How Great A Burden For The Weimar

Republic Was The Treaty Of Versailles? Essay, Research Paper

Aim: Find evidence for and against the assumption

that the Treaty of Versailles was a burden to the new democratic Weimar

government in Germany.The war had not been successful. Russia?s departure from

the war had had no effect on the strength of the allies and Germany was in an

imminent position, it was going to lose the war. At the time of the First World

War Germany was run by the Kaiser who was a semi-absolutist, he could appoint

who he wished, but also had to consult the Reichstag, an assembly of members

elected by universal male suffrage. During the war two other people joined in

running the country with the Kaiser, General Ludendorff and Field Marshal

Hindenburg. These two men plus the Kaiser exercised a virtual military

dictatorship over Germany. The war in 1916 looked good for the Germans, they

were winning and Hindenburg and Ludendorff blocked several opportunities for

peace. In 1918 it was a different story, the Germans were fighting a war on two

fronts and the naval blockade imposed on Germany meant that food and other

essential goods were not being brought in. The USA had got involved at that

point and poured in a further 2 million troops to support the war effort.

Ludendorff and Hindenburg clearly saw that the end of the war was imminent and

quickly came up with a plan to pass the defeat of the war on someone else they

started there own boigiour revolution. They managed to persuade the Kaiser to

abdicate they then started an Imperial rule again under the control of Prince

Max of Baden. Prince Max of Baden who was the chancellor, until February 1919,

he led the Imperial provisional government set up by the two Generals and the

Kaiser, but the American President knew what was happening and refused to start

talks with Germany until it had a proper government. The different parties in

Germany such as the SPD?s and the USPD?s started a constituent assembly, The

Weimar Constitution. The Weimar constitution was actually very democratic.

Proportional representation meant that everyone in Germany had some sort of

representation. Article 1 of the constitution states that ?The German

Federation is a republic. Political authority is derived from the people.? This

was very advanced for its era, especially the fact that voting included women suffrage

as well as male suffrage. Another good example of it being very democratic in

its thinking is article 41, which states that ?The National President is chosen

by the whole German people.? Not only could the people choose their own

government, but they also had a vote in who led that government. Many

historians have said that it was an amazing and bold political idea, of which

aspects still survive in today?s political systems. As a historian/book writer

once said, a countries political system can not be changed quickly, revolution

only brings the same type of autocratic government with a different face and

promises of a new improved political system, change is gradual. I think that

this government had come into existence too quickly, it was a good fair way of

running a country, but Germany wasn?t ready for a system, which was so

democratic and fair. Germany had only ever experienced Imperialism and this

government was considered to be radical, I don?t even believe that the people

who run this government were ready to up hold its democratic nature. Even so

the concepts behind the idea were very good indeed, it was the first government

ever to give the people a choice. ?? The new Weimar Republic named after the small town where

its first parliament met was far different from the proud Imperial country

founded by Bis?marck. Few Germans admired a government, which had been born out

of defeat; whose representatives had signed the hated Versailles Treaty. From

the start it was plagued by revolutions, riots and dis?obedience of every kind,

especially as its constitution allowed the German provinces a great deal of

freedom. In Berlin a rising of revolutionary socialists called Spartakists had

to be crushed by the army; a similar rebellion was put down in Munich.

Unfortunately, as in Italy, the German army did little about disorder organised

by parties of which its leaders approved. Ex-servicemen were able to join to?gether

in units called Free Corps and allowed to murder and beat up their opponents.

Unofficial ?courts? sentenced and executed their enemies. Once all the party members

had been voted in, by universal male and female suffrage, a constituent assembly

was set up. A constitution was written and all the assembly members were asked

to sign it, and this is when the Weimar constitution was born. The constitution

written by a liberal lawyer called Hugo Preuss, contained a voting system

called proportional representation. This was the first big problem for the new government,

its very own voting system. Proportional representation (PR) basically means

that all the parties that are voted into government have a vote in the legislation?s

that are proposed by the president and his party. This meant that the

presidents government would need at least 50.1% to pass anything, no government

ever managed to achieve this landslide majority therefore coalition government

was a common procedure in the Weimar governmental process. The majority party

would have to find another party with similar ideals and persuade them to vote

in accordance with their legislative ideas. More time was spent getting other

parties to agree with you than actually improving the laws of the nation. The

constitution also stated that ?The President of the Federation may dissolve the

Reichstag? this basically gave the President the right to run the country on

his own, with out the support from the elected government. Ebert, the President

of Germany, did disband the German government at a point and ruled by him self,

this shows the power of the national President, and it is almost as absolute as

the Kaisers powers once were. Another one of the articles in the constitution state

