Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic, often referred to as the first “real” democracy on German soil (in the Kaiserreich, the parliament decided over the budget but the chief of government was appointed by the Kaiser – who, apart from that, did not have any executive power), was ill-fated: its “conception” on November 9, 1918, when the socialist leader Philipp Scheidemann highhandedly proclaimed the Republic, and its birth, when the constitution was voted on August 11, 1919,  where both the result of a series of betrayals and of violent external pressure.

Philipp Scheidemann

Philipp Scheidemann

The German Empire had been ahead of the other European nations not only with regard to education, research, technical innovation, and productivity but also concerning its welfare system (the first social insurance worldwide had been introduced under Bismarck). Thus, its citizens were enjoying a high standard of living (which does not exclude the fact that, judged from our contemporary point of view, many things could have been improved). However, due to the hardships of war and the violent opposition to the Reich by the socialists and the mass media (freedom of speech was higher than today in the Federal Republic of Germany, where it is impossible to express fundamental critique of the government system and its historical genesis in the mass media), discontent among the population was growing. Yet, the abrupt end of the Reich and the proclamation of the Republic where not making the nation’s situation better; they led to a series of new internal and external conflicts which were fundamental for the raise of the National Socialist Workers’ Party and the outbreak of the Second World War.

Wilhelm II at the time of his exile in the Netherlands

Wilhelm II at the time of his exile in the Netherlands

In 1917, US-president Woodrow Wilson had made it a condition for peace that the Kaiser abdicate. Since the German army was at end with its resources and the declaration of war by the US made a victory impossible, this condition created high pressure on the German government. The newly appointed Chancellor, Max von Baden, tried to convince Kaiser Wilhelm to give way and abdicate by two arguments: supposedly, the terms of peace would be more favorable for a republican Germany and Wilhelm would avoid pushing his country into civil war, caused by a clash between loyalists and anti-monarchists. Both things did not occur. Wilson’s promises had been void, i.e. they were only a trick to weaken the enemy even more; no guaranties had been given to the Chancellor. Indeed, the unprepared change of the form of government in the face of military defeat and the winner’s hateful policy of oppression and humiliation created chaos and thus left Germany defenceless. When radical forces tried to establish soviet communism, civil war was the consequence.

The yoke of Versailles: "You shall toil for the next three generations."

The yoke of Versailles: “You shall toil for the next three generations.”

When the terms of peace were negotiated in Versailles, the German delegation was not even allowed to participate. It was obvious to everybody that Germany impossibly could comply with the conditions of the so called Versailles Treaty, which aimed at the complete ruin of the nation. As a pretext for this policy of despoilment and humiliation, the winners of the war included an article in the treaty that pretended that Germany (together with its ally Austria) was the only responsible for the war and thus had to pay for all the damages (and much more). In the face of a threatening military occupation of the whole country, the German delegation eventually signed the treaty.

Since no government could be successful under these conditions, the socialist Philipp Scheidemann, executioner of the monarchy, co-author of the chaos in Germany, and first chief of government of the new Republic, resigned after being only a few months in charge (February to June 1919). The nation had been deprived of an important percentage of land necessary for the production of food (e.g. 14.6 % of the acreage for wheat, 17.7 % for rye, 17.2 % for potatoes, etc.), an important percentage of cattle (e.g. 140 000 cows, 120 000 sheep, etc.), 90 % of the merchant fleet, 25 % of the fishing fleet, the sovereignty over its own waterways, the national railway company, and the national bank. It was forced to pay astronomical sums: 132 Billion Goldmark, which corresponds to 552 Billion € in 2010 (taking into account that in 1925 Germany’s economic performance was only 5 % of what it is today; the last quota of war reparations for the First World War was only paid in October 2010). In addition, it had to endure violations of the terms of the treaty (e.g. the winners did not comply with the demand of disarmament) and violent aggression, especially in form of the French occupation of the Ruhr area in 1923 (under the pretext that Germany had bot been able to deliver the payments), Polish attempts of occupying Danzig and other territories, and the harassment of the German minority in the territories given to Poland and Czechoslovakia. High unemployment, a hyperinflation, food and coal shortage, and homeless people that had fled from the lost territories in the east were causing more hardships. In this  situation, inner political stability was impossible. It thus is significant that the constituent assembly had to evade from the street fights in Berlin to the small town of Weimar, which gave the state its name. Between 1919 and 1933, the Weimar Republic had 14 different chiefs of government.

Karl Liebknecht

Karl Liebknecht

Adolf_Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Also, many internal enemies worked against the state, in the beginning especially the communists with leaders such as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. These fighters for a soviet Germany had no real backing among the German people but they were radical and planned to overthrow the government by violent means, just as the Bolsheviks had done in Russia by slaughtering millions of people (as described in the English journalist and eye witness Robert Wilton’s book The Last Days of the Romanovs). Pointing to the dominant role played by Jews in Soviet Russia and in international communism, Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists promised to fight “Jewish Bolshevism”  and to shake off the yoke of the Versailles Treaty. To a certain degree, it is astonishing that they managed to resolve all the smothering problems mentioned above in a very short time. His victories in the field of foreign affairs are attributed mainly to the so called “appeasement” policy by England and other nations. However, the too often unmentioned fact that the dictator received money and political support from international high finance (see the historian Antony C. Sutton’s study Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler) and England’s unconditional guaranty for the nationalistic Polish government (Poland had tripled its territory between 1919 and 1923 by invading Czech and Ukrainian territory and openly announced that it wanted to extend its western border to Berlin; in March of 1939, six months before the outbreak of the war, it started to mobilize its army) indicate that Hitler was welcomed by certain circles because he was necessary to start another war and to accomplish otherwise unattainable objectives.

Although the Weimar Republic was not formally abolished by the National Socialists, many historians argue that it ends with Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933.

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