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Why was the Weimar Republic so short-lived?

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Introduction

Why was the Weimar Republic so short-lived? The Weimar Republic entered a broken Germany in 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had plunged Germany into an economic recession and social outrage; the new government faced unpredictable political rivalry from extremist parties and its own constitution and parliamentary system could not solve the problems it faced as a result of the negativities of an overly-pure democracy. Apart from this, the Great Depression had the final say in securing Germany's (arguably inevitable) fate. The extensive �6600 million reparations payments (determined in 1921) of the Treaty of Versailles threw the Republic into a deeper state of national debt. Territorial losses on Germany's behalf meant that it was now harder than ever to cover these payments. Alsace-Lorraine - acquired by Germany in 18711 - was an economically and geographically important area of land that had trade routes leading from Germany to other European countries although the government now suffered a great loss in potential tax revenue. ...read more.

Middle

This therefore disclosed the general lack of support for the government from the army and the Freikorps (who were partially supporting the revolt under General Luddwitz and General Ludendorff) which limited Ebert's power when dealing with such situations as he needed the support of the masses to successfully suppress these rebellions. The collapse of the parliamentary system played a key role in determining the life-span of the Weimar Republic. Ultimately the most obvious sign of failure was the appointment of Hitler as chancellor in 1933 - who supported authoritarianism and anti-Semitism - through growing support for the Nazis during early 1932 and political pressure on Hindenburg to appoint him although one of the many other reasons leading to this collapse was the policy of proportional representation and Article 48 of the constitution that disallowed effective policies from being passed. For example, Franz von Papen's 'government' only lasted eight months during 1932 in which Reichstag support for his newly formed 'non-party' government was minimal6. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many historians argue over the inevitability of Germany being a militaristic state. A.J.P. Taylor argues that it was "no more a mistake...to end up with Hitler than it is an accident when a river flows into the sea"9. He argues that throughout history Germany had experienced the extremes of success and failure and it was expected that a figure-head such as Hitler would revive Germany from the humiliation of World War One through a dictatorial and revengeful upturn. However, Michael Laffan argues that the failure of the Republic was caused by their weaknesses and their enemies' strengths and that the fate of Germany was not "predestined"10. The Weimar government was struggling from the very beginning. It lacked the necessary competence to cope with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the international embarrassment Germany faced. It also struggled to effectively suppress the violence of attempted rebellions from extremist parties promoting communism and authoritarianism as well as failing to establish a sustainable level of democracy. The Great Depression sealed Germany's fate of returning to militarism and political isolation to dissolve any hope of the survival of a typical democracy. ...read more.

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