The German Right in the Weimar Republic: Studies in the History of German Conservatism, Nationalism, and Antisemitism

By Timpe, Julia | Canadian Journal of History, Spring-Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

The German Right in the Weimar Republic: Studies in the History of German Conservatism, Nationalism, and Antisemitism


Timpe, Julia, Canadian Journal of History


The German Right in the Weimar Republic: Studies in the History of German Conservatism, Nationalism, and Antisemitism, edited by Larry Eugene Jones. New York & Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2014. xxiv, 332 pp. $95.00 US (cloth).

What is the role and responsibility of the political right in the Weimar Republic--which consisted of a myriad of political parties, associations, and combat leagues--when it comes to the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler's ascendance to the chancellorship in Germany in 1933? This new collection of essays, edited by Larry Eugene Jones, on the political, organizational, and social history of the German right in the Weimar Republic offers useful insights into this long-debated question and makes a number of persuasive arguments. The picture that emerges from this book is of a political right characterized by continual quarrelling, disunity, competition, and ongoing and increasing fragmentation. The volume is made up of ten individual chapters that look at some of the major players of Weimar's Right. Half of the studies deal with the history of the German National People's Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP) and that of the Pan-German League (Alldeutscher Verband, ADV); other essays focus on the German combat leagues, the Catholic right, Reich President von Hindenburg, jurist and political theorist Carl Schmitt, and the Protestant theologian Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, director of the Bethel Institutions.

The volume is impressively coherent for an essay collection and thus convincingly achieves what Jones claims as its purpose in his cogent and useful (especially historiographically) introduction: to reinforce through several case studies the master narrative that "the disunity of the Right was every bit as important as a prerequisite for the establishment of the Third Reich as the schism on the socialist Left or the fragmentation of the political middle" (2). The organizational and ideological disunity of the political right is clearly demonstrated by the scholars here, with individual essays often complementing each other by highlighting different shards of the fragmenting movements. For example, the pieces by Daniela Gasteiger and Jones both look at fissures in the German National Party. Gasteiger's essay focuses on DNVP leader Count Guido von Westarp and his relationships with volkisch politician Albrecht von Graefe-Goldebee (initially a member of the DNVP and then founder of the German-Racist Freedom Party [Deutschvolksiche Freiheitspartei, DVP] and the Central Association of German Conservatives [Hauptverein der Deutschkonservativen]), closely examining the deterioration of both relationships. The collection's next is Jones' analysis of inner-party quarrels within the DNVP and the inconsistency of the party in regard to the Jewish question. The reader is convinced by both essays not only of the disunity of the DNVP, but also of its multiple disunities.

The Jewish question is a topic of other essays here as well, and again internal divisions are identified. Brian E. Crim's essay looks at the Jewish question in regard to the German combat leagues. The anti-Semitism Crim finds in the two largest, Stahlhelm, the League of Front Soldiers (Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten), and the Young German Order (Jungdeutscher Orden, Jungdo), is mostly a strategically chosen ideology, a "situational antisemitism derived from opportunism, pragmatism, and vicious competition in a crowed German Right" (195). Variations of this diagnosis are also made (implicitly) in the essays by Gasteiger and Jones on the DNVP and in the essay by Bjorn Hofmeister on the Pan-German league. …

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