The weaknesses of the Weimar Republic played a massive part in Hitler’s rise to power. This includes the impact of the first world war, the constitutional weakness of the Republic, the implications of the Treaty of Versailles and the Kapp/Munich Putsch; along with other factors that led to Hitler’s success, that were not directly related to the Weimar republic, for example the Wall Street Crash, propaganda techniques adopted by the Nazis, and Hitler’s charisma, personality and leadership skills. Firstly there was the impact of the defeat at World War I and the Treaty of Versailles that followed the defeat.This includes the anger of the German people at their country’s humiliating defeat and surrender. This is known as the ‘stab-in-the-back ’myth because the politicians signed a treaty leading to Germany’s defeat at the war.
Reasons for this public feeling were because the Germans weren’t defeated on their own soil, and most soldiers thought they were winning. Other problems include the poverty in Germany, this involved people going to the length of bartering for food. When the new republic was declared, Ebert was chancellor, which also immensely angered the right-wingers, as Ebert was predominantly a socialist.Finally, the government at the time was completely reliant on the judiciary, army and police to keep order.
The problem with this was that the majority of them were loyal to the old system, as well as being right wing. They were much harsher on left wing crime; a prime example of this is Hitler serving just 10 months’ imprisonment for treason. A significant problem with the Weimar republic was the fact that it was constitutionally weak; the very nature of the PR system proves this, due to the failure to form a majority government. Parties only needed 2% of votes in order to gain seats.There were also a lot of elections, for example in 1932 there were 5, a staggering amount. This wasn’t the only problem, however, each party was extremely self-interested.
Article 48 was an issue. It was created as a means of protecting the republic when it was threatened, for example by the Kapp putsch. As time went on however, especially during Hindenburg’s chancellorship, it was misused, with decree laws going from 5 being used in 1930, to 44 in 1931 and 60 in 1932, while sittings of the Reichstag declined from 94 in 1930 to 13 in 1932.Moreover, a serious ingredient to Hitler’s success was the Treaty of Versailles. Winning public approval for the republic was made much more difficult because of this.
The terms of the treaty included $33 billion reparation payments, a war guilt clause, great loss of land and colonies and an army of a mere 100,000. Besides these brutal terms, the war guilt clause proved to be extremely damaging. It was a constant reminder to the German nation of the ‘stab in the back’ by the ‘November criminals’, which did nothing to help Weimar.It worsened their economic problems during the economic slumps of 1923/24 with inflation reaching astronomical heights.
What historians have argued was the final straw for Weimar was the French occupation of Ruhr due to Germany’s missed payments. Another episode in the Weimar Republic’s time in charge were the years from 1924-28. These were the “golden years” for Germany. Historians argue that there was political stability and growth, and political violence was left behind. Even Germany’s economy had stabilised, quite an achievement after the 1922/23 inflation problems.It all went disastrously wrong.
In order for Germany to be as stable as it was, the government had taken short term loans from the United States, and in 1929, with the Wall Street Crash, the loans were called in and Germany was left in a worse state than before, with unemployment reaching 5. 6 million. Hitler and the Nazis used the Wall Street Crash extensively in their propaganda; of course they blamed it on the Weimar Republic. From 1928 there were strains economically with investment dropping and unemployment rising.Due to the turmoil in Germany due to the US calling their loans back in, Bruning was using article 48 increasingly to govern. Due to the Nazis’ propaganda or the fact that the nation remembered the inflation issues back in 1923/24, perhaps this was the reason why right wing support increased.
Another factor in Hitler’s rise was the Munich Putsch. Here, he tried to take the government by force. Some argued that it was Stresemann’s compliance with the Treaty of Versailles (to end the French occupation of the Ruhr) that confirmed his decision to make a bid for power.The Reichswehr stopped units of the SA along with Hitler, Kahr, General von Lossow and Colonel von Seisser and sixteen Nazis were killed. Hitler was arrested, and in prison wrote Mein Kampf. A certain part of Hitler’s success is the collapse of parliamentary government 1930-33.
In 1930 Muller resigned as chancellor due to pressure, with Bruning taking over. His election of 1930 was quite disastrous; the Nazis jumped from 12 to 107 seats. It was only through the tolerance of the SPD and Hindenburg’s support that he made it to May 1932, when Franz von Papen took over.Papen had no hesitancy about governing by presidential rule. He then decided on an election in July 1932, which saw the Nazis jump to a staggering 230 seats in the Reichstag.
They had both miscalculated public support for the Nazis. It was at the next election of November 1932, where the Nazis’ support was slipping and lost 2 million votes/34 seats. By this point, von Schleicher was chancellor, yet not two months later he resigned, when Hindenburg instructed Papen to discuss terms of a chancellorship with Hitler. Hitler was finally made chancellor.
Papen apparently wrote to a friend: “I have got Hindenburg’s confidence.In two months’ time we will have squeezed Hitler into a corner until he squeaks”. This was completely wrong because not even three months later Hitler was the undisputed ruler in Germany and the enabling law had been passed, allowing him to create his dictatorship. The final factor that attributes to Hitler’s success is his own ideology. His book, Mein Kampf, explains many of his ideas.
In the books it explains how he wanted ‘complete dominance over the country by the leaders of the movement” and to gain this he was prepared to be pragmatic and flexible.He viewed propaganda as a crucial tool in winning support, which proved to be correct. What is quite astonishing is Hitler’s sheer determination and will power. After setbacks including the Munich Putsch and the November 1932 elections he still achieves near absolute power over Germany within the space of three months after becoming chancellor.
Even when Hitler had to make compromises, they were always tactical and he never deterred from his fundamental principles, as proved by his undisputed, authoritarian rule over Germany.