Why was the Weimar republic so short lived?
Since it’s very beginning, the Weimar republic had suffered much opposition caused by a number of different reason which went against the general thoughts: it accepted the humiliating and unpopular Treaty of Versailles, the general thought of the “stab in the back” caused people to dishonor democratic governments, the parliamentary system introduced by the Weimar Republic had serious weaknesses, the political parties had no experience on operating a democratic parliament. Furthermore, the time period chosen to give birth to such Republic was not the best, as the Treaty of Versailles, together with the Depression caused people to develop extremist ideologies refusing to support the democratic Weimar Republic. Also, the rise of single- party rulers like Hitler motivated people to go against a democratic government which accepted the limitations and punishments, causing germans to rage against their nation and, as I said, develop either extreme right or extreme left ideologies.
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After WWI Germany was judged responsible for the damages and deaths caused by the war, the Treaty of Versailles was created to decide how to act in respect of the above statement. The Allies chose to make Germany pay for reparations and limit it’s army in order to prevent a future outbreak of war. As the Weimar Republic accepted such diminishing terms of the treaty, people always associated the Republic with defeat and dishonor. The rise of nationalists like Adolf Hitler enforced this association even more as the speeches he presented to a quickly increasing amount of people convinced the vast majority of germans that organizations like the Weimar Republic supported the suffering and the issues that were affecting Germany.
In 1919 the general belief that the German army had not been defeated but it had been “stabbed in the back” by the democrats who had passively agreed to the Versailles Treaty was heavily spread among the opposition of the Republic. This general view was fed by the people’s lack of understanding, in fact it was General Ludendorff who had asked for an armistice while the Kaiser was still in power. However, the widespread stereotype of the “stab in the back” was eagerly fostered by the enemies of the Republic who viewed it as yet another reason to destroy the democratic parliamentary system.
Such parliamentary system introduced by the Weimar constitution had a number of weaknesses, among these, the most relevant was it’s system of proportional representation, this implied that all political groups would have a fair representation. The issue with such principle was that given the vast number of parties, none of them could ever gain an overall majority. Thus causing great frustration among parties which were not able to carry out their program and which never succeeded in their campaigns.
The developing political parties had little experience regarding the operation of a democratic parliamentary system as the role of the Chancellor had suffered from a drastic change: before 1919 the Reichstag had not controlled policy, the Chancellor had the final authority and was the one who effectively ruled the country; under the new Weimar constitution this got inverted- the Chancellor was responsible to the Reichstag who then had the final authority to take decisions.
The diminishing state of the German economy had a strong impact on the collapse of the Weimar Republic as it proved it incapable of dealing with such issue. In 1919 Germany was close to going bankrupt because of the enormous expenses of war which had lasted much longer than anyone expected them to have lasted. The attempts made by the Republic to pay for the reparations made matters even worse. France took the decision of occupying the Rhur because of the German payment interruption, this depicts the French attempt of gaining goods from German factories; the German government ordered workers to follow a policy of passive resistance which prevented France to gain goods, but caused the German industries to paralyze diminishing the German economy catastrophically by creating a great inflation, resulting in the collapse of the mark.
The apparently safe alternative to this catastrophe was the national socialist party- Hitler. People listened to Adolf Hitler’s speeches and got convinced that he had the solution to the decaying situation. The support of the Nazi party closely depended on the economic failures- the more unstable the economy was, the more seats the Nazis won in the Reichstag.
The Weimar republic was doomed from the beginning, it’s unpopularity caused by it’s acceptance of the Versailles Treaty and the situation Germany had to suffer under it’s control pushed people to listen to extremist leaders who took radical and drastic measures expressing the opinions and feelings citizens expressed.