“Assess the impact of the German army on the political process in Germany between 1918-1933”
The political processes in the years 1918-1933 were shaped both internally and externally by the army. This was because in a time so focused on the military the governmental processes seemed to follow suit. And it has been argued that this aggressive military stance was one of the early precursors of the Second World War. Many figured held a large influence in there areas including Alolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and other soldier turn politicians.
Externally the political processes of Germany were visibly shaped by the actions of the army. Yet, as the treaty of Versailles limited the army to 100,000 meant then there were many other militant groups affiliated with the army who took a leading role. Such groups included the Freikorps. The Spartacist Revolution which had aims similar to those of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, these made a change to the political environment through the use of political groups such as the USPD who provided a financial base for their claims. The Kapp Putsch followed in the same vein as this by exerting a force that was running counter to the workings of the Weimar republic. These external occurrences showed an increasingly popular distrust in the republic which can be seen in the translation of many of these movements been translated into political action through the newly formed USPD or German Communist Party (KPD). These outside actions were predominantly caused by the army or armed forces. Thus through creating a turbulent political environment with action groups predominantly on the right wing benefited.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Events such as the Kapp Putsch and the Spartacist revolution watered the seed of thought growing in the German political movement that was bringing down the Weimar republic with the notion of communism. The effects of this influence can be seen reflected in the general elections in 1920. The coalition parties of the SPD, Centre and DDP which previously commanded 78% of the seats in the National Assembly now only held 45%, adding to the increasingly unstable political situation in Germany. It was this collapsing of the Weimar republic that allowed the rise of the Nazi Party, which held huge popular sway with the people. Two key figures in the party were Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda expert, both were former soldiers. Thus the military affiliation that they held gave them even more sway over the people and as such over the government. As such, the government was being given a military focus which is commonly viewed as being very aggressive. This new military influence can be seen in the changing way in which revolutionary activity was crushed. The army, restrained by the government would stand by and let events run their course where groups such as the Friekorps are would crush them effectively. This changing of the governmental order held large ramifications for the future as arms began to once again be built.
The German army, or Reichswehr, had had dubious reliability since it failed to defend the republic during the Kapp Putsch. The course of German history was altered by the army as it was slowly building an army which broke the treaty of Versailles and forced the government in certain directions. General Hans von Seeckt was the chief of the Reichwehr and insisted that the officer corps be free of politics yet drew the majority of the corps from the right-wing social classes. Under Seeckt the Reichwehr evaded the limits of the Treaty of Versailles and was secretly arming and training men using short term volunteers. Thus there was the creation of two definite camps. One of the republican government and the other of the army which was still unreconsiled to the republic and, therefore, in any major crisis was likely to turn against it.
Although political negotiations were constantly happening between the allies and Germany, the actions of each government always seemed to be aggressive. This aggressive standpoint can be seen opitimised by the Ruhr crisis in 1923. This showed how political governing was still functioning yet the power of the military was used easily to get what they wanted. It is argued that the military were instead of attempting diplomatic measures to make Germany pay reparations. In a letter from one of Hindenburg’s generals on 1st November 1923 he says “Government instruments of power are sufficient for this if they [Army, Police] are not split by untimely monarchist endeavors”. It is General Groener’s opinion that the army is an effective tool as it is free of politics and merely serves as a tool to enforce the political decisions. Yet, what is not recognized is the large political affiliation that the generals and politicians controlling the army have. Thus effectively making the Reichwehr a political organization in itself.
As the Weimar republic started to collapse and Hitler and the Nazi’s came to power the role of the army changed from being a small periphery force to an sizable power which took on the roles of the police, army and to an extent, the government. As Hitler slowly turned the German government into a dictatorship the army became less a section of the governments influence and became the government itself. With this the country was ruled with an iron fist. This is shown in the source below which details how Hitler and his forces controlled their leadership. Although Hitler became Fürer after 1933 his power over the governmental processes and the armed forces were well established by this time. This shows that in 1933, the army was still shaping the political processes rather than controlling them. Thus the influence of the army was at its peak before it was completely enveloped into the government.
The political processes during 1918-1933 was greatly shaped by the army, it is debatably its greatest influence. These influences exerted their force from both inside and outside the political arena. As time progressed, the influence became greater as Hitler’s power grew and as such so did the government’s military affiliation. It is arguably one of the major factors which contributed to the eventuation of another World War.