Who were some of the greatest listeners in history

Weimar Republic

Reinhard Sturm

Reinhard Sturm, born in 1950, studied history, political science and English at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen from 1971 to 1978. In 1973/74 he worked for a year as a German Assistant at a school in England. After his preparatory service in Salzgitter from 1978 to 1980, he worked as a high school teacher in Göttingen until 1990, and since then in Hildesheim. Since 1990, he has been training prospective history teachers for teaching at grammar schools as the director of studies and subject manager for history at the Hildesheim study seminar.
He has published academic and didactic articles on the history of the labor movement, the Weimar Republic, National Socialism and German post-war history as well as history didactics.
Contact: [email protected]

The stock market crash heralds the end of the Weimar Republic. Still a splinter party in 1928, the NSDAP changed under the leadership of Adolf Hitler into a mass movement that took power in Germany in 1933 and from then on destroyed all democratic foundations.

"No jobs without a Nazi cell - give Hitler power, Germany awakes!" stands on large banners at a meeting of a factory cell assembly of the NSDAP in 1932. (& copy Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P049480)

Economic crisis

On October 24, 1929, a dramatic decline in share prices began on the New York Stock Exchange ("Black Friday"). The cause was years of overinvestment in industry and thus an oversupply of goods with which demand had not kept pace. Due to the international financial and economic ties, the American crisis quickly expanded into the greatest crisis in the world economy of the 20th century. It by no means caused the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933, but it made it possible and accelerated it.

Data on the economic crisis in the Weimar Republic.

After the USA, the German Reich was hardest hit by the crisis. Despite a decline in demand, which had already been announced in 1928, the industry had still invested in 1929. This created overcapacities, especially since all industrialized countries soon raised the existing tariff barriers in the wake of the crisis. The oversupply of goods led to a reduction in production; Short-time work and layoffs as well as company failures were the result. From 1928 to 1931 the number of annual bankruptcies doubled. In the winter of 1929/30 there were already more than three million unemployed who were financially far less secure than they are today. A vicious circle arose of diminishing purchasing power, falling demand, falling production and further layoffs. In agriculture, many small and medium-sized farmers could no longer pay off their debts. There were foreclosures against which a desperate peasant protest was formed. As early as 1929, the Schleswig-Holstein "rural people movement" appeared through physical attacks on bailiffs and police officers as well as bomb attacks on government buildings.

Break of the grand coalition

Mass unemployment quickly overwhelmed the unemployment insurance funds. In the government there was a persistent, bitter coalition dispute over the solution to the problem, which was only briefly interrupted by the joint adoption of the Young Plan on March 12th. In essence, the question was: Should the contributions from employers and employees be increased or the benefits for the unemployed reduced? The industry-oriented DVP wanted to avoid additional costs for employers as a result of increased contributions. The SPD workers' party refused to cut unemployment benefits, which were already low. After several unsuccessful solutions, the center parliamentary group leader Heinrich Brüning finally submitted a compromise proposal on March 27, 1930, which temporarily postponed the main decision - increase in contributions or reductions in benefits. The DVP agreed, while the SPD refused, because they saw the substance of the welfare state in jeopardy with the unemployment insurance. On March 27, 1930, the only thing left for the Müller cabinet to do was resign. Apparently, the grand coalition was broken because of the immobility of the SPD in an essentially resolvable issue. However, when Hindenburg appointed the new Chancellor - Heinrich Brüning - just three days later, without the usual coalition negotiations, the conclusion was that the break of the grand coalition was based on long-term planning, which the SPD had, however, accommodated with its uncompromising stance. Your previous coalition partners must have been inaugurated, because Brüning only replaced the three SPD ministers with representatives of small conservative parties and the moderate wing of the German Nationalists, which split off from the DNVP at the end of July as the "Conservative People's Party" (KVP). The willingness of the DDP to work in the Brüning cabinet and soon afterwards its merger with the anti-Semitic "Young German Order" to form the "German State Party" in July 1930 revealed the right-wing trend among left-wing liberals as well.

