Thuringia

   Known as "Germany's green heart," Thuringiain the Weimar years bordered on Hesse in the west, Bavaria* in the south, Saxony* in the east, and Prussian Saxony (now Saxony-Anhalt) in the north. Aside from its capital of Weimar, its chief cities (all of moderate size) included Jena, Eisenach, Gotha, and Gera (Erfurt was a Prussian enclave). While it was industrialized, its ap-proximately 1.7 million people were almost equally split between industrial and nonindustrial occupations. But its anomaly was its history. An admin-istrative unit in the Middle Ages, it was split into several principalities and duchies in the sixteenth century. A predominantly Protestant* entity (it was the home of the Reformation), it was re-created in May 1920 through merger of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (less the city of Coburg, which joined Bavaria), Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and the principalities of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Schwarzburg-Rudolfstadt, and Reusse. As the component parts were inclined to particularism, the union met with scattered resistance.
   From 1920 through the chaotic year of 1923, Thuringia was more or less dominated by a locally radical SPD. Yet it was susceptible throughout the Wei-mar era to the leftist influence of Saxony and the rightist influence of Bavaria. During 1920-1923 the SPD held power and, with KPD support, introduced a factious program of educational and administrative reform. By 1923 the econ-omy was so weak that it threatened urban workers and the lower middle class. As part of the KPD s United Front,* Thuringia s Communists and the SPD reached an agreement on 15 October similar to that just instituted in Saxony. In both states Comintern agents had organized Proletarian Hundreds for what they assumed would be conflict with the Republic. The SPD Prime Ministers, alarmed by rightist activities in Bavaria and the Black Reichswehr s* attempted putsch near Berlin,* secured KPD cooperation to repel an anticipated assault. But a provocative speech by Saxony s Prime Minister, Erich Zeigner,* prompted Berlin to act. After occupying Saxony, Reichswehr* troops moved into Thurin-gia on 6 November. Although the preemptive strikes were designed in part to avert action from Bavaria, they drew a harsh rebuke from the SPD, which noted Berlin s failure to act against Bavaria.
   Thuringia also harbored volkisch predilections; after the 1923 imbroglio, it shifted to the radical Right and gave the NSDAP its first and most successful base of expansion beyond Bavaria. Led from 1924 by the Ordnungsbund,an alliance of nonleftist parties that excluded the NSDAP, Thuringia forced the Bauhaus* to relocate to Dessau in 1925 and was one of three German states (with Braunschweig and Mecklenburg) that refused to enforce a speaking ban on Hitler.* Meanwhile, the anti-Semitism* of Arthur Dinter, Thuringia s out-spoken Nazi Gauleiter (1925-1927), was exceeded in virulence only by that of Julius Streicher,* Dinter s closest ally.
   When state elections gave 11.3 percent of the vote to the NSDAP in Decem-ber 1929, Thuringia became the first state to include a Nazi in its government. On 23 January 1930, with state finances nearing insolvency (Berlin discussed absorbing Thuringia into Prussia*), Wilhelm Frick* became both Education and Interior Minister. Although Frick s efforts to reshape education and the police force induced his dismissal in April 1931, the 1929 election was a Nazi water-shed—the Party used Thuringia as a proving ground for the methods it employed in seizing power after January 1933. After Landtag elections in August 1932, Fritz Sauckel, Gauleiter since September 1927, became Prime Minister—the first Nazi to head a German state.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Brecht, Prelude to Silence; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Tracey, "Development and "Reform.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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