seek more forceful and authoritarian leadership, leadership promised by fringe political parties. The ultimate result of this was the 1933-enabling act in which Hitler took total control of Germany, after winning the election 1932.
Immediate problems facing the Weimar Republic
The Weimar republic was a democratic government in Germany created shortly after the first Great War (1919). It was named after the city in which the constitution was first created. This new government was meant to be the best solution for the Germans, but it was a failure because of the inefficiency of the constitution, various rebellions and the invasion- Inflation crisis in 1923.
The first problem faced by the Weimar republic was its inefficient constitution. First of all, the Article 48 of the constitution stated that the President had the power to appoint members of the Reichstag for only the sake of emergency. Frederic Ebert, the first president rarely used the power of this article, but his successor, Paul Von Hindenburg, abused this power and constantly changed the members of the Reichstag. This made the whole point of democracy useless, because it made the President look like a dictator. Another problem with the constitution was the fact that State leaders had too much power, making them ignore the Government; the Right- wing army too wasn't controlled by the government, and all this proved how weak the governmental system was.
Another major problem is the various rebellions occurring in Germany at the time. In 1919, two communist leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht, with a communist rebel group, The Spartacists, attempted an army revolution in Berlin, known as the Spartacist Revolt (left wing). This rebellion was no success because of the intervention of the Freikorps; the ex- soldiers form the First World War. The two leaders were murdered. Communist Workers councils took over Bavaria with the intention of making it an independent nation. Then came the Kapp Putsh ("putsch", attempt on taking power illegally) which aimed in creating a military dictatorship (right wing), but because of a general strike by the trade unions, it was called off.The main the reason the Right wing detested the Weimar republic was because they hated the fact that they signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 1919, which they believed was the treaty that put their country to shame. This all showed the disorganization in the country.
Finally, a major problem would come from the Invasion- inflation crisis of 1923. This was caused by the payment of reparations (6.6 billion pounds). The government began to print more money in order to pay, leading to inflation. There was a terrible economic instability because of this, but it was only the beginning. On January 1923, Germany was unable to pay reparations and France attacked the Ruhr without hesitation. This lead to desperate measures, including a general strike and more money was printed and "Hyper Inflation" was born, Germany was disgraced by this. The communists took over in Saxony and Thuringia and the Rhineland declared independence (21-22 October).
Germany had gone haywire from all these problems. A country once known as the greatest had then been reduced to nothing and this raised a lot of tension. This tension fed the hate of one man, Adolf Hitler, who also hated the Treaty of Versailles. As a matter of fact, this whole mess was begun because of the hatred people had for the treaty of Versailles; after all, the Weimar Republic was created by this treaty.

What were the main features of the Weimar constitution, and to what extent was it democratic?

The Weimar Republic was developed in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles following the Armistice of 1918. Germany having suffered great losses in the Great War blamed much of their miserable predicament on their new government (known later as the 'November Criminals') as they saw them as the ones that had signed the treaty and admitted defeat. The constitution attempted to bring democracy to Germany and according to William Shirer was the "most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen."  Why then, were the years under Weimar Germany so politically controversial and deeply unstable, leading to the rise of Hitler? The historian Richard J. Evans remarked that "It's more problematical provision might not have mattered so much had the circumstances been different." Indeed, the orthodox view of Weimar Germany sees it as a time period full of struggle, assassinations and political instability. This orthodox view is orthodox for a reason. Knowing that ironically this democracy led to the rise of a dictator who arguably caused one of the most horrific wars in history it is easy to pinpoint elements of the Weimar Republic and it's legislation that were negative. But despite its collapse, I believe Weimar Germany was a brave attempt at creating a constitution that was not only concerned with building a viable democratic political structure but also one that sought to establish revolutionary social and economic rights - a complex document aiming to make way for the basis of modern parliamentary democracy. Therefore the document itself represented clear democratic features, but the enactment of these features in this time period could not maintain democracy and led to one of the most politically confused eras of German history.

Perhaps the most significant element of the constitution that proves without a doubt that Weimar Germany was a democracy is the system of election - proportional representation. Article 20 states that "The Reichstag is composed by the representatives elected by the German people." To think in mathematical terms, this is the most democratic system that could be put in place - the number of votes a party received corresponded directly to the number of seats that party held in government. Unlike other democratic systems in place the German election process also included all men and women over the age of 20 making Germany one of the first countries in Europe to allow women to vote. This alone is surely enough to convince one of the sophistication the constitution demonstrated. The country, divided into 35 electoral areas, voted, and a party was ensured one seat for every 60,000 people that voted them there. Furthermore, the parliament was given power over the army and was to be re-elected every four years. Evidently in writing this is a magnificent document. However the components of the constitution being democratic does not necessarily that it worked flawlessly. The ideology encountered terrible problems. First the wide spectrum of political parties such as the right-winged DVP, to the Zentrum Partei, to the left-winged KPD had such conflicting principles, and had left Germany so divided that no single party was able to secure 50% of the vote. As a result coalition governments were rife, decisions were not made easily, government upon government was overturned and there was deep political instability. There was a total of twenty different coalitions with the longest government maintaining control for a mere two years. Once again in practise the document was the epitome of democracy, but in reality it fell into a political stew pot of flavours and poisons.

The system of election itself not enough, even parliamentary control was to be tempered, especially under Article 48 - there was still a lot of power placed in the hands of very few individuals. Articles 46-49 of the Weimar Constitution delineated the powers of the president and made very clear the immense power the president would hold from appointing and dismissing chancellors, to having control of the army, to being able to call a state of emergency and rule by degree under Article 48. Firstly, the appointing and dismissing of chancellors by the president is seen by some as an undemocratic element of the constitution as it gives the power to one person, and not the people. However, I feel that as the German population voted the president in, they would have chosen someone that represented their ideals which would be expressed through the appointing of chancellors. As for having power over the army, this was important to democracy, the president was again chosen by the people and therefore had the final say. Unfortunately as has been a common theme already the practise was different than the written word and often the president lost control of the army such as happened during the Kapp Putsch revolt in Berlin. Finally a highly criticised aspect of the constitution was in regards to Article 48 - giving one man pure control of the country in any situation he chooses to define as an 'emergency' takes the power completely away from the people and nudges it strongly towards a dictatorship. However, without this the governmental system may have fallen many times such as when Ebert called for a state of emergency and took control during the Spartacist uprising in 1919. As Baroness Ruth B. Henig wrote in her book on the Weimar Republic after explaining the power the president was given, "Thus the President would check the Reichstag, the Reichstag would check the individual states, and parliamentary democracy would be safeguarded." Evidently this holds significant merit - the problem of course arises when the 'checker' at the top of the chain is abusing his power. Therefore I feel that although the initial formula for maintaining parliamentary democracy was sound, it did not address or even recognise this vital flaw and set itself up to be ripped apart in its putting of power in the hands of one man.

Another single man continued to rule during Weimar Germany, even though he was no longer in a direct position of power - a fact that undermined the playing out of democracy. Officials and judges put in place by the Kaiser had not lost their positions of power when he did. His once important hand continued to reach out into Weimar Germany - take article 109 which stated "All Germans are equal in front of the law." However these Kaiser judges were heavily biased and this article was not exercised. Let us take for example the Spartacus movement of 1919 and the Kapp Putsch of March 1920. 1919 brought about the left-wing Sparticist movement, led by Rosa Luxenburg and Karl Leibknecht. The attempted revolution was dramatically crushed by both the army and the Free Corps, and the leaders were brutally murdered. In contrast, during the right-winged Kapp Putsch the army refused to crush the rebellion and instead supported Kapp by providing him with weaponry. In fact, the movement was only stopped when the people threw a general strike, bringing the country to a standstill and forcing Kapp to Sweden after just 100 hours in power. Isolated, this strike may show true democracy. A Marxist perspective would be quick to point out the power of the people. What this demonstrates in terms of democracy is that the people did have control and could make the changes they desired. But then we are presented with further information: 770 people were arrested, but one soul man stood trial. Clearly the deep discrepancies in the application of the democratic legislation were varied and the originally democratic rights German citizens were given were tainted and marred in their application to real life situations.

This connects heavily to the Bill of Rights which is the final aspect that can be used to heavily outline to democratic system in place. As well as creating a constitution that served the requirements of a democratic, fair, and just parliament it also expanded its aims to attend to the welfare of its population. Article 118 stated that "Every german is entitled […] to express his opinion freely in word, writing, print, image or otherwise […] there is no censorship…"  Article 135 continued along the same freedom of the people lines "All Reich inhabitants enjoy full freedom of liberty and conscience." Furthermore many aspects of the constitution aimed to provide financial aid to the people - Article 119 declares "Large families may claim social welfare". Such grand aims were truly admirable, but to be fair were also unrealistic. Germany was in a situation of deep economic trouble - it was being asked to pay reparations for the first war of 2/3 of the total price, a grand 6.6 billion. With such financial issues it was impossible for the government to financially aid its people. However, as revisionist historian Michael E. Brooks wrote, "At the same time we should not forget that few democracies have been founded in such difficult circumstance as the Weimar Republic. The republic needed a long breathing space, it needed a more expansive and forgiving attitude on the part of the Western allies, it needed economic stability and progress - all of that was in precious short supply in the post World War 1 years." I think he definitely captures the essence of the document - it was democratic, but appears to have been produced without looking at the context of Germany, and what Germany was capable of achieving and being led under.

To conclude, the Weimar Republic's constitution was written with total democracy in mind - to bring this fabulous ideal to the country that had just emerged from an autocratic political system. However it asked a lot of the people of Germany who had just emerged from a devastating war, and who were suffering from deep economic troubles and on many accounts starvation. For this reason a truly democratic constitution was tossed around in a melee of different political spectrum's ideologies that in the end did not at all represent the true democratic nature of the document - but that did do perhaps the best it could considering the devastating circumstances.

In order to evaluate the democratic merit of the Weimar Republic, one needs to consider its roots: the Weimar constitution. Many claim that the Weimar Constitution made the republic intrinsically weak. It would be simplistic to blame this weakness on any single aspect of the constitution, but I believe that the a truly fatal weakness of the Weimar Constitution was that it was democratic to an unrealistic extent. This is particularly true of the voting process. It was too much too soon, going straight from a monarchy to this sort of republic. The role of the President in the constitution, as well as other governmental branches will also be considered.
            One of the main features of the Weimar Constitution was the concept of proportional representation. In this method of electing representatives for the Reichstag, political parties received the percentage of seats that they had received reflected the percentage of votes they got. Votes were taken from all men and women aged 20 and older. This was better than Britain, where only women 30 and older could vote. Overall, both of these constitutional concepts are very democratic ones. All popular view points are represented. However, the concept of proportional representation was almost too democratic. Decisions could not be made. There were simply too many parties and no one party could gain the majority vote, so there were frequently changing coalitions.
Another major player in the Weimar Constitution was the President. A President would be elected by the people and remain in office for 7 years. The President himself would choose a Chancellor. He also could dissolve the Reichstag and veto any laws he disapproved of. These aspects of the constitution could be seen as a stumbling block to the democratic process. However the height of the President’s power was found in Article 48, in which the President could declare a state of emergency and become, essentially, a dictator. The constitution did not specify what qualified as an emergency, and so this came to be known as the “enabling act.” It was supposed to be used only to restore order to the public, but Richard J Evans claimed that “in the end, [the President’s] excessive use [of Article 48], and occasional misuse of the Article widened its application to a point where it became a potential threat to democratic institutions.” Therefore, to some extent the President’s great power put the democratic nature of the Weimar Republic in peril.

