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PART THREE: The Weimar Republic - SOURCES

Section One: The Foundations of the Republic - 1918-1923

Source A

On 1 October 1918 Ludendorff asks the SPD be brought into government.
I have asked His Majesty to bring those people into the government who are largely responsible that things have turned out as they have. We shall therefore see these gentlemen enter the ministries, and they must now make the peace which has to be made. They must now eat the soup which they have landed us in !

Source B

Workers and soldiers –

Your hour has come. Now, after long endurance and days of silence, you have set about the task. It is not too much to say: at this time the world is watching you, and you hold the fate of the world in your hands.

Workers and soldiers! Now that the hour has come, there can be no going back. The same ‘socialists’ who have laboured for four years in the pay of the government, who have in recent weeks put you off with the ‘people’s government’, with parliamentary government and other trash, are now doing everything to impair your struggle, and to break up the movement.

(Manifesto of the Spartacus Group, 8 November 1918.)

Source C

On 9 November 1918 the SPD leader Ebert accepts the post of Chancellor.
Prince Max of Baden… Has turned over to me the task of carrying on the affairs of the Reich Chancellor. I have in mind to form a government by consent of the parties and will give a public report on this shortly.

The new government will be a people’s government. Its goal will be to bring peace to the German people as soon as possible, and to establish firmly the freedom which it has achieved.

Fellow Citizens: I ask you all for your support in the heavy tasks that await us. You know how seriously the war has threatened the sustenance of the people … The political revolution should not interfere with the feeding of the population.

(Chancellor Freidrich Ebert’s Manifesto, 9 November 1918)

Source D

In his memoirs General Groener remembers his secret telephone conversation with Ebert on 10 November 1918.

In the evening (10th November) I telephoned the Reich Chancellery and told Ebert that the army put itself at the disposal of the government, that in return for this the Field-Marshal and the officer corps expected the support of the government in the maintenance of order and discipline in the army. The officer corps expected the government to fight against Bolshevism and was ready for the struggle. Ebert accepted my offer of an alliance. From then on we discussed the measures which were necessary every evening on a secret telephone line between the Reich Chancellery and the high command. The alliance proved successful.

We (the high command) hoped through our action to gain a share of the power in the new State for the army and the officer corps. If we succeeded, then we would have rescued into the new Germany the best and strongest element of old Prussia, despite the revolution.

Source E

In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler rails against the November Revolution and its perpetrators.

And so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations; in vain the hunger and thirst of months which were often endless; in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching at our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the death of two million who died … There followed terrible days and even worse nights – I knew that all was lost. Only fools, liars and criminals could hope in the mercy of the enemy. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed … There is no making pacts with Jews; there can only be the hard: either – or.

I, for my part, decided to go into politics.

Source F

The liberal newspaper the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ appeals to the National Assembly on 10 February 1919.
The German National Assembly in Weimar should resolve as a matter of urgency that a large notice be put up in every room used by the politicians and wherever the machinery of party runs. This notice should bear the message, in letters of fire: ‘Do not forget: the German people has carried out a revolution!’

Source G

Article 48, Weimar Constitution, 1919.

If any state does not fulfil the duties imposed upon it by the Constitution or the laws of the Reich, the Reich President may enforce such duties with the aid of the armed forces.

In the event that public order and security are seriously disturbed or endangered, the Reich President may take the measures necessary for their restoration…

Source H

The Constitution of 1919 included numerous basic welfare rights. Welfare provision was a contentious issue throughout the history of the Weimar Republic.

Article 161, Weimar Constitution, 1919.

In order to maintain public health and the ability to work, to protect motherhood and to make provision against the economic consequences of old age, infirmity and the vicissitudes of life, the Reich will provide a comprehensive system of insurance, in which those insured will make a vital contribution.

Article 163, Weimar Constitution, 1919.

Every German has the moral obligation, his personal freedom notwithstanding, to exercise his mental and physical powers in a manner required by the welfare of all.

Every German shall be given the opportunity to earn his living through productive work. If no suitable opportunity for work can be found, the means necessary for his livelihood will be provided. Further particulars will be given in subsequent legislation.

Source I

Hugo Preuss, a prominent architect of the 1919 Constitution, expresses his concern about how the German people will cope with the new democratic political order.

I have often listened to debates with real concern, glancing rather timidly to the gentlemen of the Right, fearful lest they say to me: ‘Do you hope to give a parliamentary system to a nation like this, one that resists it with every sinew of its body? Our people do not comprehend at all what such a system implies.’ One finds suspicion everywhere; Germans cannot shake off their old political timidity and their deference to the authoritarian state. They do not understand that the new government must be blood of their blood, flesh of their flesh, that their trusted representatives will have to be an integral part of it. Their constant worry is only: ‘how can we best keep our constituted representatives so shackled that they will be unable to do anything?’

