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Was the Weimar Republic Doomed From the Start? 1919-23

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Introduction

Was the Weimar Republic Doomed From the Start? 1919-23 By 1918 Germany faced the point of economic collapse and the entry of the US into World War I made German military defeat inevitable. Defeat led to the collapse of the German monarchy amid clamour for change and an allied desire to see a democratic German nation. News of peace negotiations led to unrest in the army and the country was left torn and humiliated. The establishment of the Weimar Constitution left the nation in an unfamiliar political state with many challenges to overcome and the state proceeded into a period of crisis between 1919-23. Yet even with all this to surmount was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start? Germany had never previously had a fully democratic system. It already had a constitution that was drawn up when a united Germany was created. This was theoretically extremely democratic, for example it was the only country in Europe at that time with universal male suffrage. However, in practise the Reichstag prior to 1919 had little or no influence over the running of Germany, the real power being held by the Kaiser and his chancellor. It was only after it was realised that the war was lost that, under direction from Ludendorff, the unofficial wartime leader of Germany, the Weimar republic was set up. This resulted in the abolishment of the Prussian three-tier system, the creation of a chancellor responsible to the Reichstag and the eventual abdication of the Kaiser. The new fledgling democracy was not only left with a legacy of accumulated war debt, but it was left with a society unused to totally democratic ways and means. ...read more.

Middle

After the decline of the Kaiser Reich, many of the civil servants were requested to stay on under the new Weimar republic. For this reason, many of the judges and senior civil servants had right wing, authoritarian, monarchist sympathies, and therefore right wing revolutions were kindly dealt with in comparison to their left wing counterparts. Much of this political unrest in Germany during this time was due to the raging inflation of the time. Germany had many economic problems stemming from the war; these were mainly due to the huge amounts of national debt accumulated by the Kaiser Reich to finance the war effort, but also the huge amounts of reparations that Germany was forced to pay the Allies. Instead of tackling the root problems by cutting government expenditure and creating greater levels of income through raising taxes, the government felt that they could not risk the unpopularity with these measures that would inevitably bring. Instead, the government chose to print large quantities of marks and sell them on foreign exchanges in order to obtain the required hard currency. The result of this policy was that a spiral of hyperinflation ensued, resulting in the mark becoming worthless to such an extent that the paper on which the mark was printed was worth more than the note itself. This situation of economic crisis would be expected to produce a detrimental effect on the state of the country politically. However, the contrary is true, the hyperinflation of 1923 was, in actual fact beneficial to those elements of society intelligent enough to grasp the rare opportunity. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Weimar government itself took action to save the republic by making changes in the government, taking action to save the economy and introducing emergency powers. To prevent things getting out of control under Article 48 in times of crisis the President had the right to dismiss and dissolve the Reichstag and interfere in legislations. In August 1923 Gustav Stresemann was appointed Chancellor and this proved to be a fundamental turning point that set Weimar on the road to recovery, as he was prepared to actually face up to the country's problems and set about resolving them. He called off passive resistance and recommenced reparation payments, reduced the trade deficit by cutting down the government expenditure and also created a new currency. This new currency, the Rentenmark, immediately stopped hyperinflation and established a stable currency, creating a basis on which Weimar's economic predicaments could be internationally negotiated. In my opinion the problems faced by the Weimar Republic were not insurmountable as in the end they were in some cases successfully overcome. However, there is no doubt that they were very serious and at times posed a very real threat to the survival of the Republic. Although it is easy to say that the eventual collapse of the Constitution clearly states its failure, I feel that Weimar was by no means doomed to fail. Instead it was the misguidance and misjudgements of its leaders that bought the Republic to its downfall. As I have mentioned previously it was the majority of the German people who desired such a state, had this not been true the democracy would have collapsed long before it did. Furthermore, the government faced some of the hardest challenges possible to face in such era, thus showing the strength of the Republic. ...read more.

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