Transition to the presidential regime

The Briining government did not have a majority. How the Chancellor intended to enforce his policy anyway, he informed the Reichstag on April 1, 1930 in his government statement: His cabinet - so loud Hindenburg's mandate - was "not tied to a coalition" and would be "the last attempt to find a solution with it To carry out the Reichstag ". Accordingly, the new government wanted to work without and against parliament if necessary, with the help of the power of the Reich President: emergency ordinances under Article 48 WV and dissolution of the Reichstag under Article 25 WV. It saw itself as the "Presidential Cabinet" or the "Hindenburg Government". Besides Hindenburg, his advisers Schleicher and Meissner and - besides Brüning - the parliamentary group leaders in the Reichstag Ernst Scholz (DVP) and Count Westarp (DNVP) were involved in the explorations and planning for this authoritarian mode of government, which is not provided for in the constitution. According to his memoirs, Brüning learned from Schleicher shortly after Easter 1929 that the Reich President saw the danger "that the entire domestic and foreign policy would run its course". He therefore wanted to "send Parliament home for a while at the given moment and during this time, with the help of Article 48, put the matter in order". Briining also reports that Schleicher and he had agreed at the time on the goal of reintroducing the monarchy; however, some historians consider this to be an afterthought of self-stylization. According to Meissner's recollections, at the end of December 1929, Hindenburg had Brüning informed that he should make himself available for the office of Reich Chancellor. The respected conservative was seen by the Reich President as a figure of integration that could possibly even be placed with the SPD. From the notes of Count Westarp of January 15, 1930, Hindenburg's guidelines for the Brüning government emerge: "a) anti-parliamentary, i.e. without coalition negotiations and agreements, b) anti-Marxist [...]" (i.e. without the SPD); "c) Change in Prussia [...]" with the help of the center - the Weimar coalition ruling in Prussia should also be broken up. In parallel to these plans, business circles increasingly influenced the industry-related DVP under its chairman Ernst Scholz in order to achieve its exit from the grand coalition. In December 1929 the Reichsverband der Deutschen Industrie (RDI) demanded in a memorandum with the title "Rise or decline?" Tax relief for entrepreneurs, abolition of compulsory arbitration, reduction of government expenditure and reform of unemployment insurance through "savings measures, but not through increased contributions". The DVP adopted this anti-SPD and anti-union course. On February 5, 1930, Erich von Gilsa, a member of the DVP, wrote to Paul Reusch, chairman of the Association of German Steel Manufacturers, in confidence that Scholz wanted to "consciously work towards a break with social democracy". The break of the grand coalition thus occurred in the interplay of influential representatives of authoritarian political - if not monarchist - aspirations and economic interests. Against this background, Brüning's mediation proposal of March 27, 1930 appears in a different light: the future Chancellor intended the grand coalition "to be put to shame in public because of the uncompromising nature of the SPD and not because of the intransigence of the upcoming coalition partner DVP" (Volker Hentschel ).

Dissolution of the Reichstag

The first bills of the new government - financial aid for the East Elbe agriculture, tax increases to cover the budget of the Reich in 1930 - were accepted by the Reichstag with a narrow majority. As unemployment continued to rise, the government passed an additional cover proposal in June: reform of unemployment insurance by increasing contributions to 4.5 percent (which the DVP has now also approved) and cuts in benefits; Single tax; Emergency sacrifices for civil servants and employees; uniform poll tax. When the Reichstag rejected parts of this socially unbalanced program on July 16, Brüning put the entire bill into force in the form of two emergency ordinances by the Reich President under Article 48, Paragraph 2 of the WV.

The years 1930-1933: power mechanism of the presidential governments.

The conversion of a bill rejected by the Reichstag into an emergency ordinance was clearly unconstitutional. The request of the SPD parliamentary group on July 18 to repeal Brüning's emergency ordinances in accordance with Article 48, Paragraph 3 of the WV, was therefore accepted by parliament with a large majority (in the case of a split DNVP). Immediately afterwards, the Reich President dissolved the Reichstag in accordance with Article 25 WV. The emergency ordinances were reinstated in an even more stringent version. Until the new election after 60 days, it was now possible to govern with emergency ordinances.