Perhaps this presidential power was necessary, however, with the army’s, the legal system’s, and the local state governments’ lack of loyalty. Evans says that “Ebert’s concern for a smooth transition from war to peace led him to collaborate closely with the army without demanding any changes in its fiercely monarchist and ultra-conservative officer corps.” And so, the army acted against the President’s wishes on several occasions, one of which being the Kapp Putsch of 1923. The troops would not fire upon the Freikorps. As The Chief of the Army Command, General Hans von Seeckt stated at the time: “Reichswehr (army) do not fire upon Reichswehr.” After this putsch and future ones, there were many ineffective imprisonments as a large proportion of judges were right wing and wanted to destroy the democratic government. Lastly, the German states had too much power and also often ignored the president. This mess impeded on the democratic aspects of the constitution, as the elected government was unable to create order.
I think Richard J Evans truly describes the heart of the issue when he says: "all in all, Weimar's constitution was no worse than the constitutions of most other countries in the 1920's, and a good deal more democratic than many. Its more problematical provisions might not have mattered so much had the circumstances been different. But the fatal lack of legitimacy from which the Republic suffered magnified the constitution's faults many times over."

The Weimar Republic, implemented shortly after the signing of the Armistice in 1918, was Germany’s first attempt at a republic as such, and was in place for a rough 15 years before Hitler took over. In order to evaluate whether or not the constitution of Weimar Germany was democratic one must first understand the context of the time; Germany had been demoralized after the war and many believed in the “stabbed in the back” myth and they blamed this stab on the newly formed government, later known as the “November Criminals”, as they had been the ones to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and many Germans did not approve of the new government while many simply did not care as much. As William Shirer stated in his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” the Weimar constitution was "on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen”; in his opinion the ideology behind the Weimar Republic was great and incorporated much democracy yet the problem which the government was faced with was implementing their constitution. How should they do this when the country itself was not united as a whole? Right wing and left wing strongly opposed each other and openly fought in cities making it nearly impossible for a clear, well functioning democracy to grow and sustain itself in Germany. The historian Richard J. Evans agrees with this, according to him “all in all, Weimar's constitution was no worse than the constitutions of most other countries in the 1920's, and a good deal more democratic than many. Its more problematical provisions might not have mattered so much had the circumstances been different. But the fatal lack of legitimacy from which the Republic suffered magnified the constitution's faults many times over"; while the set up of Weimar contained good ideas; having a president elected by the people, having a universal suffrage for both sexes and a proper bill of rights could have created an amazingly democratic state yet there were problems. Implementing the constitution was the problem – a fact, which I mostly agree with. The chaos in Germany at the time, the hate between different groups of people and different parties and the little support of the public and army the government had, made the troubles in the constitution much worse than they actually were.
            One of the main features of the constitution was that for the first time Germany had a President of state. This president was elected every seven years by the general public of Germany giving them the total power to choose their head of state and already resulted in a feel of democracy in the newly written constitution. Yet seven years are an extremely long time for one president to serve – the president was in charge of appointing and dismissing a chancellor that would have the support of the Reichstag, the president was the head of the army, this however did not work out very well as the army itself was right winged and did not support the president, for example Friedrich Ebert, who had not been supported by the army when it came to fighting the Kapp Putsch revolt in Berlin. The power to appoint and dismiss the chancellor, which the president had was in a way a limiting factor of democracy as the president himself was almost more of a figurehead position while the chancellor was the one who did most of the work. As a result, the German population had little to no say when it came to choosing their chancellor – they had to trust in their president to appoint someone who was capable and wouldn’t abuse his powers but as one can see in the case of Hindenburg who appointed Hitler as chancellor the president did make mistakes – and this lack of voting freedom in the case of the chancellor made the Weimar constitution less democratic. The president also had another power in the form of Article 48; under this article the president could declare a state of emergency and rule by decree, which happened quite often like in the case of the Spartacist uprising in January 1919. This article could easily be abused as a “state of emergency” is interpreted differently by everyone and under it the president had the sole power in the country – here democracy was completely ignored as the president functioning as a dictator would not rule in a democratic way even if it was for the good of the people.
            Another part of the Weimar Constitution was that a Reichstag was to be formed. Here, seats were giving to different parties on the basis of proportional representation – each party received the number of seats according to the percentage of votes they obtained. Proportional representation was a good ideology in its roots, yet the way it was implemented was not too successful; obviously this way of obtaining a place in parliament was democratic, as each party could receive a set however, due to the vast number of different parties, from right-winged ones like the DVP who did not trust the democracy over the Zentrum Partei, a catholic party set up to defend and represent the catholic church’s interests to the left-winged party KPD who did not want a republic and were strongly united with Moscow to form a communist Germany,  there was great instability in the Reichstag. This instability caused little things to be able to be passed and approved by the parliament and thus show that even though very democratic the constitution of Weimar which had allowed proportional representation was hindering itself by allowing “too much” democracy, resulting in much bickering but no major changes. The Reichstag was also elected by the general public of Germany, however not every seven years like the president but every four years. Under the Weimar Republic universal suffrage was implemented, every German over the age of twenty, no matter of sex, was allowed to vote making the voting itself rather fair as one was no longer discriminated by sex, there were however, also problems with this. Even though there were plenty of parties in existence who put themselves up for election there were none to represent the women. So whom would they vote for if there was not a specific women’s party, or a party that represented they wishes? Often, this resulted in women voting for the same party as their husband without putting into consideration any other parties or they voted for the Central Party, which often represented their wishes if they were catholic. The large number of political parties in Germany also led to many coalition governments as no party could secure fifty percent of votes for themselves to become the sole party in power – during the fourteen years of Weimar rule there were twenty different coalitions, the longest government being in power for two years. This absolute chaos, even though built on democracy, made it nearly impossible for a government to fulfil the wishes of the people and thus allowed little democracy.
            The Weimar Republic included a bill of rights for the first time in German history. Under this bill of rights Germans were promised equality before the law as long as political and religious freedom this however was not carried out as planned. As Rosa Luxenburg stated "freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party” this showing how differently this bill of rights was actually carried out. Taking the Spartacus movement of 1919 and the Kapp Putsch in March 1920 as an example, the left-winged Spartacus movement was crushed and the leader, Rosa Luxenburg and Karl Liebknecht, were killed along by the army along with the support of the Free Corps together with many other Spartacists. When the right-winged Kapp Putsch came in 1920, the army refused to help and even supported Kapp and his men with weapons and the movement was only stopped when Ebert called trade unions and workers to go on strike. After 100 hours in power in Berlin, Kapp fled to Sweden, leaving a total of 770 people to be arrested of which only one was actually tried. This is a perfect example of how the bill or rights were not applied equally to everyone in Germany at that time; the left-wing uprising was slaughtered, as well as the leaders of the Ratrepublik in Munich in addition to other communists at the time, while right-wing uprisings were met with much more lenient measures as the army supported them. This is quite a drastic example of how the constitution of the Weimar Republic was not democratic. Much like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in the Weimar Republic “all animals were equal, but some were more equal than others”, in the case of Germany this conflict was in between the right-winged army and the left-winged communists, the right-winged parties being the more equal ones while left-winged party members would be beaten or even killed in the streets of, for example, Munich just because of a different political viewpoint which was allowed under the constitution. Another example of a fail of democracy of the bill of rights is the number of political assassinations in Germany between 1919 and 1922 – a rough total of 356, most carried out by right winged extremists who wanted to get rid of the by them unwanted Weimar Republic and who would use any means to do so.
            All in all I believe the Weimar Republic’s constitution to be democratic in its roots, yet it failed to fully carry out its democratic building blocks and hindered itself from fulfilling its true potential through the division of parties, with none standing up to represent Germany as a whole. Also the bill of rights, which was not applied to some people made the level of democracy in Weimar Germany less than it could have actually been. Due to this I believe that while the ideology behind the Weimar constitution was truly democratic its enactment was not.

William Shirer in his highly regarded book, Rise and Fall of the third Reich wrote about the Weimar constitution "on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen ... full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy.” However in action the years that the Weimar system was implemented were wrought with violence and discontent with the government and the democratic system. It seems amazing that such a “liberal and democratic” document could lead to such disaffection and apparently  lead to the rise of national socialism, which ideals seemingly are the polar opposite to those of the Weimar Republic. Due to this I will attempt to argue that the constitution of the Weimar Republic was in fact highly democratic and it was the context that it was implemented and not the un democratic nature of it that lead to discontent.

The voting system enacted by the Weimar government was one of proportional representation, its apparent merits are well summed up in the words of Desmond Tutu who wrote "The system of proportional representation ensures that virtually every constituency in the country will have a hearing in the national and provincial legislatures." I however would argue that by representing everyone's views to some extent It becomes somewhat undemocratic as it inevitably ends up that the government represents no ones. Another problem with this system of government is that it naturally leads to a divided government and coalitions which in turn lead to very little being done because of the opposing views of the parties. This in the instance of the Weimar Republic lead to people voting for more radical parties in the hope that they wouldn’t compromise thus adhering to the policies that the people voted. However despite the fact that It doesn’t seem proportional representation would work in any country I feel that It was a obvious attempt by the Weimar Republic to ensure that their constitution was highly democratic.

The Weimar republic was also one of the first instances of universal suffrage as it gave the vote to all men and women aged 20 or over. Due to this It seems very difficult to argue that the Weimar constitution wasn’t a very forward thinking document composed with the intention of having a highly democratic system. This however contributed to its downfall, as it was to much at odds with the previous system of government and was therefore not accept by the general populace of Germany.

