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Was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start?

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Introduction

Was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start? By Richard Ward wattsvilleblues@hotmail.com The Weimar Republic was set up in 1919, after a chain of events starting at the end of the First World War. As a last ditch attempt to get the upper hand in the war, the German Navy was ordered to sea from the port of Kiel. The Navy mutinied, and took the town of Kiel. This mutiny spread, and all over Germany, workers and soldiers broke ranks and went on strike. This rebellion against the ruling class was somewhat reminiscent of the Russian Revolution of 1917. On the 9 November 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated his role as head of state and left Germany for Holland. This was announced by the Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden who also handed power over to the SPD, led by Friedrich Ebert. Ebert became Chancellor and Germany was declared a republic, with freedom of speech and worship. This received a muted response from the German public, who although pleased with the end of the war, were concerned about the effects that the Armistice (and later Treaty of Versailles) would have upon them. The new republic was the first truly democratic government that Germany had ever had. The Kaiser had ruled as a dictator and could do effectively as he pleased. ...read more.

Middle

Hitler was hit and later imprisoned, during which time he wrote 'Mein Kampf'. Also in 1923, the industrial heartland of Germany, the Ruhr, was occupied by French troops. Germany had ceased reparation payments in 1922, and the French acted in the manner to which they were entitled. Ebert's government called upon the workers in the Ruhr to repeat their trick of 1920, by not working and therefore not generating any income. This made the French occupation economically not viable. The problem arose when the government needed to pay for the lost revenue. By printing more money they caused a situation of hyperinflation, which resulted in mass devaluation of the German currency. By November 1923, the exchange rate had increased in the order of billions, and many Germans were either starving or unemployed. Gustav Stresemann, moderated nationalist, ended the economic meltdown by issuing a new currency, the Rentenmark. He also called the strike to an end and this appeasement of the French (in part, at least) resulted in the Munich Putsch. To ease the situation, a financial crisis hit France, which made the already difficult situation in the Ruhr impossible to sustain, so they withdrew. With the French withdrawn and the attempts to undermine government authority on hold (the Freikorps having diffused into mainstream society), Stresemann (the dominant figure in Weimar politics at this time, chiefly serving as Foreign Minister in the coalition government) ...read more.

Conclusion

Hitler succeeded in becoming Chancellor in 1933 primarily because of the effects of the Great Depression. Although he came very close to becoming Chancellor in 1932, if he had not been approached by Papen, it is debatable as to whether he would have become Chancellor in the way he did. The Weimar republic succeeded in bringing Germany social and industrial development and managed the crises with which it was faced in the best ways possible. The introduction of the Rentenmark in 1923 by Stresemann was a prudent move. The Wall Street crash and ensuing Great Depression were two situations for which Germany was not to blame. Moreover, it was these two events that had the most profound effect on the future of Germany. The years from 1924 to 1929 were years of great hope, and had the Great Depression not happened it is arguable as to whether Hitler would have succeeded in gaining power. To argue that Weimar was an unsustainable ideal is somewhat flawed, as for fifteen years it prospered in difficult circumstances. Weimar survived many power-grabbing attempts from both political sides and numerous events that could potentially have been fatal. The recovery from the hyperinflation of 1923 was probably the most resounding success of the republic. Weimar failed only under the strain of worldwide economic collapse, about which they could do very little. The Weimar republic was not doomed from the start, and had the potential to continue to advance and prosper. ...read more.

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