Election victory of the NSDAP

The Reichstag election of September 14, 1930, in which 82 percent of the electorate voted, ended in a catastrophe for democracy. The NSDAP, still a splinter party in 1928 with 2.6 percent and twelve seats, achieved 18.3 percent, increased the number of its seats almost ninefold, and with 107 members it was the second largest parliamentary group (behind the SPD, ahead of the KPD). The SPD recorded considerable losses, the KPD strong gains; The center and BVP registered a slight increase. The proportion of "others", that is, the small parties, also increased somewhat. In contrast, the DDP and DVP suffered heavy losses; the DNVP's share of the vote was even halved. Although the type and extent of electoral migration at the time cannot be precisely determined, it can be concluded that predominantly Protestant national-conservative and liberal middle and upper-class voters migrated to the NSDAP. Apparently, Hitler's party was particularly well received by the middle classes ("old" and "new middle class"). It had also benefited more than other parties from the seven percent increase in voter turnout, meaning that it won young voters and previous non-voters. The social composition of the membership of the NSDAP corresponded to this: workers formed the strongest individual group, but were clearly underrepresented in comparison to their share of the employed, while the various middle classes had a disproportionately high share. The NSDAP also attracted the younger generation in particular: the average age of its 130,000 members and functionaries in 1930 was considerably lower than that of the other parties. The election results of September 14, 1930 reflected the material and psychological effects of the global economic crisis. The unemployment rate has been over 14 percent since the beginning of the year; Behind this number hid the fate of more than three million poorly cared for workers and their families. The result was political polarization: some unemployed workers voted Communist for the first time. The "old middle class", on the other hand, which felt the sinking purchasing power of its customers, was once again threatened by impoverishment and social decline after 1923. He reacted with a radicalization to the right to the NSDAP. The same applies to the "new medium-sized companies". Because Hitler's party was the only one politically unspent - its credibility and competence had not yet had to pass a test. In its program and propaganda, it responded more skilfully than any other party to the special needs and needs of the property-oriented, "class-conscious" middle classes. Corresponding to the double front position of the old middle class against KPD / SPD / trade unions on the one hand and banks / industry / department stores on the other hand, the political statements of the "National Socialist German Workers' Party" contained both anti-Marxist and anti-capitalist elements. Its limited anti-capitalism was - unlike the Marxist - acceptable to the middle classes because "the NSDAP stands on the ground of private property," as Hitler publicly made clear in 1928. It was not directed against "creating", as it was called in the Nazi ideology, but only against "collecting capital", that is, against banks (too high credit rates, too low interest rates for savings), stock exchanges (unpredictable opportunities for profit and the risk of loss) ) and department stores (threatening competition). The Nazi propaganda claimed that the "ruffing capital" hid the machinations of "international financial Jewry". As a result, anti-capitalism was integrated into the Nazi racial ideology and directed against the Jews as scapegoats. But also "Marxism" (that is, organizations and politics of the communist and social democratic workers) and the Weimar Republic that emerged from the "stab in the back" were considered shameful Jewish works by the National Socialists. Anyone who wants to avert internal and external threats to the state, society and the economy must fight the Jews - that was, in summary, the political message of the NSDAP. Because of its simplicity and catchiness, it fell on fertile ground in Germany - one of the countries with a long anti-Judaist and anti-Semitic tradition - under the conditions of the unresolved war defeat and the effects of the global economic crisis.
Who were the members of the NSDAP before 1933? Overview of the social structure of the party.

Policy of exacerbation of the crisis

The fact that the KPD now had 77 seats in the Reichstag and the NSDAP 107 had serious economic consequences. Foreign investors, especially the American and French banks already suffering from the crisis and who feared for the political stability of the Weimar Republic, began to withdraw their short-term loans. This worsened the economic crisis in Germany; unemployment continued to rise. An attempt by Brüning to persuade the National Socialists to tolerate his policies and thus obtain a parliamentary majority failed because of Hitler's will to power. However, the NSDAP leader had learned from his failed attempt at a coup in Munich in 1923: As a summoned witness in a Leipzig Reich court trial in which three young officers were accused of National Socialist activities in the Reichswehr, he declared under oath on September 25, 1930 that he was fighting his movement "not by illegal means"; but "two or three more elections", then she will "sit in the majority" and "shape the state the way we want it".

Tolerance policy of the SPD

The opposition SPD got into a dilemma as a result of the election result. If they continued to fight Brüning's authoritarian and anti-social policies, there was a risk of a renewed dissolution and re-election of the Reichstag. The NSDAP was able to become so strong that Hindenburg would appoint Hitler as Reich Chancellor. The example of fascism in Italy had already shown what a Nazi government had to mean: a swift end to democracy and the rule of law, the left-wing parties and the trade unions. Against this background, the SPD decided to tolerate Brüning as the lesser evil. "She did not say 'yes' to his legislative proposals and did not say 'no' when it was issued as an emergency ordinance." (Volker Hentschel) In the eyes of the public it was soon seen as part of the "Brüning Block", which extended from the center to the moderate part of the DNVP, but did not have a majority. Since the SPD was unable to implement social democratic policies or to distinguish itself as a political alternative, its members and voters became increasingly dissatisfied. Parliament's reputation continued to decline. Not only did it in fact lose its democratic control over the government, it also became increasingly inoperable as the center of legislation. The presidential regime increasingly resorted to emergency ordinances, the Reichstag met less and less. This erosion of parliamentarism made it much easier for the NSDAP to establish a dictatorship in 1933.

