|Number: ______ Name: _________________________________
The Weimar Republic, Rise of the Nazi Party, and Anti-Jewish Policy
What are the characteristics of a democracy?
Do you think democracy, in general, is fragile? Explain your reasoning.
How does democracy benefit the individual?
How does democracy benefit society?
How can a democracy be affected by individuals and society?
What are some ways that a democracy protects itself so as to avoid becoming a totalitarian state?
The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party: Annotations
In what ways was the Weimar Republic democratic?
The Weimar Republic refers to the German government that was formed at Weimar, a town in the eastern part of the country, in February 1919, after Germany’s defeat in World War I. The new republic emerged following a revolution, resulting in the abdication of Wilhelm II in November 1918. The Weimar Republic’s constitution safeguarded basic democratic human rights, such as freedom of speech and religion and even equality for women, including their right to vote in public elections (which had not yet been given to French and English women).
What are some reasons certain Germans disliked the Weimar Republic? Why did they dislike the Treaty of Versailles?
The Republic was often perceived by Germans as having been forced upon them by the victors of World War I. Many German citizens remained deeply sympathetic to the Kaiser who was forced to resign, and to the leadership of the Second Reich (the government that came before the Weimar Republic), who had not signed the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty offended many sectors of the German nation mainly because of the following conditions:
A. Germany had to admit to being guilty for the war and for all the damage it had caused.
B. Germany had to pay reparations to compensate the victorious powers.
C. Germany was forced to give up 13 percent of its territory and six million of its inhabitants to France, Belgium, and Poland.
D. Germany was severely restricted in rebuilding and establishing its military force.
How did some Germans deal with their anger over WWI and the Treaty of Versailles?
As a result of these conditions and the need to cope with the resentment it created in Germany, the “stabbed in the back” myth arose. According to this myth, Germany had not been defeated on the battlefield but rather had been betrayed by the Communists, Socialists, and Jews.
What hardships did Germans face after WWI?
The Weimar Republic had to contend with many economic, political, and social problems. The German soldiers who came back from the war faced high unemployment. Many Germans were simply starving. Germany’s heavy debts made it very difficult for the economy to recover and for new jobs to be created. One of the most serious problems was that of hyperinflation. The value of the German currency plummeted from 60 marks to the dollar in 1921 to 4.2 billion marks to the dollar at the end of 1923. For a time people were paid twice a day. The image that expresses this best is that of people filling wheelbarrows with currency and trying to buy anything they could before the currency lost more value.
Was the Weimar Republic politically stable? Why or why not?
Among other ways, the political crisis was expressed in frequent elections: 10 in 14 years. Three major revolution attempts also occurred in the first years of the Weimar Republic. In 1919, the Communists tried to overthrow the democratic republic, and in 1920 and 1923, there were attempts by right-wing nationalists, including Adolf Hitler, to seize power. In 1922, Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau, who was a Jew and strongly identified with the Weimar Republic, was assassinated.
How did Hitler come to power in Germany?
The New York stock market crash of 1929 deeply affected Germany—German banks collapsed and inflation rose. Six million Germans were unemployed in 1932, and the country, like most other nations, entered a serious and drawn-out economic depression. In light of this situation, many Germans believed that the Nazis were the only ones who could solve Germany’s problems and stop the “Communist menace.” German president Paul von Hindenburg, who had opposed offering Adolf Hitler the leadership of Germany, was persuaded in January 1933 to appoint him chancellor.
What event gave Hitler the license to pass new restrictive laws? How did the government change under the Nazis?
The government under Hitler was a coalition in which the Nazi Party was the dominant member with over one-third of the seats in the Reichstag (the German Parliament). Four weeks later, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Hitler blamed the fire on the Communists and used it as an excuse to pass new laws “for the protection of the German people.” This was the start of the Nazi dictatorship and the process of remaking German society in the Nazis’ image. Over time media and culture came under control of the Nazis, democratic freedoms were abolished, and the Nazi Party replaced or overtook other previously existing organizations and institutions throughout the country.
The Weimar Republic and the Rise of the Nazi Party: Reflect and Respond
Why was the democracy of Germany so fragile?
Respond to the following question using the CEL paragraph format: Do you think that the Nazis’ rise to power was inevitable based on what you read?
Anti-Jewish Policy: Testimony
Julia Lentini describes wanting to join the Hitler Youth along with her friends. What made the Hitler Youth attractive to her? What are some possible reasons why her parents would not let her join?
What are some of the specific ways that Herman Cohn says his life changed after the Nuremberg Laws were adopted? Herman says that things were much harder for children than for their parents. Why did he feel this way? What specific examples does he share to support his assertion?
How does Margaret Lambert say things changed in Germany after 1933? How did her personal relationships change? What kinds of things was she forced to give up?
Anti-Jewish Policy: Annotations
The Nazi Party rose to power with an anti-Semitic racial ideology. However, the anti-Jewish campaign was not conducted according to a blueprint; rather it evolved. Before the outbreak of the war, political and economic factors, as well as public opinion both inside and outside Germany influenced the evolution of Nazi anti-Jewish laws and measures.
The main purpose of the anti-Jewish policy between 1933 and 1938 according to the racial theory was to isolate German Jewry from German society and ultimately encourage them to leave their homeland. Through 1938 and into 1939, more and more force was used to push Jews out of German territory.
In addition to the fact that the laws and decrees were issued chronologically, they should also be understood for how they affected different spheres of life. They affected personal status, the interaction of Jews with general society, and their economic situation. The restrictions affected individuals and the Jewish community as a whole. Jews were not only limited by the flurry of laws and decrees, they also frequently felt deeply humiliated by them.
Anti-Jewish Policy: Reflect and Respond
Looking at the chronological list of laws and decrees above, why could this be called a “build up of anti-Jewish policy”?
What spheres of life do the laws and decrees affect? Determine at least three. Select at least two laws that belong to each sphere and explain why this law belongs in that sphere.
Where does the idea of race appear in the decree and laws?
How do you think a Jewish person might react to all of these restrictions and laws? How do you think a German might react to these policies?
How did these laws dehumanize Jews? What other laws in human history do you know about that have dehumanized people?
Share with your friends: