* Lew’s comments on Andreas Dorpalen’s “Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 19, 2015

German President Paul von Hindenburg

German President Paul von Hindenburg

Dorpalen provides excellent detail of the role played by President Hindenburg, especially in the months leading up to his appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933.

The resulting image is of an old and tired man, who never liked politics to begin with, who showed no initiative to understand the implications of the choices in front of him, who listened far too uncritically to the recommendations of his equally uniformed friends and son, and who, in the end, was confused and overwhelmed by a blizzard of information all pointing to Hitler as the one person who could lead Germany out of its peril.

After Hitler was appointed, Hindenburg further capitulated by signing everything Hitler put in front of him, including the Enabling Act which transferred all decision-making from the President to the Chancellor, giving Hitler total dictatorial power.

… Hindenburg was no longer capable of prolonged concentration … dozed off during lengthy conferences … could follow short concise reports … became ever more deeply entangled in an intricate web of intrigues that he did not follow … he was bewildered … yet still proud and patriotic

… Papen finally convinced Hindenburg that Hitler’s appointment was the only constitutional solution and that the safeguards he had designed would contain him

… it is doubtful that Hindenburg understood how weak the safeguards were in which Papen put so much trust … including his own ability and inclination to play the role Papen envisioned

… just as Hindenburg had let others take the blame for the defeat of 1918 … so he now disassociated himself from the failures of the Weimar Republic to which he had so greatly contributed … LMW: in effect Hindenburg said to Papen, you wanted Hitler, now you handle the problems


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