The Flawed Weimar Government
The German Constitution and the Rise of Hitler
early followers of Hitler who later became the major office holders and bosses
of the German people were all criminals of the most sadistic kind, as evidenced
by the atrocities summed up by the phrase holocaust.
There is no excuse for the horrors of murder and destruction imposed on
the European Jews. Nevertheless we need to ask how it came about that the
criminal Hitler and his cohorts could attain the seizure of the German
government and then continue on an endless reign of terror which ended only when
war destroyed Germany in 1945.
are innumerable explanations for the crimes committed by the German people
against all European Jews and against five million non-Jews who were also
murdered in concentration camps. Many writers seek to explain it all by such
arguments that Hitler was crazy, that the Germans lost the First World War, that
Germany suffered a terrible depression and massive unemployment, that Christian
anti-semitism was responsible, that Germany was deprived of colonies, etc. None
of these “explanations” for the Nazi horrors make sense. We need, therefore
to ask why a German government based on a democratic constitution could so
easily be destroyed by a criminal gang.
means that we need to look at the German constitution passed by the German
parliament in November 1919.
after the German army had been defeated in 1918, ending the First World War, the
emperor, or Kaiser, i.e.
“Caesar,” William II resigned and ,moved to the Netherlands. In his stead,
the labor leader Frederick Ebert was elected President of Germany. He asked the
Jewish Lawyer and legal scholar Hugo Preuss to draw up a constitution for
Germany. That constitution was adopted in 1919, leading to the appointment of a
number of Jews to important positons in the new democratic government. Most
prominent was Walter Rathenau, who became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new
was contemplated by the Germans that their new democracy would be governed in
the British style. This meant that the party with at least 51 percent of the
seats in the parliament, or Reichstag, would furnish the chancellor or prime
minister. Using the British example, it was assumed that the German president
would appoint the leader of the biggest party in the Reichstag to become
the chancellor . It was assumed that the new president of Germany, Field
Marshall von Hindenburg, the successor of the first president Ebert, would
appoint the next chancellor after the first president, Ebert, had died in 1925.
During Ebert’s presidency, several men had been chancellor, but all
were forced to resign when the Reichstag voted “no confidence” in them.
Indeed, Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, had sought both the presidency
and the chancellor’s position, but was defeated at every election he entered.
In 1933 Hitler tried again, but the Nazsi attained only 43% of the seats in the
Reichstag, far from a majority. Nevertheless, president Hindenburg, at the
urging of his Nazi son, appointed the foreigner Hitler to be chancellor of
Germany on January 30, 1933. Hitler was an Austrian citizen and not a German.
after his appointment, Hitler and his cohorts burned the Reichstag building (the
Capitol) to the ground. They claimed that the Communists had done this, when in
fact the Nazis burned the building in order to claim that there was a national
emergency. The German constitution allowed the president to permit the
chancellor to rule by decree and suspend all civil rights during the emergency.
The phony emergency prompted by the Reichstag fire gave Hitler six months do
rule without consent of the legislature.
this seemed to guarantee a free and democratic Germany. Yet, the Preuss
constitution almost guaranteed that Germany would become the location of the
most evil dictatorship ever to govern anywhere.
German constitution, unlike the American constitution,
allowed a foreigner to become chancellor, or as the English call him,
Prime Minister. Hitler was an Austrian and did not accept German citizenship
until after he was already dictator. This meant that a man who was not a German
could govern 74 million people who were citizens. Hitler showed
repeatedly that he had only contempt for the German people.
it is evident that German politicians, including the Jewish Preuss and the
Jewish Rathenau, failed to understand the danger of appointing a Hitler.
Nevertheless the Christian population of Germany could have saved the Jewish
Germans had they been willing to do so. Four
examples serve to demonstrate this.
Hitler ordered that all mentally or physically handicapped Germans be gassed to
death, as he called them “worthless lives.” This led numerous German doctors
to send their disabled patients to a so called hospital where they were
murdered. These helpless people were put on trucks whose exhaust was connected
to t the inside of the truck by a hose which delivered carbon monoxide into the
truck, killing all the sick people inside. The doctors involved told the
relatives that their loved one had died of a heart attack. However, it became
well known all over Germany that the victims had been poisoned to death. This
led the Bishop of München (Munich), von Galen,
to deliver a sermon denouncing these murders. He had his sermon
duplicated and sent all over Germany, leading to such an uproar against Hitler
that Hitler ordered an immediate cessation of these killings.
Now, the Jewish community asked von Galen and other Christian clergy to
speak out in favor of the Jews. Neither von Galen nor any other clergy was
willing to do so.
Hitler ordered that there may not be any sex between Jews and so called
“Aryans,” i.e. non-Jews. As a result, numerous Jewish men, married to
non-Jewish wives , were arrested by the GESTAPO (Geheime Staats Polizei or the
Secret State Police) and jailed before being sent to a death camp. This led
large numbers of Christian women to assemble in front of the Berlin headquarters
of the GESTAPO shouting in unison, “release our husbands,” as these men were
the fathers of the women’s children. The uproar in Berlin was soon joined by
men as well until there were thousands of citizens screaming in the streets to
get these men released. Fearing a revolt against him, Hitler ordered the release
of the intermarried Jews.
As soon as the German army had overrun Bulgaria, the Germans rounded up all Jews
for deportation to death camps. This led two bishops of the Easter Orthodox
Church, Stefan of Sofia and Bishop Kirill, to
denounce this horror with the result that a large number of Bulgarian citizens
threatened to attack the German invaders unless the Jews were let go. Hitler,
fearing an uproar and violence against the German occupiers, ordered the release
of the Jews. Prior to this episode, some Jews had already been deported.
Nonetheless, the proportion of Bulgarian Jews murdered by the Germans was far
less that was the case of any other country.
Shortly before the German army marched into Denmark, it became known to the
Danes that the German were coming. This led numerous Danish Christians to move
7,330 Jews to Sweden by using Danish private ships. Only 580 Danish Jews were
captured by the Germans and murdered.
examples demonstrate what the German population could have done to save the
German Jews. Instead, almost all Germans either did nothing or they stole the
possessions of the murdered Jews.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).