German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism

German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism

German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism

German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism

Synopsis

German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism explores the failure of Germany's largest political party to stave off the Nazi threat to the Weimar republic. In 1928 members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) were elected to the chancellorship and thousands of state and municipal offices. But despite the party's apparent strengths, in 1933 Social Democracy succumbed to Nazi power without a fight. Previous scholarship has blamed this reversal of fortune on bureaucratic paralysis, but in this revisionist evaluation, Donna Harsch argues that the party's internal dynamics immobilized the SPD. Harsch looks closely at Social Democratic ideology, structure, and political culture, examining how each impinged upon the party's response to economic disaster, parliamentary crisis, and the Nazis. She considers political and organizational interplay within the SPD as well as interaction between the party, the Socialist trade unions, and the republican defense league. Conceding that lethargy and conservatism hampered the SPD, Harsch focuses on strikingly inventive ideas put forward by various Social Democrats to address the republic's crisis. She shows how the unresolved competition among these proposals blocked innovations that might have thwarted Nazism.

Originally published in 1993.

Excerpt

I began work on this project almost ten years ago and have incurred many debts to those who spurred me to focus hazy thoughts, facilitated the research, sharpened my prose, or just lent a friendly ear. This book started out as a dissertation at Yale University, under the able direction of Henry A. Turner, Jr. Initially in two excellent seminars and, later, in his comments on my work, he challenged me to think more clearly and express myself more precisely. His views on Weimar Social Democracy and on the Weimar republic in general have influenced me probably even more than I myself realize. He was a careful and sensitive reader of the dissertation from whom I learned much about writing as well as about history. From Peter Gay, a second member of my committee, I learned much about German culture in several seminars as well as profited from his insightful criticisms of the dissertation. I did not have the pleasure of taking classes with Paul Kennedy, the final member of my committee, but found his comments on the thesis most valuable. While in Germany in 1983-84 I benefited from stimulating discussions with the historians Detlef Lehnert and Peter Lösche. I would especially like to thank Hans Mommsen, who shared with me some of his vast knowledge about the Weimar republic and the SPD. His perceptive questions helped me to define the project. Here in the United States, Steve Grosby, Sarah Maza, Brian Ladd, Cathy Potter, and David Kaiser read and commented on all or parts of the manuscript. Two anonymous readers for the University of North Carolina Press made important suggestions that tremendously expedited the process of turning what was still a dissertation (though already revised) into a book. Lewis Bateman, executive editor at the press, is to be credited with selecting such conscientious, insightful readers. I am most grateful to him, however, for believing in the manuscript from the beginning. Ron Maner did a wonderful job of guiding the book, and me, through the editing process. Stephanie Wenzel was a sensitive and careful copyeditor.

I am most grateful to the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst for supporting a year of research in Bonn. I would also like to thank the archivists at the Archiv der sozialen Demokratie of the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung for being patient and helpful with an often bewildered American graduate student. In particular, I want to express my warm gratitude and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.