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The Weimar Republic and The Factors that Lead to Its Failure

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To some extent the Weimar Republic was a failure however there are other factors to consider when answering this question. Many factors such as the political instability and the still recovering economy ultimately led to the rise of extremists such as the Nazis however, in other aspects like culture and foreign relations the republic did improve and recover.

To What Extent Was the Weimar Republic a Failure?

Firstly, even though the republic achieved relative political stability, the Great Depression in 1929 generated more extremism and contributed towards the rise of the Nazis and their eventual takeover. During the Depression people gave support to such parties due to their promises to give people the things they wanted e.g work. Also, parties such as the SPD and the Center Party broke up their coalitions and in addition to this, due to the number of parties in parliament both led to parties not willing to work together and that led to stale politics. Parties could not pass any laws due to them being voted out by many of the other parties and this lack of cooperation also led to extremists such as Hitler rising because people wanted a leader who could solve problems with brute force and with no opposition. People thought that this would allow the country to run better.

In addition to this the economy of the Weimar Republic was failing due to the sharp increase in unemployment due to the Depression and this put a large financial drain on the economy due to unemployment benefits and the workforce being reduced and thus less tax revenue being collected. Also, Gustav Stresemann implemented a policy in 1924 called the Dawes plan which aimed at allowing American investments and loans into Germany which provided a temporary boost in the economy however due to the Depression many of those firms were now calling in those loans and people were not able to pay them and so this created an economic struggle that the Republic would not get out of.

Next, under Stresemann and the Weimar Constitution there were cultural changes in the Republic and many people, many of whom were strictly conservative did not welcome these changes and heavily protested them. For example under the constitution free speech and freedom of expression was installed and many people did not like people talking about controversial topics e.g sex and this led to the Bauhaus school of architecture being moved out. This also further contributed towards extremists like Hitler rising due to people wanting traditional values back.

Moreover there were problems with the constitution as well which contributed towards its downfall in the long run. For example, Article 48 of the Constitution allowed the President to suspend democracy and have “emergency powers” which meant that they could pass any laws they’d like without the approval of the Reichstag. These powers would allow any president to take down their opposition and become a dictatorship. Also, the Constitution doesn’t define what the term “emergency” is specifically so it can be interpreted differently. In fact, President Hindenburg handed these powers onto Hitler , who was Chancellor in 1933 and that resulted in him passing the Enabling Act, giving him dictatorial powers. That allowed Hitler to become the Fuhrer of Germany and was the final nail in the coffin for the Weimar Republic.

However despite these points the Republic did see some improvements. Firstly, the Republic’s Foreign relations drastically improved under Stresemann due to a few reasons. More sympathetic governments in Britain and France were more willing to cooperate and also, the Locarno Treaties in 1925 gave the Allies confidence that Germany was starting to be a peaceful nation and thus led to The Republic being accepted into the League of Nations and this was a major foreign policy success.

Next, the economy of the Republic improved drastically and the era of the hyperinflation of 1923 was over under Stresemann. Stresemann introduced a new currency called the Rentenmark which replaced the now worthless mark. This gave the Republic a second chance to improve their currency. Also, Stresemann signing the Dawes plan in 1924 led to more investment flowing into the Republic and thus quality of life improved due to better, housing, infrastructure and general life improved. So these investments allowed for the country to rebuild its economy. In fact, by 1928 industrial production levels were higher than those of 1913.

Furthermore, despite the increasing political instability, the situation was improving. Many parties with opposing views created coalitions and worked together which was not seen before. By 1928 moderate parties had more seats than extremist parties and that shows that the people wanted to maintain the Republic and get further away from extremism.

Moreover, the Constitution of the Weimar Republic allowed women to vote and It also allowed everyone to have freedom of speech and expression which paved the way for art and other media criticizing the government. These freedoms also allowed well known artists like Grosz to become popular and helped influence people’s political views with his art. For example, one of his pieces “Pillars of Society” shows the inequality that daunted the Republic and exposes the corruption that the Republic faced.

In conclusion, there were many factors that led to the inevitable downfall of the Republic like: the growing political instability, abuse of article 48, the economic problems and the Great Depression. However, while the Republic lasted it did have some successes such as: the freedoms people now had, the improving foreign relations, political parties starting to work together and the improved quality of life.

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