According to the source 1 worksheet, the Weimar Republic faced various crises even during its early years in power, including periods of relative stabilization.
The Weimar Republic encountered difficulties in stabilizing the economy and reconstructing the nation following World War I, alongside handling the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles. Despite achieving certain progress in global affairs, internal political challenges and economic problems impeded the survival of the republic. Stresemann’s endeavors aided in resolving the crises of 1923; however, maintaining support from the Reichstag proved challenging for the government due to opposition from various factions.
Despite encountering separations, Stresemann served as Foreign Minister from 1924 to 1929 and achieved several foreign policy triumphs. Notably, he successfully negotiated the Locarno treaties with Britain, France, and Italy, which solidified Germany’s borders with France and Belgium. Additionally, he secured Germany’s inclusion in the League of Nations alongside Britain and France in 1926.
The Dawes Plan of 1924 and the Young Plan in 1929 were particularly advantageous for Germany. These plans not only decreased Germany’s overall reparations, but also helped establish foreign acknowledgment for repayment of these debts. Gradually, foreign military intervention was reduced, beginning with the removal of British troops in 1926 and followed by the withdrawal of the Inter-Allied Control Commission in 1927, which served as the primary overseer of the Treaty of Versailles terms. The success of its foreign policy was unparalleled during the Weimar Republic era.
The tragedy of the Republic was its consistent failure to persuade the extreme political zealots of the constructive benefits of its policy. When the international economic crisis hit, the Republic’s policy of restrained national reassertion was one of the first casualties leading to its collapse (252 Morris). The Treaty of Versailles had devastated the German government, leaving the republic unable to meet its debt obligations.
Unable to pay the 6.6 Billion pound fee, foreign opposition was determined to make Germany pay, even if it was necessary to occupy raw materials for themselves. France and Belgium troops forcefully occupied the industrial city of Ruhr, a legal action under the Treaty of Versailles. Proclaiming a policy of passive resistance, Germany suffered a significant industrial disadvantage.
Due to the actions in Ruhr, the government faced difficulties in paying damages and resorted to printing more bills. This led to hyperinflation, with the Weimar Republic being held responsible. The consequences were severe, rendering fixed pensions, savings, small businesses, and private trade worthless. The inflationary rate reached an absurd level, causing serious damage to the German economy.
Upon entering, I immediately observed that the price was 5000 marks, which happened to be the exact amount I had on me. Taking a seat, I leisurely read my newspaper, sipped on my coffee, and spent approximately an hour within the café. Once finished, I requested the bill from the waiter who promptly provided me with a total of 8000 marks. Puzzled by the discrepancy, I inquired, ‘Why 8000 marks?’
According to Source 6, The Memories of a German Writer, the mark depreciated greatly during that time. Consequently, I handed all my money over to the waiter who kindly accepted it without any additional requests. This event took place in 1923 during the hyperinflation period when people lost their savings and there was little money remaining for future investments.
By 1924, the Dawes plan was approved, permitting Germany to receive 800 million marks for investment in industry and commerce. This influx of funds helped the country recover its devastated economy. However, despite the high industrial production achieved by 1928, Germany’s economy continued to experience numerous vulnerabilities. It heavily relied on loans from the United States, which could be withdrawn at any moment, leading to a return to economic devastation.
The farming sector in Germany faced significant struggles during the 1920s, with all farms experiencing losses. Despite achieving economic stability by 1929, Germany’s economy relied heavily on foreign countries. Therefore, when the Great Depression hit America, Germany was also affected as America ceased providing loans and recalled some already given. This led to another collapse of Germany’s economy, with high inflation and a halt in many industrial sectors.
The downfall of the Weimar Republic became evident when the population recognized that the government was incapable of stabilizing Germany. The main weakness of the Weimar Republic was the continual conflicts between political parties from both the left and right wings opposing the republic. No party ever achieved a majority in the Reichstag, leading to a multitude of small parties. Despite receiving the most votes, the Social Democrats lacked sufficient power to govern on their own.
Frequently, small parties had to establish coalitions, which frequently proved to be ineffective. Consequently, rivalries within these coalitions led to an unstable government. Additionally, the republic witnessed twenty-five distinct governments during its fourteen-year rule. Certain of these governments only endured for a few weeks.
Stresemann’s aspiration was for foreign policy achievements to facilitate cooperation among political parties, yet this endeavor proved unsuccessful. The nationalists vehemently opposed Stresemann due to their perception of his cautious approach and they outright rejected the Versailles Treaty without considering potential revisions. Additionally, parties like the Nazis and Communists displayed no reluctance in expressing their desire to overthrow the republic. Ultimately, the constitution itself contributed to the failure of the Weimar Republic.
The presence of proportional representation in the political system resulted in multiple small parties without significant influence, as no single party could easily gain control. This lack of unity among the parties ultimately led to extremist movements emerging on both the right and left wings. Consequently, it was the entire political system that contributed to the downfall of the republic itself. Although the republic had a strong foreign policy, these aspects only served to partially enhance its overall performance.
The downfall of the republic was a result of the lack of agreement among political parties regarding a democratic government. This led to rivalries within coalitions, causing instability and an ineffective ruling system. Germany’s economic state was also in jeopardy, with rampant hyperinflation and minimal industrial production, leading to chaotic conditions.
Despite Stresemann’s strong efforts to save Germany, the Weimar Republic was ultimately destined for failure and collapse, paving the way for Hitler’s leadership of the country.