To What Extent Was The Rise Of The Nazi Party Due To The Weaknesses Of The Weimar Republic - HSC Modern History - Essay

1244 words - 5 pages

To what extent was the rise of the Nazi Party due to the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic?
While the weaknesses of the Weimar republic played a crucial role in the rise of the NSDAP, without
the prolonged and devastating impact of the Great Depression Hitler would not have come to
power. The inherent weaknesses of the Weimar constitution meant continuous political instability
while the association of the democratic system with the defeat of WWI and the shameful Treaty of
Versailles severely tarnished its reputation. More importantly, the failure of the republic to build
broad and genuine support and to counter anti-democratic forces meant many Germans were
willing to turn to extreme parties when the economy collapsed in 1929. The rise of the Nazi Party
was dependant on both the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic and the terrible effects of the Great
The weaknesses of the Weimar constitution played a significant part in providing the environment
within which the Nazi Party would eventually rise. Although it was extremely democratic, the
constitution entailed several important elements which were to undermine its stability and provide
Hitler with the opportunity to become chancellor. Because its voting system utilised proportional
representation numerous political parties filled the parliament, several of them, like the NSDAP,
opposed to democracy itself. This voting system meant that no one party ever secured a majority
and coalitions had to be formed; 21 different coalition governments in just 14 years. Such short-lived
governments and regular elections gave the impression of instability and inefficiency, particularly to
a population lacking a democratic tradition. Hitler was able to attack this apparent weakness and
once the effects of the Great Depression were felt voters were willing to turn to extreme parties like
the NSDAP. Another problem with the constitution was the emergency powers granted to the
President under Article 48 which allowed for the Reichstag to be bypassed and rule by decree. To
Germans, used to authoritarian leaders taking decision action, this appeared to reinforce the
ineffectiveness of democracy and after 1930 Hindenburg ruled using Article 48 alone. Such
constitutional weaknesses undermined the legitimacy of the republic and once affected by the Great
Depression played an important role in the growth in support for the NSDAP.
The association of democracy with military defeat and the shameful Treaty of Versailles was a
significant factor in the Nazi rise to power. Rather than accept responsibility for their military failures
the army leadership encouraged the development of the ‘Stab in the Back’ myth, which was to avert
the blame for Germany’s defeat onto the political leaders who came to power after the Kaiser’s
abdication. Because the military defeat came as such a shock to the German home front, right-wing
nationalists, like Hitler, and conservative forces, like the army, perpetuated this myth in th...

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