Deflation Policy and Mass Unemployment

The Brüning government increased direct taxes (on wages, income and sales), but especially indirect ones (mass consumption taxes, including on sugar, tobacco and beer).It cut the state social spending and cut wages and salaries in the public service (with the exception of the Reichswehr). In this way, Brüning wanted to intercept the crisis-related decline in tax revenue, keep state income and expenditure in balance and skim off the purchasing power that was becoming excess in the course of the decline in production. This "deflation policy" aimed primarily at securing the stability of the value of money, which not only corresponded to the rules of the Young Plan, but - after the traumatic inflation experience of 1923 - also corresponded to the interests of the population. However, the deflationary policy was not a means of countering the crisis, it actually made it worse. For by cutting government spending and lowering private incomes, purchasing power decreased; as a result, production fell even further, while unemployment rose rapidly. The longer the crisis lasted, the more unemployed people fell out of unemployment insurance with their modest benefits staggered according to wage classes after 26 weeks at the latest, than after 39 weeks over 40 years of age. After that, they received significantly lower (means-related) benefits from crisis relief for up to 39 or 52 weeks; Finally, even tighter (repayable) grants from municipal welfare support. Of the 4.7 million unemployed in the spring of 1931, 43 percent received unemployment benefits, 21 percent crisis relief and 23 percent welfare benefits. The other 13 percent received no support at all. In contrast, large-scale agriculture in the East Elbe continued to be subsidized at Hindenburg's request. In the course of 1931, two decisive events led to a further deterioration in the economic situation. Initially, on May 18, the plan for a German-Austrian customs union, which would have been economically advantageous for both countries, failed, mainly because of France's objection. As a result, foreign investors called back numerous due loans instead of extending them. Many banks in both countries got into trouble, especially as panicked savers wanted to withdraw their deposits. On July 13, a well-known major bank, the "Darmstädter und Nationalbank", stopped its payments. The German banks were closed for two days; the empire had to support them with a billion RM. Bank customers could only dispose of their credit to a limited extent; the shortage of capital in companies worsened. Since the banking crisis held unforeseeable dangers, the American President Herbert Hoover managed to suspend the German reparation payments to the victorious powers and also the repayment of the Allied war debts to the USA for a year from July 6, 1931 ("Hoover Moratorium") to relieve the countries concerned. Great Britain then decoupled the pound sterling from the gold standard on September 21, devaluing it by 20 percent. By making its goods cheaper on the world market, the country wanted to promote its exports and stimulate the labor market. Numerous countries followed suit; the international monetary system with fixed exchange rates based on the price of gold collapsed. The value of the Reichsmark rose; German products became more expensive on the world market; foreign demand fell. Brüning reacted to this with a further tightening of the deflation policy: By means of an emergency ordinance of October 6, 1931, he reduced the receipt of unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. On December 8th, he decreed general wage, rent, interest and price cuts in order to offset the competitive disadvantages of the German economy. However, this anti-market measure only created uncertainty among manufacturers and consumers; domestic demand continued to decline. The banking crisis, the devaluation of the pound and deflationary emergency decrees caused a further rise in unemployment. On average in 1932 there were 5.6 million registered unemployed (29.9 percent). At the end of February the number of "visible" unemployed was 6.1 million; If one adds an estimated 1.5 million "invisible" people (people who did not report out of shame about their poverty), then 7.6 million job seekers can actually be assumed.

Brüning's role

Some historians see in Brüning the last Chancellor who tried with the means at his disposal to steer the Weimar Republic through the world economic crisis. Brüning's policy, however, shows that he subordinated economic and financial policy to his foreign and domestic policy plans (overcoming the Versailles Treaty, authoritarian restructuring of the state, if not even returning to the monarchy). His first milestone was the lifting of the reparation obligations. Brüning wanted to demonstrate to the victorious powers that, despite the greatest efforts, the Reich could not meet the requirements of the Young Plan (payment of the annual installments with a stable currency and a balanced state budget). Renegotiations should then lead to a final settlement. Brüning consciously accepted the worsening of the economic crisis and the spreading social impoverishment of broad masses. That is why he rejected all expert proposals for an active economic and labor market policy. The NSDAP promptly adopted these proposals and, in 1932, carried out a clever and effective election propaganda campaign.

Source text

Alternatives to Brüning's deflationary policy

The deflation policy of the years 1930 to 1932 is judged controversially in historical research.

