How far do you agree that the new Weimar Republic was seriously threatened by political extremists in the years 1919-24? (30 marks)
Between the years 1919 and 1924 the Weimar Republic experienced many threats against its new democratic regime, however it could be argued that none of the threats ever truly had the ability or support required to overthrow the new state, therefore rendering the attempts by the political extremists as not that threatening. The Weimar Republic saw the end of the Kaiser’s rule and the start of a new semi presidential and representative democratic ruling.
Even dating back to the formation of Germany in 1870, the foundation of German Politics and power has always lain with the elites and middle class of the population. With the new Weimar Republic these elites were supposed to lose their power and control due to the democratic regime, however this did not actually happen. Therefore any political extremists that threatened the system, and in turn threatened the elite’s power, were dealt with in harsh manners. During the trials from the 1920 Putch over seven hundred people went to trial however only one person was convicted and given five years in prison. Since the Putch would have been an act of treason, and under German law, the punishment should have been death, however the fact there was so little convictions and such lenient punishments suggests just how strong the elite’s power still was and how strong the Weimar Republic would have been with the elite’s power backing it, but they would only do this as long as things were benefiting them.
The Kapp- Lüttwitz Putch of 1920 did lead to an exposure of the army’s reluctance to support the Weimar Republic due to the fact the army was ordered to act by Noske, the Defence Minister, however the leaders of the military refused to get involved and instead remained neutral. This therefore would have planted a seed of doubt into people’s minds as to how good the Republic would be as not even the army were going to protect it, which then would lead some people to feel unprotected and vulnerable, and could have led to people turning against the democratic system and instead turning back to the old ways of running the country. Yet, this was not the case therefore suggesting that the Kapp- Lüttwitz Putch did not pose as being that significant of a threat.
The Munich Beer Hall Putch could be argued as being doomed from the start and therefore never truly being a serious threat. From the beginning and throughout it never had the support of the German people, with only a small number of people supporting their cause. Seeckt also used his powers to command the army to resist the Putch and with the combination of the Bavarian Police and the army the Putch was crushed easily with minimal deaths.
However, in the end Hitler was arrested on charges of treason (again meaning the punishment under German law should have been death) and he only received a five year prison sentence yet he was released after just nine months. This again showed that the political power was with the elites and that the Weimar Republic was not as strong as first thought, yet the public were still willing to keep the democratic state in place and give it a chance to work. Therefore it could be argued that as long as people had a belief in the Weimar Republic and were willing to support it then any attempts by political extremists would never have been that successful and therefore they were never truly much of a threat.
In conclusion, although the Weimar Republic did indeed experience many threats from political extremists, with some seemingly serious threats against it which showed the many flaws in the system such as the power of the elites and the army’s standing in the new regime, yet none of the attempts had enough public support backing them to have a serious impact. They just didn’t have enough public support as people, especially of the working classes, believed in their new democratic system, and wanted to give it enough time to start to evoke changes that would benefit them in the long run. Therefore the attempts could not have had enough of an impact to name them as being serious threats against their new democratic state.