Essay on Weimar: Weimar Constitution

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You will have studied the effects of the Treaty of Versailles on the new republic and also examined the benefits and flaws of the Weimar Constitution. The next area of study is the threats to the republic 1919 – 23. You will be expected to analyse the threat from the left wing, threats from the right wing and also the impact of hyperinflation. You should also be able to review and evaluate the progress of the Weimar Republic during this period and come to a judgement as to how it survived.

Threats from the left – Hite + Hinton p40 –41 - White p13-14

Who were the left?

Why did they oppose the Weimar republic?

What evidence is there of a threat?

Widespread (H+H p41) “Red army” in the Ruhr.
Strong in cities eg Berlin
Fed off working class discontent “defeated armies returned to starving homes” (Wiskemann)
Backing of Lenin and Soviet Russia
Not Serious?
Popular support not reliable. Most historians now argue that support was economic rather than politically motivated. Few German workers wanted soviet revolution.
Poor leadership of KPD
Even socialists not united.
Lack of clear strategy and internal divisions.
Government could rely on the army against the left. Ebert hated revolution “like sin”
Judiciary brutal against the left.

“With hindsight it is clear that the extreme left posed much less of a threat than was believed at the time” (Layton)

Threats from the Right – H+H – 42-43, 51-55 - White – 15-16, 19-23

Who were the right?

Why did they oppose the Weimar Republic?

There were many right-wing splinter groups but the main political parties were the DNVP and the NSDAP. These were essentially anti-democratic but in the case of the DNVP tolerated the government in order to protect the interests of the landowners and businessmen. There were also right-wing paramilitary groups like the Stahlhelm, Freikorps and the SA. The strength of the right wing lay in the extent to which their supporters were entrenched in German society and held key positions. The police, educators, civil servants and the army (‘contemptuous loyalty’) fall into this category.
“students scrape their feet when they hear the words national constitution”

What evidence is there of a threat?

Kapp Putsch 1920
As a response to troop reductions the Freikorps led by Luttwitz and von Kapp occupied Berlin. The government fled and ordered General von Seekt to put down the rebellion. He refused claiming that “troops do not fire on troops” A general strike by the workers of Berlin ended the episode.
Although the lenient treatment of the participants (H+H p44) and the reaction of the army reveal sympathy there was little support and the Republic survived because of the willingness of the workers to defend it. This was “the moment when German democracy lost it’s way” (Nicholls) 1920 also saw losses for the left wing parties.

Marinebrigade Ehrardt formed the Organisation Council. And carried out 350 killings the most notable of which were Matthias Erzberger and Walther Rathenau.. (See H+H p43 and sources 2.12 and 2.15)
When police chief Ernst Pohner was asked if he knew the threat of the right wing murder gangs he replied – “I know. There are not enough of them.”

“The enemy is on the right” (Chancellor Wirth)
“The extreme right was united in its rejection of the Weimar system” (Layton)

Beer Hall Putsch 1923
Munich1923. First real indication of importance of Hitler and the NSDAP. It failed largely because of lack of planning and disorganised leadership but gave Hitler a platform to “turn defeat into triumph”

So how serious was the right wing threat?
In researching the rightist opposition one is immediately struck by its depth, range and variety. However unlike the KPD opposition was diverse and uncoordinated and ranged from the army down to