Article 48 seemingly is the least democratic component of the constitution as it gave the president dictatorship like powers in a state of emergency. This I however would argue was entirely necessary as without such an article the government would have collapsed long before 1933. It was a long standing defence against the military wing of the KPD, the Spartacists, who attempted numerous times to take control of Germany and without article 48 it would have been almost impossible for the German government to combat this threat as they had a very small army due to the sanctions of the Treaty of Versailles. For these reasons it seems inevitable that without being able to easily mobilize the army and give the police more power the Weimar government would have struggled to keep power. Therefore in conclusion It seems that although Article 48 obviously was not entirely democratic without such an article the democratic Weimar Republic would have collapsed long before 1933 therefore it was entirely necessary to ensure that democracy didn’t collapse in Germany.

In conclusion the Weimar Republic constitution could not be argued to be anything other than an attempt at creating a very forward thinking democracy. This is most apparent in the introduction of proportional representation and universal suffrage. Despite the fact that Article 48 is often argued to have been the downfall of the Weimar Republic and undemocratic it seems to have been entirely necessary at the time to ensure that democracy didn’t collapse in Germany before 1933.

            The fundamental theory, on which the Weimar Republic was planned to be built upon expressed the principal objectives of a democracy. However, this essay will argue whether the main features of the constitution were indeed democratic or, in the words of Lenin, if they merely looked democratic but were in fact a mirage using two main examples: Article 48 and the powers of the president, the political system including proportional representation and the Bill of Rights. The Germany that emerged from the Great War was crippled and demoralized. It had lost over two and a half million men to the war and four million were wounded. The forced abdication of the Kaiser was met with high discontent of the society and thus, the new democratic constitution was what Germany needed to get back on its feet.
            Article 48 gave the President of the Weimar Republic dictatorial powers should an emergency situation demand this, meaning it allowed the President to override the Reichstag to pass laws. This provided the opportunity for the country leader to solve possible harming disputes that may have otherwise not been solved due to opinions within the Reichstag that were not unanimous. However, the first president of the Republic, Friedrich Ebert, used the powers of the Article 136 times. Historian Richard Evans states that Ebert misused the Article in non-emergency situations to simply get his political desires passed through the Reichstag without any opposition. This was of course not what the article was designed for and therefore Ebert's actions "became a potential threat to democratic institutions." This provides evidence that Article 48 was in fact not very democratic as it shows how easy it was for a President to dictate a country, possibly against the will of the people, without much justification. As well as this the president was elected by the people for seven years. In seven years a lot of things could happen to make the view of the people change. They are not able to vote for the party they believe to be the best for their country and fellow citizens and they have no say in political affairs for seven years, which shows again that democracy was not exactly at its best state in the new Republic.
            Proportional Representation is a political system still used in Germany today and as a German I believe it is rather effective. It is highly democratic as it allows all parties to have a say, not just the major ones. During the Weimar Republic, people aged 20 and above were allowed to vote, even women, giving an equal chance to the people of Germany. However, during the Weimar time period this system created more problems than it solved. Firstly, it made the Republic politically weak due to a vast number of completely different parties, where each represented very narrow selectional interests such as religion, regions or social class. Thus, there were frequently changing coalitions. The people of the Republic suffered from a constantly changing leadership, denying them stability and reassurance during a time where they needed it most to build up the country from the ruins caused by the Great War. This was evidently not good for the German society but if a democratic government is not able to give its people the chance to be successful then is it still democratic? As well as this women were allowed to vote, which is again extremely democratic, but there was an issue with this as well and that was the fact that no party truly represented them and their desires, suggesting that the new constitution did not create a democratic republic as it failed to offer representation for half the population.
            Finally, the Bill of Rights protected the freedom of the people and their equality before the law. Again, this is very democratic, however, this was not exactly carried out. Between 1919 and 1922 there were 356 political murders. For example Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who lead the Communist uprisings in Germany during this time were brutally murdered. Where was their equality before the law and freedom of speech? This evidently shows that the Weimar constitution consisted of qualitative democratic principles that were simply not carried out correctly or followed.
            Therefore I believe that the key principles of the Weimar Republic, such as Article 48, proportional representation and the Bill of Rights, would have been ideal to construct and rebuild a new republic as they were all extremely democratic in theory. However, the way they were carried out, or not even followed, during the Weimar period was far from democratic. A president using the dictatorial powers to get his will, a government consisting of a vast number of parties representing many different groups of people throughout the German society and the Bill of Rights that was ignored for many cases does not make up a democratic republic where the people are supposed to be free to choose what is best for themselves. Thus, the key principles of the constitution were only democratic in theory and on paper, however, when carried out they failed to create a state strong enough to rebuild what had been shattered by the Great War.

When the new German Constitution, the “Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs” was created in the city of Weimar in Germany, 1919, Germany was in a state of Turmoil, Hyperinflation and Chaos. It could be considered a “Democratic Experiment.” The government was split and both radical right-and left wing parties were using violence in order to gain control of a country that was shaken to its core by the Loss of the First World War. The constitution of the Weimar Republic, which was in action until 1933, had flaws and weaknesses. This Constitution of the German Reich could be considered democratic and it can be argued to what extent the Constitution of the Weimar Republic really was democratic.

“On Paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen (…) full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy.”  These are the words used by historian William Shirer in his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” to describe how democratic the Weimar Republic was for its time.  This is true if one considers the conditions previous to the Weimar Constitution, and even though the Weimar Constitution is often criticized for its articles, the constitution a large step forwards in matters of Democracy for Germany. Taking a closer look at the actual constitution, we can see almost immediately the liberal changes brought forward with the constitution, taking in example article 126,

[1]“Every German is entitled to address the respective authority or parliament with petitions or grievances.”
The fact that even women were allowed to vote shows how liberal and democratic the constitution was. This constitution allowed women to vote almost 20 year before any woman in France was allowed to vote, a country, which has a reputation for being revolutionary, modern and liberal. In order to recognize how valuable and democratic this article is we must put it into context, remember that this is 1919 and not the twenty-first century.  Women had never received suffrage before and this can also be seen what period of change Germany was going through, changing from centuries of Monarchy to a somewhat Involuntary Democracy.

Another feature of the constitution would be the “Reichstag” and its Proportional Representation.  The fifth chapter of the Weimar Constitution, the “Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches” concerns about the German Parliament that would run by a system of Proportional Representation.  This can be an important factor of how democratic the new Constitution was. This system would be considered democratic because it ensured a fair vote and that the people’s views get represented. The Reichstag would consist of different parties, which get voted by the public, and the more votes they would receive from the folk, the more seats would they get in the Reichstag. This would show that the Weimar Constitution was democratic to a great extent because it ensured that citizens’ views are represented by not only one ruling monarch but by many different parties.  This system, nowadays called the “Bundestag”, is still used in Germany today and its success is visible by Germany’s strong economy and democracy.

On the other hand however it can be argued if the Weimar constitution really was democratic, or if it was just supposed to look like it was.  An example for this would be Article 48.  Article 48 read that in emergency situations the ruling power would be given dictatorial powers, and this clause especially is criticized by many.  Many blame the Weimar constitution for being a window in letting Hitler gain power over Germany.  Joseph W. Bendersky comments about Article 48 in his book “A History of Nazi Germany: 1919-1945”: “The Latter held that the constitution had in fact granted the president such extensive authority and that any attempts to restrict his powers would be contrary to the original intent of article 48”.
Article 48 is an excellent example to show that the Weimar Constitution of 1919 was democratic to a minimal extent because it basically ignored the democratic clauses it stated and returned the power back to one individual, just like it had previously been with monarchy. This article therefore is not in any way democratic due to the fact that it gives power to the president, and not to the people, the “Volk”.

The Weimar Republic could be considered democratic to a medium extent because even though it did have many very democratic articles it also had articles such as Article 48, which gave dictatorial powers to an individual, which is heavily contradictory to a democracy. We are not allowed to forget however what conditions Germany was in and we must put into context that this constitution was created almost one hundred years previous to the time we are currently living in; Democracy was still in its making and Germany was somewhat a Pioneer for European Democracy at the time.  Coming back to William Shirer’s praising words of the Constitution,  even though it “seemed to be flawless”,  there were faults in the constitution, however it cannot be denied that his was indeed a democratic document.

[1] Website with Complete Weimar Constitution http://www.zum.de/psm/weimar/weimar_vve.php#Second Chapter : Life within a Community

What were the problems in Weimar Republic from 1919-1923?

The problems that occurred in Weimar Germany were unavoidable, considering the drastic different changes of the government before and after 1919. Before 1919, the government of Germany was almost a military autocracy under Kaiser Wilhelm II; after 1919, it was a parliamentary democracy. The drastic change from one pole to the other in such a short period did not allow people to adapt the changes and thus create a ground for conflicts. The problems occurred could be classified into different categories.
Militarily, army leaders created the "stab in the back" myth and did not support the new government. After the defeat of Germany, the right blamed all Germany's problems on the new democratic Weimar government. The army leaders in order to protect their reputation devised a myth called Dolchstosslegende , the "stab in the back" myth. They blamed the revolutionary socialists and the Jews for destroying Germany. This not only undermined the social stability between different groups of people, but also undermined the position of Weimar Germany. Weimar Republic was seen to be the result of the defeat of Germany and it was led by a socialist, Ebert. The action from the military created the foundation of problems to occur in Germany. The bigger problem the military posed to the government was the lack of support. The best example was 1920's Wolfgang Putsch, during which when the Defence Minister Gustav Noske called General Seeckt, one of the Reichswehr's senior commanders, to suppress the putsch, he refused and stated that, "Reichswehr does not shoot on Reichswehr" Although the putsch was collapsed by the general strike, it showed the tension between the army and the newly formed government, and how the government was at a great risk by not being backed up by the army. However on the other hand, the collapse of the putsch also showed that not everyone was against the government. Furthermore, the fact that some of the senior commanders of the Freikorps refused to join the putsch also revealed the potential strength the government might have. The support for Mr. Bush nowadays is only 50% maximum, which means there are 50% of the people against him, and this does not create a serious problem for him. Therefore, for Weimar Republic, the lack of support for the government could create problems but it would not be a huge issue if it were the only reason.
Politically, the different ideologies collided and created conflicts, which induced the social instability. Before 1919, Germany was using a hereditary monarchy system, where Kaiser Wilhelm II controlled everything, from controlling the army to appointing the government, to calling and dismissing of the Reichstag. Basically, he had the absolute power. However, after 1919, the government became a parliamentary democracy, where everything was elected. Many were indignant with this drastic change, and they thought that Weimar Germany was not as good as it could be. The coup d'etats from both sides, left and right, only made the situation worse. In 1919, the Spartacists led by Marxists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in the wish of turning Germany into a soviet-based republic like Russia was crushed mercilessly by the regular troops and Freikorps. A suppression over the Bavarian Soviet Republic was carried out and it held a bitter grudge against the new SPD government. On the other hand, the Right also started a coupdetat, best shown in 1920's Dr. Wolfgang's Putsch. The attempts to overthrow the government from both sides undoubtedly weakened the government. In addition, the Treaty of Versailles also undermined the support of
Furthermore, the Weimar Constitution did not create a strong government. From the Article 48 to the proportional voting, they were all undermining the power of the weak Weimar Germany. Article 48 stated that the President could have sole power during the "time of emergency" , which the President often took. It allowed the President to bypass the government or Reichstag if he wished. It was very much like the Fundamental Law of Tsar Nicholas II in 1906 as a supplement to the October Manifesto created in 1905 as a response to the revolution. This Article 48 could easily aid the ruler to turn the parliament democracy into another autocracy, and therefore the power of the government was weak. Moreover, the system of proportional voting led to a state with 28 parties and it was impossible to establish a majority in the Reichstag. This led to a frequent change in the government and thus made many to lose faith in it. Thus, the Weimar Constitution under these circumstances was weak.
In addition, the Treaty of Versailles also undermined the position of Weimar Democracy. In 1919, the Allies were discussing the post-war settlements and they imposed their decision on Germany without even negotiating with it. They presented Germany two choices: whether accept the terms or go back to war. Germany had no choice but to accept the harsh terms. The people who signed the Treaty of Versailles were labeled as the "November Criminals". The Germans were angry at this and further create social instability from this political factor.
Economically, the hyperinflations totally ruined the economies of Germany and worsen the lives of the Germans. Germany had agreed to pay 6.6 billion pounds for reparation according the Treaty of Versailles, and when it failed to make its payment on 1923, France and Belgium invaded the Ruhr to make Germany pay. The government ordered the workers in Ruhr to go on paid strike. Ruhr being the most economically and industrially developed area in Germany hurt the economies of Germany greatly by stopping all of its production; plus, the government had to print more money in order to pay the workers, the price of goods went up as the money meant less and less. This led to a hyperinflation . At the situation worst period, the Germans would rather burn the money to sustain their warmth than buying coal or woods because burning money was much cheaper. The bad situation only led the civilians to be angry and bore grudge against the government, and therefore created problems for the new government.
The problems mentioned above from economic, military and political standpoints are only the primary problems that occurred in Weimar Germany. Although there were more problems, they could best represent the threats Germany was facing at that time.