The economic historian Knut Borchardt is of the opinion that Brüning could not have pursued a significantly different financial and economic policy under the conditions at the time. In essence, he argues as follows:
Even before 1929, the German economy was in a structural crisis as a result of excessively high wages, taxes, raw material prices and credit costs, which had to be resolved from 1930 to 1932 (as tried by Brüning) before an active economic policy could be considered.
At the time of Brüning's Chancellorship, the theory of "countercyclical economic policy" and "deficit spending", which is associated with the name of the British economist John Maynard Keynes (when private demand falls, the state has to step in with loan-financed contracts to stimulate the economy) was not yet in place sufficiently developed and known.
The strict regulations of the Reichsbank Act and the Young Plan did not allow credit expansion or devaluation of the Reichsmark as measures to stimulate the economy.
At that time there was insufficient support from parties and associations for a devaluation of the Reichsmark and for "deficit spending" because of the widespread fear of inflation.
In contrast, the historian Ursula Büttner has shown that there were indeed alternatives to deflationary policy. Your objections to Borchardt's argument are summarized as follows:
The structural problems that arose before 1929 were certainly easier to solve in a growing economy than in a shrinking one.
The necessary know-how for an active economic policy was by no means lacking. In 1930/32 Keynes explained his mature theory of anti-cyclical economic policy in a series of lectures and newspaper articles in Germany and met with a great response. In September 1931, the Upper Government Council in the Wilhelm Lautenbach Ministry of Economics presented a Keynes-oriented plan to stimulate the economy (without inflationary effects) by means of loan-financed government contracts amounting to three billion RM. Hans Schäffer, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, emphatically endorsed the Lautenbach Plan in his memorandum of September 1931. Ernst Wagemann, head of the Reich Statistical Office and the Institute for Economic Research, published a large number of copies of his own plan in January 1932 to increase the state credit line by up to three billion RM in order to stimulate the economy.
In the crisis of the summer of 1931, the Reichsbank Act and the YoungPlan lost their importance because they could no longer be adhered to anyway. The contracting parties had come to terms with lower Reichsmark coverage, the devaluation of which was generally expected abroad based on the British model.
The desire to fight the economic crisis with the means of financial and monetary policy spread so strongly from autumn 1931 that corresponding measures by the government - despite the negative attitude of the employers' associations and the party leaderships - found broad support among the population. A clear indication of this is in particular the so-called WTB plan adopted by the ADGB in April 1932 (named after its authors Wladimir Woytinski, Fritz Tarnow and Fritz Baade). The concept envisaged employing around one million unemployed people in public works; The state was to raise the two billion RM required for this through loans. Because the expenditures for the unemployed would decrease accordingly, the tax revenues would increase, the real costs were estimated at 1.2 billion RM. The WTB plan aimed to revive the consumer goods industry with further positive employment effects, so that an inflationary effect would be avoided. However, the SPD leadership refused credit financing because they expected inflation from it, and after the experience of 1923 at least a renewed fear of inflation among the population.
As Schäffer noted in his diary on January 29, 1932, the Chancellor was particularly indignant about Wagemann: 1. Wagemann gave the trade unions the impression "as if there were other means than deflationary policy to improve our situation". 2. Wagemann's proposals could "hail into the reparations program". 3. It is to be feared that the National Socialists, who "had previously looked in vain for a currency program", would adopt Wagemann's plan and derive political advantages from it.

Summary by R. Sturm based on:
Knut Borchardt, "Difficulty situations and room for maneuver in the great economic crisis of the early thirties.", In: Michael Stürmer (ed.), The Weimar Republic. Belagerte Civitas, Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion GmbH, Kettwig 2011, pp. 318 to 339. Ursula Büttner, "Political alternatives to Brüning's deflation course," in: Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 37 (1989), vol. 2, pp. 209-251

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Political radicalization

As the economic downturn accelerated and millions of families became impoverished and impoverished, political disputes escalated and clashes broke out between the armed forces of the major right and left parties:
  • The "Stahlhelm - Association of Front Soldiers Returning Undefeated" had organized up to a million members since the end of 1918 and was part of the DNVP.
  • The "Sturmabteilung" (SA) created by the NSDAP in 1921 had around 420,000 members at the beginning of 1932; the SS ("Schutzstaffel"), formed in 1925 and with around 52,000 men, was subordinate to it (until 1934).
  • The SPD-affiliated "Reichsbanner Schwarz Rot Gold - Bund der Republican Frontsoldaten", founded in 1924, was the only constitutional armed forces association and had around one million members.
  • The "Red Front Fighters Association" (RFB) of the KPD, also formed in 1924, had around 130,000 members in 1927.
All associations were more or less uniformed, acted militantly and had secret weapons caches. While "Stahlhelm", SA and SS were able to cooperate, "Reichsbanner" and RFB were enemies. In the years 1931 and 1932, increasingly bloody street riots and hall battles, especially between SA and RFB, often led to civil war-like conditions in the big cities. Political assassinations were also committed again, by both National Socialists and Communists. The police were often late; more and more police officers also sympathized with the legal associations. The fact that the Social Democratic Prime Minister Otto Braun was still ruling with a Weimar coalition in Prussia had long been a thorn in the side of the political right. In the spring of 1931 the "Stahlhelm" initiated a referendum (also permissible at the state level) for the immediate dissolution of the Prussian state parliament. It was supported by DNVP, NSDAP and KPD - the communists did not even shrink from an alliance with the "fascists" in their deluded fight against the social democrats. The action failed, however: in the referendum, the required minimum number of signatures only just came together; in the referendum on August 9, 1931, around 3.4 million votes were missing. On 7./9. In October 1931, several ministers in the Brüning government were replaced. The Reich Chancellor himself took over the Foreign Office, Reich Defense Minister Groener also received the Ministry of the Interior - a dangerous concentration of power. According to Hindenburg's wish, this second Briining cabinet should be even more independent of the parties and parliament; it signaled a further shift to the right among those in power in the presidential regime.

Harzburg Front

On October 11, 1931, the nationalist right - NSDAP, DNVP, Stahlhelm, Reichslandbund and Pan-German Association - held a conference in Bad Harzburg, combined with a march of their associations to demonstrate strength and unity. The most prominent guests were the Emperor's son and SA group leader August Wilhelm Prince of Prussia ("Auwi"), the former Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht and General a. D. von Seeckt. A vote of no confidence by the DNVP and NSDAP against the second Brüning cabinet, which was also joined by the DVP and the KPD, narrowly failed on November 16, 1931 - the decisive factor was the votes against by the SPD. At the end of November concrete plans for overturning the Hessian NSDAP ("Boxheimer Documents") became known. However, Brüning downplayed the incident so as not to obstruct possible coalitions between the center and the NSDAP. In response to the "Harzburg Front", the SPD, ADGB, AfA-Bund, "Reichsbanner" and workers' sports organizations jointly founded the "Iron Front" on December 16, 1931. Under the flag symbol of the three arrows - as a counter-symbol to the swastika - she organized political parades and rallies and appeared militant on the outside to demonstrate strength and deter opponents from attacks.

Reich presidential election 1932

In this tense situation, the seven-year term of office of the Reich President came to an end at the beginning of 1932. The now 85-year-old Hindenburg stood for re-election. In contrast to 1925, there was a promising right-wing opposing candidate: Adolf Hitler, whom a DNVP-NSDAP government in Braunschweig at the end of February 1932 helped to obtain the German citizenship required for candidacy. There were also Theodor Duesterberg ("Stahlhelm"), Ernst Thälmann (KPD) and some candidates from splinter parties. Hindenburg's re-election was initially supported by the center and BVP, DDP and DVP. Since everything pointed to a decision between Hitler and Hindenburg, the SPD stuck to its policy of the lesser evil: It renounced its own candidate and issued the slogan: "Beat Hitler! That's why Hindenburg chooses!" For their followers this was an irritating imposition, but they mostly followed it with discipline. In the first ballot on March 13, 1932, Hindenburg only narrowly missed the required absolute majority with 49.6 percent, followed by Hitler (30.1 percent), Thälmann (13.2 percent) and Duesterberg (6.8 percent) ) and the remaining candidates. Duesterberg gave up and supported Hindenburg. In the second ballot on April 10, the incumbent Reich President was re-elected with 53 percent of the vote. Hitler got 36.8 percent, Thälmann only 10.2 percent. Judging by the boastful announcement by his campaign manager Joseph Goebbels "Hitler will be our President!" the NSDAP leader had embarrassed himself. Nevertheless, its performance showed that the National Socialist voter potential had grown by five million votes since September 1930. But even the election winner saw little reason to be happy. The Reich President found it a shame that he owed his second term of office to his opponents from 1925, the Social Democrats and the Catholics. Grotesquely, Hindenburg directed his grudge against Brüning, who had campaigned for him like no other and had also sharply attacked the NSDAP. Brüning's fall was now only a matter of time.

