The collapse of democracy 1928-33


economic impact of depression 19129

  • October 1929 Wall street crash US- the stock market crash, this kicked of a worldwide depression.
  • Germanys economy was supported by US loans and after the crash these stopped and some banks began to demand immediate repayment. 
  • The number of German exports to US decreased 1929-1932 61% less exports and 58% less industrial production.
  • Due to this many companies became bankrupt, ones who survived had to reduce their workforce, wages and hours. This happened in the civil service aswell
  • People withdrew all money from banks so loans weren't being repaid.
  • 1932 at least 1/3rd of Germans were unemployed. The impact of the depression hit hardest in industrial areas such as the Ruhr.
  • Farmers had to sell their farms as banks demanded loans be repaid while exports and food demand/prices reduced.
  • The Weimar Republic had a generous welfare system but it was overwhelmed by the unemployed so by 1930 they reduced spending by giving people only a fixed period of benefits afterwards local benefits were less generous.
  • Women and young people received less, areas dependent on 1 industry were hit the hardest.
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social impact of depression

  • Poverty + suicide rates rose as diseases linked to bad nutrition and living conditions increased (tuberculosis). 
  • Many people were unable to pay rent so lots of shanty towns began to appear on edge of cities due too mass unemployment. 
  • Gangs in large cities rose due to youth unemployment (39% males), they had no hopes for the future. feared that crime was increasing and young men were joining extremist groups.
  • Theft, assault, and threats against the state also increased, with political violence particularly increasing reflecting a deteriorating political situation.
  • KPD gained working-class youth to join political demonstrations. Nazi youth and SA offered boys food and shelter and excitement of street fights, relieving boredom of unemployment. However, this membership was unstable and many boys and girls had limited experience with extremist groups.
  • Day centres established by gov and unskilled work under minimum wage was available in emergency labour schemes to get young people off the streets. (unpopular and led to strikes 1930/32) . Voluntary camps also available but had limited potential for future.
  • governments priorities to control expenditure on unemployment benefits and lessen the effects on the youth. 
  • Female workforce increased ( right-wing lodged campaign 'double earners' 1932 civil service employees that were married could be fired- 1000 women dismissed) - women equal rights suffered. however to be fired their financial position had to be secure within the home. 
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political impact of depression

  • Caused: collapse of Grand coalition of Muller --> extremist parties gained support undermining democratic system. --> lead to political violence. 
  •  Deficit of the state budget split the coalition (right wanted to reduce unemployment benefits, SPD wanted them to remain and raise taxes). 1930 Muller resigned 
  •  Heinreich Bruning(centre) was appointed by Hindenburg, influenced by Groener and his political advisor (military figures) - shows army played role in politics. They Saw crisis as way to return authoritarian rule, Hindenburg and Bruning supported.
  •  in new coalition most laws were passed by decree because no government had majority in reichstag. = democrcy dead.
  • Bruning decided to cut expenditure and raise taxes to reduce the depression, issued as a decree. SPD won a motion to have the decree removed because article 48 should only be used for emergency. So Bruning dissolved reichstag and called another election September 1930.
  • Extremist parties gained most support in election KPD= 77 seats and Nazis= 107 seats (1928: 12), their support continued to grow.
  • As Reichstag became unmanageable due to disruption by Nazis it was called less. = political power in the president and his advisors.
  • Nazis and communists took battle to streets, disrupting the others meetings which led to riots. --> 1931 Bruning issued ban on political uniforms and Hindenburg 1932 banned the SA but it didnt stop them as membership grew as violence not controlled. 1932 400,000 members in SA
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support for Nazism

  • Already had support from mittlestand but as showed in 1932 election their support rose a lot. 
  • They gained support from farmers as they exploited their discontent and promised them increased prices and secured imports. 
  • They also gained support from the wider middle class as they feared a communist rebellion and had lost faith with the more moderate right wing parties (DVP, DNVP)
  • Did well in votes from Women and young people, their main areas of support were protestant and they didn't do as well in catholic areas. 
  • Hitler ran against Hindenburg in the 1932 presidential election and although Hindenburg won in the 2nd ballot Hitler received more votes in some rural areas. 37% overall.
  • Following this state elections were held proving the Nazi's were most popular party.
  • Working class votes crucial, gained 27%. between the three elections Nazis doubled their support, support from all classes and regions. 
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the appeal of Nazism

