Democracy in Germany
The collapse of the democracy in Germany between 1928 and 1934 was not contributed by one single event but by a wide ranging, and large number of factors, making it vulnerable to sudden shock. In some ways, the complexity of contributing factors to the collapse of democracy can be depended on the shaky foundations, lack of a democratic tradition and flaws within the constitution. Like the article 48, it created opportunities for the corrupt high commands to abuse the democratic authority, the appointment of Chancellor Bruning would be one of the early examples to the failing democratic situation in Germany.
Follow by many other issues such as the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depsression. Germany changed from a true representative democracy to the extreme dictatorship, Nazis totalitarian state. In general, the appointment of Hitler as chancellor signified the end of republic and democracy in Germany. But now, the question is, how did Hitler manage to gain his position of chancellorship? The answer focuses on the economic situation in the world during that period of time. The whole world was suffering from the Great Depression, which brought financial crisis to many countries including the U.S who Germany depended heavily on their loans to pay the reparation payments. This meant more unemployment and failing living standards to the German people.
In many ways this was achieved by the policies of Bruning’s government as he managed to establish an absolutely balanced budget to avoid inflation, by raising taxes, cutting expanded charges, and reducing wages. This shows to us how the weak chancellor and the government were unable to solve difficult issues effectively. This was partly due to the lack of a democratic tradition within Germany.The high commands were not familiar with the representative system and then, more problems kept coming, people kept losing their confidence to the Republic. And this is one of the many elements that contributed to the collapse of Democracy. Moreover, many of them had never accepted the idea of a republic and were still thinking of Germany’s past glories, along with the previous humiliation brought by the Treaty of Versailles such as the loss of territories, the reparation payments and the war guilt clause, people doubted the ability of the Republic.Now, the economic hardship seemed to be proving it right and they lost their confidence to the Democratic system.
This opened a gap for Hitler to get in, and to argue about how bad the republic was. The historian William Shirer believed “Rather it gave men like Hitler the opportunity to take advantage of misfortune. Hitler would be able to use this time of misfortune, not from any concern about the plight of the German people but purely as a means to further his political progress”.Therefore, the Great Depression gave Hitler the opportunity to take advantage of a time of hardship facing the republic to tell the German people that the NSDAP would be able to help the country to get through all the difficulties. This led to the increase of support towards the Nazis and paved the way for their success, and of course, the failure of democracy in Germany. It is also important to look at Hitler and his Nazi party itself, to discover what he had done in gaining his position.When Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933, he swore to uphold the constitution, and would co-orporate with the government.
This fooled the president and Papen and many others who thought that Hitler was actually under their own control, however, they didn’t realize that they had actually underestimated Hitler. Moreover, the flaws of the constitution gave Hitler a chance to do what he wanted. The Article 48 which was designed to protect the constitution in case of dangers was one of the most useful tools for Hitler to exploit the Republic as he was able to use the constitution to change the constitution.This was one example of how Hitler himself tried to gain his position successfully and finally led to the rise of his party with the help of the weakness of the constitution. Another example of these was the proposal of the Enabling Act which gave Hitler the power to issue law without the approval of the Reichstag. This was originally designed to be used for 4 years. However, Hitler had never given up on using this in implementing his extreme personal dictatorship.
Now, at this stage, we can say that Hitler and his Nazi Party was already able to do whatever they wanted to the country because they had the power of the Enabling Act.This meant that at least at the political level, Hitler had become the greatest power and the Democratic system had suffered large scale destruction already. To establish his (Hitler) absolute power, Hitler used propaganda to try to create an element of mass support in the country in order to strengthen his position against both his political opponents and the president, and by using this tactic, Hitler showed to the German people that they never claimed to represent only one class. People were attracted by the idealism of the movement and the hope of a better Germany.Because of this, his government was projected as a government of national revival. On the other hand, he used force to fight against his political and social opponents, particularly the communists. In an intimidation against the communists and others on the left politics, the Reichstag building in Berlin was burnt down.
It gave Hitler an excellent chance to unify the government and to ban the communist party by the declaration of the decree for the protection of people and state. This took away all the basic rights from the German.Again, article 48 was used. This reveals that if there wasn’t such a power, those democratic opponents such as Hitler wouldn’t have the chance to do what they wanted. And again, this became one of the reasons contributed to the fall of democracy. On 21 March 1933, Hitler presented the Nazis and himself as the legitimate government and heir to previous periods in German history, the first Reichstag of the third Reich was opened. ‘Hitler would open the new Reichstag, which he was about to destroy’ (William Shirer).
It gives us a clear idea that this third Reich, was leading Germany to go backwards, a direction which was opposite to democracy, and it signified that Hitler was destroying the Reichstag, by implementing his new “Reichstag”. Finally, Hitler seized control over the civil service, the trade unions, and most importantly, the end of political parties, gives us an idea of the dead democracy and the dramatic growing of his own dictatorship as there was no opponents existed anymore. By this moment, Hitler had already have control over the whole nation, the government, the German people. The feeling of a great change which had affected people vaguely when Hitler entered government now overcame wider and wider sections of the population…The past was dead. The future, it seemed, belonged to the regime. ’ From the German historian Joachim Fest (J. Fest, Hitler, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1973 p 415) These words by the historian Joachim Fest proves the above arguments about Hitler’s seizure of power, and his successes on implementing his dictatorship were true.
And now, by discussing the wide range of factors contributed to the failure of German democracy, we have seen how it was failed from the inside and from the outside. All the events had an effect on defeating the democracy in Germany step by step and finally, a dictatorship came to power, and the republic died. And this is the failure of democracy in Germany in the period between 1928 and 1934. References: – W. Shirer, The rise and fall of the third Reich, Pan books, London, 1964, P. 246 – J. Fest, Hitler, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1973, p.
415 – W. Shirer, The rise and fall of the third Reich, Pan books, 1960, p. 235