Assessing Stresemann’s Achievements

To understand Gustav Stresemann’s role in Weimar Germany, one must understand Weimar herself. The essence of the young Republic is best epitomized in the popular culture of the time, specifically the film industry. For instance, the movie Metropolis accurately captures the Zeitgeist of the 1920s, as it depicts the general social atmosphere, public doubt and even fear. This legendary futuristic picture portrays a society with an increasingly yawning chasm between the upper and working classes. Subtle unrest and eventual attempted revolution germinate in the underground world of labourers, as they are seduced into challenging their position in civilization. The chaos illustrated in the film paralleled the reality of Weimar Republic, a society dominated by the grounded terror of nationwide communist insurrections. With over 50,000 aggressive Spartacists roaming the streets of Berlin in 1919[1], the Red Army and workers councils calling for revolution, anarchism and Bolshevism appeared realistically close to vanquishing any last shred of order. Metropolis encapsulates the aura of insecurity engulfing the new democracy; it was an unprecedented, tottery system for Germany and to many the social system seemed in the midst of a pandemonic restructuring. In this period of violence the nation needed a guiding grasp. She found it in Gustav Stresemann. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Stresemann in 1926[1] patently manifests his adeptness as a statesman from an international point of view. In his years as foreign minister, he dedicated himself to reestablishing Germany’s position in the world of international relations. His leading role in agreements such as the 1924 Dawes Plan, the 1925 Locarno Pact, the 1926 Treaty of Berlin, the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact and the 1929 Young Plan ensured German economic and social well-being. The Dawes and Young Plans for instance reduced the total reparations bill, set a time limit, spread out the payments and provided an allied loan of 800 million marks to “maintain the economic unity of Weimar”[2]. explain how it changed Germany The Locarno Pact ended the most sanguinary tensions between France and Germany and ensured that France would not invade Germany again. This was hailed as a beginning of a “new era in the relations between France and Germany”[3]. In addition to this, Stresemann’s negotiating capabilities secured Germany a position in the League of Nations and thus constructed a new German image, placing her back into positive international light.

The orthodox view of Stresemann is that while he was a gifted foreign minister, a likable character in the international scene, his internal policies were not as successful. According to Geoff Layton, “historians agree that where Stresemann’s policies failed, he did not generate real domestic support for Weimar”[1]. meaning? Noted historian Richard J. Evans affirms that Stresemann was heavily criticized for his policy of “fulfilment”, to fulfil the terms of the loathed Peace Settlement[2]. While his party suffered the continual loss of electoral support, Stresemann placed more faith into the “primacy of foreign policy” and progressively disregarded domestic stratagem[3]. You need to move beyond parroting others' views and examining their reliability or value. You just give a quote and leave it at that. But what do YOU think given their ideas? However, one must not forget that one of his finest accomplishments was an internal refinement. The stabilisation of the German economy during the hyperinflation of 1923 was greatly due to his introduction of the Rentenmark, one being worth

original Marks[4], and the securement of mortgages of land and industry. The suave slip into Weimar’s Golden Years between 1924 and 1929 was indebted to Stresemann’s rescue of the economic household. Yet how firm was this amelioration?
Germany after the Great War was named after Weimar, no.m It was called Germany- they didn't change the name of the country to that of a provincial town! the city embodying German intellectual achievement and sophistication. Goethe penned his masterpiece Faust in the city to later become the location of the formulation of Germany’s destiny. Like Faust thoughtlessly endorsed his soul to Satan, the Weimar democracy would soon suffer the same fate. brilliant idea, that.. The golden Stresemann days from 1925 up to his death in 1929[5] resemble Faust’s period of hedonism, living in a semblance of fortune, yet inevitably marching towards doom. Similarly, Stresemann’s angelic methods allowed the Republic to flourish for four blissful years, until his sudden demise in October, the same month as the Wall Street crash. From then on, Weimar subsided back into the chaos of Metropolis. The American credits solidified in the Dawes Plan melted into worthlessness[6], one demonstration that Stresemann’s achievements were simply a mirage. This is further manifested in the sudden oscillation of voting results after his death: support for Stresemann’s DVP decreased dramatically, due to the forfeiture of its main head supplying concrete direction and purpose. By 1930, extremist anti-democratic parties earned alarmingly more votes than usual. The NSDAP won 107 seats, second only to the SPD with 143 seats, closely followed by the KPD with 77 seats[7]. Radical parties began to gain a substantial voice in parliament after Stresemann, essentially leading to Adolf Hitler’s procurement of power. This shows beyond doubt that Stresemann’s achievements, impressive as they may have been in Weimar’s turbulent state, were an illusion that brought Weimar back into savage volatility after they withered.
Gustav Stresemann remained in unbroken power for nine successive administrations[8], providing Weimar with the crucial bearing she needed for six years. Even though his accomplishments were reduced to nothingness after 1929, he was responsible for one of the most culturally and socially productive periods Germany has ever seen. If it were not for his guidance from 1923 to 1929, the unstable, war-traumatized Germany may have fallen to Nazism far earlier; Stresemann’s era was a dream that was lost not to his awaking, but to his eternal sleep, giving Hitler the second chance he needed.

[1] Layton, Geoff. Access to History - Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany 1918-33. Page 92. London: Hodder Murray, 2005.
[2] Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. Page 192. Penguin Books, 2003.
[3] Mommsen, Hans; Forster, Elborg. The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. Page 213. UNC Press Books, 1998.
[4] Allen, Larry. The Encyclopedia of Money. Page 338. ABC-CLIO, 2009.
[5] Balderston, Theo. Economics and Politics in the Weimar Republic. Page 61. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
[6] Layton, Geoff. Access to History - Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany 1918-33. Page 122. London: Hodder Murray, 2005.
[7] Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic. Page113. Routledge, 2005.
[8] Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. Page 87. Penguin Books, 2003.

[1] Layton, Geoff. Access to History - Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany 1918-33. Page 89. London: Hodder Murray, 2005.
[2] Adam, Thomas. Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History: A Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia. Volume 2. Page 272. ABC-CLIO, 2005.
[3] Nanda, Siba Prasand. History of the Modern World (1919-1980). Page 46. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., 2002.

[1] Lee, Stephen J. Weimar and Nazi Germany. Page 11. Heinemann, 1996.

"The history of the world is but the biography of great men”. Was Stresemann one such man? Gustav Stresemann, born 1878, was chancellor of Germany in 1923 and remained Foreign Minister until the end of his life in 1929. During the last 6 years of his life, he is credited with numerous achievements (which I will go into later) which allowed Weimer Germany to go through the “Golden Age” of its existence. Nonetheless, in light of these great achievements, one must also examine what came before Stresemann and what came after his premature death, for I believe one can only then fully assess Stresemann’s achievements when one looks at the bigger picture of Germany before, and after Stresemann.

Before Gustav Stresemann, Weimar Germany was in a state of chaos, and this fact is essential to investigate when assessing Stresemann’s achievements. Democracy was altogether a “new idea” for most of Europe, let alone Germany, and one that would take until 1989 to fully be integrated and accepted in Germany. There were countless problems that plagued Weimar Germany from 1919 to 1923. To begin with, the Weimar Government itself was a great deal to blame. The democratic system of proportional representation led to the severe problem of there being too many political parties in the Reichstag. This meant it was virtually impossible for a majority to be established, as well as there being far too frequent changes in the government. In addition to there being problems in the Government, the Army – The Reichswehr (under the leadership of General Hans von Seekt) and government officials in the police and judicial system, were extremely right-wing, not supporting the predominately SPD government and letting people like Adolf Hitler off with 9 months imprisonment after the Munich Putsch. Left and Right-Wing rebellions and insurrections also plagued the government. In 1919, 500,000 Spartacists (Communists) took to the streets of Berlin in a failed coup attempt and a Communist Peoples Government briefly took power in Munich. On the right-wing the Kapp Putsch of 1920 briefly took control of Berlin in hopes of restoring the Kaiser, Nationalist terrorists collectively assassinated 356 politicians and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted the “Beerhall Putsch” in 1923. Hyperinflation, caused by the Treaty of Versailles’ reparation sum of 6.6 pounds sterling and the ensuing French occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923, further helped to unstable Weimar integrity. It was clear by 1923 that Germany needed a strong leader to restore order.

