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Ð''Account For The Collapse In German Democracy In The Period 1918-1933

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The collapse of the Weimar democracy in 1933 could not be attributed to one event, but more referred to in a monocausal manner. A multiplicity of factors were involved to upset the republics equilibrium and made it vulnerable to sudden shock. The complexity of contributing factors to the democratic collapse can be partially blamed on the shaky foundations and inherent flaws within the constitution, making the republic susceptible to future problems and the Nazi take over. The economic situation which swamped the republic can often be blamed as a key factor or trigger in the disintegration of social and political systems. It can be said that it was the political intrigues of the conservative elites that allowed Hitler and his Nazi party to gain power and further amount to the last of the German democratic government which was once fought so hard to support.

The shaky foundations of the Weimar republic was one of many significant contributions to its collapse during 1933. During the year of 1918, the harsh realities of the failing attempt to win the war of attrition led socialist Scheidemann, in fear of allied pressure, to announce the new German republic on November 9th. With Ebert as president, the new inexperienced government, lacking in tradition was hit with a Ð''dictated peace' in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty signed on the 28th of June 1919, was used by the allies to control and weaken German ability in becoming a further threat in future wars, without Germany's input (hence the diktat). Germany under the impression of a fair resolution under Wilson's 14 points, but was later proven wrong. The humiliation associated with the new treaty lead the new republic government to be nicknamed the Ð''November criminals' and this is verified with the reparation bill 231, or the Ð''war guilt clause', being told that the army was incapable of advance in the lost war, leaving military and civilians to blame the republic as what was described as a "shameful" peace by Hindenburg, and was later described by Hitler as the Ð''stab in the back legend', to gain support from civilian's for the Nazi party and as stated by historian A,J.Nicholls "all officials were hostile to the republic."

The new perfect on paper treaty of Versailles would soon enough be put to practice. The constitution provided by the new government as a resolution would soon destroy itself, due to flaws within. This is easily shown with the system of proportional representation. On paper the ideal was that each party would have an equal chance in parliament, in practice it was this that lead to the parties of the new government breaking into Ð''splinter' politics, leaving no majority votes, resulting in malfunctions to form a government. This resulted in 25 separate governments in the period from 1918-1923. The parliamentary government with its deadlocks, bickering and frequent elections disgusted the German people whose traditions were of authority and discipline. It can however be said that this (proportional representation) was not a main flaw within the system, but only a contributing factor. The system of proportional representation was also introduced in Europe and was used successfully and due to this the inexperience of the new German government can be to blame. As stated by historian A.J.Nicholls, "the proportional system helped those parties dedicated to the destruction of the republic".

Ð''Article 48', a second significant flaw in the constitution and contributing factor in Weimar's eventual collapse. It (article 48) allowed the government, in times of crisis, to let the president rule by a state of emergence, nicknamed the Ð''suicide clause'. It was this flaw that later contributed in allowing Hitler to turn the democracy into a totalitarian state, to change the laws of the democratic system and take control of Germany. As historian S.J.Lee has stated, "the existence of article 48 was always potential for the translation of conservatism into dictatorship"

Economic instabilities were also a major contribution to the failures of the German democracy in 1933. The heavy reparation payments Germany was forced to pay as a result of the diktat treaty of Versailles, was put in place as a future weakening of the German economy in a revenge of the allied losses. These reparations, to be payed to the allies caused a severe economic dislocation in the early years; an obvious example of this is during the French Ð''occupation of the Ruhr'. During 1921 German payments of $50 million put enormous strain on the economy, Germany's request to suspend payments until her economy recovered was rejected, as a result of this the French gained German's main industrial area in January 1923, the Ruhr in an attempt to seize goods from factories and mines. Passive resistance, ordered by the government meant that the German industry of the Ruhr was paralysed, making French attempts a failure, also having catastrophic effects on the German economy. By July 1923 a standstill dollar would buy 160,000 marks, by November the value of the mark was completely worthless, at 4,200,000 million to the dollar.

By the end of 1933 the republic had been brought on the verge of collapse. The financial disaster had profound effects on German society. Hyperinflation became a significant factor in the collapse of the republic in 1933, with wages for the working class becoming valueless, trade union funds wiped out, and middle classes and small capitalists losing their savings, society began to turn to extreme anti-republican groups. The replacement of the devalued currency with the Ð''rentenmark', in 1923 and was given equal value to pre-war gold Reichsmark in an attempt to save the economy. The turn to extreme parties due to economic issues is demonstrated with the 1932 elections. Anti-republican parties gaining majority, the Nazis gained 230 seats, and the KPD, 89 seats. By march 1933 elections the Nazis gained 44% of the vote. These figures demonstrate the strain in which the economy had on the republic, the action civilians took in turning to other extreme parties for a resolution and the loss for support of the democracy leading to its eventual failure. As stated by S.J.Lee, "it was the economic disastersÐ'...which lead to political ramifications".

The fragile Weimar republic was held up by a Ð''period of stability' during the Stressmann era, a time of recovery and consolidation, of no violence, political opposition or economic problems, and social freedoms at a high. Economic stability improved dramatically after the year of 1924, due to the Ð''Dawes Plan', giving time for stabilisation by altering reparation payments,



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