(Hugo Preuss, Staat, Recht und Freiheit [1926] as translated in Republican and Fascist Germany, J Hilden, Longman 1996)

Source J

Heinrich Stroebel, a member of the USPD, comments on the events of November 1919.

Except for a handful of political careerists and profiteers, the whole country feels greatly depressed by the course and results of the revolution. Today, as the first anniversary of the birth of the Republic approaches, not only are the Junkers and upper bourgeoisie simply itching to give it a mortal blow at the first opportunity, not only is it an object of scorn for the small man and the peasant, but it is so even for the proletariat, which feels mocked and cheated, and considers democracy simply the façade behind which capitalist exploitation and military despotism are carrying on exactly as they did under the monarchy…

Source K

On 13 March 1920 Wilhelm Kapp, a senior civil servant, issued a proclamation and tried to establish a conservative regime in Berlin. His Putsch failed.

The Reich and nation are in grave danger. With terrible speed we are approaching the complete collapse of the State and of law and order. The people are only dimly aware of the approaching disaster. Prices are rising unchecked. Hardship is growing. Starvation threatens. Corruption, usury, nepotism and crime are cheekily raising their heads. The government, lacking in authority, impotent, and in league with corruption, is incapable of overcoming the danger. Away with a government in which Erzberger is the leading light !

We shall govern not according to theories but according to the practical needs of the State and the nation as a whole. In the best German tradition the State must stand above the conflict of classes and parties. We reject the granting of class-advantage either to the Right or the Left. We recognise only German citizens …

Everyone must do his duty ! The first duty of every man today is to work. Germany must be a moral working community!

Source L

In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler comments on the reaction of the authorities to the French occupation of the Ruhr and the need for ‘national renewal’.
But anyone who in the spring of 1923 wanted to make France’s occupation of the Ruhr an occasion for reviving out military implements of power had first to give the nation its spiritual weapons, strengthen its will power, and destroy the corrupters of this most special national strength … Regardless what type of resistance was decided on, the first requirement was always the elimination of the Marxist poison from our national body … To fight France with the deadly enemy in our ranks would have been sheer idiocy … For never in our history have we been defeated by the strength of our foes, but always by our own vices and by the enemies in our own camp. Since the leaders of the German state could not summon up the courage for such a heroic deed, logically they could only have chosen the first course, that of doing nothing at all and letting things slide … To be sure, this so-called passive resistance as such could not be maintained for long … Hence any so-called passive resistance has an inner meaning only if it is backed by determination to continue it if necessary in open struggle or in undercover guerrilla warfare.

Source M

Monthly averages of Dollar Quotations for the Mark between 1914 and 1923:

July 1914


January 1919


July 1919


January 1920


July 1920


January 1921


July 1921


January 1922


July 1922


January 1923


July 1923


August 1923


September 1923


October 1923


November 15 1923


Source N

A personal recollection of the hyper-inflation of 1923.

May I give you some recollections of my own situation at that time? As soon as I received my salary I rushed out to buy the daily necessities. My daily salary, as editor of the periodical ‘Soziale Praxis’, was just enough to buy one loaf of bread and a small piece of cheese or some oatmeal. On one occasion I had to refuse to give a lecture at a Berlin city college because I could not be assured that my fee would cover the subway fare to the classroom, and it was too far to walk. On another occasion, a private lesson I gave to the wife of a farmer was paid somewhat better – by one loaf of bread for the hour.

(Personal memoir of Dr Freida Wunderlich, found in J W Hiden, The Weimar Republic, 1974,p.86)



  1. Conditions seemed to exist for a remodelling of Germany after the First World War. Discuss.

  1. Do you agree with the view that the conditions in which the Weimar democracy was born were not all that helpful to allow it to flourish?

  1. To what extent were the German people willing to accept the Constitution of 1919 ?

  1. How significant were the years from 1918 to 1923 in the history of the Weimar Republic ?

Source-based Questions

  1. How accurate an account of the handing over of power to the civilian government is given by Sources A C and D?

  1. Why did General Groener telephone Ebert on 10 November 1918 as indicated in Source D?

  1. Explain why the architect of the German Constitution in Source I was concerned about whether the German could cope with the new democratic order.

  1. Do you agree with the view of Wilhelm Kapp in Source K that The Reich and nation were in ‘grave danger’ in 1920?

  1. How ‘representative’ of the German people on the occupation of the Ruhr by the French were the views expressed by Hitler in Source L?

  1. How convincing is the personal recollection in Source N of the hyper-inflation of 1923 ?

Section Two: Foreign Policy - 1918-1933

Source A

We cannot sign a document which our enemies call a peace. Any government which, by its signature, gives this work of the devil the halo of light, sooner or later will be driven out of office.

