Monday, 19 February 2007

Stresemann's Golden Era (1923-1929)
Gustav Stresemann was Reichskanzler for a brief period in 1923,serving as foreign minister during a relative period of stability for the Weimar Republic with beginnings of an economic recovery.
Stresemann's first move was to issue a new currency, the Rentenmark, to halt the extreme hyperinflation crippling German society and the economy. It was successful because Stresemann refused repeatedly to issue more currency, the cause of inflation. To further stabilise the economy, he reduced spending and bureaucracy while increasing taxes. He signed the Locarno Treaties with the Allied countries in 1925 as a means of restoring Germany's diplomatic status in Europe.
It was in this period the Dawes Plan was also created, tying reparations payments to Germany's ability to pay. Germany was admitted into the League of Nations, made agreements over it's western border, signed a neutrality pact- theKellogg-Briand pact- with Russia, and disarmament was brought to a halt. However this progress was funded by overseas loans, increasing the Nation's debts, while overall trade decreased and unemployment rose. Stresemann's reforms did not relieve the underlying weaknesses of Weimar but merely gave the appearance of a stable democracy.
Despite the progress made during these years, Stresemann was criticised by his opponents for his policy of "fulfilment" or compliance with the terms of the Versailes Treaty, and by the German people after the invasion of the Ruhr, in which he agreed to pay the reparations set by the treaty in order for the French troops to evacuate.
In 1929, Stresemann's death marked the end of the "Golden Era" of the Weimar Republic.
The Republic crumbles and Hitler's support rises(1930-1932)
Loss of credibility
The last years of the Weimar Republic were stamped by even more political instability than in the previous years and the administrations of Chancellors Bruning, Papen, Schleicher and Hitler were all Presidentially appointed dicatorships. On March 29,1930, Bruning was appointed Chancellor by Paul von Hindenburg after months of political lobbying on behalf of the military. The new government was expected to lead a political shift towards conservatism, based on the emergency powers granted to the Reichsprasident by the constitution, since it had no majority in the Reichstag.
After an unpopular bill to reform the Reich's finances was unsupported by the Reichstag, Hindenburg established the bill as an emergency decree based on Article 48 of the constitution. On July 18,1930, the bill was again invalidated by a slim majority in the Reichstag with the support of the SPD,KPD, the (then small) NSDAP and DNVP. Immediately afterwards, Bruning submitted to the Reichstag the president's decree that it would be dissolved.
The Reichstag general elections on September 14, 1930 resulted in an enormous political shift: 18.3% of the vote went to the Nazis, five times the percentage compared to 1928. This had devastating consequences for the Republic. There was no longer a majority in the Reichstag even for a Great Coalition of moderate parties, and it encouraged the supporters of the Nazis to bring out their claim to power with increasing violence and terror. After 1930, the Republic slid more and more into a state of potential civil war.
From 1930 t 1932, Bruning attempted to reform the devastated state without a majority in Parliament, governing with the help of the President's emergency decrees. During that time, the Great Depression reached its lowpoint. In line with liberal economic theory that less public spending would spur economic growth, Bruning drastically cut state expenditures, including in the social sector. He expected and accepted that the economic crisis would, for a while, deteriorate before things would improve. Among others, the Reich completely halted all public grants to the obligatory unemployment insurance(which had been introduced only in 1927), which reulted in higher contributions by the workers and fewer benefits for the unemployed. This was understandably an unpopular move on his part.
The economic downturn lasted until the second half of 1932, when there were first indications of a rebound. By this time though, the Weimar Republic had lost all credibility with the majority of Germans. While scholars greatly disagree about how Bruning's policy should be evaluated, it can safely be said that it contributed to the decline of the Republic. Whether there were alternatives at the time remains the subject of much debate.
The bulk of German capitalists and land-owners originally gave support to the conservative experiment: not from any personal liking for Bruning, but believing the conservatives would best serve their interests. As, however, the mass of the working class and also of the middle classes turned against Bruning, more of the great capitalists and landowners declared themselves in favour of his opponents - Hitler and Hugenberg. By late 1931 conservatism as a movement was dead, and the time was coming when Hindenburg and the Reichswehr would drop Bruning and come to terms with Hugenberg and Hitler. Hindeburg himself was no less a supporter of an anti-democratic counter-revolution represented by Hugenburg and Hitler.
On May 30, 1932, Bruning resigned afterno longer having Hindenburg's support. Five weeks earlier, Hndenburg had been re-elected Reichsprasident with Bruning's active support, running against Hitler (the president was directly elected by the people while the Reichskanzler was not).
