- The words "farmer" and "peasant" do not translate easily. In German the term "peasantry," or Bauernschaft, is applied with professional pride to any agricultural producer, whether the individual cultivates one acre or a five-hundred-acre estate. Although the word Landvolk is sometimes translated "farmers," it lacks the endorsement of Bauern. To the extent that one can distinguish between estate proprietors (Landbesitzern) and the remainder of the Bauernschaft, this entry focuses on the latter.Somewhat more than a third of Germany's labor force was engaged in agri-culture during the Weimar era. Although Prussia's* Junkers* represented only a fraction of this number, they exerted a disproportionate influence over both the Bauernschaft as a whole and the government's agricultural policy. While small farmers could wield minimal influence through societies such as the liberal Peasants' League (Bauernbund), the Junkers skillfully employed the Reichs-landbund* to speak for all farmers.Traditionally conservative, Germany's Bauern played little role, with the mi-nor and short-lived exception of Bavaria,* in the revolutionary events of 1918. As time passed, unless their economic interests were impacted, they took little interest in politics. KPD attempts to generate political participation among the peasantry often achieved a negative response. Although efforts to attract mar-ginal farmers and farm workers (Kleinbauern) met with some response, the KPD's basic indifference to rural issues was reflected by its failure to organize agricultural workers.Following the inflation,* during which easy credit and a debased currency allowed farmers to recoup wartime losses, agriculture experienced an acceler-ating decline. Instigated in 1923 when harvest income proved insufficient to meet the next year's production costs, agrarian indebtedness quickened in 1924 due to the tight fiscal policies that accompanied currency revaluation; by 1928 agrarian debt amounted to about ten billion marks. Exorbitant interest rates, proliferating bankruptcy, resistance to change, fluctuating protectionism, and plummeting food prices all helped sink the German farmer into depression* a full year before the Wall Street crash. Since latent antagonism had existed to-ward the Republic since 1919, the regime's inability to control or even comprehend the agrarian emergency led to the formation in 1928 of a Landvolk protest movement against the Republic's economic policies. Ironically, the most disturbing policies—high tariffs and Osthilfe* for Junker estates—were the Reichslandbund's lobbying achievements. Yet the Bund managed in 1929 to fuse the Landvolk movement with the Grune Front, a new agrarian pressure group. The resulting organization simply enhanced the Junkers s ability to in-terfere with state policies.The discontent that generated such splinter groups as the Landvolk, the Christ-lichnationale Bauernpartei, and the Deutsche Bauernpartei during 1928-1929 finally found response in the program of the NSDAP. Previously an urban-oriented movement, Nazism emerged from the 1928 Reichstag* elections with a new appreciation of German agriculture. Campaigning in sparsely populated districts, the NSDAP published an agrarian program in March 1930 that ap-pealed to the mysticism rooted in the Bauernschaft and offered a promise of economic stability. After the Nazis pledged to redress rural grievances and pro-vide farmers an honorable place in the nation, they gained a stunning electoral victory in September 1930. Unable to gain adequate leverage elsewhere, farmers (albeit not Catholics,* who remained faithful to the Center Party*) voted over-whelmingly for the NSDAP until Hitler s* seizure of power.REFERENCES:Angress, "Political Role of the Peasantry"; Baranowski, Sanctity of Rural Life; Farquharson, Plough and the Swastika; Gerschenkron, Bread and Democracy; Larry Jones, "Crisis and Realignment"; Moeller, "Economic Dimensions of Peasant Protest" and German Peasants; Wunderlich, Farm Labor in Germany.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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