Is this peace a surprise to us? Unfortunately, yes. No one could possibly have believed in such cunning madness. We all expected a peace of agreement and justice. We read about it carefully and with good faith what the false prophet across the big pond promised to us and all the world. Now we can see how Old England and that revenge-laden chauvinist, Clemenceau, urged on by Foch, put together a peace like those of the old days. There is not the least trace of an understanding of the times, or any foresight into the future. There it is - a grey, bureaucrat’s treaty, put together by small, narrow-minded, hate-ridden politicians. In a few years all this wicked bungling will be wiped away .

(Alfred von Wegerer, in ‘Der Tag’, 28 May 1919)

Source B

Articles 231 and 232 of the Peace Treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919.

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm, and Germany acknowledges, that Germany and her Allies are responsible for all the losses and damage which the Allied and Associated Governments and their peoples have sustained as a result of the war unleashed against them by the aggression of Germany and her Allies.

The Allied and Associated Governments demand, and Germany undertakes, that compensation be made for all losses…

Source D

In late June of 1919 Gustav Bauer, a member of the new SPD-Centrist coalition, acknowledges German acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles.

Surrendering to superior force but without retracting its opinion regarding the unheard-of injustice of the peace conditions the government of the German Republic therefore declares its readiness to accept and sign the peace conditions imposed by the Allied and Associated Governments.

Source D

A Foreign Office Official comments on the new found relationship between Germany and Russia. (The Treaty of Rapallo was signed on 16 April 1922).

Just three years have passed since the German Foreign Minister, Wather Rathenau, and the Russian People’s Commissar, Chicherin, concluded at Rapallo the now famous treaty which purified the atmosphere … Between Germany and Russia and agreed on co-operation between the two peoples in the laborious business of political and economic reconstruction. Just three years – and the ‘Rapallo-line’ is now surely a basic component of the political creed of both countries. No German political party could - in spite of criticism of and reservations about individual details - determine upon any other policy.

(Herbert von Dirksen, May 1925, found in Hitorisches Lesebuch 1914 –1933, 1968)

Source E

In September 1922 von Seeckt comments on Germany’s borders in the east.

Poland’s existence is intolerable, incompatible with the survival of Germany. It must disappear, and it will disappear through its own internal weakness and through Russia - with our assistance … With Poland falls one of the strongest pillars of the Treaty of Versailles, the preponderance of France … The re-establishment of the broad common frontier between Russia and Germany is the precondition for the regaining of strength of both countries … In all these enterprises, which to a large extent are only beginning, the participation and even the official knowledge of the German government must be entirely excluded. The details of the negotiations must remain in the hands of the military authorities.

Source F

Declaration of the Reparations Commission, 26 December 1922.
On 20 October 1922, the French Delegation requested the Commission to declare Germany in default as regards her obligation to furnish timber to France during 1922. Under the above order all sawn timber should have been delivered to France before 30 September, and the 200,000 telegraph poles before 30 November 1922. On the latter date, the deliveries were still considerably in arrears.

Source G

From a letter by General J. H. Morgan, British Military representative on the Inter Allied Council, 20 February, 1925.

Everything that an ingenious brain could devise and a subtle intellect invent, down even to giving companies of infantry of the new army the numbers and badges of the old, has been done to ensure that, at the touch of a button, the new army shall expand to the full stature of its predecessor. The proofs in my possession are overwhelming. Your government tells us repeatedly that our work is done and that there is nothing left for us to find out. They tell us the Treaty of Versailles has been loyally executed.

Source H

Article 1 of the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee, Locarno, 16 October 1925.

The high contracting parties collectively and severally guarantee … The maintenance of the territorial status quo resulting from the frontiers between Germany and Belgium, and between Germany and France, and the inviolability of the said frontiers as fixed by or in pursuance of the Treaty of Peace signed at Versailles on the 28th June, 1919, and also the observance of the stipulations of Article 42 and 43 of the said treaty concerning the demilitarised zone.

Source I

Gustav Stressemann outlines some of his foreign policy aims in a letter to the ex-Crown Prince on 7 September 1925.

In my opinion there are three great tasks that confront German foreign policy in the more immediate future -

In the first place the solution of the Reparations question in a sense tolerable for Germany, and the assurance of peace, which is an essential premise for the recovery of our strength.

Secondly, the protection of Germans abroad, those 10 to 12 millions of our kindred who now live under a foreign yoke in foreign lands.

The third great task is the readjustment of our eastern frontiers; the recovery of Danzig, the Polish corridor, and a correction of the frontier in Upper Silesia ...

The most important thing for the first task of German policy mentioned above is, the liberation of German soil from any occupying force. We must get the stranglehold off our neck.

Source J

Germany becomes a member of the League of Nations on 8 September 1926.

More than six years have passed since the League was founded. A long period of development was thus necessary before the general political situation made it possible for Germany to enter the league, and even in the present year great difficulties have had to be overcome … Even before her entry, Germany tried to promote friendly Cupertino. The action she took led to the Locarno pact and arbitration treaties with her neighbours. The German government is resolved to persevere with this policy and is glad to see that these ideas, which at first met with lively opposition in Germany, are now being more and more accepted.

