Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Weimar Germany between 1919 and 1932 IB History HL 28. 12. 2011 Plan Intro: * Historical background of Weimar Republic * Thesis statement (Draw comparisons between strengths and weaknesses, assess their importance and conclude which was the most important) Body: * Compare/Contrast * Attempt at democracy supported internationally vs. German hatred of Treaty of Versailles * Revolution started by the people vs. Right-wing tendencies of elite and army * Strong political parties already in place vs.
Weaknesses of proportional representation * Strengths of responsible use of Article 48 vs. Dangers of misuse of Article 48 Conclusion: * Give short summary of all * Which was the most important? * none, all equally important * Refer back to thesis statement ___________________________________________________________________________ Essay In late 1918, early 1919, Germany was faced with the great fate to become a democratic state stemming from a tyrannical monarchy under the Kaiser. Said monarchy had been overthrown by a revolution by the people and now the government was about to turn into a democracy.
This democracy, later to be known as the Weimar Republic, was faced with perils on all sides in many situations, overcoming them by virtue of its strengths and lasting until 1932 when the exploitation of its weaknesses ended its reign as a democracy, turning it back into a tyranny under a single man. This essay will assess the strengths and weaknesses of Weimar Germany, draw comparisons between them and determine which was the most important in its rise, flourish and eventual fall. The Weimar Republic was the first attempt at true, constitutional democracy in Germany.
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Throughout its history, Germany had only been led by autocratic rule, from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (the First Reich), through the divided monarchy (Prussia, Austria, Bavaria as independent kingdoms), till the Bismarck Era (the Second Reich). When the idea of revolution and democracy, a government for and by the people, spread through Germany and the Kaiser abdicated in the wake of the German Revolution of 1918, other democratic governments like the USA and the UK saw it as a great step in the right and wanted to support it.
France, as the third internationally prominent democracy, was not so optimistic towards the idea of a strong German state even if democratic. Had the US and the UK been unrelenting in their support for the German democratic government, Weimar Germany may have lasted longer than it did. As it was, while the international support from prominent powers boosted the Weimar Republic's standing internationally and brought it some support in Germany, the allies' caution in this matter and hence their harsh treatment of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles in fact contributed more to the downfall of Germany than its first success.
In fact, the Weimar Republic was seen, and still today is seen, as having been born from the Treaty of Versailles. This fact made the democratic system extremely unpopular in the eyes of the German people as the Treaty was seen as a diktat by the allies against Germany and the political leaders of Germany that signed the Treaty, i. e. the political forefathers of Weimar Germany, were regarded as criminals by some Germans. This inherent hatred was a severe weakness of the Weimar Republic and was one of the major factors responsible for its downfall.
The German Revolution of 1918 was orchestrated, executed and accredited to the people of Germany. Its importance in the rise of the Weimar Republic clearly signalises that the new democratic government had the full backing of the working class which, at this time, made up the majority of the voting public in Germany. This fundamental backing from the majority of German voters meant that a democratic system could function and this initial support from the people was one of the major strengths of the Republic.
A nation, however, does not exist without an elite and the elite in Weimar Germany were extremely discontent with then change in political system. The elite in Germany in 1919 were a group that had profited well under a monarchy and many of their income systems would be destroyed under a democratic government that would put the common man before them. In between the bourgeoisie, high-standing army officers saw the political leaders of Weimar Germany as criminals for signing the Treaty of Versailles which effectively destroyed German military power.
This distrust and hate from the elite towards Weimar Germany was a fundamental weakness as it led to the political intrigue in later years when figures like Schleicher and von Pappen manipulated the system to their needs, leading to the downfall of Weimar Germany. Had there not been such distrust and hate, Weimar Germany may never have fallen, showing it as a grave weakness of the system. When the Revolution came and the Republic was declared in Germany, there were clear political parties that formed.
This was a significant strength of the Weimar Republic as there was not much time needed to form political parties with clear goals as these had already been formed in the Reichstag of the Second Reich. This decisive democratic action enabled the new government to form quickly and immediately show a face of democracy with the elections soon after. These elections, however, revealed the weakness of the newly introduced system of proportional representation as the Reichstag was over-run with representatives from countless parties that all needed a seat.
This system severely slowed down all decisions in the Reichstag and so frustrated the public. This was hence a major weakness as it compromised the decision-making ability of the German government and made the public lose hope in the system. This weakness also directly contributed to the downfall of the Weimar Republic as the public's displeasure at the ineffectiveness of the system made them look towards a stronger leader like Hitler for order.
In the Weimar Constitution, Article 48 enabled the President to assume dictatorial power in times of emergency to "protect" the Republic. Used responsibly, this article was an effective if morally questionable mechanism to prevent coups and keep the democratic government in power in Weimar Germany. This was done under President Ebert in the early times of the Republic as the Spartacist Uprising, the Kapp Putsch and the Socialist takeover of Bavaria threatened democracy's power. The article could, however, also be misused with grave consequences.
As the only thing stopping the President from dictatorial rule under Article 48 was the Reichstag and the President could dissolve the Reichstag, there was really nothing stopping the President from dictatorship except his own self-restraint. Said self-restraint was apparently not present in President Hindenburg as he blatantly abused article 48 in his time eventually leading up to the fall of the Weimar Republic, showing that this article was also a great weakness of the Weimar Republic.
From above, we have seen the many weaknesses and strengths of the Weimar Republic and how each played their little role in the rise, prospering and the fall of Weimar Germany. The remaining question would now be, so which was the most important? To this there can be no answer. Each of these factors contributed their own little part to the Weimar Republic and its fall. Had they not all been, the Republic may have fallen directly after its conception, or might still stand today, we cannot know.
There is no telling what would have happened had one weakness been completely replaced by a strength or vice versa. The facts remain that each contributed their part to the face of modern history today. Bibliography Benz, Wolgang. A Concise History of the Third Reich, translated by Thomas Dunlap. London, England: University of California Press, Ltd. , 2006. John Hite, Chris Hinton. Weimar & Nazi Germany. London, UK: Hachette Livre, 2000.
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