From Recovery to Catastrophe: Municipal Stabilization and Political Crisis in Weimar, Germany

By Ben Lieberman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
MUNICIPAL FINANCE AND DESTABILIZATION

I f historians' comments about illusions of stabilization suggest the difficulty of evaluating the middle years of the Weimar Republic, analysis of municipal policies and politics of recovery underscores the problem of accounting for stabilization in a period best known for disaster. In place of the traumas of stabilization outlined by historiography of the Weimar Republic, a focus on the municipal level reveals remarkable local activism in the aftermath of hyperinflation. Instead of the political strife described by studies of national politics, a municipal perspective shows that the conjunction of recovery with democratization yielded a broad political consensus in favor of expanding municipal activity.

Despite the achievements of civic leaders during the period of Weimar stabilization, municipal pursuit of recovery yielded contradictory results. The growth of municipal activity met with both broad approval and mounting criticism. Indeed, reaction against municipal policy, civic leaders, and established political parties steadily gathered force on the local and national levels between 1926 and 1929, well before the 1930 national electoral breakthrough of the National Socialists. By the end of the period of Weimar stabilization, many of the municipal leaders who had taken a leading part in organizing recovery found themselves on the defensive, facing charges that city governments had actually crippled recovery.

How did city governments come to face multiple waves of attack despite the broad base of support for municipal policies of the period of stabilization? It is no more convincing to identify a single cause of reaction against Weimar municipalities than it is to find a single cause for the collapse of the Weimar Republic.1 Criticism of

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Notes for this section begin on page 103.

-82-

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