Last Updated 30 Mar 2021

Fortunate to survive so many enemies for so long – discuss this verdict of the Weimar 1919-24

Category Enemies, Germany
Words 991 (3 pages)

In November 1918, following the calamity of World War One, the authoritarian German Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate. Two months later the Weimar was established. This new authority promised to rule more liberally, and brought hope of freedom and prosperity to the German people. However, from its birth in 1919 to its collapse, the Weimar Republic was to face many problems. Thus, the verdict that the Weimar was fortunate to survive would seem correct. The Weimar began its rule over a country in unfavourable circumstances with considerable deep-routed problems. These dated back to Imperial Germany, and were obvious even before the war.

Germany had only been united since 1871. Social tensions had been created by rapid industrialisation that led to changes within the class system, as agriculturists were suspicious of industrial workers taking their place. Also, Germany's economy was behind; Britain had a larger navy, and colonial policy in Africa was not successful. This led to doubt concerning national efficiency. To make matters worse, Germany was run by a narrow elite who was unsympathetic to the hardships his people faced. Less that half a century later, the First World War further devastated Germany.

The country encountered continual military defeats, army mutiny, low morale, poor living and working conditions, food shortages, a lack of consumer goods, inflation and much more. As a result of these pressing problems, the Weimar had little choice but to accept the terms of the 'Treaty of Versailles'. This had devastating consequences for Germany. Weakening the country economically, Germany was compelled to give up much of its land including industrial regions such as Alsace Lorraine, surrender all of its colonies, dematerialise the Rhineland, disarm its army and eliminate its airforce, and pay reparations of i??6,600 million.

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These things brought further hardship for the German people, as the country was continually drained of its wealth and resources. Socially stunting, Germany was forced to accept all responsibility for starting the war, and to accept article 231; the 'War Guilt Clause'. This led to an overwhelmingly low morale. Politically, Germany was to have an Ally-friendly liberal government. This was a main cause of the introduction of a new constitution, and heavily influenced the style of the Weimar. The set-up of this new democratic government itself brought problems for Germany.

The Weimar adopted a policy of proportional representation. This system worked effectively as long as the politicians were prepared to support the constitution. However, the President was given powers under article 48 which could, in times of 'national emergency', be used to undermine the democratic constitution. This was often abused, and led to dictator-like rulers. Also, the new constitution meant that the Republic consisted of many small parties that had to work together in coalition governments with a proportional representation system.

This did not work as the parties had very different political views, and so often couldn't agree on issues. As well as this, many parties within the Weimar actually disagreed with its existence. Leaders of the army, civil service and legal system disliked the new constitution. This lead to certain figures deliberately working against the Republic and stirred trouble in hope that it might fail. The most significant threat came from the President of the Republic from 1925, Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg.

Thus, the Weimar itself led to further weakness in Germany. As well as internal enemies, the Weimar also faced a vast number of outer opposition groups. On the left of German politics, communists such as the Spartacists in 1919, attempted to overthrow the government. On the other extreme, monarchists like Wolfgang Kapp in 1920, or extreme nationalists attempted to destroy democracy in Germany. These revolutions undermined the Weimar, and rallied much opposition from the German people. The opposition also led to other flaws in the Weimar.

For example, the Spartacist revolution resulted in the Eber-Groner pact, which was designed to protect Germany from Communism. However, this agreement represented a huge mistake made by Ebert and his SPD colleges in believing that the threat to the Republic came primarily from the left, when later the army wouldn't help protect the government against Hitler as he was right wing. Also, the very fact that the pact was needed showed that the Weimar was weak. The sum of these factors led to an overall weakness in the Weimar, though some are much more vital that others.

Perhaps the most important was Treaty of Versailles, which led to social, economic, and most crucially political unrest as it also contributed to the success of the Weimar's opponents i. e. the slogan of the 'November criminals', or the 'War guilt clause' gave the Nazis a useful source of propaganda. Another vital weakness was constitution itself, which allowed both internal and external opponents to attack its weaknesses, such as proportional representation, or Article 48 which Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg used to undermine the Constituency.

Also, many of the factors that led to the Weimar's weaknesses inter-link with one another, for example the lack of German unity partly resulted due to previous deep-routed problems of Imperial Germany, or the Spartacist revolt that resulted in the unsuccessful Eber-Groner pact. Yet, despite all of these varied problems, the Weimar remained, supporting the statement that it was 'Fortunate to survive so many enemies for so long'. Yet, there were some factors that worked in favour of the Weimar i. e. many people were simply relieved to have change, and pleased that the soldiers were able to return home.

Another helpful act is that in 1926 reparations were reduced, and assistance was given to Germany to help with re-building. Therefore, as well as simply withstanding defeat, the Weimar managed several accomplishments which led to an improvement the German people' way of life, for example the Constitution solved hyperinflation in 1923, and also improved foreign relations. Plus, after 1924 further improvements were made i. e. Dawes plan by Stresseman. Yet, overall the Weimar's weaknesses seem to out-weigh its strengths, and hence the statement seems to be an accurate interpretation.

Fortunate to survive so many enemies for so long – discuss this verdict of the Weimar 1919-24 essay

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