Liberal Democrats in the Weimar Republic: The History of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party

Liberal Democrats in the Weimar Republic: The History of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party

Liberal Democrats in the Weimar Republic: The History of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party

Liberal Democrats in the Weimar Republic: The History of the German Democratic Party and the German State Party

Synopsis

A thorough critical history of the DDP and DStP based on archival research that reveals new information about the failure of the German middle classes in politics.

Frye demonstrates that the DDP had a significance much greater than its following might suggest. Within its ranks were some of Germany's most influential intellectuals, academics, and publicists. It was the party that made the most notable contribution to the Weimar Constitution and was most in tune with its values. The DDP represented many contradictory political and intellectual influences: nationalism as well as internationalism and pacifism; reverence for individualism as well as statism. In time these internal contradictions tore the party apart.

The failure of the German middle classes to build a moderate political party and their tendency to move to the extreme right reveals much about the German middle classes, the failure of liberalism, and the rise of nazism.

Excerpt

The left-liberal political tradition in Germany, although never popular, has persisted for well over a century. In the Weimar period (1919-1933), the German Democratic party (DDP) and its successor, the German State party (DStP), represented this tradition. In January 1919, the DDP received the third largest vote total in the election for the National Assembly. The election followed four years of war and a revolution, and it seemed that it might result in a socialist majority and government. This did not occur, much to the relief of the German middle classes, and instead a coalition of moderate parties--the DDP, the Social Democratic party (SPD), and the Catholic Center party--formed a government, the Weimar Coalition. The Democratic party gained several key cabinet posts and assumed the leadership in writing the Weimar Constitution. This was the beginning of a national political role for the DDP/DStP, which it maintained, although with diminished importance, until 1932. The DDP/DStP had representation in sixteen of seventeen national governments during this period. Moreover, in Prussia, where the Weimar Coalition remained in power, it served from 1919 to 1932 as well. Prussia was by far the largest and most important German state (Land). In addition, at the municipal level of government, the DDP provided more mayors of principal German cities than any other party. Because many Democrats were trained as local government officials and the DDP could serve as a bridge between the political extremes, many city councils elected Democratic mayors soon after the revolution. They served long terms, and several were still in office when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt a/M, Dresden, Königsberg, Dessau, and many other cities and large towns had governments headed by a Democrat during the Weimar period. In addition, there were thousands of professional civil servants at all levels of government who were left liberals.

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