1 Weimar Republic

  • collapse of the Weimar Republic 1929–1933

5.3 The failure of the democratic republic

Lack of Democratic Tradition
  • Strong militaristic, nationalistic tradition. Germany was unified by force not a struggle for freedom.
  • Disorder caused by the depression could be easily blamed on the democratic republic.

Flaws in the constitution
  • Proportional representation caused instability.
  • Article 48 gave the president emergency powers in times of crisis. This was used extensively by Ebert from 1920 to 1923 and continuously by Hindenberg 1930-33.

Powerful opponents
  • Civil service, judiciary, education system still loyal to the old system.
  • Junker aristocracy, industrialists, army retained their influence.

Psychological disillusionment
  • The republic was associated with the armistice, Treaty of Versailles, reparations and political and economic instability up to 1923.

Failure of the party system
  • Extreme left and extreme right were committed to the destruction of the republic. For a democracy to thrive, the opposition parties needs to be supportive of the system.

5.4 The failure of the Weimar Republic - Historical Debate
  • Doomed from the start?
  • Collapse caused by Depression and Nazi movement?
  • Was Nazism the inevitable replacement?

Failure was inevitable because of reasons outlined in previous section.
Historicans: Karl Dietrich Bracher, Eberhard Kolb (German); Richard Bessell, Ian Kershaw (British).

Not inevitable: had survived many challenges up to 1923.

5.5 Why did the Nazis come to power

The Nazis exploited the crisis caused by the depression and the weakness of the Weimar constitution.
  • Why did they gain mass support?
  • What circumstances allowed Hitler to come to power?

Had wide support across all classes as a result of their extreme nationalist stance.
The left was divided. Bitter enmity between the KPD and the SPD which reduced their attack on the Nazis.
Hitler’s role was vital - a great orator who could inspire an audience; a skilful political tactician and an opportunist.
Nazi propaganda was strong and consistent in its opposition to the republic.
The weakness of the right in suppressing Hitler in the hope of using him for their own benefit gave Hitler his chancellorship, which he never relinquished.