Politics: Unemployment and National Socialism

  • Hannelore Weck-Hannemann


The role of the Great Depression as a causal factor in the fall of the Weimar Republic has been and still is controversial. Was the rise of the National Socialists and other totalitarian parties due to the high rate of unemployment in the years 1930 to 1933? Would the historical development have been different if the economic crisis had not worsened after 1930? Three answers to these questions may be Found in the literature (see Bracher 1964; Hentschel 1978; or Jasper 1968):
  1. 1.

    Some authors stress the political and institutional difficulties with which the first German democracy was faced. The Weimar Republic was identified with what was felt to be the shameful conditions of the Versailles treaty. Moreover, the Weimar constitution itself had basic shortcomings. The founding fathers of the Federal Republic of Germany considered these weaknesses of the constitution to be a very strong factor in the Weimar Republic’s fall, so they introduced quite different institutional provisions into the 1949 constitution (Grundgesetz) of the Federal Republic, for example, the indirect election of the chancellor by parliament.

  2. 2.

    Other authors consider the nature of the then existing sociodemographic and religious groups to be the main reason for the Weimar Republic’s breakdown (e.g., Pollock 1944; Lipset 1960). It is maintained that the Nazi party was strongly supported by the rural population, which was heavily hit by the agricultural crisis, and by the bourgeois middle class, which had been impoverished by the preceding hyperinflation and which felt that its social position was threatened. The Catholics and workers, on the other hand, resisted the Nazi movement until 1933 (see Brown 1982). A great number of first-time voters in the period 1930 to 1933 had no clear party identification and therefore became easy prey for the National Socialists (e.g., O’Lessker 1968).



Vote Share American Political Science Review Economic Depression Democratic Candidate Social Democratic Party 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

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  • Hannelore Weck-Hannemann

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