Brüning's dismissal

In the course of his chancellorship, Brüning had increasingly forfeited the sympathies of the presidential advisers and the authoritarian-monarchist-minded sections of the military, bureaucratic and economic elites behind them, because he did not allow himself to be used as a puppet, but steered his own political course, moreover tolerated by the SPD, which was particularly hated by these elites. The decisive conflict arose when Brüning and Groener, at the request of numerous states (including Bavaria and Prussia), obtained a ban on the SA and SS from the Reich President in order to combat the main cause of political violence; it came into force on April 13, 1932. The Reich President and his advisors were bothered by the fact that the "Reichsbanner" (loyal to the republic) should not also be banned. In addition, Schleicher saw his plans in danger of overthrowing Brüning and either involving the NSDAP in the government or at least winning them over to a policy of tolerance. On May 7th, Schleicher and Hitler made a secret agreement: Schleicher would arrange for Brüning's replacement, the readmission of the SA and SS and new elections to the Reichstag. In return, the NSDAP would tolerate the next presidential government in the Reichstag. At Schleicher's instigation, Groener had to resign on May 12th. A reason for Brüning's dismissal was soon found. In May the Chancellor wanted to give the East Elbe landowners another substantial financial aid. However, the state should buy or auction goods that could no longer be rehabilitated and divide them into farms for the unemployed. It was easy for the "camarilla" to turn the Reich President, who was himself a landowner, against this "agrarbolshevism". On May 29, Hindenburg deprived Brüning of the right to apply Article 48 of the WV; then the Reich government had to resign the next day - in Brüning's view "a hundred meters from the goal", as he had already said on May 11 in the Reichstag. Indeed, soon afterwards the reparations problem was solved in his favor. The conference of all the states concerned, which met in Lausanne from June 16 to July 9, 1932, agreed on the complete cancellation of the German reparation debt; even a symbolically required final payment was no longer made. But the price for this success was high: it consisted of an erosion of parliamentarism, a worsening of the economic crisis, an increase in the social misery of millions of families and a hitherto unknown political radicalization. Brüning's policies accelerated the rise of the right-wing extremist, violent NSDAP to a mass movement that endangered the state.

Government of Papen

The new Reich Chancellor was surprisingly the Catholic-Westphalian aristocrat, monarchist center politician and Prussian state parliament member Franz von Papen. As the main shareholder and chairman of the supervisory board of the center newspaper "Germania" and as a member of the conservative-elitist Berlin "gentlemen's club", he had good contacts to industry, large-scale agriculture, banks and bureaucracy. Since he accepted the chancellorship against the will of the center leadership, angry about Brüning's fall, he had to resign from the party. In response to the accusation "Papen is not a head!" replied Schleicher unmoved: "It shouldn't be that either. But it's a hat." However, Papen quickly won Hindenburg's trust and withdrew from Schleicher's tutelage. The cabinet, which was sworn in on June 1, 1932, comprised seven noble and only three bourgeois, nationally conservative, but mostly non-party ministers. Schleicher himself entered the political limelight for the first time as Minister of Defense. This "cabinet of barons" under "Herrenreiter" Papen, as his critics scoffed, represented predominantly the interests of the East Elbe large agrarians and the military ruling class; Industry was only represented by Economy Minister Warmbold, the middle classes and the workforce not at all. The public believed the Papen government to be even less likely to overcome the economic crisis than did the Briining cabinet; share prices fell promptly. Papen received parliamentary support only from the DVP and the DNVP. The SPD immediately ended its policy of tolerance and planned a motion of censure, which the government anticipated: On June 4, 1932, the Reich President dissolved the Reichstag - as discussed between Schleicher and Hitler - because it no longer corresponded to "the political will of the German people" . Hindenburg was alluding to the fact that the NSDAP had become the strongest party in the state elections in Prussia, Württemberg, Hamburg and Anhalt on April 24, and the second strongest party in Bavaria. In June and July 1932, after Schleicher had enforced the re-admission of the SA and SS, the bloodiest election campaign in German history took place. There were street riots, shootings, floor battles and assassinations between right and left military organizations, in which around 300 people died and over 1,100 were injured. On July 17th alone, the "Altona Blood Sunday", there were 18 dead and 68, some seriously injured, when a National Socialist demonstration march through the communist residential area of ​​Altona turned into an hour-long firefight between the RFB and SA. In the meantime, the authoritarian constitutional plans cherished in the vicinity of the Reich President were taking shape. Papen developed the idea of ​​a "New State" with the following principles:
  • Association of the offices of the Reich Chancellor and the Prussian Prime Minister,
  • Independence of the Reich Chancellor from the confidence of the Reichstag,
  • Establishment of an aristocratic and professional "House of Lords" superordinate to parliament, the members of which were appointed by the Reich President.
The similarity with the structures of the empire is obvious - at the end of the development there should be a return to the monarchy. The first step on the way to the "New State" was obvious: the elimination of the "red fortress" Prussia. Because the Braun government lost its majority in the state elections on April 24, 1932. The new distribution of seats in the Prussian state parliament (KPD 57, SPD 94, Zentrum 67, DVP 7, DNVP 31, NSDAP 162) resulted in a "negative majority" of the right-wing and left-wing radical parties. Since a center-NSDAP coalition did not come about, the previous cabinet remained in office as the "managing government" with limited capacity to act. Braun was also in poor health and no longer had a fighting spirit.

