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#11: Experimentation and Miscalculation.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Doris Bergen

EXPERIMENTATION AND MISCALCULATION THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC AND THE RISE OF HITLER AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM, 1919-1933 INTRODUCTION •Germany in the period from 1919 to the rise of Hitler in 1933 •Unlike Mussolini, who is often underestimated in hindsight, Hitler continues to grow in the assessment in how important he appears in popular culture Hitler and Nazism have become the symbols of evil in the 20 century • •It was not always this way •In hindsight the Weimar Republic (WR) is often overshadowed by the history of the Nazi period as if the Germans were on a one-way roller-coaster straight to totalitarianism from WWI •The WR lasted longer than Hitler’s Third Reich •To erase the WR is to erase the 12 years of National Socialism •Those who tried to create a democratic republic in Germany after WWI (the WR) faced difficult set of obstacles The decline of the republic was not inevitable, or doomed to fail • •There were a series of steps that replaced the WR •The Nazi regime was based on racial purity and spacial expansion A RCHITECTURE OF D OOM W EIMAR R EPUBLIC INCEPTION AND CONSTITUTION th •November 9 1918 -- the German Social Democrats (SD)SD declared Germany a republic •With the abdication of the Kaiser, the German government was reshaped in the forming of the democratic republic, usually referred to as the WR •Called the WR because the government moved its capital city from Berlin to Weimar - conditions in Berlin were too dangerous, what with the revolutionary possibilities •The Weimar constitution, passed by a constituent assembly in 1919, was a model of a democratic constitution •Gave the vote to all adult men and women O UTSIDERS AINSIDERS •The new republic represented a transformation from the old hierarchal German society •The outside became the insider -- people who had been on the outside, social democrats, workers, Jews, women; suddenly positions on power in the WR •The constitution was drafted a by a German lawyer -- something that would have been unthinkable before (even after) •The percentage of Jews in the Germany was very small -- less than 1% •Other kinds of outsiders had a chance to have some insider status EXPERIMENTATION AND MISCALCULATION THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC AND THE RISE OF HITLER AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM, 1919-1933 SD played some very important leading roles in the early stages of the • republic • In culture, too, there was a chance for outsiders to become insiders • Berlin, during the Weimar years was transformed from a boring capital city in the Imperial age into the center of the most progressive and exciting cultural developments in Europe -- cabarets, art exhibits, gay clubs • When outsiders become insiders there are also some risks • The old insiders remained inside • Germany did not undergo a massive revolution after WWI -- civil servants remained in place and they had to contend with the new insiders • The old insiders created obstructions for the new insiders -- there was a tension at the very beginning • Made it difficult to bring about change • In order to maintain power, the new insiders had to make deals and make compromises -- they had to find ways to reach out to their critics from the left and the right C HALLENGES TO THE R EPUBLIC • The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was very disappointed with the outcome of 1918-9 -- they wanted a revolution instead of a Bourgeois republic • Aggression for the republic on the left The Freikorps were also opposed to the new republic -- did they could to destabilize • it • Aggression for the republic on the right • From the very outset there were very real political challenges to the republic -- not because it was doomed to fail, but because many conflicting demands • The opposing parties tried to steer a course -- but they found it very difficult to do so • Threats from the left and the right -- attempting to make alliances in both directions • As a result alienating people on both sides • To make matters worse, the legal system remained in tact -- many of whom had allegiances to the Old German System and were hostile to the republic • They were lenient in their punishments against those who tried to destroy the republic from the right • But, they were much stricter when punishing those who attacked the republic from the left They were often referred to as the “Justice that was blind in its right eye” • LEFT • Initially, in the wake of WWI the biggest threat to the republic came from the revolutionary left • New officials took a very hard line against radicals and insurgents EXPERIMENTATION AND MISCALCULATION THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC AND THE RISE OF HITLER AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM, 1919-1933 • January 1919 -- members of the Freikorps killed 2 prominent communists, Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht • Leaders of the republic were accused by the left of being complicit in the deaths -- using the Freikorps like a kind of enforcer to try and protect the republic • The enmity between Communists and liberals (SDs) deepened considerably after this • The rift was encouraged by Stalin’s Soviet Union • There was no natural alliance between SD and Communists • The SD were a threat to the potential success of a communist revolution RIGHT • 1920 -- a group of former military men tried to overthrow the republic in a military- style putsch • Known as the Kapp Putsch of 1920 • It was not the right that saved the republic, but the workers • Urban workers called a general strike -- they refused to cooperate with the putchists • The republic was able to reestablish its authority FURTHER CHALLENGES THE VULNERABILITY OF THENEW INSIDERS • 1922 -- foreign minster, Walther Ratheanu, was killed by a group of right wing assassins • The assassins considered Ratheanu, who was Jewish, to be a trader to Germany -- however, he was a hero in WWI • When he was appointed foreign minster it was a major step forward for German Jews -- the first German Jew to hold such a prominent position • Outsiders as insiders also made people vulnerable in particular ways • Ratheanu’s assassins had targeted him for a long time before they killed him with very vicious anti-semitic attacks FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGES • The most significant was that the new leaders of the republic were blamed by many elements of the populations for saddling Germans with the lose of the war and the with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (TV) • The TV was not a bad treaty for the Germans -- Germans lost 10% of their territory, much that they had recently acquired; the war guilt clause was not a moral accusations; the reparations are often understood as crushing the German economy, but reparations were not paid until the 1920s -- all of these aspects were very unpopular • The fact that Germany had not been invaded or occupied meant that it was quite easy to believe in the notion that th
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