  • During the depression, the Nazi's were able to offer decisiveness and hope that things would change. Propaganda was used lots which promoted that Hitler had the power and determination to succeed.
  • nazi ideology nazi policy first put forward in the Twenty five point programe 1920. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf after the failed Putsch 1923. his videos not original, nor consistent and modified the policy statements according to his audience. not widely read before 1933
  • Hitler and Nazi movement presented s force for change in Germany. The SA helped to promote image of unity and discipline, (which would sweep away opponents), which the country needed.
  •  Hitler believed war would rebuild Germany into a new German Reich by bringing down other races. so propaganda showed military virtues (courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice). the SA also was seen as a way to promote your manliness.
  • Volksgemeinschaft (people's community) was key in Nazi ideology= only Aryans seen as members of the state but within that, there were no social classes and all would work for the good of the nation in return they'd benefit from employment and welfare benefits. It was ultimately backward-looking ideas of creating a 'new man/woman'  returning back to a romanticised Germany before race had become 'polluted'. Volksgemeinschaft based on 'blood and soil' that German peasents had retained their racial purity more than city dwellers.
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the appeal of Nazism 2

  • Hitler used the word socialism loosely and adapted his policies to gain working class support. points in 25PP were economically radical and similar to policies of the communists/ socialist. ( e.g nationalisation of large monopoly) but Hitler did not commit to these aims and reasured Hugenburg (buissesses man) that the Nazi government would not threaten buissnesses men's interests for his support. 
  • Hitler wanted to destroy the Weimar republic bc it was 'not German' a parliamentary democracy that encouraged the growth of communism + established based on betrayalby the November criminals. it should be replaced by a dictatorship, a one party state (Fuhrerprinzip). Hitler having ultimate control over policy and stratergy.
  • Hitler was a German nationalist who wanted to expand territory of the Reich: 1. reverse TOV- restoring the lands taken from Germany. 2. establish ' Greater German Reich'. 3. secure Lebensraum ( 'living space' take over territory to east of Germany), for people to live in + provide with food and raw materials needed to sustain its great power. this would involve a war which was justified by Hitlers racial theories.
  • Hitler believed the Jews were responsible for all Germany's problems in propaganda, they were seen as cunning and greedy, described as a parasite. communism, defeat in WW1, TOV blamed on Jews and they should be eradicated.
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Nazi success

  • Hitler's political skills/ strategies were crucial to the success of the party. winning votes. He gained mass support & established undisputed control over the Nazi party. For many (not all) Hitler possessed a certain charisma.
  • He had hypnotic speeches + able to play on people's fears & convince them he had the answers+ adapted speeches to the audience 
  •  Propaganda made the Jews scapegoats & many believed the depression was due to Jewish capitalism. Anti-semitism was being expressed more freely but most Germans were still unwilling to go along with antisemitism as the main appeal to Nazism but were more concerned with hardships that Nazis promised to fix. Voted in spite of anti-semitism bc Nazis promised 'work and bread'. SA promoted anti-semitism through chants and beating up jews but it wasn't a primary reason to join the SA, joined bc anti-communist + meals. 
  • widened support for Nzism by emphasizing previously neglected issues and propaganda adapted to local circumstances, 1932 meetings on unemployment not anti-semitism. 
  • Joseph Goebbels (propaganda chief) was very important in gaining support, newspapers, created Nazi films, & money from big businessmen such as Hugenberg allowed Hitler to travel and make speeches. Marches and Rallies were important for showing strength.
  • Successfully managed to target all groups in Germany, adapting each speech and propaganda to the audience was key as it enabled them to gain widespread support. 
  • Their main message was that Weimar democracy ( responsible for depression and national humiliation) had to go and due to hardships and depression people were willing to believe the Nazis.
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appeal of communism