According to the British Historian John Wheeler-Bennett, “...no figure since the war has so dominated European affairs as did Herr Stresemann...” The Weimar Republic would not have lasted as long as it did had it not been for Stresemann’s achievements. As soon as he was appointed Chancellor on 13 August 1923, Stresemann went to work getting his country back on the right track. Within a year, he had addressed the problem of hyperinflation by getting rid of the old Reichmark and introducing the Rentenmark, which was worth an astounding 1x12^10 old mark. Striking in the Ruhr was also called off and by 1924 the French had been persuaded to leave. The French were able to be persuaded by the Dawes Plan, an American endorsed plan aimed at giving Germany more time to pay its war reparations. This was later extended in the Younge Plan of 1929 to reduce the amount having to be paid by the Germans. In foreign policy, Germany also made huge improvements under Stresemann. As Foreign Minister, he signed the famous Locarno Treaty in which Germany formally agreed to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and its borders in the west (There was to be no such treaty in the east, giving Stalin reason to mistrust the West’s aims). In 1926, Germany was also finally allowed into the League of Nations, given a seat in the security council along with the other major powers of the world (excluding the USA and Russia), signifying Germany’s resurrection as a major world power. Stresemann also stimulated economic growth by borrowing 25,000 million gold marks, mainly from the USA, to improve Germany’s infrastructure and industry. For his feats in improving relations with the West, Gustav Stresemann was co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. Stresemann’s achievements are numerous. Without him, there would have been no “Roaring Twenties” in Germany. But were these “achievements” what they seemed? Did Stresemann truly solve Germany’s problems, or did he just repress them?

As the German historian Hermann Oncken said three days after Stresemann’s death, ”Suddenly all of us…feel that there is a vacuum in the political life of the nation…”http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.do - _ftn3 This quote supports the argument that Gustav Stresemann was too good of a statesman. A modern reference to this argument could be the role of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The essence of this argument is that the role and actions of these men have only a short term effect but have no lasting effect. In Stresemann’s case you could even argue that his legacy was negative. His extensive borrowing from the USA laid the foundation of Europe’s present day dependency on the US dollar. A further effect this “political vacuum” left by Stresemann had, was that since he was the force that had united the most central German parties (SPD, Centrum, DVP) into one coalition government, when he was gone Germany was once again plagued by the political problems it had faced before. This, coupled with the effect the Wall Street Crash in 1929, and a growing unemployment rate had on Germany’s economy, meant that more and more people were now moving toward radical parties such as the NSDAP and the DKP (Deutsche Kommunisten Partei). Before 1929, Stresemann’s successes had effectively kept these radical parties in the political wilderness, where as now they were reemerging as Germany faced greater crisis.

In conclusion, I do not believe that there is any sound argument that can diminish the simple fact that Gustav Stresemann’s did achieve some success in the 1920s rehabilitating Germany and helping her to retake its place among the major nations of Europe. Nevertheless, I believe that the events that succeeded Stresemann’s death and Germany’s ensuing descent into a totalitarian fascist regime proves the argument that Gustav Stresemann was in fact NOT a “Great Man”. His achievements, as magnificent as they might have seemed at the time, did not leave Germany with ANY lasting achievements which would help Germany navigate the challenges of the upcoming decades.

How Did Hindenburg Undermine German Democracy in 1925-33?

"...Instead of working to achieve power by an armed coup we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than outshooting them, at least the results will be guaranteed by their own Constitution! Any lawful process is slow. But sooner or later we shall have a majority - and after that Germany."Adolf Hitler stated the above while he was serving his sentence for the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in Landsberg Prison. This statement signified his dramatic changes in his policies for his attempts to become the leader of Germany. Before the sentencing, he wished to use a coup to take control of the German government, but the Nazi’s failure of the Beer Hall Putsch imparted him a great lesson- that the only approach for the Nazis and himself to capture Germany was by the democratic process, elections. Approximately 4 years later in the German election of 1928, the Nazis only gained 2.6% of the popular vote and a total of 12 representations seats in the Reichstag, which was actually a decrease from 14 seats in December of 1924. Hitler’s support jumped from 6000 members to 55,000 members in 1923, and yet their support did not similarly ascend exponentially between 1924 and 1929. Hitler didn’t have support of the mass population between 1924-1929 because of the improvement of the German economy between 1924 and1929, the social stability between this period, and the political limitations and reorganization of the Nazi Party during this period of time.
The first reason why Hitler did not have support between 1924 and 1929 was because of the dramatic recovery of the German economy from the hyper-inflations and the unemployment after World War One. The German floating debt was about 191 trillion marks in 1923 and the unemployment was standing at 9.6% . Hitler used the instability of the economy as examples of failures of Weimar Germany, and one of his goals centralized around the takeover of the Weimar government. The economy condition completely changed in 1924. Gustav Stresemann, the German Foreign Minister, controlled the hyper-inflation by replacing the mark with Rentenmark in November of 1923. An American banker named Charles G. Dawes presented the Dawes Plan to the Reparations Commissions of the Allied Nations in 1924, and it was later accepted by the Allies and Germany. The plan planned the evacuation of Allied troops from the Ruhr. It gave Germany more breathing space by allowing the German reparations to start at $1 billion mark on the first year and gradually increase in the following years. Stresemann also achieved in the negotiation of borrowing 25,000 million gold marks. The money was primarily used to build basic infrastructures like roads, as well as 3 million new houses and many modern factories. Before 1924, the German economy was collapsing and Hitler used the economic failures to show the incompetence of Weimar Republic and gain support for himself. 33% of Nazi members were skilled workers while 18% were lower professionals. Many of these workers were working in horrible conditions and Hitler exploited this problem by saying that he was capable of solving all the problems if he was elected. However, when the economic turnaround began to take place, many Germans would simply ignore Hitler Hitler’s speeches before 1924 stated that if he was supported, the horrible conditions would be eliminated. Since the economic problems disappeared, reasons for citizens to support Hitler drastically decreased. These economic reforms had brought Germany’s unemployment and inflation under control while stabilizing the currency. The German industries were re-equipped and foreign investments in the economy increased. Many German citizens became satisfied with their lives, and they no longer focused their attention on a crazy guy who wanted to overthrow the government. Hitler didn’t have support between 1924 and 1929 because the members of society were satisfied with the society.
The second reason why Hitler did not gain support between 1924 and 1929 was because of the social stability in the Weimar Republic. Before 1924, the Weimar Republic was in chaos and Hitler utilized the chaos to gain public attention and verbally attack the incompetence of the Weimar Republic. He proclaimed that by eradicating the Jews, the Communists, and any non-Aryan foreigner, he was capable of making all the social problems go away. There were 376 politically motivated murders between 1918 and 1922 while revolutions, invasions, and revolts like the Spartacist Revolt, the French and Belgian Invasion, and the Kapp Putsch consumed the republic. Between 1924 and 1929, the chaos dramatically diminished as the Locarno Treaty was signed and Germany entered the League of Nations. Under the Locarno Treaty, Germany recognized the western frontiers to be permanent, and the nations of Germany, France, and Belgium promised not to attack as each others while Britain and Italy were the guarantors. The Locarno Treaties eased the tensions between Germany and the other European powers and it allowed Germany to enter the League of Nations and become a superpower once again. In 1925, Paul von Hindenburg was elected to be the president. Many conservative parties and “middle of the road” parties supported him and promised to stop from any radical party to take over the government. At the same time, the German army conciliated with the government, and the Army-supported paramilitary organizations protected democracy for the period of time between 1924 and 1929. Not only did Germany’s economic improvement prevent Hitler from gaining support between 1924 and 1929, Germany’s social order contributed to the fact that Hitler did not have support during this period of time. As invasions and revolts faded in the memories of the citizens, many citizens would turn their heads away from Nazi propaganda and accidentally view Hitler as the popular Charlie Chaplin. The citizens could enjoy their lives through entertainment and sports so they would try their best to prolong the social stability that Weimar Republic provided, rather than to listen to same lunatic who wanted to overthrow the government. Germany became a superpower once again and the citizens became contented with their balanced lives. Hitler was disregarded because many citizens lost their hatred and dislike for the Weimar Republic, the Treaty of Versailles, and the League of Nations. The Nazis no longer attracted the citizens as much as they did when Weimar Republic was in social disorder and this directly resulted in the fact that Hitler did not have support between 1924 and 1929.
The third reason why Hitler did not have support between 1924 and 1929 was because of the political limitations on Hitler and the reorganization inside the Nazi Party. Hitler was sentenced to 9 months in Landsberg prison after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch and he came out on December 20th 1924 as a free man who, however, could not make public speeches for the next five years. Although Joseph Goebbels was a talented publicist, the meetings he organized, the newspapers he published, and the posters he posted were still not as influential as Hitler’s speech. Due to continuing violence, the Nazi Party was outlawed in Berlin and Nazi speeches were completely banned in the entire German state of Prussia for a period of time. Even when the government of Bavaria and Saxony allowed Hitler to publicly speak in 1927 and he did for 56 times in the last 10 months, Hitler’s support was still concentrated in north-west Germany and it did not disperse to other German regions. At the same time, Hitler focused a lot of attention at restructuring the Nazi Party between 1924 and 1929. Although he easily took control of the Party after he came out of jail since Alfred Rosenberg, the man who was in charge of the party while Hitler was in prison, had no administrative ability, the Party almost dissolved because moderate parties inside the nation attracted more citizens since the nation’s economy was improving. In order to expand the Nazi Party, Hitler reorganized the SA, set up the SS, merged with other right-wing parties, and started to receive essential financial support. Though Hitler had spoken numerous times after the ban was lifted, the time which Hitler was not allowed to publicize had considerably taken Hitler out of the sight of the public. This delay directly affected the fact that Hitler did not gain mass support of the entire nation. Also, Hitler’s reorganization of the Nazi Party was proven to be effective after 1929, but it did not immediately gain Hitler lots of support. The reorganization took an extremely long process, and it took years for all the new organizations to be integrated into the Main Party and adjust to the new atmosphere. Hitler’s limitation of publicity and the restructuring of the party directly resulted in the party receiving only 12 Reichstag seats in 1928 and 2.6% of popular vote in the national election.
“Support for the Nazi Party had grown due to the country's problems of hyperinflation and the French invasion of the Ruhr. By 1928 Nazism appeared to be a dying cause. Now that Germany's outlook was suddenly bright, the Nazi Party was rapidly withering away. One scarcely heard of Hitler or the Nazis except as a joke.”William Shirer, an American journalist, said this in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to describe the declining status of the Nazis and Hitler in 1928. Indeed, Hitler didn’t have mass support between 1924 and 1929 because of the dramatic economic improvement of the Weimar Republic, the social stability in the nation, and the political limitations on Hitler and the reorganization inside the Nazi Party. Although the economic and social stability would instantly disappear after the Great Depression and the Nazis would ultimately take control of Germany, Hitler’s support between 1924 and 1929 only earned him a popular vote of 2.6% in Germany’s national election in 1928. This statistic extensively displays the fact that Hitler did not have support between 1924 and 1929.

