Collapse of the Weimar Republic
“On 2 August 1934, President Hindenburg died. Within an hour of his death Hitler announced that the offices of chancellor and president were to be combined and that he was the new head of state. Hitler’s adolescent dream of becoming Fuhrer of the German people had been realized” President Hindenburg’s death marked the official end of the Weimar Republic, a democratic ‘experiment’ that had lasted since 1918. The causes of the dissolution of the Republic are wide ranging and numerous, as was explained in the articles of both Richard Bessel, and John McKenzie. The two author’s agree on the sequence of events which led to the dissolution of the Republic, however, they disagree on what exactly caused the transition from Weimar to the Third Reich. The author’s disagreement stem from a differing view of the fundamental cause, political structure versus political leadership.
Richard Bessel’s article stresses the political structure of Weimar Germany as the cause of its failure. Its structure was flawed in numerous ways, all of which contributed to its inevitable failure. First of all, the problems within Germany due to the First World War were massive. This caused economic, political and social problems which first had to be dealt with by the new Weimar government. The loss of the war had left Germany with huge reparations to pay, and massive destruction to repair. In order to gain the capital needed to finance efforts to rebuild, and repay the Allies, the economy had to be brought back to its prewar levels. This was not an easy task.
Roughly 2.7 million German soldiers returned from the First World
War with some sort of permanent disability, and in 1923 the Reich
Labour Ministry estimated the number of war widows at 533,000
and of war orphans at 1,192,000…the scale of the problem may be
judged from the fact that during the mid-1920s nearly one third of
the funds at the disposal of the Reich government were swallowed
up by pension costs.
This alone was a major economic hurdle to overcome. With the amount of money being demanded by the Allies in reparation payments, and the pension costs of the war victims, there was little left to finance rebuilding initiatives, and to get the country back on its feet in general. These economic problems were worsened by the very weak currency, and loss of many international trading partners. The people of Germany did not at the time realize that the country was as poor as it was, and expected the situation to revert to what it had been like previous to the war. Unfortunately this was not possible.
The Left wing government had gained power quite unexpectedly, and was not prepared to deal with the problems the country was facing. Many of the political elites had relinquished power, and backed out of the new left government, taking with them their leadership, experience and support. The Left gaining power was “perhaps less the...