Nazi Appeal And The Limitations Of Democracy

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Germany suffered severe financial and ideological crises in the aftermath ofWorld War I. Even as it struggled to rebuild itself in the post-war period, the Alliessaddled Germany with the Treaty of Versailles. This document assigned soleresponsibility for the war to Germany and required staggering reparation payments.

The treaty also stipulated that Germany must tremendously scale down its militaryforces. Disillusioned, economically unstable, and humiliated on the global stage,Germany was ill-suited to adopt a democratic government yet it did exactly this.

The Weimar Republic, a parlimentary democracy, was thus born into a less thanenthusiastic German nation in 1919 (Spielvogel 11-12).

        In 1923, the French moved in to occupy the industrial Ruhr region, furtherexacerbating the soaring inflation of Weimar Germany. The government responded byemploying passive resistance to the French forces and began to print ever-increasingamounts of money. As a result, the German mark deteriorated rapidly, its value 4.2trillion marks to a single dollar.

Middle-class Germans were particularly hard hit by thesecircumstances. Many lost their entire life savings and found their retirement pensionsvirtually worthless. When the Great Depression struck in 1929, Germany's economicsituation worsened dramatically. The foreign loans upon which Germany's economydepended were abruptly withdrawn, unemployment soared to six million, and thecommon opinion was that democracy wasn't working. This turn of events radicalized themiddle-class and the Nazi party was to use this phenomena to its full advantage(Spielvogel 15).

                The Nazi party offered Germans what they needed most: encouragement. Hitlerpromised to bring order out of chaos, unite the people, and reestablish Germany as apowerful nation on the global stage. He vowed to end the war reparation payments, tearup the Treaty of Versailles, and fend off the evil communist forces. In short, Hitlerpresented his party as the solution for each and every one of Germany's problems. Betteryet, Hitler even offered Germany a face-saving explanation for...