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Termination of the Republican Government in Germany in 1933
The last years of the Weimar republic were marked by even more political instability than in the previous years. On March 29, 1930, finance expert Heinrich Bruning had been appointed the successor of Chancellor Muller by Paul von Hindenburg after months of political lobbying by General Kurt von Schleicher on behalf of the military. The new government was expected to lead a political shift towards conservatism, based on the emergency powers granted to the Reichsprasident by the constitution, since it had no majority support in the Reichstag. After an unpopular bill to help the Reich's finances had not found the support of the Reichstag, Hindenburg established the bill as an emergency decree based on Article 48 of the constitution. On July 18, 1930, the bill was again invalidated by a slim majority in the Reichstag with the support of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD), the - then small - Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) and Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP). Immediately afterwards, Bruning submitted to the Reichstag the president's decree that it would be dissolved.
The Reichstag general elections on September 14, 1930 resulted in an enormous political shift, as 18.3% of the vote went to the NSDAP, five times the percentage compared to 1928. This had devastating consequences for the republic. There was no longer a majority in the Reichstag even for a Great Coalition of moderate parties, and it encouraged the supporters of the NSDAP to bring out their claim to power with increasing violence and terror. After 1930, the Republic slid more and more into a state of civil war.
From 1930 to 1932, Bruning attempted to save the devastated state without a majority in Parliament, governing with the help of the President's emergency decrees. During that time, the Great Depression reached its highpoint. In line with liberal economic theory that less public spending would spur economic growth, Bruning drastically cut state expenditures, including in the social sector. He expected and accepted that the economic crisis would, for a while, deteriorate before things would improve. Among others, the Reich completely halted all public grants to the obligatory unemployment insurance (which had been introduced only in 1927), which resulted in higher contributions by the workers and less benefits for the unemployed, which was not a popular measure.
The economic downturn lasted until the second half of 1932, when there were first indications of a rebound. By this time though, the Weimar Republic had lost all credibility with the majority of Germans. While scholars greatly disagree about how Bruning's policy should be evaluated, it can safely be said that it contributed to the decline of the Republic. Whether there were alternatives at the time remains the subject of much debate.
On May 30, 1932, Bruning resigned after no longer having Hindenburg's support. Five weeks earlier, Hindenburg had been reelected Reichsprasident with Bruning's active support, running against Hitler. Hindenburg then appointed Franz von Papen as new Reichskanzler. Papen unsuccessfully tried to secure the backing of Hitler and hence lifted the ban on the SA, imposed after the street riots.
Since most parties opposed the new government, Papen had the Reichstag dissolved and called for new elections. The general elections on July 31, 1932 yielded major gains for the KPD and the NSDAP. The latter won 37.2% of the vote for the NSDAP, supplanting the Social Democrats as the largest party in the Reichstag. Hitler now demanded to be appointed Chancellor, which was rejected by Hindenburg on August 13, 1932. But there was still no majority in the Reichstag for any government, and as a result, the Reichstag was dissolved and elections took place once more in the hope that a stable majority would result.
The November 6, 1932 elections yielded 33.0% for the NSDAP. Franz von Papen stepped down, succeeded by General von Schleicher as Reichskanzler on December 3rd. His audacious plan was to find a majority in the Reichstag by uniting the trade unionist left wings in the various parties, including that of the NSDAP led by Gregor Strasser, but he was not successful.
On January 4, 1933, Hitler met secretly with von Papen at the house of the Cologne banker Kurt von Schroeder. They agreed on forming a joint government; besides Hitler, only two other NSDAP members would be part of the Reich…[continue]
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