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The Weimar Republic Notes

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The Weimar Republic Revision

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The Weimar Republic: 1919-25 Instability of the Republic The Challenge from the Left:
- The workers were disillusioned by the gains of the 'revolution' and frustrated as the new Weimar republic seemed willing to compromise with the right.
- Marxists considered Germany ripe for revolution as economic conditions bred disorder and returning troops struggled to adapt to civilian life.
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In March 1919 there was another Sparticist uprising in Berlin, while in Bavaria a communist government of workers' councils was established. In April 1919 a wave of strikes hit Halle and the Ruhr valley as workers protested for a council led government, shorter working days and more control over their own industries. Comintern and the KPD encouraged such risings, but lacked the leadership to coordinate them. The government was able to draft in the army and Freikorps who quashed the protests and killed 1,200 in Berlin and 700 in Bavaria. In 1920 Communists formed a 'Red Army' of 50,000 workers and seized control of the Ruhr. The army and Freikorps struggled to crush the uprising and 1,000 workers and 250 soldiers were also killed in Halle and Dresden. In December 1920 the USPD voted to join forces with the Communist KPD, causing them to grow in confidence. Their attempted revolution, beginning in Saxony, was again crushed by the police and 145 were killed in the Ruhr. A further bout of strikes broke out in 1923, at the time of Germany's economic collapse. They were also defeated and the government was never severely threatened again. The rebellions did political damage as there was a constant fear of 'red revolution' at a time when was war raging in Russia over Communism. The moderates and middle-classes were frightened and began to feel the government was not in full control.

The Threat from the Right:
- Many on the powerful Conservative right had been hostile to the republic from the outset. They did not share its democratic values and were disgusted at the 'weakness' shown in accepting the Versailles Treaty and failing to crush the communists.
- The republic relied heavily on the army, Freikorps, civil servants, judges, police and landowners, most of who had right-wing ideas. Such organisations and figures were typically very wealthy and influential.
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In January 1920 General Noske ordered two Freikorps units to disband in order to reduce the army size and comply with the demands of Versailles

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Their leader, General Walther von Lüttwitz, refused and his arrest was ordered. With the support of Wolfgang Kapp and Freikorp leader Hermann Erhardt, 12,000 Freikorps marched into Berlin on 12 th March 1920. Ebert's government withdrew to Dresden and army leader Seeckt refused to crush the rising, claiming ''Reichswehr do not fire on Reichswehr'. Given tension between civilian and military elements of the putsch, it failed to gain widespread support. A general strike of workers was called after encouragement from socialist members of government and trade unions. Berlin was brought to a standstill and, within four days, the putsch collapsed. The Kapp Putsch was a reminder that, without the army, the republic was weak. The army could also not be trusted, while workers could show their power when acting as a group. The judges also failed to give harsh sentences to the leaders of the putsch compared with punishments given to those on the left.

Political Assassinations:
- Right-wing nationalists organised themselves into Patriotic Leagues, committed to killing politicians associated with the betrayal of Germany. They acted as anti-republican paramilitaries.
- In October 1919 Hugo Hasse, a founding member of the Council of People's Commissars, was killed. Next came the assassination, in August 1921, of Matthias Erzberger, who had signed the treaty of Versailles, followed by the foreign minister Walter Rathenau on 24th June 1922.
- Between 1919 and 1923 there were 376 political assassinations, 22 carried out by the left and 354 by the right. This led to the law 'For the protection of the Republic' placing severe penalties on organisations involved in conspiracy to murder.
- Such was the right- wing dominance of the courts, 326 right-wing murders went unpunished, while 10 left-wing murderers were sentenced to death.

The right-wing was able to firmly establish itself as it was underestimated by a republic that seemed to constantly exaggerate the threat from the left. The developments of 1919-22 certainly bolstered the confidence of those on the right who believed they could get away with murder.

The 1920 Elections:
- Elections for a new Reichstag took place in June 1920. The pro-republican parties all lost seats (SPD from 163-103, Zentrum 91-64, DDP 75-39), while extremist parties on the left and right grew in popularity (USPD from 22-83, DVP 19-65, DNVP 44-71).
- Pro-republican parties could no longer dominate government and make workable coalitions. Other parties, notably the DVP, had to be called in but the cross-section of opinion made decisions difficult to make.

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