(The League of Nations Official Journal: Special Supplement, No. 44.)



  1. Discuss the view that the German reaction to the Versailles Settlement was out of all proportion to the terms imposed.

  1. How valid is the view that Germany was treated leniently in the Versailles Settlement?

  1. To what extent was Weimar Foreign Policy affected by her military weakness after 1919?

  1. Stressemann was a great European rather than a good German. Do you agree with this assessment of the German Foreign Minister?

Source-based Questions

  1. How far do Sources A C reflect the views of the German people on the Treaty of Versailles?

  1. Discuss the view that Sources F and G accurately reflect the German position on reparations?

  1. What light does Source D shed on Russo-German relations in the 1920s ?

  1. Does Source E accurately reflect the Reichwehr’s involvement in German foreign policy and domestic policy between 1918 and 1933?

  1. To what extent does Source I reveal Stressemann to be a ‘good German’?

  1. Does Source H reflect the ‘high point’ for international relations in Europe in the 1920s?

Section Three: Republican Stability - 1924-1929

Source A

A German commentator on American-German relations in 1924.

Therefore political and economic collaboration with the USA is a worthwhile goal for Germany… It will not mean much of a temporary basis. On the contrary, it will mean striving for, and achieving, the involvement of American capital methodically and to the greatest possible extent in Germany, in private industry in terms of loans to national and municipal ventures. Germany must deliberately make herself a debtor nation of the USA. By dint of the economic interest, the political interest of the USA in Germany will also develop.

(Herbert von Dirksen, May 1925, found in Hitorisches Lesebuch 1914 –1933)

Source B

Extract from the Agreement between the Reparations Commission and the German Government (Dawes Plan) 9 August 1924.

Being desirous of carrying into effect the plan for the discharge of reparations obligations and other pecuniary liabilities of Germany under the Treaty of Versailles proposed to the Reparation Commission on April 9 1924, by the First Committee of Experts appointed by the Commission – which plan is referred to in this agreement as the Experts’ (Dawes) Plan - and of facilitating the working of the Experts’ Plan… The German Government undertakes to take all appropriate measures for carrying into effect the Experts’ Plan and for ensuring its permanent operation…

Source C

Proclamation by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, 12 May 1925.

I have taken my new important office. True to my oath, I shall do everything in my power to serve the well-being of the German people, to protect the constitution and the laws … In this solemn hour I ask the entire German people to work with me. My office and my efforts do not belong to any single class nor to any stock or confession, nor to any party, but to all the German people … My first greetings go to the entire working population of Germany which has suffered much. It goes to our brothers outside the German borders, who are inextricably bound together with us by ties of blood and culture … And it goes finally to our German youth, hope of our future.

Source D

Speech by Wilhelm Keil to the SPD Congress in Heidelberg, 1925.

We Social Democrats feel ourselves to be the real representatives of the democratic republic, and we must, therefore, defend it with all our might … In essence, the Social Democrats are, and remain, the advocate of the poor, the workers and the disinherited. We must use all our power in public life to defend the vital interests of the working people and of the innocent victims of the capitalist economy against the patronage of property. Thus when we are in opposition, our demands must not exceed those limits which we would have to honour if we were in power.

Source E

Dr Hjalmar Schacht, memorandum, December 1929.

The Young Plan is a treaty structure which is the only possible way to solve the reparations question and to restore world peace. This Plan expresses the most serious sense of moral responsibility which its authors feel not only to their own people, but to the entire civilised world. We have a right to ask the governments not to endanger this pacific achievement by insisting upon unilateral interests… The German people have a right to expect foreign governments to cease their efforts to squeeze out of German industry special payments and sacrifices which go beyond the terms of the Young Plan.

Source F

Gustav Stressemann comments on political leadership in 1929.

The supplanting of the individual by the organisation is the prime evil of modern political life. A person is not only the representative of a professional organisation, a local association or a mass body of one sort or another: his significance lies in himself … We must strive to achieve reform of the parliamentary system. We must demand that the spirit of party be confined to what is vitally required for Germany’s development, that Parliament itself exert the pressure to produce a real and not merely formal majority. But if that fails in the present situation, because of the parties themselves, then let the cry go up, ‘Res venit ad triaros!’ and let responsible individuals find the courage to govern - that is, to assume leadership.

(From The Weimar Republic, D Peukert, Allen lane 1991)



  1. Do you agree with the view that economic recovery was largely responsible for stabilising the Weimar Republic in the mid 1920s?