Assess Stresemann’s Achievements


When Gustav Stresemann was appointed chancellor in 1923 due to the support of the Social Democratic Party[1], he faced a Germany that lay in ruins. During this time one US dollar was worth 4 621 000 German Marks compared to 12 Marks in April 1919[2] and Germany was in the middle of the Ruhr crisis. With these problems at hand Stresemann had to act swiftly and called of the passive resistance against the French and he also introduced a new and stable currency; the Rentenmark. What followed was period of prosperity and in the next six years, in which Stresemann acted as the foreign minister, he drew up and agreed on a series of treaties and pacts, for which he was in 1926 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize[3]. Nonetheless, the onset of the Great Depression and Stresemann’s death on October 3, 1929[4] had dramatic effects on Weimar Germany and thus it could be argued, that while Stresemann was able to stabilize a collapsing Germany he was unable to secure its future.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 caused an enormous unrest in the German public and like AJP Taylor argued, “no German accepted it as a fair settlement and all Germans wanted to shake it off.” According to article 232 Germany had to pay reparations for the destruction caused in World War 1[1] and when Germany was unable to pay a these reparations the French simply invaded the Ruhr. The German government then called for a passive resistance against the French, however, as soon as Stresemann became chancellor he called of this passive resistance[2] on September 26, in order to economically save Germany. In addition, Stresemann was able to introduce a new currency, the Rentenmark and through this bring an end to hyperinflation. Nonetheless, Stresemann’s step in calling of the passive resistance was seen by many as if Germany was again surrendering to the allies and especially Hitler, and other right-wing extremists capitalized on this during the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923. Apart from putting down the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, he had no role in this; it was a strictly localised matter  Stresemann was also able to break up a revolt of the Black Reichswehr led by Bruno Buchrucker in Saxony and was with this, in his 100 days of being Chancellor[3] able to head Weimar Germany into a more prosperous time period. good conclusion

The years 1924 to 1929 are commonly referred to as a “Golden Age” or the “the years of hope”[4] and indeed, Stresemann, as foreign minister, was able to persuade France to withdraw from the Ruhr and also signed the Dawes Plan in 1924[5]. but here's where you're invited to assess both. Instead you simply refer to them without me knowing what they represent In addition, Stresemann took the initiative in 1925 that led to the Locarno Pact and made it possible for Germany to enter the League of Nations in 1926. Finally, in 1929 he also helped set up the Young Plan, which effectively reduced the reparations that Germany had to pay. Furthermore, it was due to Stresemann that Hitler’s Party, the NSDAP, only achieved 14 seats in the Reichstag in the December 1924 elections and even less, only 12 seats, in the May 1928 elections[6]. This clearly shows that the public was not willing to risk the peace and the prosperity of the time period by voting for an extremist party like the NSDAP but was much rather satisfied with voting for a more conservative central party. Additionally, as Stresemann’s actions were slowly bringing more strength and prosperity into Weimar Germany Hitler was forced to the Munich Putsch in 1923 evidence?, although he was by far not ready for this, as otherwise he would lose even more support. was this clear at the time? This was because less and less people were likely to support him as the Weimar Republic grew in stability. These two examples evidently show how successful Stresemann’s policies were, as only one year after his death the support for the NSDAP had increased from 12 seats in the Reichstag to an astounding 107 seats in the September 1930 elections[7].  not convinced; you seem to be using various points to support your own ideas.

Nonetheless, Stresemann’s policies were in reality far from creating an economical and political stable Weimar Germany. In fact, they served as a mere mirage to mask the true faults of the republic. Although during Stresemann’s time as he was able contain Hitler and stop him from rising, he lay the cornerstone for Hitler’s plans to attack the East. Whilst Stresemann was happy to settle the Western borders he refused to make any treaties with the countries on the Eastern front relating to the acceptance of these borders[8]. Moreover, it seemed to many Germans that Stresemann was more of a European peace broker than an actual German chancellor and this brought him domestic unpopularity. A large part of the population shared the opinion that while Stresemann was focusing very much on his foreign policy he was forgetting the fact that Germany itself faced serious problems. Many also felt that he was siding too much with the SDP and this further decreased his popularity, as in their opinion he should stay true to his party. Furthermore, but what do you think? When a politician manages to do great things even though the people are against him, that makes him a true statesman. only 11 months after his death the public voted for anti-democratic parties and allowed the NSDAP to increase their seats by 95. In the same elections the Communist Party was also able to gain 23 seats in the Reichstag compared to only nine the elections in May 1928[9].

Although,?  Stresemann managed to admit a Germany, that in the years 1919 to 1923 alone killed 356 politicians, into the League of Nations in 1926 and signed important treaties like the Rapallo or Dawes Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. but at no time do you assess any of these achievements, such as they were. His achievements were unable to outlast his death. He laid the foundation for Hitler to increase his percentage in the Reichstag from 2.6 % in May 1928 to a shattering 288 seats in March 1933[10] and with that take control of Germany. He lost the publics trust in democracy and while is achievements should be valued highly, they were in themselves weak and only a mere mirage.

[1] "The Treaty of Versailles." Then Again. . . Web. 03 Feb. 2011. .
[2] Weimar Germany 1919-1933." Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .
[3] Thackeray, Frank W., and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996. 104. Print.
[4] "The Golden Age Of Weimar." Upload & Share PowerPoint Presentations and Documents. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. .
[5] 10 11 13 14 Weimar Germany 1919-1933." Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .

[8] Martel, Gordon. A Companion to Europe: 1900-1945. Malden, Mass., USA: Blackwell Pub., 2006. 332. Print.

[1] "Gustav Stresemann." Spartacus Educational - Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .
[2] "Weimar Germany 1919-1933." Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .
[3] "Gustav Stresemann." Spartacus Educational - Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .
[4] “Weimar Germany 1919-1933." Home Page. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. .

The question requires candidates to identify and critically assess the role of each of the three elements in explaining the failure of democracy in Germany. Other elements/reasons may be included but the main focus should be on the above. It is not simply an essay on the rise of the Nazis/Hitler.
For weaknesses in terms of the constitution many will no doubt emphasise the issues of proportional representation (with the corresponding coalition governments) and the use/abuse of Article 48 by 1930. Some candidates may argue the merits of the constitution and attribute its problems not to the structure/provisions but to the unwillingness of parties/individuals to work the constitution in the spirit of democracy – pointing out for example the circumstances in which the new system was inaugurated.
For economic crises the impact of the hyperinflationary period (1923) and the depression years from 1929 should be well known. Links should be made between the crises and the effects upon the stability/progress of the republic.
For political extremism (left- and right-wing) candidates could refer to the actions of the Spartacists/KPD during Weimar's existence (and the real or perceived threats these constituted) and the activities of rightist extremists ranging from the Freikorps/Kapp Putschists of the early period through to the attempts (parliamentary and extra-parliamentary) of the National Socialists and their associates to undermine/overthrow the Weimar democratic system.
N.B. If only one of the required areas is addressed, mark out of a maximum of [8 marks]. If only two of the areas are addressed, mark out of a maximum of [12 marks].


During the spring of 1930, President Hindenburg, at the urging of Reich chancellor Brüning, overruled the Reichstag through the usage of article 48. Soon after, on July 18th, the Reichstag voted as a majority to repeal this, nullifying the presidential decree and forcing Brüning to dissolve the parliament, calling for re-elections that allowed politically extreme parties such as the communists and, most notably, the national socialists huge gains of influence. This breakdown in the democratic system marked the beginning of the end for the Weimar republic, as three years of political deadlocks between extremists would result in the eventual rise of one Adolf Hitler and the establishment of a totalitarian state. The end of the Weimar democracy, however, as is argued by Eric Weitz in his book “Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy”, took place three years earlier, when, following the above incident, President Hindenburg established what Weitz describes as a “Presidential Dictatorship” and indeed, it was this “Coterie of the Elite”, as Weitz describes it, that led to Hitler taking power, as opposed to the democratic system voting him in. The real question is why was this the case? How did a system that was experiencing huge economic and cultural success as late as the beginning of 1929 collapse only a year later? To answer this, historians have examined the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic and, when regarding the literature, three major areas seem to be repeatedly identified as weak: the constitution, the economic crises and the political extremism within the system.

            The Weimar constitution, upon its conception in 1919, was met with mixed reactions, ranging from outright rebellion as seen by the Kapp Putsch, to simple indifference, however it governed the way that Germany was run up until, technically, 1945. The document itself was described by William Shirer as “on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen ... full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy…", however in practice this document yielded some weaknesses that, as is argued by some historians, constitute some of the key causes of the collapse of the Weimar democracy. The most obvious weakness of the Weimar constitution was the infamous Article 48, that granted the President the right to use military strength and overrule the Reichstag in times of emergency. In itself, the philosophy of this clause is a weakness, as by providing the circumstances where a leadership figure may assume dictatorial rights, one undermines, ideologically, the concept of a free democracy. Then again, this evidence is shaky, as the parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom allows the legislature to achieve similar powers to overrule fundamental freedoms, however the United Kingdom has been able to maintain its basic governmental structure for centuries, where Germany was unable to do so for two decades. Thus, it seems unlikely that the pure ideology of the Article would be a cause for the collapse of the Republic. Richard J. Evans considers not the concept of Article 48 to be a weakness, but instead the implementation of it. He argues that as there was no clear method for the return to legislative powers in place, allowing President Ebert to repeatedly use the Article a total of 136 times in a mere five years, even in non-emergency situations, thus causing the potential for application of this clause to widen beyond what would be democratically sustainable, thus posing a potential threat to the democracy. However, while this does perhaps explain why Brüning was able to so easily use Article 48 and in the process destroy democracy, the question remains why in 1930? Surely, if Article 48 was such a great threat, the Republic would’ve imploded much sooner. This implies that while Article 48 may have facilitated the collapse of the Weimar democracy, other factors most likely caused it. The other weakness of the constitution that Historians argue may have caused the collapse of democracy is that it implemented a proportional representation system, where the percentage of votes a party gets directly corresponded to the number of seats in the Reichstag the party receives, with no minimum percentage of votes required  to gain access. This allowed even small parties, with potentially extremist views, access to the Reichstag, as demonstrated by the fact that the relatively unknown Bavarian Peasants’ League gained access to the Reichstag despite only garnering 0.7% of the vote in 1924. Additionally, proportional representation meant that a huge number of parties gained access to the Reichstag, as seen by the 28 parties, according to Shirer, who were voted into the Reichstag in 1930, resulting in there never being a one party majority, slowing down decision making processes and creating a Parliament fractured by far too many different opinions. This plethora of multiple opinions, as argued by Erich Eyck, resulted in an inherent instability, which caused the policies put out by this system to be at best compromises, at worst contradictions. Proportional representation may thus have caused the collapse of the Weimar democracy through the creation of an inherent instability within the system that constantly threatened it. Nevertheless, the Weimar Republic was able to survive with this system for over a decade and even, during the late 1920s, flourish. This indicates that, like Article 48, while proportional representation may have provided the conditions for failure, the actual root cause for the collapse of democracy must be found elsewhere.

