• Weimar Republic, Elections

    Fall of the Weimar Republic

    1929 Germany is ruled by a grand coalition stretching from the Social Democrats to the Peoples Party and the Social Democrat Muller is Chancelor. Unemployment is rising and the unemployment insurance is in heavy deficit. The Social Democrats want to increase employer's contributions while the People's Party want to cut benefits. A compromise is patched together.

    1930 Rising unemployment puts the unemployment insurance into greater crisis. Meyer of the Democrats and Bruning of the Centre Party propose a new compromise. Three of the four Social Democrat Ministers accept the compromise but the Social Democrat group in the Reichstag rejects it. On 27th March Muller resigns as Chancellor.

    30th March Bruning forms a minority government. By including a program of agricultural support he gets the National Party to vote for the government - against the wishes of the National Party leader, Hugenberg.

    July Bruning's government proposes a finance package in response to the growing economic crisis. The Nationalists are divided but mainly against. Bruning needs Social Democrat support and the Social Democrat offers this on condition of changes. Bruning rejects the compromise and the measure is defeated. Bruning then goes to the President, the conservative Hindenburg, and imposes the finance reforms by emergency decree under Article 48. Article 48, intended to be used only in times when security and public order were seriously disrupted or imperilled (but this was never defined) gave the President far reaching powers. The Social Democrats move suspension of the decree which passes. Bruning asks the President to dissolve the Reichstag.

    14th September. Elections are held while unemployment is around 3 million. The Nazis make sweeping gains and smaller gains are made by the Communists. To form a new coalition now would need everyone from the Social Democrats to the right wing 'splinter' parties. Bruning knowing he can rely on Article 48 dosn't even try. From now on Germany ceases to be a parliamentary regime but Presidential regime ruling through the Chancellor appointed by the President. Bruning now imposes a policy of deflation which the Social Democrats reluctantly 'tolerate' by voting against motions suspending the decrees. Unemployment continues to rise.

    March/April 1932: Hindenburg's term expires. Bruning persuades him to stand again. The Social Democrats and the Democrats support him as the lesser evil and he is elected on the second ballot - but Hitler gains 37%.

    13th April: In response to growing NAZI violence Bruning's government persuades Hindenburg (very reluctantly) to ban the SA.

    June 1932: Hindenburg fed up with issuing unpopular decrees on Bruning's behalf replaces him by von Papen. Papen, reactionary, stupid and arrogant, was however an officer and fine horseman and so the ideal Chancellor in the eyes of the ageing President.

    Papen meets Hitler and Hitler hints that the Nazis might support the new government in exchange for lifting of the ban on the SA and new elections. Papen falls for it and the Reichstag is dissolved (4th June).

    20th July Presidential rule is imposed on the Prussian Land - using SA-communist clashes as a pretext. This gives the Chancellor direct control of the police force of 2/3rds of Germany.

    31st July Elections to the Reichstag. Hitler makes sweeping gains. The Nazis, along with the communists have a blocking majority in the Reichstag and as Hitler breaks his promise to support Papen once again Germany is ruled by emergency decree.

    12th September The new Reichstag meets. The communists move to repeal one of the emergency decrees and to no-confidence the government. Papen, to forestall this, attempts to immediately dissolve the Reichstag but not before the vote is counted - 512-42 against the government. The new elections show some losses for Hitler but gains by the communists keep the Reichstag deadlocked.

    By now Germany is already a Presidential dictatorship in which any attempt to oppose the emergency decrees by the Reichstag will be met by dissolution. However Papen loses the support of his cabinet and Hindenburg reluctantly agrees to Papen's resignation.

    2 Dec 1932: Schleicher, former friend of Papen and former minister heads the new government. Papen then , driven by a desire for revenge, seeks out Hitler. Hitler demands the Chancelorship, the Ministry of Interior, and Commissioner for Prussia. Papen wants to be Prussian Commissioner himself but offers the Interior Ministry of Prussia. As this is what Hitler really wanted he agrees and all that is required now is to get the consent of the virtually senile Hindenburg.

    Jan 30 1933: Hindenburg appoints Hitler as Chancellor.

    March 1933: During the election campaign massive intimidation by the SA means that only, apart from the Nazis, only the Nationalists are able to campaign. The Prussian police, now under Nazi control, employs 50,000 'auxiliaries' who are mainly SA to be used against the opposition. Many Nazi opponents are beaten up , some 50 killed. Despite this the Nazis only get 43.9% of the vote but with the Nationalists they have a majority. With the election over the communists are banned and their Riechstag deputies arrested.

    23rd March: An enabling act giving dictatorial powers to Hitler's government is put to the Reichstag. A 2/3rds majority is required and 2/3rds of the Riechstag must be present. However along with the Nationalists, the Peoples Party and the Catholics vote for. The Democrats (all five of them ) are split but decide to vote for, on the grounds that as Hitler is going to establish a dictatorship anyway it is better to let him do it legally. Only those Social Democrats who attended (many are already under arrest) have the courage to vote against.

    My main source for this page was "A history of the Weimar Republic" by Erich Eyck. Extra details from "The Hundred Days to Hitler", R Manvell and H Frankel and "German Liberalism and the disolution of the Weimar Party system" by L Jones.