The failure of the Weimar Republic to solve the problems faced by Germany during the 1920’s and early 30’s is very well documented and the consequences of this failure are well known.
The Weimar Republic was faced with a number of problems from the outset. The German nation was used to being ruled, rather than ruling itself. Democracy was a new concept within Germany and many people were wiling to look to the left and right wings for political leadership. Strength, and image, were considered more important by some than policy and pragmatism appear to have been.
The republic also suffered at the hands of the Treaty of Versailles. Many groups within Germany blamed to fledgling government for the harsh terms imposed by the treaty and opposition to the government was both open and violent: with varying amounts of success over the period of the republic’s life.
Rebellions broke out on a number of occasions. the Spartacist movement (communists) rose at the birth of the republic in an attempt to replicate the events in Russia of 1917. These were squashed by the Freikorps. The Freikorps themselves rose in the Kapp Putsch, Hitler’s young nazi movement also rose against the Weimar republic in Munich.
The failure of Weimar to contain and eradicate these movements was in part due to the economic conditions of the day. A reparations bill of 6.6 Billion pounds ensured that the economy was going to struggle. The hyperinflation and the French reaction to the strikes in the Ruhr did little to bolster support for the republic. they were seen to fail, and many wanted a stronger form of dictatorial government. Support from all sides was lacking. Unemployment meant that the lower classes waned towards the left wing. a lack of national pride led to right wing movements gaining in popularity. Economic disasters led to the middle classes and even the aristocrats looking to the extremities for answers.
Weimar’s failure was sealed by the constitution itself. No one party could take control with ease. Proportional representation led to a large number of small parties with little political clout. these hung on to the larger parties, who in turn relied upon these groups to stay in power. Little could be achieved in this political climate. progressive measures would be opposed by some within the coalition and would not see the light of day. It was this lack of strength and inability to unite tat again led to the extremist movements of the right and left wing becoming more popular. Ultimately though it was the law that ed to the downfall of the Weimar Republic. The president could, according to the constitution, rule by decree. This enabled Hitler, upon assuming the role, to legally take measures that ensured a rapid end to democracy within Germany.
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