One of the most speculated matters in the history of the Weimar Republic is whether it would have weathered the hard crises of the Great Depression, and so resist the rise of the Nazis, if all forces had been more united. Disunity — both true and perceived — was indeed a characteristic of the Weimar Republic.
The most apparent disunity was the one in the parliament itself. Throughout the republican history, the Reichstag was made up of many small political forces which seem to have a hard time getting along. There were a few bigger parties, of course, most notably the Social Democrats and the Zentrum, but none of these ever won the absolute majority of the parliament. The republic had to rely on coalitions governments which were unstable at best, leading to frequent crises and reorganization of the Reichstag.
This disunity and instability ill-suited German people, whose culture had been prompted to an authoritarian, decisive, military efficiency. The people saw the endless parliamentary discussions as weakness rather than democratic discussion by Germans who, slowly, lost faith in the ability of the republic to solve its citizens’ problems.
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George W. Bush once told John Kerry, “You forgot Poland!” when the Democrat listed the few countries that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
We history buffs can use a similar reminder that Poland is, in fact, not lost. World War II in Europe began when German tanks stormed across Poland’s border after a flagrant false-flag at Gleiwitz (or Gliwice). The Red Army came not long afterward. Auschwitz, the most infamous of the Nazi death factories, is remembered by many, but we sometimes forget it was built in the Polish town of Oświęcim.
When the Poles feature in (alternate) history, they are often reduced to victims of German and Soviet armies. This does them a disservice: the Polish fought, and fought hard. There was the Warsaw Uprising and the Polish forces under Władysław Anders that fought in Italy.
The movie Hurricane, released as Mission of Honor in the United States, is about some of those Polish warriors, specifically those who served as foreign pilots in the Battle of Britain. These were men who had escaped Poland, often served in the French Army of the Air, and then made their way to the UK after the Fall of France. At a time when Poland as a country could not do much, her sons were doing everything they could to defeat her enemies abroad.
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It is sometimes said that just like World War I was the war to end all wars, the Treaty of Versailles was the peace to end all peace.
Often described as punitive to Germany, which was cast as the villain and the loser of Europe, the treaty failed to create the basis for solid peace and ended up laying down the groundwork for precisely what all nations didn’t what to ever happen again.
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The Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland (Social Democratic Party of Germany) was founded in 1875 by August Bebel on largely Marxist ideals and for most of the Weimar Republic time was the largest political party in the nation.
Although it was born as a workers’ party, the SPD often embraced a number of causes beyond the conditions of workers, calling for equal rights for women (finally realized by the republic) and a stop to the killing of natives in German colonies in the nineteenth century.
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The Reichswehr, the German republican army, was always a state in the state and never a supporter of the democratic regime of the Weimar Republic.
When Germany signed the Armistice, her military force was virtually dismantled. As soldiers went home to a civilian life they hardly knew how to live, many kept together and in time formed military-like entities that were later known as Freikorps.
It is estimated that in the first years of the Weimar Republic, a number between 200 and 300 different Freikorps units spontaneously formed, ranging from small units to fully form military divisions which acted as a real German army — for example, in the Baltic and against the Poles. But most had free action in the republic itself and went violently about trying to stop the perceived communist invasion of Germany.
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The idea that the Earth is hollow has been disproven for centuries, yet, not unlike the Nazis who have made their home there in dieselpunk fiction, it refuses to die. It returns as myth, pseudohistory, fiction or hoax, most recently in the Hollywood movie Godzilla vs. Kong, where Hollow Earth is home to all sorts of monsters.
The Ancient Greeks and early Christians placed the underworld or Hell in the interior of the Earth. Ancient Tibetans imagined a much nicer place: they thought the spiritual kingdom of Shambhala could be found somewhere in the middle of the planet. Other civilizations had similar myths.
More recently, John Cleves Symmes Jr., an American Army officer, suggested in 1818 that the Earth’s interior could be accessed through holes at the North and South Poles. This isn’t true either (people have been there), but it has become a staple of Hollow Earth mythology.
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Berlin has been a queer-friendly city for well over a hundred year — except for the Nazi period, of course. The history of how the city became a safe haven for queer people started back in the nineteenth century.
German law wasn’t more liberal than any other law on the continent. At the unification of Germany under the Kaiserreich in 1871, an oppressive statute was imposed all over the country which criminalized bestiality as well as certain acts between men. This was never lifted and in fact in remained law of the land until as late as the 1960s.
By this law, someone could be convicted for sodomy only if he confessed or if a witness testified against him. Which made the law admittedly quite hard to enforce, since this wasn’t something people voluntarily confessed. As for witnesses, people had, of course, consensual relationships and intercourse in their private life. If someone was willing to denounce someone else, it was normally for shady reasons. The law seemed to encourage the practice of blackmailing, which finally prompted the creation of the Department of Blackmail and Homosexuality inside the police.
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Over the whole nineteenth century, the Western world in its entirety had been moving in the same direction: away from the countryside into the cities. Away from a rural lifestyle into industrialization and generally into a more inclusive, if maybe more lonely, society. Germany had been inside that general flow.
The great shift, which had started in the nineteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, quickened its pace after the war. Although German society, like all other European societies, remained mostly rural, the move from the countryside to the cities accelerated. And it wasn’t just a move from one place to another, it didn’t just change people’s lifestyle, but also their minds. The way people understood life and the ideas they were willing to accept change dramatically as they moved from one environment to the other.
The divide between village and city was possibly at its highest at this time. Life still flew as it had for the past hundred years in the villages, but in the cities huge social changes were happening.
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Occultism and spiritualism weren’t new on the scene of European society. They had been very popular in Victorian times, and when World War I broke out people again turned to these practices and beliefs in search of solace.
The spiritualist movement was founded in 1848 and supported the belief that the personality would survive after death and could be contacted by livings through séance.
The nineteenth century saw a great advancement in many sciences. Forces that were previously invisible and explained to some extent as “magic” or “supernatural”, like radiowaves and magnetism, gave rise to the idea that maybe more “magical events” could be explained scientifically. And the advent of the telegraph and the telephone, which allowed communication across distances that were previously considered insurmountable, arose the idea that maybe even the border between the living and the dead could be crossed and communication made possible.
Occultism and spiritualism then became hugely popular with Victorians, but at the end of the century the interest was waning.
That’s when the Great War occurred.
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Because of its prominence in the European history of the twentieth century, it’s tempting to consider the Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeitpartei (German National Socialist Workers Party) more powerful then all the other right-wing movements of its time. In fact, it was a very small, mostly regional, not very influential party for most of Weimar history. What really singled it out from all the other similar movements was its leader: Adolf Hitler.
The republican time saw the birth of a myriad of political entities with right inclinations, both parties and movements. In 1920 alone, at least 74 of these parties could be counted on the political scene and among them the NSDAP (with a different name at the time), which had been founded on January 5, 1919 in Munich.
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