  1. Discuss the significance of the appointment of Hindenburg as President of the Weimar Republic in 1925?

  1. Were the Socials Democrats the ‘real’ defenders of the Weimar Republic?

  1. Is it right to say Gustav Stressemann was a ‘republican by conviction’?

Source-based Questions

  1. Does Source A accurately reflect the importance of reparations for Germany in the 1920s?

  1. To what extent does Source B accurately reflect the position of the German people on the Dawes Plan?

  1. What light does Source C shed on the political history of the Weimar Republic?

  1. Do you agree with Source D that the Social Democrats were right to see themselves as the ‘real representatives’ of the Weimar Republic?

  1. Sources C and D agree on how the economic and political interests of the German working classes were to be protected. Discuss.

  1. In what ways are Source F critical of the Weimar parliamentary ‘system’?

Section Four: The Collapse of the Republic - 1930-1933

Source A

Count Harry Kessler, a friend of the murdered Rathenau, laments the death of Stressemann on 3 October 1929 in his diaries.

At the barber about midday overheard a conversation: ‘Stressemann is dead’ … It is an irreplaceable loss, whose effects cannot be predicted. That is how it is viewed here, too … The general feeling is one not only of consternation, but also of anxiety about what will happen now. I am afraid above all that the death of Stressemann will have very serious domestic repercussions, such as a rightward trend in the People’s Party, a breach in the coalition, and the facilitating of dictatorial tendencies.

The legend is born; Stressemann has become an almost mythical figure through his sudden death … He is the first to enter Valhalla as a truly European statesman.

Source B

A letter to the Army from the Minister of Defence, General Groener, 22 January 1930.

National Socialists as well as Communists aim at the destruction of the existing system by means of violence. That means civil war … The Reichswehr has to find its way free from these extremes. It cannot entertain fantastic plans, vague hopes, high sounding slogans. It carries an enormous responsibility for the continuance of the national state. It knows that its attitude in the hour of peril will decide the fate of the nation … It is the sacred task of the Wehrmacht to prevent the cleavage between classes and parties from ever widening into suicidal civil war.

Source C

Count Harry Kessler is dismayed at the electoral success of the Nazis on 14 September 1930. (diary entry)

A black day for Germany. The Nazis have increased their representation tenfold, they have risen from 12 to 107 seats and have thus become the second largest party in the Reichstag. The impression abroad is bound to be catastrophic, the aftermath, both diplomatically and financially will be dreadful. With 107 Nazis, 41 Hugenbergers, and over 70 Communists, that is to say some 220 deputies who radically reject the present German State and seek to overthrow it by revolutionary means, we are confronted with a political crisis which can only be mastered by the formation of a strong united front of all those forces which support or at least tolerate the Republic… In fact, the next move must be (if there isn’t a Putsch) the formation of a ‘Grand Coalition’ between the present governing parties and the Social Democrats, as otherwise government will simply come to a halt ...
National Socialism is the feverish symptom of the dying German petty bourgeoisie; but this poison of its illness can bring misery to Germany and Europe for decades to come. This class cannot be saved; but in its death-throes it can bring terrible new suffering to Europe.

Source D

The KPD observes the September 1930 Election.

While the revolutionary progress of the working-class movement increased unabated even after the election of 14 September 1930, the bourgeoisie took a further step along the way towards the creation of a fascist state. The Bruning Government, which destroyed the surviving achievements of the revolution of 1918, which dismantled the Weimar Constitution clause by clause, which eliminated the influence of the parliament and turned itself into the executive organ of the employers’ frantic offensive against the living standards of the proletariat… Has become a government for the realisation of the fascist dictatorship.

(Fascism and Democracy in the Theses of the KPD, 1931-32)

Source E

Hermann Dietrich, Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister, comments on the fall of Bruning on 30 May 1932.

The deeper reasons for Bruning’s removal lie in the fact that a class of people who had ceased to exercise any decisive influence in the state, namely the old Prussian element, decided that they would like to rule once more … This element made its first attempts to seize power at the time of the formation of Bruning’s government. Bruning was supposed to give the helm a turn to the right … But events were too strong for him so he was dismissed because he did not fulfil the gentlemen’s expectations.

Source F

Von Papen recollects his appointment as Chancellor in a ‘Cabinet of Barons’ in May 1932.

He (Schleicher) gave me a general survey of the political situation, described the crisis within the cabinet, and told me that it was the President’s wish to form a cabinet of experts, independent of the political parties. It had become technically impossible to form a parliamentary cabinet, because no combination could command a majority. The sole remaining constitutional solution was the formation of a presidential cabinet by the chief of State … He no longer considered it possible to combat a party as strong as the Nazis by negative means, which had only resulted in the steady and threatening growth of their power …
Schleicher left me in no doubt that he was acting as spokesman for the army, the only stable organisation remaining in the State, preserved intact and free of party political strife by von Seeckt and his successors. He then turned the conversation to the subject of who could lead the new cabinet…to my amazement Schleicher now suggested that I should take over this task myself …
A quarter of an hour later I stood before the President … ‘You cannot possibly leave an old man like me in the lurch’ … Such a call, I felt transcended party obligations. I clasped the Field Marshal’s hand. Schleicher, who had been waiting in the next room, came in to offer his congratulations.