Franz von Papen calls for elections
Hindenburg then appointed Franz von Papen as new Reichskanzler. Von Papen lifted the ban on the SA, imposed after the street riots, in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the backing of Hitler.
Papen was closely associated with the industrialist and land-working classes and pursued an extreme Conservative policy along Hindenburg's lines. He appointed as Reichswehr Minister Kurt von Schleicher and all of the members of the new cabinet were of the same political opinion as Hindenberg. This government was to be expected to assure itself o fthe co-operation of Hitler. Since the Republicans and Socialists were not yet ready to take action and the Conservatives had shot their political bolt, Hitler and Hindenberg were certain to achieve power.
Elections of July 1932
Since most parties opposed the new government, von Papen had the Reichstag dissolved and called for new elections. the general elections on Jyly 31, 1932, yielded major gains for the KPD and the Nazis, who won 37.2% of the vote, supplanting the Social Democrats as the largest party in the Reichstag.
July 1932 resulted in the question as to now what part the immense Nazi party would play in the government of the country. The Nazi party owed its huge increase to an influx of workers, unemployed, despairing peasants, and middle-class people. The millions of radical adherents at first forced the Party towards theLeft. They wanted a renewed Germany and a new organisation of German society. The left of the Nazi party strove desperately against any drift into the train of such capitalist and feudal reactionaries. Therefore Hitler refused ministry under Papen, and demanded the chancellorship for himself, but was rejected by Hindenburg on August 13, 1932. There was still no majority in the Reichstag for any government; as a result, the Reichstag was dissolved and elections took place once more in the hope that a stable majority would result.
November and "Socialist General" Schleicher
The Novermber 6, 1932 elections yielded 33.0% for the Nazis: it dropped 2 million voters. Franz von Papen stepped down, and was succeeded by General von Schleicher as Reichskanzler on December 3. The political army officer Schleicher, had developed in atmosphere of semi-obscurity and intrigue that encompassed the Republican military policy. He had for years been in the camp of those supporting the Conservative counter-revolution. Schleicher's bold and unsuccessful plan was to build a majority in the Reichstag by uniting the Trade Unionist left wings in the various parties, including that of the Nazis led by Gregor Strasser. This did not prove successful either.
In this brief Presidential Dictatorship entr'acte, Schleicher took the role of "Socialist General" and entered into relations with the Christian Trade Unions, the Left Nazis, and even with the Social Democrats. Schleicher's plan was for a sort of Labour Government under his Generalship. It was an utterly un-workable idea as the Reichswehr officers were hardly prepared to follow Schleicher on this path, and the working classs had a natural distrust of their future allies. Equally, Schleicher aroused hatred amongst the great capitalists and landowners by these plans. The SPD and KPD could have achieved success building on a Berlin transport strike.
Hitler learned from von Papen that the general had no authority to abolish the Reichstag parliament, whereas any majority of seats didn. The cabinet (under a previous interpretation of Article 48) ruled without a sitting Reichstag, which could vote only for its own dissolution. Hitler also learned that all past crippling Nazi debts were to be relieved by German big business.
On January 22, Hitler's efforts to persuade Oskar von Hindenburg (the President's son) included threats to bring criminal charges overestate taxation irregularities at the President's Neudeck estate (although 5000 extra acres were soon allotted to Hindenburg's property). Out maneuvered by von Papen and Hitler on plans for the new cabinet, and having lost Hindenburg's confidence, Schleicher asked for new elections. On January 28 von Papen described Hitler to Paul von Hindenburg as only a minority part of an alternative, von Papen - arranged government. The four great political movements, the SPD, the KPD, Centre, and the Nazis were in opposition. If this continued there was real danger that the Centre and Nazi parties would radicalize further, and that in the end a vast united national bolshevist front would be formed against the ruling system.
On 29 January Hitler and von Papen thwarted a last - minute threat of an officially - sanctioned Reichswehr takeover, and on 30 January 1933 Hindenburg accepted the new Papen- nationalist- Hitler coalition with the Nazis holding only three of eleven Cabinet seats. Later that day, the first cabinet meeting was attended by only two political parties, representing a minority in the Reichstag: the Nazis and the DNVP led by Alfred Hugenberg(196+52 seats). Eyeing the Catholic Centre Party's 70(+20BVP) seats, Hitler refused their leader's demands for constitutional "concessions" (amounting to protection) and planned for dissolution of the Reichstag.
Hindenburg, despite his misgivings about the Nazis' goals and about Hitler as a person, reluctantly agreed to Papen's theory that, with Nazi popular support on the wane, Hitler could now be controlled as chancellor. The date dubbed Machtergreifung(seizure of power) by the Nazi propaganda is commonly seen as the beginning of Nazi Germany.


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