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Mark Jones (Lecturer in University College Dublin)

The murder of the Weimar Republic’s foreign minister in western Berlin in the summer of 1922 is understood as a sign of German democracy’s weakness. When it is told it is recalled as a part of the history of the rise of the Nazis. By remembering it this way we also forget that in the days after his murder, just over a decade before Hitler became Chancellor, there was a mass outpouring of support for democracy, condemnation of antisemitism, and sympathy with Rathenau himself.

Dr Mark Jones

UCD School of History

The murder of Walther Rathenau and the survival of Weimar democracy. Mark Jones on the year 1923

Mark Jones is a Lecturer/Assistant Professor in Global History at University College Dublin.

A specialist in the history of political violence, war, and revolution, he is best known for his books Founding Weimar. Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-19 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Am Anfang war Gewalt (Propyläen, 2017).

A regular public speaker, Mark’s media credits include Deutschlandradio, Radio-Berlin-Brandenburg, BBC Radio 4, Newstalk FM as well the popular podcast ‘Second Captains.’ He has also published articles and opinion pieces in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Focus-Online, Zeit-Geschichte, and the Irish Independent.

His latest book is ‘1923: The Forgotten Crisis in the Year of Hitler’s Coup‘ (Basic Books, 2023).

About the book

1923 was one of the most remarkable years of modern European history. In January, France and Belgium militarily occupied Germany’s economic heartland, the Ruhr; triggering a series of crises that almost spiralled out of control. Hyperinflation plunged millions into poverty. The search for scapegoats empowered political extremes. Hitler’s populism ascended to national prominence. Communists, Nazis, separatists all thought that they could use the crises to destroy democracy.

None succeeded. 1923 was the year of Hitler’s first victory – and his first defeat. Fanning the flames of instability, anti-government and antisemitic sentiment, the Nazis’ abortive yet pivotal putsch in a Munich beer hall failed when they were abandoned by their likeminded conservative allies.

Drawing on previously unseen sources, Jones weaves together a thrilling and resonant narrative of German lives in this turbulent time. Tracing Hitler’s rise, we see how political pragmatism and international cooperation eventually steered the nation away from total insurrection. A decade later, when Weimar democracy eventually succumbed to tyranny, the warnings from 1923 – rising of nationalist rhetoric, fragile European consensus, and underestimation the of the enemies of liberalism – became only too apparent.

In 1922 Walther Rathenau was Foreign Minister of Germany. His killers assassinated him because they had a plan that was based on the hope, that in the aftermath of the assassination, they would destabilize the German Republic leading to uprisings that would end with its replacement by an authoritarian regime that was committed to a war of revenge against the French, but their plan triggered the exact opposite.

Some accounts even suggested that millions of Germans demonstrated in support of the Weimar Republic and it’s dead foreign minister.

– Mark Jones

This podcast – ‘The murder of Walter Rathenau and the survival of Weimar democracy. Mark Jones on the year 1923’ – is based on 1923: The Crisis of German Democracy in the Year of Hitler’s Putsch

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