February 1990'Unity Committee' on German unification meets
March 1990Free East German Elections
3 October 1990Unification of two Germanies
The Weimar Republic had several flaws in its structure. Firstly, the old Republic had a directly elected President who stood apart from the Chancellor and his cabinet - in times of emergency this President was empowered to rule by decree, could dissolve the Reichstag, and controlled the armed forces (Peacock 1974, p173). This compares with the very symbolic role played by the president in the current Germany (the current president is Joannes Rau). In 1932, for example, President Hindenburg passed some 62 decrees, while the German parliament only passed 5 laws (Hancock 1993, p216). Likewise, the Weimar constitution contained a loosely phrased article (Article 48) which allowed most of the constitution to be suspended in periods of crisis. It was partly these trends which allowed the quite popular NAZI party to form a coalition of the right, and although not securing an outright majority, to engage in acts of violence which forced Hindenburg in January 1933 to give the Chancellorship to Hitler, heading a government of Nazis and conservatives (Peacock 1974, p178). In 1933 Hitler as Chancellor passed the Enabling Decrees which destroyed the democratic system itself. The Weimar Republic had been perceived as imposed on Germany by the victors, and did not have widespread support in the population. Michael Roskin suggests that only 25% supported democracy strongly, and that in effect Weimar was 'a republic without republicans and a democracy without democrats' (Roskin 1992, p149). Such disparities meant that this early democracy was not robust.
Sometimes parallels are incorrectly drawn between the Weimar Republic and Germany today. These parallels are very limited. There is a certain fragmentation into smaller parties, with parties of the extreme right still active, especially in parts of southern Germany and the former East Germany. At the same time, German security authorities have been actively suppressing efforts to directly revive a NAZI party, e.g. in March 1995 police searched some 80 homes of Neo-Nazi's, confiscating a large haul of weapons and propaganda. Skinhead groups, though demonstrating strong discontent, often only borrow neo-NAZI slogans rather than having a strongly developed ideology (Haas 2002, p162). Through 2001, the sale of Hitler's Mein Kampf remained illegal within Germany (a factor leading to some debate concerning Internet sales from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), as well as officially banned in countries such as Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland (Pascal 2001). Likewise, Germany has taken effects to ban such material on German websites. Taken as a whole, however, these groups still represent a small fringe of protest and discontent which is easily outvoted: the issue, however, is whether they can destabilise the political process and force mainstream politicians to change some of their policies. Moreover, through 2000, some 15,951 'cases of right-wing, racist, or antisemitic acts were reported to police', with some 1,000 of these involved 'violent acts' (Haas 2002, p161).
Likewise, there has been a shift in contemporary Germany's willingness to take a stronger role in world affairs. Legal reforms in the 1992-1995 period made it easier for German forces to be used within the U.N. context as peace keepers (European 1994), though Germany is still sensitive about any overt rise of militarism, e.g. even when it makes and sells military equipment, it attempts to legally limit their use