German Problems 1918-1933 Essay, Research Paper
German problems 1918-1933
Germany s main two concerns in the years between 1918-1933 were its economy and politics. Both are considered to be biggest problems the Weimar republic had at the time. Economic problems were among the most pressing that the young republic had to face. Because of the inflationary means by which the imperial government had financed the war, the German mark in 1919 was worth less than 20 per cent of its prewar value. Despite Erzberger’s energetic financial reforms, the state’s revenues from taxation based on nominal values were hopelessly inadequate.
Moreover, the economic impact of the Treaty of Versailles was crushing. Germany lost 13 per cent of her territory, 10 per cent of her population, 15 per cent of arable land, Huge amounts of ships and shipping facilities and of railway rolling-stock were delivered to the Allies.
All this was more important than the reparations payments imposed by the treaty, although the latter attracted greater attention. This was because of the link made in the treaty between reparations and the so-called ”war-guilt” clause. Article 231 bothered the Germans more than any other. The amount of reparations fixed in 1921 was estimated by J. M. Keynes to exceed by three times Germany’s ability to pay. Another reason for the prominence given to reparations is their alleged contribution to the runaway inflation of the early 1920s. In fact, however, inflation, far from being the consequence of reparations, preceded them. Successive governments then seized on it as a means of evading reparations payments, as well as for internal social purposes. No German government before 1923 made any attempt to stabilize the currency, because German industrialists worked out a system of ”inflation profiteering.” They would obtain short-term loans from the central bank for improvement and expansion of their plant, and then repay the loans with inflated currency.
The Political consequences for the new republic were disastrous. Of all the old forces from imperial Germany that survived into the Weimar Republic, none was as dangerous as the Junkers, with their economic base in agriculture, their prestige base in east-Elbian society, and their positions of power in the army and the civil service. They, more than anyone else, were responsible for the psychological incubus of monarchism weighing on the Republic. Hugo Preuss had rightly said that no constitution would work which was not accompanied by a positive ”national spirit.” Instead, the regime was the target of a constant stream of nationalistic invective and denunciation of democracy and parliamentary government in general as un-German and wicked. This drew strength from the Versailles treaty and the ‘’stab in the back” legend. Such an assault could never have assumed the proportions it did, if the Junker and other conservative and reactionary forces had not been allowed to regroup in 1919 under the banner of the DNVP.
As a political party, the DNVP took advantage of parliamentary institutions to undermine them. The leaders recognized that, deprived of the virtual veto on German affairs that they had been able to exercise through the three-class suffrage in Prussia; they must use the methods of democracy to fight democracy. They therefore abandoned the role of an agrarian pressure group and presented the party as a broadly comprehensive coalition of the political Right. By this sort of appeal they captured the loyalty of many people of merely sound patriotic feeling, as distinct from bellicose nationalism, who were alienated from the Weimar Republic and from the system of parliamentary government, which was its essence. Misunderstanding the principles of the SPD, these people were unwilling to ”accept” the state that they considered its creature. So successful, indeed, were the leaders that by 1924 the DNVP had become the second largest party in the Reichstag, not far behind the SPD.
There were those who would have nothing to do with a system they regarded as having been imposed on Germany by the Allies through the SPD. There were others for whom the introduction of a fully constitutional system under conditions of crisis obscured its rational content. The attitude of contempt for parties and politicians, common before 1918, was still widespread thereafter. It was not easy, even under changed conditions, for the parties to escape from the role to which Bismarck had cast them.
The whole business of forming coalitions, and therefore of governing at all, infinitely more difficult and complicated. Party leaders in government were compelled to divert a good deal of their time and energy to mollifying their own party organizations. At the same time this undifying development only served, for some people who thought of themselves as idealists, as evidence of the uselessness or harmfulness of political parties as such.
All of the instabilities that the Weimer Republic had made almost a pathway for the DVNP party to gain the support they needed to take control of the government. An unstable economy made it quite easy to convince the common person that there needs to be a change. While the random actions of its political system paved a path almost directly to the head government. In the end it makes sense that the weak would fall to the strong, or bullying we could say. In this case the weak was the Weimer Republic and the strong the NDVP.