            When regarding the collapse of the Weimar Republic, one tends to often immediately regard the influence of the politically extreme parties on the system. During its early years, the Weimar Republic was plagued by constant attempts at revolution and change from democracy. The Spartacist uprising of 1919, the Kapp Putsch of 1920, the short-lived Räterepubliks in Munich and Bremen as well as the uprisings in the Rhineland, Thuringia, Saxony and Munich in 1923 all are examples of situations where a number of the population attempt to overthrow the democratic regime of the Weimar Republic. Although these all failed, often due to police brutality, as Paul Bookbinder argues, this indicates that the atmosphere within Germany was on the side of the political extremes and thus not receptive to democracy.  Additionally, during this early period, 356 of the young and promising politicians who supported the Republic, foremost amongst the Walther Rathenau, were assassinated by politically extreme groups, resulting in a situation where those who seek to support the Republic are often scared away, leaving those who are too fanatical or stupid to care in power. As Yeats put it: “The best lacked all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity,” accurately describing the weakness in leadership that the Weimar faced due to early political extremism, a weakness that might in part be seen as responsible for allowing the collapse to happen. At the same time however, following this argument, one would expect that during the time leading up to the collapse of democracy, one would see multiple leaders elected and discarded, as the weakness of these leaders would be rejected by a populace unwilling to accept them and their democracy. Instead, we observe that up until 1929, Germany had one chancellor, Streseman, under whom it has been observed by many, including Eric Weitz, that politics of the people became more moderate as living standards and economic stability increased. Furthermore, noting that the most dangerous of the early attempts to overthrow the Weimar democracy, the right wing Kapp Putsch, was not overthrown through military force, but by a general strike of the workers, one gets the impression that this rejection of democracy was not the opinion of the majority, as one might initially believe, but instead merely the belief of a radical minority. Indeed, as Weitz remarks, even at the height of their popularity in 1933, the radical national socialist party was only able to garner 37% of the votes, further cementing the idea that these political extremists always were fringe parties. Considering that the democracy was supported by the silent majority and that it was the democratically elected successors to a strong leader in Streseman that initiated the collapse (Hindenburg primarily), during a time period where National Socialist influence was still based on the 1928 elections at a mere 2.8% of the Reichstag, one must consider the political extremists as, although a cause for disturbance, more a symptom of the collapse rather than the cause of it.

            A final reason that historians, perhaps most famously AJP Taylor, attribute to the collapse of democracy is the economic crisis of 1929, which, as stated by Taylor, “put the wind into Hitler’s sails”. This implies that it was the economic crisis of 1929 that allowed Hitler to gain enough public support to push towards power, as seen by the giant leap in votes between the 1928 elections, where the Nazis got a mere 2.7% and the 1930 elections, where Hitler’s party got 18.3% of the votes. This leap in support closely correlates with the leap in unemployment figures, with Germany’s unemployment level doubling to 3 million between 1928 and 1930. Richard J Evans points out how the suffering of the German people went beyond the statistics, with many millions of those who could retain their jobs being underpaid or working only part time. As a result, it is hardly surprising that the majority, now suffering due to the 1929 economic collapse, would view the Democratic Experiment, as Michael Brooks describes it, as a failure, thus leading a movement towards alternative ideologies (i.e. the political extremes). Nevertheless, it has already been noted that, even by 1933, none of the extremist parties were able to take advantage of this polarisation of politics to the extent, where they could take power through democratic means. Indeed, in 1932, the old stalwart president Hindenburg was re-elected, beating his extreme reformist competitor Hitler, implying that this polarisation of politics may not have lost the Weimar so much support so as to initiate its collapse. What then caused this implosion of democracy in 1930? Perhaps, it is due to the fact that, following Weitz’s argument, the Weimar system was unable to quickly, nor effectively provide a solution with the speed needed to satisfy the people. As a result, Brüning and Hindenburg were forced to resort to alternative methods of passing laws, invoking article 48 and thus destroying democracy in the process. This seems to explain why democracy imploded prior to the influence of a polarisation in politics as well as despite the majority still siding with the “old guard”. What this fails to explain however is why the 1929 economic disaster was so politically devastating to the republic, while other economic disasters weren’t. In 1923, Germany experienced, due to an inability and refusal to repay the Treaty of Versailles’ war reparations, a period of hyperinflation and mass poverty. In 1923, the working class were just as poor as in 1923, perhaps even more so, the economy was in worse shape and, unlike in 1929, Germany’s borders had been violated and its industry raided, further heightening the level of strife. There was a polarisation of politics in 1923 and multiple uprisings, however the democracy survived, unlike in 1929. So why was 1929 so much more devastating? What differentiated it from 1923 to cause a collapse in democracy? As historians such as Ian Kershaw argue, there are a number of differences that made 1929 so much more damaging. First, 1929 was a second economic crisis. Prior to 1923, the situation in Germany was hardly better, so the economic crisis was as much blamed on the Treaty of Versailles and on the Dolchstoßlegende as it was on the regime. In 1929, however, the Treaty was long since past, the Republic had been experiencing a now illusory success and as a result the blame for ills Germany was experiencing was attributed, unlike in 1923, primarily onto the democratic system itself, thus causing it to implode. Furthermore, the 1929 economic crisis was a global economic crisis, meaning that, unlike in 1923, there was no rich foreign investor such as the US to haul Germany out of its misery. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the 1929 crisis, unlike 1923, effected the banks in that it caused many of them to fold. As a result, unlike in 1923, where primarily the working class suffered, in 1929 the Middle Class began to suffer, as their savings were lost and there jobs destroyed. This caused the politics of the middle class to polarise, as their demands for action from the government were not met by any tangible response. The government, alarmed by this dissatisfaction from the far more influential bourgeoisie, were rushed into action through this panicked use of Article 48, thus initiating the collapse of the Weimar democracy.

            In conclusion, when considering why the Weimar democracy collapsed, we regard the ideas of a weak constitution, influence of political extremists and the effects of multiple economic crises. Upon careful analysis, it appears that it was the economic crises that seemed the most likely cause of initiating this collapse, as although the constitution provided the conditions that made this collapse possible, there’s little evidence to suggest that it was the constitution that initiated the failure, while the presence of political extremists seemed much more a symptom of this collapse than a cause. As a result, one can conclude that it was most likely the 1929 economic collapse, with specific regard for the effect it had on the Mittelstand that resulted in the disintegration of the Weimar democracy and Adolf Hitler’s eventual rise to power.


Many factors were significant in the downfall of the Weimar Republic, however it was the economic crisis stemming from the Wall Street Crash that, according to AJP Taylor, gave in to the collapse of the Weimar democracy. AJP Taylor states that, “Only the Great Depression put the wind into Hitler’s sails”. The Wall Street Crash was a disaster for all of Europe, but it was Germany who suffered the most after the Treaty of Versailles, and it was America who had helped them survive. After the Wall Street Crash however, all the loans that were given to Germany to help them survive were withdrawn, which meant that the Weimar Republic was unable to cope anymore, leading to its collapse in 1930.

The Hyperinflation in 1923 led to a great deal of suffering for Germany, and it wasn’t until America got involved that their burden became lightened. After realising that Germany would be unable to pay the reparations cost from Article 232 of the Treaty of Versailles and stabilise their economy, America decided to lend them money. This meant that Germany had to become reliant on America; therefore, when the Wall Street Crash occurred in 1929 and America withdrew their loans, the Weimar Republic was unable to continue. Richard J. Evans supports this theory in The Coming of the Third Reich, “the economic difficulties that the Republic experienced almost from the outset placed a burden on its welfare system that it was simply unable to sustain”. The Great Depression was a substantial hit to unemployment, where it increased from 1.6 million unemployed in 1929, to 6.12 million unemployed in 1932. The Weimar democracy was already under a lot of pressure and was disliked by many Germans, the Depression was the last blow and led to extreme parties such as the NSDAP coming into power. As AJP Taylor mentions, the Great Depression was the most significant factor that led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic.

Another feature that contributed to the fall of the Weimar Republic was its weak constitution. When the Weimar democracy had been sent up in 1919, it was set up to try and recover what was left of the powerful country that had been present before the First World War. Many Germans, due to them not being in favour of democracy, disliked the Weimar Republic. The main two drawbacks of the Weimar constitution were Article 48 and proportional representation. Article 48 stated that, under a state of emergency, the President could rule by decree without needing consent from the Reichstag. In principle, this was a good idea, however, during the Weimar’s existence, the first Weimar President, Friedrich Ebert, abused this power on 136 occasions. Richard J. Evans mentions, in reference to President Ebert, “Ebert’s excessive use, and occasional misuse, of the Article widened its application to a point where it became a potential threat to democratic institutions”. President Hindenburg and then later on Hitler were also known for misusing this Article. Article 48 basically gave the President of the Weimar Republic dictatorial powers. This showed the Weimar Republic’s weakness, as it showed that it was a failing democracy and could be taken advantage of. Proportional representation was also significant in the Weimar Republic’s downfall, as it led to many disagreements among the parties, which dramatically delayed any chance at making decisions. Proportional representation was where the percentage of votes a party won in the Reichstag corresponded directly to the amount of seats they would receive. The system seemed efficient and fair in theory, as it directly represented the nation’s support for each party. However, when put into practice, many problems were seen to arise, including the difficulty for the parties to reach a conclusion in regards to a dilemma. This inability to quickly make decisions on courses of action meant that a lot of time was wasted and coalitions always had to be formed in order to reach a conclusion. Due to the abuse of Article 48 and the extensive problems encountered through proportional representation, the Weimar constitution was seen as weak and ineffective by many members of the public, and showed the Germans’ lack of belief in their new democracy.  

As well as having to deal with its crumbling democracy, the Weimar Republic also had to face repetitive political extremism, which was pivotal in its downfall. The German people witnessed constant opposition against the Weimar Republic, which, after the various economic crises, showed them that the Weimar democracy was weak, and that it would only be through extreme parties that they could witness change. This mind-set led to the rise in support of Hitler after the exponential rise in unemployment between 1929 and 1932. The first such example of political extremism was manifested in the form of the Spartacist uprising. On 5th January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, founders of the Spartacus League, staged an uprising in Berlin led by the USPD. This was in response to the recently appointed Weimar Republic. The aim of the Spartacist uprising was to overthrow the provisional government and create a Soviet republic. The Freikorps was called in to intervene and both Luxemburg and Liebknecht were murdered. Leonard V. Kaplan mentions in his book The Weimar Moment that “the Spartacist uprising in Berlin betrayed the instability of the new democracy”. More than a year later, in March 1920, another uprising occurred. Known as the Kapp Putsch, 12000 troops were encouraged to march on Berlin and overthrow the government. This uprising was staged by Wolfgang Kapp leading the Ehrhardt Brigade, which was a unit of the Freikorps that had refused to disband, and its main aim was to install a new government in place of the failing Weimar Republic. To stop this, the trade unions went on strike, and the Kapp Putsch ended up being called off. With the continuous revolts against the government, the Germans began to doubt the efficacy of this new type of government, and soon after the Wall Street Crash began to believe in political extremism.

