Weimar Republic: Political Situation in 1920'th

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Even before the Great Depression hit Germany in 1929, the Weimar Government’s political situation was unstable as it faced threats from the radical left and the extreme right due to resentment towards the Treaty of Versailles, the danger of ‘the weakness within’ that gave the President, states and Army too much power, whilst the ineffectiveness of the Weimar Constitution led to political chaos which caused many to lose faith in the new democratic system. In 1919, it was doubtful whether such a constitution could be imposed on a defeated country. 

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Within months of the foundation of the new state, it was rocked and marred by political violence with the left-wing Sparticist Uprising that rose from the in sudden acceptance of defeat in January 1919. Although the Weimar Republic had survived this right-wing terrorism, it was now challenged by the forces of the extreme right with the Kapp Putsch due to the reinforced hostility of many Germans by the Treaty of Versailles to the new Weimar system. In addition, the overuse of the President’s emergency powers under Article 48 weakened Germans’ confidence in democracy and the system of proportional representation led to weak and often short-lived governments. 

During 1919 to 1933, there were 20 separate coalition governments and the longest government lasted only two years, creating problems for the survival of democracy. Moreover, Germany’s defeat in WWI was echoed in the humiliation of the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923, which shattered its economy and led to the most catastrophic hyperinflation in its history. The Weimar Republic was weakened politically, as the great financial losses that many suffered from turned them against the democratic regime. 

Nowhere within the political ferment was the sense of discontent at the Weimar Government’s impotence more strongly felt than Munich, where Hitler exploited his first chance to make a bid for national power in the Munich Putsch in November 1923. Although the Nazi Party did not have high levels of support in the next few years because of the humiliation over the putsch, Hitler worked to rebuild the Party and decided that he would use the democratic mechanisms of the Weimar Republic to take power instead of using force. 

However, despite the Nazi Party’s organisational changes, the results of the May 1928 election with only 2.6% and 12 seats in the Reichstag confirmed that Hitler would remain on the margins of German politics, due to the leadership of Gustav Stresemann. He was the man credited for bringing a period of relative prosperity, creating the impression that Germany would seek compromise and conciliation rather than conflict. Consequently, support for extremist parties fell away and more moderate parties increased their share of the vote in elections. 

Successes such as the Locarno Pact of 1925, the League of Nations membership in 1926 and the Kellog-Briand Pact of 1928 all helped to improved Germany’s international standing and confidence. Following a lowering of the war reparations with the help of the Dawes Plan in 1924, the Young Plan was adopted in 1929 to replace it to reduce payments even more. Although the middle years of the Weimar Republic saw domestic prosperity and current relaxation in internal relations, the politics only showed apparent stabilisation. Between 1924 and 1929 governments were glued together by tenuous coalition of centre to moderate right-wing parties. The underlying weaknesses ultimately contributed to Weimar’s death when the Great Depression hit. 

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