Gottfried-WEIMAR-Groener_032020
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Wilhelm Groener c. 1928-1932

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The Myth of Nazi Inevitability

Was the Weimar Republic necessarily a prelude to National Socialism?

Lately, I’ve been studying a segment of German history about which I knew little as compared with the period before World War I or the great German cultural awakening between 1770 and 1820, sometimes characterized as die Goethezeit. Germany’s failure to stave off a Nazi takeover, which was well on its way to happening when Hitler became chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, has been considered proof positive of a bad national character.

Supposedly, Germans were always following a “special path” toward a Nazi regime, which just took several centuries to reach its explosive end. This is the view currently propounded by German educators and the leaders of all German parties, except for the patriotic, right-of-center Alternative für Deutschland. But it may be argued that the Weimar Republic faced so many difficulties that it would have taken years of economic prosperity for the interwar German state to have won legitimacy in the eyes of the German people. Instead, it had to labor under the Depression that befell every Western country in the fall of 1929.

The Republic’s parliamentary organizers, who represented the Socialist, the Democratic, and the (Catholic) Center Parties, were compelled to sign a vindictive peace agreement inflicted on them by the victorious Allies. They were also, not incidentally, made to endorse this document under the threat of invasion without a prior right to negotiate....

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