Source G

The pastoral letter of the Bishops in Prussia on the subject of the elections of 31 July, 1932.

The imminent elections of deputies to the German Reichstag are of great importance, not only in the political context but also on account of the influence of legislators and the Government on the promotion and protection of religious interests and the position of the Church in the life of the nation. This lays on all Catholic Christians the patriotic duty of exercising their vote in a manner befitting the responsibility of a true citizen and a faithful Catholic Christian.
Vote for deputies whose character and attested attitude bear witness to their commitment to peace and social welfare, and to the protection of confessional schools, the Christian religion and the Catholic Church. Beware of agitators and parties which are not worthy of the trust of the Catholic people.

Source H

Otto Meisner gives evidence to the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946.

Schleicher came to Hindenburg with a demand for emergency powers as a prerequisite of action against the Nazis. Furthermore, he believed it necessary to dissolve, and even temporarily eliminate, the Reichstag, and this was to be done by presidential decrees on the basis of Article 48 - the transformation of his government into a military dictatorship … Schleicher first made these suggestions to Hindenburg in the middle of January 1933, but Hindenburg at once evinced grave doubts as to its constitutionality. In the meantime von Papen had returned to Berlin, and by arrangement with Hindenburg’s son had had several interviews with the President …

Source I

A Rhineland newspaper reports on the growing political crisis late January 1933.

Reich Chancellor von Schleicher today informed the Reich President…that the present national government would be unable to defend itself vis a vis the Reichstag if it did not obtain in advance the power to dissolve parliament. Reich President von Hindenburg stated that he could not grant this proposal because of current conditions. Reich Chancellor von Schleicher then announced the resignation of the government … Reich President von Hindenburg summoned former Chancellor von Papen and requested him to clarify the political situation and to suggest possible procedures.



  1. The existence of Article 48 ensured the collapse of the Weimar Republic. Discuss.

  1. Discuss the view that the ‘old order’ betrayed the Weimar Republic between1930 and 1933.

  1. Do you agree with the view that the collapse of the Weimar Republic was inevitable?

  1. The achievement of the Weimar Republic was that it lasted for fourteen years. Do you agree with this view?

Source-based Questions

  1. Was the death of Stressemann as described in Source A ‘an irreplaceable loss’?

  1. What circumstances led the author of Source B to write to the Army?

  1. How accurate is the Communist analysis of the Election of September 1930 in Source D?

  1. Is Source E correct in claiming the old order ‘had ceased to exercise any decisive influence’ in German political life?

  1. What light do Sources A, D and F shed on political life in Germany in the early 1930s?

  1. How far do Sources C and F agree on the growing threat of the Nazis in the early 1930s?

Section Five: Nazism in the Weimar Republic - 1918-1933

Source A

Part of the Programme of the Nazi Party, February 1920

  1. We demand the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany on the basis of the right of national self-determination.

  2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in its dealing as with other nations, and the revocation of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint-Germain.

  3. We demand land and territory (colonies) to feed our people and settle our surplus population.

  4. Only members of the nation may be citizens of the State. Only those of German blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Accordingly no Jew may be a member of the nation.

Source B

The nineteen year old Hans Frank hears Hitler speak for the first time in January 1920.

I was strongly impressed straight away. It was totally different from what was otherwise to be heard in meetings. His method was completely clear and simple. He took the overwhelmingly dominant topic of the day, the Versailles Diktat, and posed the question of all questions: What now German people? What’s the true situation? What alone is now possible? He spoke for over two-and-a-half hours … Everything came from the heart, and he struck a chord with all of us… He concealed nothing … of the horror, the distress, the despair facing Germany … When he finished, the applause would not die down … From this evening onwards, though not a party member, I was convinced that if one man could do it, Hitler alone would be capable of mastering Germany’s fate.

(from Hitler 1889 –1936, I Kershaw, Allen Lane, 1998)

Source C

Part of Hitler’s closing speech at his trial, 27 March 1924.

The fate of Germany does not lie in the choice between a Republic and a Monarchy but in the content of the Republic or the Monarchy. What I am contending against is not the form of a state as such, but its ignominious content. We wanted to create in Germany the precondition which alone will make it possible for the iron grip of our enemies to be removed from us. We wanted to create order in the state, throw out the drones, take up the fight against international stock exchange slavery, against our whole economy being cornered by trusts, against the politicising of the trade unions, and above all, for the highest honour and duty which we, as Germans, know should be once more introduced - the duty of bearing arms, military service. And now I ask you: Is what we wanted high treason?

