The Flawed Weimar Government

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The German Constitution and the Rise of Hitler

The 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.

There 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.

This means that we need to look at the German constitution passed by the German parliament in November 1919.

Directly 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 government.

It 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.

Shortly 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.

All 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.

The 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.

Therefore 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.

1, 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

These 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.

Shalom u'vracha.

  Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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