Democratizing Germany: Paving the Way for Hitler

Letter From Germany

The surprise victory of the militant Islamic group Hamas in recent Palestinian parliamentary elections is an ominous warning about the prospect of democratization that is either directly or, as in the Palestinian case, somewhat indirectly imposed from without.

Perhaps Ghazi al-Jawar, the former provisional president of Iraq, was correct when he warned about the possible emergence of an Iraqi Hitler; unlike in many other instances where Hitler’s name is invoked, the reference could be relevant in this case.  The democratization of Germany was not a policy that began in the wake of World War II; it had already begun during the last phase of World War I, when President Woodrow Wilson refused to negotiate a peace treaty with the German delegation as long as Germany was not a democratic state.  This position was somewhat strange, because the imperial constitution had been explicitly amended to require the government to be based on the rule of a majority of parliament, which had been elected by free and secret ballot (one man, one vote) since its inception in 1867.  Therefore, this amendment, which had been passed before the resumption of peace talks in 1918, made the German imperial constitution akin to the British parliamentary monarchy, which Wilson obviously considered to be democratic.  In the case of Germany, however, Wilson insisted on the dismantlement of the monarchy as precondition for peace talks.


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