  • KPD had increased support ( 117,000-360,000) during making it significant in German political life, especially in large industrial cities.
  • used to focus on building a strong presence in factories where strong union membership was established but Due to depression forced to focus on unemployment, setting up 'committees of the unemployed' presenting themselves as defenders of the working class = some success as areas of cities fell under communist control e.g wedding district Berlin
  • some success to co-opt wild cliques' of working-class youth into communist-led campaigns against police, reformed schools.
  • Demanded an end to cuts on wages and welfare benefits and legalization of abortion. advocated establishment of a workers' state, end of military spending, and co-op with USSR
  • Ultimately wanted to overthrow the Weimar Republic and lead to a worker' revolution.
  • After the depression aimed to be largest party on the left side, by beating the SPD who they named as social fascists and spent just as much time fighting them as they did fighting Nazi's 
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strength/ weaknesses communism

  • strengths: Propaganda also helped them to gain membership by emphasising class struggle and smashing the capitalist system, also lots of appeals to unemployed 'bread and freedom' and ones which emphasised link with USSR.
  • much of the propaganda attacked SPD as a tool of capitalist classes, appealing to those whose situation had become desperate from the depression.
  • With its growing support the KPD was becoming strong in Germany this threatened many middle-class voters and businesses to support Nazis.
  • a growing membership and this perceived threat of communism revolution lead to many middle-class voters supporting Nazism (Hitler good at playing on these fears), and businessmen giving financial support to Hitler (Hugenberg) 
  • weaknesses: In reality, KPD never gained enough support to launch a full revolution as membership turnover was very high and had limited success among women voters and outside main industrial areas.
  • Many members unemployed so the party had limited funds and the party split its resources into fighting SPD and Nazis when they needed to be concentrated on Nazi party.
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the appointment of Hitler/ fall of Bruning's gover

  • Jan 1933 president Hindenburg invited Hitler to lead a new coalition with DNVP & others & Franz Von Papen ( anti-democratic). Hitler appointed chancellor but Hindenburg and Papen believed he could be manipulated by the more experienced politicians. 
  • Hitler's appointment involved negotiations and secret deals between key German political figures. He was put into power by a 'backstairs intrigue', not by the result of Nazi political uprising or having absolute majority in Reichstag,1932, (but did become the largest party)
  • Brunings coalition 1930-32, he could only remain in office, passing laws, with Hindenburg's + Schleicher's support.  
  • Schleicher had become a key political figure in Weimar and wanted a more authoritarian style government, this was first attempted with Bruning ruling primarily through decree. 
  • Bruning's priority to cut state expenditure by reducing welfare benefits, civil servants, & wages but this deepened the depression (1932 unemployed 6 million). This led to increase in support for Nazis and communists ( upper/ middle class feared communist revolution) + violence rose --> burning imposed ban on SA April 1932 as an attempt to stop street fighting. Schleicher withdrew his support = deteriorating the political situation. Schleicher concerned that ban of SA would provoke Nazi uprising and came to the conclusion that no coalition would work without the involvement of the Nazi party but Hitler refused to enter a coalition unless he was Chancellor.
  • Schleicher couldn't agree to this but Hitler promised not to oppose new government if a new Reichstag election held and the SA ban lifted 
  • Hindenburg, acting on Schleicher's advice, refused to sign the decree Bruning had submitted so Bruning resigned and was replaced by Von Papen. 
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Papen's government

  • To try to gain an authoritative rule Papen created a non-party political government, supported by DNVP.
  • Most men in the cabinet were landowners and elite. Due to limited Reichstag support Papen mostly ruled by decree (suited authoritarian style)
  • Papen believed the Communist revolution was the biggest threat to Germany, he looked down on Nazis but saw them as a good allie due to their mass support & had sympathy for their ideology- June 1932 Papen lifted the ban on SA + restrained left-wing press.
  • this resulted in street violence and gave Papen excuse to impose authoritarian rule in Prussia
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elections July/ November 1932

