- Published: September 8, 2022
- Updated: September 8, 2022
- Language: English
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The Nazi regime is remembered as one of the greatest atrocities of modern history, and nothing nearly as horrific has happened since. The impacts of the Nazis are well known, years later the turmoil that resulted from World War Two has shaped our society, and the atrocities that happened in 1940s Germany has been a lesson to humanity. We know all this, but how did the Nazis manage to come to power so suddenly? As my history assignment, I will investigate this, and examine the factors and events that caused the democratic Weimar Republic to collapse and be replaced by a dictatorship in such a short time.
The Weimer Republic is the term today attributed to the German democratic state which was established after World War Two and governed Germany from 1919 to 1933. There was an elected parliament, or “ Reichstag” as it was known, which made decisions democratically and was governed through proportional representation. The vote was what underpinned it, and universal suffrage has been achieved very early on. It was among the first working attempts to form a liberal democracy, and managed to function quite successfully.
However, it had come with many weaknesses too, and the political climate was hostile- Germany was in crisis, and this eventually allowed Hitler to take power. I will now examine the factors which caused the Weimar Republic to fail and the Nazis to rise. Germany had been devastated by World War One, and the country’s infrastructure and population had been severely damaged by losing the war. This left Germany very poor, and struggling to rebuild itself. But to make things worse, as the losing side they also had to pay reparations.
This was cemented by the treaty of Versailles, which sought to punish and put the blame upon Germany for World War One. The Allied side wanted revenge, and George Clemenceau, prime minister of France openly aimed to shame the German people. The allied side gained control of most of Germany’s factories, scaled down the German military and took disputed land away from them. This left the German people feeling bitter and resentful, and cripples the country’s economy- unemployment was rife and inflation was uncontrollably high.
Many Germans were also angry at the Weimar Republic for bowing to the needs of the Allies, and felt that they were being betrayed by their own government. Germans were increasingly turning to radical politics as a solution, whether with communism on the far-left, or as would be the case; the Nazis on the far-right. Also, internationally, the 1929 Wall Street crash left America devastated- so it had to halt all its foreign loans. This was disastrous for Europe, which was dependant on American financial aid to rebuild itself. Also, the Weimar Republic’s structure was inherently flawed.
It used proportional representation, which meant that the Reichstag became cluttered with small parties, and there was no majority rule by one party. Plus, the moderate parties were often fighting amongst themselves, and wouldn’t co-operate, which allowed a way forward for the Nazis. This was also the very system which allowed Hitler to be democratically elected to power as the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler had a mesmerizing appeal to the German people- he offered to restore German pride and distance Germany from the Versailles treaty.
He offered solutions to unemployment and inflation, and the Germans jumped at them. Hitler is remembered as a master of oration- he was an excellent speaker, and would arrange large rallies to garner support. He managed to build a cult of personality around him, utilizing propaganda and commanded the adoration of the Germans as a single “ Fuhrer” figure. He gained a lot of financial support from wealthy businessmen who trusted him to revive the economy, and used his influence to crush his opponents. Eventually, he gained more and more votes, and more and more influence.
The other figures in parliament, and President Hindenburg eventually made a deal to allow Hitler to assume the role as chancellor in the mistaken thought that then they’d be able to control him. From here, Hitler’s power grew and grew and the Nazi’s grip upon Germany had been firmly secured. Germany had gone from a democracy to a dictatorship in a matter of years. In conclusion, it was a multitude of factors which resulted in Hitler taking power over Germany. The previous system was severely flawed, and had many loopholes which would allow Hitler to slip through.
Plus, the German people were bitter, resentful and hugely disadvantaged by the World War One aftermath, and Hitler offered many people new hope for Germany. I think that it was a combination of these factors which created the right political climate for Hitler to come to power and the Nazi regime to happen. If anything though, this serves as a lesson to us all. It is vital for us to remember that even the most democratic government can fall through, and we must never forget the horrors of Nazi Germany- but just how easily a society can transform completely in a matter of years.
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