The constitution and political extremism were very influential in the downfall of the Weimar democracy, however it was the economic crisis manifested through the Wall Street Crash that led to the collapse of Weimar. The German people were not forthcoming in their belief in this new type of democracy in 1919, and the rise in unemployment, due to the Wall Street Crash, combined with the many staged uprisings against the Weimar Republic led to a complete loss of faith on behalf of many Germans in the democracy. Although the Weimar Republic did have a few successful years under Stresemann’s rule, it all collapsed after the Wall Street Crash, where the Germans began to vote for extremist parties in order to see whether the parties could solve the massive unemployment rate. 

Works Cited: Evans, Richard J., and Dick Geary. The German Unemployed: Experiences and Consequences of Mass Unemployment from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich. New York: St. Martin's, 1987. Print. Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin, 2004. Print. "Historian Says Weimar Republic Holds Potent Lessons for Today." DW.DE. N.p., n.d. Web. "Historymike." : The Fall of the Weimar Republic. N.p., n.d. Web. Kaplan, Leonard V., and Rudy Koshar. The Weimar Moment: Liberalism, Political Theology, and Law. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2012. Print. Mulligan, William. The Creation of the Modern German Army: General Walther Reinhardt and the Weimar Republic, 1914-1930. New York: Berghahn, 2005. Print. "President Ebert and the Early Problems of the Weimar Republic." Ken Webbs Official Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. Taylor, A. J. P. The Origins of the Second World War. New York: Atheneum, 1962. Print. Waldman, Eric. The Spartacist Uprising of 1919 and the Crisis of the German Socialist Movement: A Study of the Relation of Political Theory and Party Practice. Milwaukee: Marquette UP, 1958. Print.
The more one knows about Weimar Germany, the more one is baffled by its formless image. Its kaleidoscopic nature inspires curiosity and frustration. Certainly, the study of the Weimar Republic is of necessity the study of life in a precarious world. While the Republic was distinguished by great creativity, its cultural output consistently enhances one’s sensitivity to the ‘‘terrible things over the horizon.’’ With Peter Gay’s observation always in mind that the Re- public was ‘‘born in defeat, lived in turmoil, and died in disaster,’’ one approaches it as if stepping on hallowed ground; the life history of so many participants is wrenching. However, that history is also instructive and enriching. One cannot deny the Republic’s prefascistic qualities; however, the comprehensive study demanded for this project has demonstrated that the picture of Weimar as a ‘‘republic without republicans,’’ while enchanting, is fundamentally wrong. It is true that conservative politicians who deigned to cooperate with the National Socialists often did so because of their antirepublicanism. Few realized, until it was too late, the extent to which the Nazis’ view of government and society was revolutionary, repudiating not only republican but also traditional notions of legality and public responsibility. Hitler used such na ̈ıvete ́ to his advantage. Yet by viewing Weimar through the lens of the Third Reich, historians too often focus on failure. Vividly seeing the roles of Hitler, Hugenberg, Hindenburg, and Papen, they fail to discern such actors as Otto Braun, Carl Severing, Arnold Brecht, Ernst Heilmann, or Rudolf Hilferding. It is no accident that most of these individuals were associated with the state of Prussia. Prussia in the Weimar era was remarkably successful at throwing over the political authoritarianism that had marked this, the largest German state, during the Wilhelmine Reich. Notable for political alliances that proved fragile when attempted in the Reichstag, Prussia was governed from 1920 until 1932 by a collection of astute pragmatists uncommonly successful at political compromise. As Dietrich Orlow underscored in his study Weimar Prussia, the history of Prussia—that is, the history of the state comprising three-fifths of Germany’s territory—‘‘is largely ignored in accounts of political dynamics during the republican years.’’

Of the many problems the compiler of a dictionary of German history faces, one of the most frustrating is language. The German adjective vo ̈lkisch (from Volk, meaning ‘‘people’’ or ‘‘race’’), for example, cannot be adequately trans- lated into English. Often rendered ‘‘racist’’ or ‘‘racial,’’ it might also be trans- lated ‘‘nationalist,’’ ‘‘nativist,’’ or even ‘‘anti-Semitic.’’ Although the word ‘‘ethnic’’ is sometimes employed, it is inadequate without a clear anti-Semitic property. In any case, this dictionary uses the translation ‘‘racial.’’ But it remains important to note that the Nazi Party was viewed in the Weimar era as an extreme example of both the nationalist Right and the vo ̈lkisch movement. Other German words may also prove troublesome. One translation with which some may quibble is ‘‘Prime Minister’’ for Ministerpra ̈sident; although ‘‘Minister President’’ may be more accurate, it fails to properly relate the nature of the position to Anglo-Saxon users. The user should consult the Glossary for other translations.
Of equal importance is my frequent use of the expression ‘‘seizure of power’’ when referring to Hitler’s appointment and rapid consolidation of political con- trol. This may trouble those who view his installation on 30 January 1933 as natural and constitutional—predetermined by three years of electoral success. But this begs a question as to how natural or constitutional was Germany’s political condition after the inauguration of Presidential Cabinets in 1930. I hold the view that from the Reichstag elections of September 1930, Germany was marked by a pseudo-constitutionality that increasingly paralyzed proponents of the Republic, subverted the practice of parliamentary democracy, and steadily moved the country in the direction of an authoritarian regime. Yet, while em- bracing this perspective, I reject the concomitant notion that the inevitable result was a Nazi state. Indeed, the NSDAP was seriously damaged by the Reichstag elections of November 1932, and there was every indication that, given a few more months of economic recovery and perhaps one more national election, Hitler’s political edifice would have crumbled. To quote one historian, it is ‘‘one of history’s most tragic ironies that at precisely the moment when the [Nazi] party’s electoral support had begun to falter, Hitler was installed as chancellor’’ (Childers, Nazi Voter, p. 269). That installation, resulting from a backroom palace intrigue hatched by shortsighted conservatives, was neither constitutional nor inevitable. Hitler, of course, seized his opportunity (indeed, the expression ‘‘seizure of power’’ was first employed by the NSDAP) with a skill that aston- ished his would-be manipulators, effortlessly consolidating his position at their expense during the following five months.
As the words ‘‘Weimar Republic’’ should invoke much more than political turmoil, entries have been offered on such topics as cabaret, film, music, theater, and the Bauhaus. Moreover, in an attempt to span the arts and sciences, infor- mation is provided on individuals from Karl Abraham to Arnold Zweig. (As- terisks are used throughout to reference other full entries.) Sources of additional information are provided at the end of each entry. To save space, these are limited to the author’s last name and an abbreviated title; complete citations are included in the bibliography at the end of the book.
Nevertheless, I harbor no illusions that the dictionary will satisfy every user. Although it is more comprehensive than any comparable single volume in En- glish, it remains of necessity a work of synthesis. Moreover, given market con- straints, I must quote Aby Warburg in saying that what follows feels a bit ‘‘like a stripped Christmas tree.’’ Many entries should have been—and, indeed, were—lengthier; others are simply missing. No one will argue, for example, that much of the intellectual tapestry of the period was produced in Switzerland or by Austrians, Czechs, and Hungarians: for example, Broch, Freud, Hesse, Kafka, Kraus, Luka ́cs, Reinhardt, Rilke, Roth, Werfel, and Zweig. But while these individuals are properly viewed as quintessential ‘‘Weimar,’’ several of them did no more than visit Germany during 1918–1932. Unless they were an integral part of Weimar life—as were Luka ́cs, Reinhardt, and Roth—they do not appear in this book. I sincerely regret this fact.
Although the author of a historical dictionary can identify the rich web of connections that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts, the user is less likely to appreciate the reality of these associations. Perhaps the words of Mephistopheles, taken from Goethe’s Faust, will lend credibility to this reality:
Methinks the workshop of our mind
Resembles those looms of a special kind
Where the treadle a thousand threads will lift
While the shuttles are flitting in both directions
The woven tissue invisibly shifts And one move makes a myriad

1918 29 Sept. 3–4 Oct. 28 Oct. 3 Nov. 3–9 Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 11 Nov. 12 Nov. 15 Nov. 14 Dec. 16–20 Dec. 28–9 Dec. 1919 1 Jan. 5–11 Jan. 15 Jan. 18 Jan. 19 Jan. 6 Feb. 11 Feb. 13 Feb. 21 Feb. Feb.–May 2–6 Mar. Army High Command calls for immediate armistice and establishment of a parliamentary regime. Germany proposes armistice to President Wilson. Adoption of parliamentary constitution; mutiny of the High Seas Fleet at Wilhelmshaven. Czechoslovak republic proclaimed in Prague. Armistice between Austria-Hungary and the Allies; sailors’ rebellion at Kiel. Rebellion spreads in Germany, soldiers’ and workers’ councils formed in many cities. Abdication of William II; proclamation of the German republic. Formation of Council of People’s Representatives (SPD–USPD); Ebert–Groener agreement. Armistice signed at Compiègne. Poland an independent republic. German Austria proclaims itself part of the Reich. Central Working Association agreement between heavy industry and trade unions. ‘Khaki election’ in Britain. Congress of Councils in Berlin; decision to hold election to National Assembly on 19 Jan. 1919. USPD members withdraw from Council of People’s Representatives. Foundation of KPD (German Communist Party). Street fighting in Berlin (Spartacist rising). Murder of Karl Liebkneckt and Rosa Luxemburg. Peace conference opens in Paris (without the defeated Central Powers). Election of National Assembly.  Opening of National Assembly in Weimar. Friedrich Ebert elected Reich President. Scheidemann Cabinet (‘Weimar coalition’) of SPD (Social Democrats), DDP (left-wing Liberals) and Catholic Centre). Murder of Bavarian Minister-President, Kurt Eisner. Disturbances, strikes and riots in many parts of Germany. Founding congress of the Third International (Comintern) in Moscow. 21 Mar.– 1 Aug.  7 Apr.– 2 May 7 May 16 June 20 June 28 June 11 Aug. Sept. 11 10 Sept. Nov. Soviet republic in Hungary (Béla Kun). Soviet republic in