that ?The national President has supreme command over all the armed forces of

the Federation?. If the President liked he could start a war without the

consent of his elected government or he could use the army to take over the

country and impose a dictatorship over Germany. The government engaged in too

much procrastination and not enough action it was basically a failure from the

start. ?? After the war and the

reshuffling of Germanys government the new Weimar government were asked to

discuss and sign a treaty. One of the first questions were whether or not

Germany should be able to vote for or against the proposals made, the members

voted no they shouldn?t. This left Germany powerless to any decisions made by

the members of the treaty, and therefore not responsible for any of the

conclusions that the committee came to. Germany was also blamed for starting

the war, which made it easier for the allies to punish the Germans. Thousands

of millions of pounds were to be paid in reparations to the allies, Germany

lost lots of important useful land and they were not allowed to have an army

over 100,000 men, they were also not allowed to join with Austria and certain

zones were demilitarised. The biggest blow to Germany was the fact that the

government had to sign this treaty. The treaty was unpopular but the fact that

the government had agreed to this treaty was even worse, they had betrayed the

German people. ?? Was the Treaty of Versailles

really the reason for the fall of the Weimar republic? Well, throughout the

Weimar Republic?s history its opponents laid the blame for Germany?s humiliation

at Versailles at the door of the new republic and the ?November Criminals? who

had stabbed the German army in the back. If nothing else the Treaty caused

complete humiliation and national animosity towards the USA and its European

counterparts. Opponents used the treaty against the Weimar republic to create

huge discontentment among the people. The reparations were ridiculously high,

and Germany couldn?t pay them. Germany was defenceless against invasion, which

France did on many occasions to take Germany?s coal and metal because essentially

Germany had broken the treaty by not being able to pay the reparations. The

whole treaty was a mess; the German public felt betrayed by their own

government because they are the ones who agreed to sign the treaty. Hugo

Preuss, 1923 said ?The criminal madness of the Versailles Diktat was a shameless

blow in the face to hopes of political and economic recovery.? ?The opposition to the government reviled in the opportunity to

ruin its reputation and cause the German public to be ashamed and disillusioned

in their government. Riots were a common occurrence for the government to deal

with, and towards the end revolutionary take-overs were also quite common. In

four years 376 political murders took place in Germany. If the killers were

communists they were caught and put to death. If not they were given light

sentences or allowed too escape. Nowhere was this lawlessness more widespread

than in Munich. Capital of Bavaria Here the authorities made no secret of their

contempt for the Republic Some even wanted Bavaria to become independent again

under its old royal family. When Munich s police chief was told that there were

murder gangs operating in the city he replied. ?Yes, but not enough of them?. Political troubles were only part of the story in

1923, when the French army occupied the Ruhr coalfields because Germany had

failed to make certain payments of reparations. German workers began a new war with

their old enemy All over the Ruhr there were strikes and acts of sabotage.

Before long factory and mining work stopped altogether since the area produced

80 per cent of Germany?s coal, iron and steel, the economic effects were felt

throughout Ger?many. Production slowed down, causing widespread unemployment

Worse still German money began to lose its value because it no longer

represented real wealth In January 1923 72.000 marks equaled £1 Ten months

later it took 16.000 million marks to equal a £1. Germans found their savings

wiped away overnight, their wages useless pieces of paper. On the other hand there is evidence which does

show that the treaty of Versailles didn?t actually effect the government

directly. The reparations were too high for Germany to pay and so it didn?t

actually cause a constant economic depression, in fact in November 1923 a new

currency, the Rentenmark, ends inflation crisis and economic recovery begins.

Germany, in 1924 receives foreign help in the form of loans, which literally

marks the end of Germany?s punishment. Pacts between Germany and France and

Germany and the USSR were formed in 1926-1927. Germany even joins the League of

Nations, which gave them an important chance to help make decisions on European

matters; it also marked the fact that Germany?s European counterparts were recognising

Germany again. A quote from a book called ?Weimar and the Rise of Hitler?

written by A. Nicholls in 1979 states ?The real damage the treaty did to

Germany was to disillusion more moderate men who might otherwise have supported

their new republic.? I believe this confirms the fact that it wasn?t the treaty

its self that was the problem, it was the way it was used as propaganda against

the government that caused the biggest problems. J.Hiden, The Weimar Republic,

1974 says that ?It is no longer acceptable to blame the ultimate failure of the

Republic on the treaty of Versailles, and even its economic effects are

disputed?. These two sources seem to be reliable as both have hindsight also

they clearly illustrate the fact that the treaty was hardly at all to blame for

the collapse of the Republic. These three main factors potentially put Germany

in a strong position: ·

The break-up of the Tsarist, Austro-Hungarian and

Turkish empires created opportunities for Germany, since it was now surrounded

by small, weak states, especially in the east. ·

France failed to achieve its aims of a permanently

weakened Germany and a secure border ·

Reparations were not so burdensome that they

destroyed the German economy Above is just one of many anti-republican propaganda

posters used to rally support for groups like the Nazi party. The Treaty was

used in a very unfair way towards the government, directly the treaty didn?t

have a significant effect on Germany, but indirectly it was used to put down

the government and cause national hatred for there leaders. J. Hiden said ?The

pernicious effects of the Treaty of Versailles lie?.in the way it created added

dimensions to existing internal conflicts and contradictions?. The government

was weak, and with the treaty causing so many problems the government wasn?t

decisive enough to deal with those problems. In conclusion I think that the constitution was a

problem on its own for Germany. The written constitution wasn?t properly

thought through, and although the ideas and concepts are good and fair I don?t

believe that Germany was ready for something quite so radical and democratic.

In relation to the treaty I think it did pose as a threat to the government,

not because of the economic repercussions, but because of the way in which it

was used to rally support against the government. Germany was going through

very precarious times and a decisive strong government was needed, which is

exactly what the Weimar constitution didn?t offer.


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