The establishment of Germany’s Weimar Republic was as abrupt as the issues it had to manage. Famously, Philipp Scheidemann, a politician of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), declared the republic into existence as a preemptive move against revolutionary Karl Liebknecht. The sundry political, economic and social issues the Weimar Republic had to contain from the period 1919-29 arose from both internal and exogenous forces alike. During its fourteen years, twenty cabinets, twelve chancellors and two presidents — Socialist Friedrich Ebert and Conservative Paul von Hindenburg — the Weimar Republic transitioned continuously from turmoil under Gustav Bauer and Hermann Müller, stability under Stresemann and back, with the onset of the Great Depression. It had to face long and short-term challenges that proved equally difficult in retrospect. Politically, those against the Republic from the extreme left and right alike aimed to replace the nascent democracy, while financially the nation floundered while international forces discussed its economic fate. The defeat of November 1918 also meant the government had to cater for millions of Germans, both young and old, who became reliant on Germany’s social safety net. Ultimately, the government’s success in managing the nation’s political, economic and social issues, including the priorities of sixty-two million German citizens varied by each day, month, and year.
Foundation of ashes
The Versailles Treaty influenced German politics to an extortionate degree from the inception of Weimar to the rise of Hitler. The 440 article (Kaiser 1996) diktat was neither a pyrrhic nor Carthaginian peace for the Germans, allowing those determined to subvert German democracy to prosper (Unterberger 1986). USHMM (2014) theorises the Versailles Treaty posed a political problem such that as long as the Weimar Republic existed, so too did the Dolchstosslegende. Chancellor Friedrich Ebert’s November 1918 pact with Wilhelm Groener characterised the Republic’s impotence in dealing with the army: a political issue insofar as it continued to operate as a ‘state within a state’ (Layton 2009, p. 162). The pact epitomised the titularity of the 1918-19 German revolution, with Klaus Fischer (1995, p. 81) the first historian to propound the notion Ebert and the provisional government overestimated the threat from the left and therefore failed to accord proper heed to the danger Weimar’s extreme right posed. Even the Army’s most explicit endorsement of the right — during the Kapp Putsch — was not enough to prompt Baur’s administration out of its untenable allegiance with the army. Louis L. Synder (1966, p. 170) asserted ‘The Republic was naturally incapable of incorporating the Reichswehr … It was unable either to control it or to win its unqualified allegiance’ in The Weimar Republic: a history of Germany from Ebert to Hitler. A highly useful source, the book gives insight into how the army was perceived from a primary perspective. Synder, who predicted the rise of Hitler in 1933, offers a primary (and academic) perspective on Ebert and Hugo Preuss’s success. While it is fair to assess Ebert and subsequent governments’ attempts in restructuring the army as sound, any noticeable change could have ignited latent grievances with the Versailles Treaty: according to Dauve and Authier (2011), an institution redolent of the Red Army appeared the most appropriate option at the time, although this was perceived as unreasonable.
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