Source D

Hitler writes in ‘Mein Kampf’ about the representative individual.
When from his workshop or big factory in which he (the individual) feels very small, he steps for the first time into a mass meeting and has thousands and thousands of people of the same opinion around him … he is swept away by three or four thousand others into the mighty effect of suggestive intoxication and enthusiasm, when the visible success and agreement of thousands confirm to him the rightness of the new doctrine and for the first time arouse doubts in the truth of his previous conviction -then he himself has succumbed to the magic influence of mass … suggestion.

Source E

In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler comments on the masses.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Source F

An interview with Hitler in 1924.

I noticed that he barred in particular any reminder of the putsch and any question concerning his policy towards the Party schism … I gladly eschewed the subject as too delicate. But the lesson it taught was another matter, which Hitler himself took up. ‘From now on’, he said, ‘we must follow a new line of action. It is best to attempt no large reorganisation until I am freed … When I resume active work it will be necessary to pursue a new policy. Instead of working to achieve power by armed conspiracy, we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than outshooting them, at least the results will be guaranteed by their own Constitution!’

(Reported in I Knew Hitler, Kurt Ludecke, London 1938,pp.217-218)

Source G

The growth in membership of the NSDAP.

















Source H

A National Socialist report on a meeting in Berlin in February 1927.

On the 11th of this month the Party held a public mass meeting in the Pharus (Beer) Halls’ in Wedding, the real working class quarter, with the subject: ‘The Collapse of the Bourgeois Class State’. Comrade Goebbels was the speaker … When the meeting was opened by Comrade Daluege, the SA leader, there were, as was expected, provocative shouts of ‘On a point of order!’ … Within seconds both sides had picked up chairs, beer mugs, even tables, and a savage fight began… The fight was quickly decided: the KPD left with 85 wounded … On our side we counted 3 badly wounded … When the police appeared the fight was already over. Marxist terrorism had been bloodily suppressed …

(from Nazism:1919-1945 Vol I ,J Noakes and G Pridham (Eds), University of Exeter, 1983)

Source I

In 1927 Gregor Strasser explains why he became a National Socialist.
How did all those tens of thousands in all parts of Germany become National Socialist? Perhaps I may be allowed to recall how I became one … Before the war we did not bother with politics … (During the war) the best soldiers were frequently those who had least to defend at home. He co-operated, he did his duty unfailingly… Because we had become nationalists in the trenches we could not help becoming Socialists in the trenches … Those who have fought together with us and who are hostile towards the nation because it has not bothered with them must be emancipated so that Germany will in future be strong and the master of her enemies.

(from Nazism:1919-1945 Vol I ,J Noakes and G Pridham (Eds), University of Exeter, 1983)

Source J

At an election meeting in March 1928 Hitler speaks on nationalism and socialism.
We can conclude that bourgeois nationalism has failed, and that the concept of Marxist socialism has made life impossible in the long run. These old lines of confrontation must be eradicated along with the old parties, because they are barring the nation’s path into the future. We are eradicating them by releasing the two concepts of nationalism and socialism and harnessing them for a new goal, towards which we are working full of hope, for the highest form of socialism is burning devotion to the nation.

(from Nazism:1919-1945 Vol I ,J Noakes and G Pridham (Eds), University of Exeter, 1983)

Source K

The ‘Voelkischer Beobachter’analyses Election results on 31 May 1928.
The election results from the rural areas in particular have proved that with a smaller expenditure of energy, money and time, better results can be achieved there than in the big cities. In small towns and villages mass meetings with good speakers are events and are often talked about for weeks, while in the big cities the effects of

meetings with even three or four thousand people soon disappear. Local successes in which the National Socialists are running first or second are, surprisingly, almost invariably the result of the activity of the branch leader or of a few energetic members.

Source L

A breakdown of recent research on the social structure of the membership of The Nazi Party in various regions of Germany between 1925 and January 1933(in percentages) is given below.


Lower Class

Lower & Middle Middle Class

Upper Middle Class & Upper Class

Unknown Status

Western Ruhr





Hanover-South Brunswick




















Posen-West Prussia










Source M

No one doubts that National Socialism owes its electoral success to the old and new middle classes. Even if half of the young new voters since 1928 were to have voted National Socialist, that would only be around a million votes. The rising generation, therefore, can only partially explain the inflating of the NSDAP.

. It is not the great current of contemporary ideas which the middle classes have allowed to carry them along - it is worry and anxiety, which oppresses them. For years the middle class man has kept his head down or sought rescue … His special interests; he has gone with this party or that party, and it has always got worse. He has realised the futility of his splintered parties.

(Theordore Geiger, ‘Panic in the Middle Class’, an article in the German journal, ‘Die Arbeit’, 1930)

Source N

Writing in 1934, a middle class member of the SA, reflects on how his family was affected by the Great Depression.
I was born on 14 May 1910 in Wurselen of Catholic parents … Because of the financial crisis within my family - my father and three of my siblings had recently lost their jobs - I had to break off my studies. During the following years I tried to obtain a position commensurate with my education, but without success. Only some two years after my school exams was I able to obtain work at the Goulay mine, where I had previously worked frequently during my school holidays. Although the work has absolutely nothing to do with my training, I am none the less happy to be able to support my parents to a degree. My father is still unemployed and my brother only got back to work a couple of weeks ago. What I will achieve professionally and how I shall make use of my skills and knowledge is still not clear to me.

