Was the Weimar Republic doomed from very beginning?
The Weimar Republic was created in 1918 when the Germans realised that they were going to lose the war - Was the Weimar Republic doomed from very beginning? introduction. The Germans were shocked that they had lost the war and created this democratic republic to try and solve the economic and social problems caused by the war. However it was not very successful, and I am going to write about the three main factors that caused it to collapse.
One of the reasons was the legacy left behind from WWI. Germany was traditionally an autocracy and were therefore used to having one strong leader of the whole country. A democracy was a radical new idea and was therefore not accepted by everyone. This meant that if there were any problems while the democratic government was in power then people would be quick to assume that the democracy as a whole was not working.
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The Treaty of Versailles also contributed to the collapse of the Weimar Republic. This treaty was a very embarrassing one for Germany as it meant that they lost a lot of land and would be demilitarised. The government were forced to sign this as it was conducted in such a way that it was a diktat (a dictated settlement), this meant that Germany could not discuss or disagree with the terms and were told, sign them or the war goes on. The German public saw this as another failure of the Weimar government.
Whilst the Weimar Republic was in power there was a growing government debt and increasing inflation. The debt was left from the war and was one of the economic problems that they faced. They had to try and get out of debt however they did not accomplish this as the debt kept growing, which also contributed to their collapse. The inflation was due to the government printing more money than its expenditure required. This angered the workers and middle classes as it meant prices rose throughout the country. Yet again this led more towards their collapse as it was seen as another failure from the government and discontented the public.
The “Stab in the back” theory blamed unpatriotic and weak politicians for their defeat in the Great War. General Ludendorff had complained that the Civilian government had betrayed the army and when General Malcolm asked him if he meant they had been “stabbed in the back” he leapt upon the phrase and used it as an excuse for Germany’s defeat in the war. This theory became widely known as the real reason for their defeat due to the propaganda promoting the theory, and meant that the Weimar Republic were blamed for the defeat and not the army. The politicians became known as the “November Criminals” and became more unpopular with the German public. This also meant that there was conflict between the army and the government as they blamed each other for Germany’s defeat in the Great War.
Another reason was the German Revolutions. The Revolution from Above occurred during September and October of 1918. Generals from the army recommended a civilian government and an armistice. A new civilian government was formed with Prince Max of Baden leading it. Some reforms were made however they were not enough to satisfy the German public. Leaving unrest and anger in among the people due to the economic problems and worry about the war.
As the German people were expecting and were promised victory in the war when they found out they were going to lose they were very angry and felt betrayed by their government and army. This unrest is what caused the Revolution from Below. This revolution occurred during October and November of 1918 and during which sailors mutinied and the great discontent and anger grew. The revolution forced Prince Max of Baden to hand over the chancellorship to Ebert, who was a socialist, and the Kaiser to abdicate and flee to Holland leaving a Republic to be formed.
Ebert made a deal with Groener, whereas the Elite would support the new government if the new government supported the Elite. This meant that many socialist groups who did not support the idea of democracy still had positions of power. This was a problem for the Weimar Republic as it meant that there were people with power who opposed democracy. There was also a fear of communism. This meant the Weimar republic would have to be reliant on right wing reactionaries due to this fear of communism. Leaving yet another problem for the Republic to overcome if they were not going to collapse.
The third reason was the Weimar constitution. The constitution was a list of rules for which the country should obey. Article 53 of the constitution stated that “the National Chancellor and, on his proposals, the National Assembly are appointed and dismissed by the National president”. This meant that the president had power over the government. This was a problem for the Weimar Republic as it meant that the president could change the government and overrule then when he felt like it. This caused an instability in power and an unstable political situation. This also meant that the German people would have less trust in the Weimar Republic and democracy as a whole.
Article 48 stated that the National President could overrule and ignore the Reichstag. Therefore any rules or ideas that the Reichstag had could be bypassed if the President didn’t like them, meaning they had less power than they should have done.
Voting by proportional representation meant that the distribution of seats in the National Assembly had a very strong correlation with the number of votes each party got. Although this idea seemed fair it did have many disadvantages that caused more difficulties for the Weimar government. It meant that it was very unlikely for one party to win a majority forcing coalition governments to be formed. It also meant that minority parties with extremist views could gain seats and get their say in the National Assembly. This was a problem for the Weimar government as it meant radical, extremist groups were getting more power.
The constitution included the principle of a welfare state. This meant that the Elites could turn against the constitution as they saw it as too extreme. The workers could also have turned against the constitution as they saw it as too moderate. The government and their constitution could not please everyone and this was one of the main factors that led to their collapse.
In conclusion I feel that from the very beginning the Weimar Republic had many problems to deal with, such as the legacy of the first World War, however I also feel that they created many problems during their time in power as well which were more important in causing their collapse such as the Weimar constitution.