Courtesy Reuters

Reconsiderations

THE END OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC

THE most remarkable thing about the Weimar Republic is not that it existed for only fifteen years but that it ever survived the circumstances of its nativity. Never was the idea of a republican form of government less welcome. The birthpangs of the ill-fated French Third Republic in 1870 were at least suffered to the accompaniment of demonstrations of enthusiasm, but the natal processes in November 1918 of what came to be known as the Weimar Republic were not only lacking in acclaim but were attended by more "bad fairies" than darkened any of Grimm's gruesome tales. Some there were, however, who pursued the dangerous illusion that a change of régime would ensure a "soft peace" from the Allies-and especially the Americans. This insincere opportunism brought into the ranks of the supporters of the Republic many who would otherwise have been among its strong opponents.

Inimicality, reluctance and lack of enthusiasm were among the "evil spirits" with which the infant Weimar Republic had to contend, but these were not all. From the first it was tagged with two terrible indictments which rendered it vulnerable to attack from all quarters. In the first place, because the Provisional Government was largely composed of Socialists at the outset-the right and left wings of the Social Democratic Party-it came to be held responsible for the stab-in-the-back which, by undermining the loyalty of the home front, had betrayed the front-line soldiers and rendered defeat in the field inevitable. This in turn engendered the complementary myth that Germany had not been defeated by the Allies but only by the machinations of her own traitors.

The second indictment was that this new democratic form of government, so alien and unsuited to the German political way of thinking, had been forced upon Germany by the victorious Allies, led by President Woodrow Wilson, whose demands for the abolition of the monarchy and the substitution of a democratic republic were held by many in Germany to

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