Source O

Albert Speer on why he joined, along with his mother, the National Socialist Party in 1931.

Here it seemed to me was hope. Here were new ideals, a new understanding, new tasks … The peril of communism which seemed inexorably on the way, could be checked, Hitler persuaded us, and instead of hopeless unemployment, Germany could move toward economic recovery. He had mentioned the Jewish problem only peripherally. But such remarks did worry me although I was not an anti-Semite … It must have been during these months that my mother saw an SA parade on the streets of Heidelberg. The sight of discipline in a time of chaos, the impression of energy in an atmosphere of universal hopelessness, seems to have won her over also.

Source P

Address by Hitler to German industrialists, January 1932.
Unemployment is driving millions of Germans to look on Communism as the logical theoretical counterpart of their actual economic situation. We cannot cure this state of affairs by emergency decrees. There can only be one basic solution: a realisation that a flourishing economic life must be protected by a flourishing, powerful state. Today we stand at a turning-point in Germany’s destiny. Either we work out a body politic as hard as iron from the conglomeration of parties, or Germany will fall into final ruin.

Source Q

The Nazi Propaganda department issues a directive during the presidential election campaign of Spring 1932.
Hitler poster. The Hitler poster depicts a fascinating Hitler head on a completely black background. Subtitle: white on black - ‘Hitler’. In accordance with the Fuhrer’s wish this poster is to be put up only during the final days (of the campaign).

Since experience shows that during the final days there is a variety of coloured posters, this poster with its completely black background will contrast with all the others and will produce a tremendous effect on the masses …

Source R

Extracts Goebbel’s Diary on the closing days of Bruning’s cabinet.

8 May 1932: On Saturday the delegates come and give us some information. The Fuhrer has an important interview with Schleicher in the presence of a few gentlemen of the President’s immediate circle.
All goes well. The Fuhrer has spoken decisively. Bruning’s fall is expected shortly. The President of the Reich will withdraw his confidence from him.

The plan is to constitute a Presidential Cabinet. The Reichstag will be dissolved. Repressive enactments are to be cancelled. We shall be free to go ahead as we like and mean to outdo ourselves in propaganda.

11 May 1932. The Reichstag drags on. Groener’s position is shaken. The army no longer supports him. Even those with most to with him urge his downfall.

This is the beginning; once one of these men falls, the whole Cabinet, and with it the system, will crash. Bruning is trying to salvage what he can.

Source S

From a conversation between Hitler and Hindenburg on 13 August 1932.

The President of the Reich opened the discussion by declaring to Hitler that he was ready to let the National Socialist Party and their leader Hitler participate in the Reich government and would welcome their Cupertino. He then put the question to Hitler whether he was prepared to participate in the present government of von Papen. Herr Hitler declared that … His taking part in Cupertino with the existing government was out of the question. Considering the importance of the National Socialist movement he must demand the full and complete leadership of government and state for himself and his party.

Source T

Extract from a report of the Reich Minister of the Interior, summer, 1932.

Looked at politically, objectively, the result of the election is so fearful because it seems clear that the present election will be the last normal Reichstag election for a long time to come. The so-called race of thinkers and poets is hurrying with flags flying towards dictatorship and thus towards a period that will totally be filled with severe revolutionary disturbances. The elected Reichstag is totally incapable of functioning, even if the Centre goes in with the National Socialists, which it will do without hesitation if it seems in the interests of the party… The one consolation could be the recognition that the National Socialists have passed their peak… But against this stands the fact that the radicalism of the right has unleashed a strong radicalism on the left. The communists have made gains almost everywhere and thus internal political disturbances have become exceptionally bitter.



  1. How important was Adolf Hitler in the rise of the Nazi Party?

  1. Why did Hitler adopt a new political strategy after 1923?

  1. Why did the National Socialist Party remain a fringe political party until the Election of September 1930?

  1. Who voted for the NSDAP?

  1. How important was the political activism of the Nazi Party members in securing power in January 1933?

Source-based Questions

  1. Explain the significance of Hitler’s speech to German industrialists in January 1932 in Source P?

  1. Discuss the strategy outlined in Source S for securing power for the Nazis in relation to events in 1932 and 1933.

  1. In what ways do Sources B and O agree on the appeal of the Nazis?

  1. Compare and contrast the views expressed in Sources D and E on the ‘representative individual’ and ‘the masses’.

  1. How far do Sources F and H agree on the electoral strategies adopted by Hitler and the Nazis after 1924?

  1. To what extent do Sources K and L agree on who voted for the Nazis?
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