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1933: Germany's Economic Crises (A)
Bruner, Robert F.; De Notto, Christopher Case F-1966 / Published November 13, 2020 / 29 pages.
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In January 1933, German president Paul von Hindenburg confronted the dilemma of whom to appoint as chancellor in the midst of the Great Depression, polarization of voters, civil unrest, rumors of a pending revolution or coup d'état, and public distrust of the liberal democratic regime that arose out of the government collapse after World War I. His choice would determine the survival or demise of democracy in Germany. This case set explores why an economic crisis might prompt abandonment of a constitutional democracy, as well as how authoritarian behavior by participants in a democratic government can destabilize democracy. The main task for the students is to recommend a course of action for Hindenburg that might preserve the democratic republic. This requires an appreciation of the reasons for the fragility of the German government, including the economic crisis that it faced.


Learning Objectives

1) Explore the relationship between economic crisis and change in governing a regime. Germany in the interwar period stands as one of the starkest examples of the demise of liberal democracy following an economic crisis. The case details the sources and onset of the economic crisis as well as the stages of decline of democracy in Germany. 2) Consider how democracy dies, focusing on process. This case illuminates the ways in which authoritarian behavior by participants in a democratic government can destabilize democracy. It is a cautionary tale for the present day, relevant to an understanding of the recent rise of authoritarian regimes. 3) Assess the political consequences of government austerity. The gold exchange standard was deflationary by its nature. To adhere to the standard required the government to adopt policies of austerity at the onset of the Great Depression. With hindsight, we know that such policies worsened, rather than ameliorated, the downturn. This case illuminates the political consequences. 4) Exercise basic concepts of political coalition formation. Why was it not possible to organize a government that excluded Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933? The case presents data on the parliamentary votes of 13 parties that enable students to frame hypothetical coalitions and to explore the ways in which polarization among the parties prevented the formation of a cabinet coalition that would be more benign toward democracy.

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  • Overview

    In January 1933, German president Paul von Hindenburg confronted the dilemma of whom to appoint as chancellor in the midst of the Great Depression, polarization of voters, civil unrest, rumors of a pending revolution or coup d'état, and public distrust of the liberal democratic regime that arose out of the government collapse after World War I. His choice would determine the survival or demise of democracy in Germany. This case set explores why an economic crisis might prompt abandonment of a constitutional democracy, as well as how authoritarian behavior by participants in a democratic government can destabilize democracy. The main task for the students is to recommend a course of action for Hindenburg that might preserve the democratic republic. This requires an appreciation of the reasons for the fragility of the German government, including the economic crisis that it faced.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    1) Explore the relationship between economic crisis and change in governing a regime. Germany in the interwar period stands as one of the starkest examples of the demise of liberal democracy following an economic crisis. The case details the sources and onset of the economic crisis as well as the stages of decline of democracy in Germany. 2) Consider how democracy dies, focusing on process. This case illuminates the ways in which authoritarian behavior by participants in a democratic government can destabilize democracy. It is a cautionary tale for the present day, relevant to an understanding of the recent rise of authoritarian regimes. 3) Assess the political consequences of government austerity. The gold exchange standard was deflationary by its nature. To adhere to the standard required the government to adopt policies of austerity at the onset of the Great Depression. With hindsight, we know that such policies worsened, rather than ameliorated, the downturn. This case illuminates the political consequences. 4) Exercise basic concepts of political coalition formation. Why was it not possible to organize a government that excluded Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933? The case presents data on the parliamentary votes of 13 parties that enable students to frame hypothetical coalitions and to explore the ways in which polarization among the parties prevented the formation of a cabinet coalition that would be more benign toward democracy.