  • July 1932 election: most moderate parties lost votes due to polarised Germany. Nazi party became the largest (votes from middle class and unemployed). Nazis aware they had reached their limits in an open election, couldn't attract Catholic voters from Centre party or from SPD/ KPD
  • This put Hitler in a strong position to deal with Hindenburg/Schelicher, Papen asked Hitler to join coalition but declined as he wanted to be chancellor. 
  • Hitler attacked Papens government and joined with other parties to vote a lack of confidence in papens governement which was passed by a huge majority, Papen was weakened and forced Hindenburg to hold another Reichstag election in Nov.
  • In November 1932 election Nazi party lost support (still No1) as middle class didn't like his attack on Papen or support in KPD strike (they were scared of communist revolution) so returned to moderate right parties.
  • Hitler had also gone through his funds and seemed to lost chance to take power by legal means. KPD increased votes
  • Papen lost in the new election, he lost support of the army so had no option but to resign bc army would not help to enforce an authoritarian gov by banning Nazis/ KPD
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backstairs intrigue

  • Around 1932 Hindenburg and his advisors made up a circle that made key political decisions- Signing of presidential decrees and appointment of chancellors (main= Schleicher, working for the restoration of authoritarian rule) + Oskar von Hindenburg (son) who controlled access to the president and his opinions were valued.
  • Schleicher wanted to join with Nazi party, with their mass support, to legitimize an authoritarian rule dominated by old conservatives.
  • Hindenburg didn't like Nazis so didn't want to make Hitler Chancellor but after fall of Papen's gov he was running out of options. He appointed Schleicher as Chancellor. 
  • Schleicher had a hard job of creating a stable government as he'd alienated Papen and lost some of Hindenburg's trust due to the way he treated Papen. His best chance was to form a coalition with the Nazi Party.
  • 1. Hitler gave an impression that he was losing power so Schleicher believed he could use divisions in the Party, setting up negotiations with Strasser to join gov but Hitler removed Strasser and regained control, Schleicher's plan failed.
  • 2. He then used progressive social policy to win more support & gain a majority in Reichstag (canceled wage cuts), however, this didn't work and 3. after asking Hindenburg to stop constitution (to give him doctoral powers) which he refused Schleicher resigned.
  • meanwhile, Papen had been negotiating with Hitler to form a Nazi led coalition leading to Hitler's ascension to Chancellor 1933. Hindenburg was assured that Hitler wouldn't be free to rule.
  • Papen and Hindenburg believed Hitler would be easy to control from lack of experience.
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Hitler's cabinet

  • Jan 1933 Hitler (chancellor) was a minority in the cabinet with 3/12 posts being held by Nazis, too reduce Hitler's influence however Hitler wanted to create a Dictatorship ASAP.
  • decisions in cabinet made by non Nazi majority made up of old aristocratic elite
  • Von Papen was vice chancellor and minister president of Prussia (Germany's largest state)
  • Nazi Members were: Wilhelm Frick- Minister of interior of whole Rich- controlled police + Hermann Goering as Minister without portfolio/ minister of interior in Prussia ( free to involve in many policies) + General Blomberg- Defense minister +Alfred Hugenburg - leader of DNVP made Minister of Economics + Neurath- foreign minister
  • 30 Jan Goebbels organised a demonstration ( a torchlight procession of 100,000 Nazi members) to show the appointment of Hitler was not going to a normal change of government. a demonstration of Hitlers personal triumph and of the victory of the Nazi movement, making it clear that their accession to power would mark a historic break with the past and the start of their ' National revolution'
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Nazi use of terror

