The Weimar welfare state and the devlopment of Nazism

It is often claimed that the abandonment of the state welfare will cause social unrest and instability.

The events in the Weimar Republic suggest the opposite. The outsourcing of personal responsibility, the family and the social life of friends and the local community to the state is causing instability and unrest.

The Weimar constitution was full of the declarations of the need for the state to support the family, protect people from harm, right to work, and right to decent home. A whole raft of new legislation was steered through the Reichstag. Existing schemes of health insurance, pensions, were further elaborated and extended. Massive housing schemes were being provided.

Historian Richard Evans comments: ”

“The creation of a free and comprehensive welfare system as the entitlement of all its citizens was one of the major achievements of the Weimar republic, perhaps in retrospect the most important.

And then it was precisely the Weimar Republic that fostered Nazism.

Evans points out several problems:

  • The state welfare failed in the end to live up to the grandiose promises made in the 1919 constitution.  The gap between promise and delivery ended  having a major effect on the legitimacy of the Republic in the eyes of many of its citizens.
  • The Weimar welfare administration became an instrument of discrimination and control. Claimants would only receive the minimum and enquired intrusively into their personal circumstances. The anonymous rule-bound welfare bureaucracy questioning of peoples motives were insulting
  • The tax burden was steadily increasing and doubled from 1914 to 1923.
  • Most ominously. Health and welfare agencies determined to create rational and scientifically informed ways of dealing with social deprivation, deviance and crime, with the ultimate aim of eliminating them from German society in generations to come, encouraged new policies that began to eat away at the civil liberties of the poor and handicapped. As the social welfare administration mushroomed into a huge bureaucracy, so the doctrines of racial hygiene and social biology, already widespread among welfare professionals before the war began to acquire more influence.

The Weimar welfare state was instrumental in creating the chaos and unrest that paved the way for Hitler and the Nazi’s.

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Filed under: on April 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm Comments Off

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