chapter  3
26 Pages

Pushing to extremes: the radical right in Weimar Germany, 1919-33

The history of this second attempt at democracy in Germany can be divided into three distinct periods. In the first (from 1919 to 1923) a succession of SPD-Ied governments grappled to tackle the tremendous problems arising from Germany's military defeat in 1918. These included dealing with the sudden demobilization of six million soldiers, mounting debt problems, serious shortages of both food and raw materials, insurrections in West Prussia, an influx of refugees from Alsace-Lorraine and former territories lost to Poland and the onset of political violence. In marked contrast, the second period, from 1924 until 1929, presented as a period of relative stabilization in terms of the economy and political life and a return to normalcy. The so-called 'Golden Years' gave way, however, to the third period, from 1930 to 1933, when Germany was ravaged by economic recession, political life polarized into the extremes of both left and right, ultimately destroying parliamentary democracy, easing moves to authoritarian rule and bringing the radical right under National Socialism to power. In short, Germany experienced three completely different systems of government in fewer than 15 years as the country moved from imperial rule to democratic government and right-wing dictatorship. In each the right underwent a period of radicalization.