  • The SA played a key role in Hitlers rise to power, once in power he then used state resources to expand SA ( to eliminate opposition) and consolidate his position   500,000--> 3 million in a year
  •  SA activities were now legal and police were forbidden to interfere with SA. 'auxiliary police' made from merging  SA and the Stahlhelm. Goering and Frik controlled police as ministers of the interior 
  • reign of terror unleashed by SA: assaulted trade union and KPD offices + left wing politicians. They broke up SPD and KPD meetings and shot an SPD mayor, all ignored by the police. An SPD and Centre party newspapers that criticised these actions were banned
  • thousands communists, socialists and trade unionists were imprisoned in makeshift CC's, with the first permanenet CC being built for 5000 people in March near Munich. By July 1933, 70 camps set up & near to 27,000 political prisoners arrested by SA
  • Reichstag fire : Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to call a new Reichstag election in March, believed he could win a majority to strengthen his position. The election campaign intensified terror towards opponents.
  • By time of election SPD and KPD had been driven underground due to terror and intimidation from Nazis
  • Feb1933 the Reichstag building was burnt down- a Dutch communist was charged with arson but suspected the Nazi's set up to justify new repressive measures. Nazi's gained most from fire (claimed as part of communist plot to start revolution in Germany)  as it was used to justify the suspension of civil liberties and terror became a legal method to crush opposition. 
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Nazi use of legal power

  • After Reichstag fire Hindenburg gave Hitler emergency powers- ' Decree for the protection of the people and the state' = suspended peoples civil and political rights given in the Weimar constitution +  police increased power to arrest and detain without charge + Also able to search private premises + gov could censor publications
  • these powers used Used in reality to crush opposition (mainly KPD)
  • This was backed by propaganda of 'German bolshevik revolution' so SA launched violent campaign across Germany. Arrested 10,000 communists in 2 weeks (most of which leaders)
  • KPD wasn't banned but membership was viewed as treason, civil servants, judges and police were conservative nationalists willing to give this legal sanction.
  • Impossible for the left-wing to organise meetings as posters ripped down, offices smashed up, while Nazi propaganda flooded Germany (TV, radio, posters)
  • Even with all this the Nazis failed to win a majority in the March 1933 election, votes had increased since Nov 1932 but as much as Hitler expected
  • Despite terror left-wing support was strong and 64% of people voted non-Nazi parties 
  • However, with the DNVP, the Nazis gained a majority in the Reichstag
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The end of democracy

  • The new Reichstag met March 23rd with Hitlers' main aim to gain 2/3rds majority to pass his enabling act which, enabling him to make laws without Reichstag or president's approval for 4 years .
  • Act passed 24 march and also given power to make treaties without Reichstag approval
  • this law was a change in the constitution and needed a majority to be legally enforceable.
  • Hitler won this as no KPD in Reichstag and DNVP on his side, he convinced Centre party he wouldn't pass anything without Hindenburg's consultation. only SPD voted against.
  • This was the final piece of the puzzle legitimizing the Nazi dictatorship, he could rule and issue decrees without needing Reichstag majority or Hindenburg and after 1933 Reichstag rarely met), although temporary in reality it was permanent for the Nazi regime 
  • They could now begin creating the One-party terror State Hitler wanted.
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The state of Germany March 1933

  • within two months of being appointed Chancellor Hitler had legal foundations of the Nazi dictatorship and the process of 'Gleichschaltung' ( attempt to control of aspects of German life, leaving no independent organization, no private space to think or act independently of the regime) begun.
  • move towards one-party state
  • KPD banned and press silenced. police under NAzi control, SA/ ** could kill opponents, attacks on Jews increased.
  • to unite the nation behind the 'national revolution' Nazis had to 1. tackle economic crisis. 2. compromises. 3. there were still powerful institutions e.g the army that were independent of the NAzi party. 
  • the army was the only force that could remove Hitler from power, the army controlled by aristocratic officers, not NAzi members, worried about Hitlers ' National revolution' 
  • Feb Hitler outlines plans of rearmament with army and reassured the army leaders that despite the pressure from SA of second evolution Hitler would not undermine the army's role in the state. In return, army leaders gave Hitler a hand in establishing a dictatorship. 
  • Hitler asked industrialists for financial support for Nazi election campaigns and got 3 million Reichmarks. big businesses would benefit from anti-communist government but feared more radical anti-capitalists Nazi members. 
  • Hitler needed businesses' help to achieve the aims of rearmament and reviving economy so Hitler had to stop NAzi attacks o large capitalist enterprises.
  • army and big businesses retained influence and authority.
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