Deposition of the Prussian government

The "Altona Blood Sunday" served as a pretext. On July 20, 1932, Hindenburg issued two emergency ordinances "to restore public safety and order" in Prussia. With the first, Papen took the place of the Prime Minister as "Reich Commissioner"; he transferred the affairs of the interior minister to the right-wing (non-party) mayor of Essen, Franz Bracht. The second ordinance transferred executive power in Greater Berlin and Brandenburg to the Reichswehr. The Reich execution against Prussia was a purely arbitrary act and even a "coup" (Heinrich August Winkler). The Braun government protested and sued the State Court of Justice against its removal with the support of the southern German states, which saw federalism violated. In October 1932 the court declared the temporary appointment of Reich commissioners permissible, but their appointment to represent Prussia in the Reichsrat was unconstitutional. The verdict did nothing to change the dismissal of the Braun government. Democrats, especially SPD members, had already had Papen removed from all leading positions in the Prussian state apparatus. The "Preussenschlag", which Hitler had been inaugurated beforehand, gave the NSDAP, which was striving for power, a strong boost. Because the social democracy had surrendered to a pseudo-legal attack on their last power base in the Weimar state; The SPD and KPD remained at odds. Accordingly, no militant resistance from the left was to be expected even against the establishment of a dictatorship that was legitimately accepted. The NSDAP newspaper "Völkischer Beobachter" wrote on its front page on July 21, 1932: "Liquidation of the November rule!" - "The beginning has been made, we will lead it to the end." In the weeks that followed, Hitler began to plan an "Enabling Act" that would transfer general and constitutional legislation to a government he led. Because of the strategic importance of the "Prussian strike" in the process of the destruction of democracy, the question arises whether a successful resistance by the democratic forces - primarily the SPD, the trade unions and the "Iron Front" - would have been possible on July 20, 1932. It is mostly denied by historians. In the ranks of the "Iron Front", especially in the "Reichsbanner", there was considerable readiness to fight, but it differed from region to region. Also, readiness to fight did not already mean the ability to fight for civil war. The SPD and the trade unions had never developed a concept for armed actions to save democracy - despite the establishment of the Reich Banner and the "Iron Front". They certainly did not have the ruthless violence of the NSDAP or the KPD. Rather, the social democratic leadership had learned from the chilling example of the Russian Revolution and from its own experience that it should orient its policy towards the principles of legality, humanity and non-violence. The unions rejected a general strike, such as the one called for by the KPD in particular. In contrast to the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch in 1920, this time they saw it as a blunt weapon, because more than six million unemployed were ready to take the places of the strikers. The Social Democrats limited themselves to protests and concentrated on the Reichstag election campaign.

Reichstag elections 1932

On July 31, 1932, more citizens voted than ever before (84.1 percent). The SPD again lost votes to the KPD. Two years of policy of tolerance towards Brüning, the exclusion of prominent left-wing critics of the party course (in September 1931), the co-election of Hindenburg and the standing still in Prussia had disappointed parts of the SPD electorate. While the center and BVP made slight gains, the middle-class Protestant bourgeois parties were almost completely wiped out. The DNVP also suffered again - this time lighter - losses. As expected, the outstanding election winner was the NSDAP. Because it stifled voters to varying degrees from all parties, except for the KPD and the center, it was able to more than double its share of votes (13.7 million = 37.3 percent) and mandates (230). It thus provided by far the strongest parliamentary group in the Reichstag - and, according to parliamentary custom, the President of the Reichstag (Hermann Göring). The ongoing crisis-related polarization and radicalization of large parts of the population and an extremely skilful, modern election campaign (mainly financed from own funds, partly also from business donations) had given the NSDAP a new mass of voters. Hitler was the first German politician to use an airplane to deliver as many election speeches as possible.