1.1) Germany: War, Crises and Creation of Weimar 1918

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Removal of the Kaiser, November 1918

  • 9th November 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm was removed.
  • 11th November 1918, Armistice = signed. A peace treaty to stop war and talk peace.
  • September 1918, Ludendorff and the German high command = clear that they were defeated.
  • They retreated from the Western front and to avoid humility, they wanted armistice.
  • Wilson’s 14 points offered this chance, but the German autocratic system (monarchy) was a problem.
  • They replaced it to a democratic like system to impress the allies and get better terms in the treaty.
  • Wilson’s 14 points = straight forward rules like return Alsace-Lorriane to France


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The October reforms:

  • Replaced  autocratic system to a democratic one.
  • October 1918,  the Kaiser listened to Ludendorff and ended the autocratic rule.
  • Prince Max of Baden = chancellor, responsible to the Reichstag and made a new Gov that was based on majority parties like SPD.
  • Reforms transformed Germany. They weren’t pressured into doing this and because authorities did it, it was seen as a revolution from above to their war loss humility.
  • 3rd October 1918, Prince Max sent a peace note to Wilson and Germany were forced to evacuate territories and remove the Kaiser.
  • Ludendorff didn’t like this and had no support from last ditch German army.
  • The reform failed to achieve his objectives.
  • The peace note blew moral in Germany as they admitted the war was lost.
  • The people knew about the countries status now and lost respect for the Kaiser, military and political leaders,
  • people who had food shortages lost control, sailors were outraged.
  • Navy planned one last attack Wilhelmshaven to Britain in retaliation. 
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The November revolution:

  • 3rd November 1918, Unrest in Germany spread to Kiel and sailors mutinied (revolt from sailors and soldiers against officers) and took over the base.
  • Set up Workers and Soldiers councils similar to Russia.
  • The revolt then spread to more cities.
  • 6th November 1918, the W/S councils spread across Germany.
  • Many councils weren’t set up by radicals but patriotic Germans who wanted to remove the Kaiser and have a republic set up.
  • Mutiny collapsed quick by police, military and Gov officials got involved.
  • 8th November 1918, republic was proclaimed in Bavaria and monarchy was removed.
  • This= a key stage of the making of the republic.
  • 9th November 1918, Prince Max lost control in Berlin and the SPD called  for a strike to remove the Kaiser.
  • Although Max knew he could rule without SPD, he signed for the Kaisers removal, resigned and placed Ebert as the new leader.
  • Kaiser was removed forcefully as he also lost the support from Groener’s army who was an army administrator and Ludendorff’s successor.
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The struggle for power:

  • During this time = a struggle for power.
  • Ebert was not a revolutionary man, wanted change through parliamentary election and then reforming.
  • His Government lacked legitimacy and he needed a new constitution quickly.
  • 9th November 1918, he wanted a constituent assembly, an elected body that draws up a new constitution after a revolt,
  • Before this recreation, Ebert wanted everything to carry on as normal, prevent riots, maintain law and order.
  • But his authority never reached out of Berlin and riots = demobilised, workless soldiers roaming in streets with anger.
  • Priority after signing armistice on the 11th of November was a constituent assembly.


  • Spartacists - Early KPD led by Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Leibkrecht.
  • USPD - Grew due to war weariness, led by Hugo Haase.
  • SPD - Moderates, led by Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann.
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Pressure from the left:

  • Ebert = pressured from the left more than the right for more radical changes.
  • He couldn’t ignore all the W/S councils set up by the USPD and Spartacists.
  • Didn’t let Ebert make key decisions without informing them.
  • 22nd November 1918, Ebert agreed that the new government would only use power In the name of the W/S councils. 
  • But this was a temporary compromise but many in the USPD saw councils as a way to express/extend their revolution.
  • They knew autocratic system wouldn't be abolished unless autocratic estates were broken up, army, judiciary, civil service were democratised and industries nationalised under W/S'councils.
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Pressure from the right and Ebert-Groener pact:

  • Ebert also faced pressure from the right as his gov only survived because of the army.
  • Many in the army were loyal to the Kaiser and opposed democracy and republic.
  • 1918 there was political instability and many thought Germany would be like the Bolshevik revolution.
  • This would lead to a civil war and allied occupation so they needed to stop this revolution extending.
  • Groener phoned Ebert giving him armies support if he stopped the demands of W/S councils to democritise the army.
  • In return they would defend Germany from a communist revolution.
  • Ebert agreed and told army he’d stop future revolutions and keep current army structure.
  • For Ebert this was vital for republics transition but the left wing felt betrayed.
  • But they still struggled for power as there was a spartacist demonstration stopped by the army, sailors revolt in berlin and spartacist’s revolution in January
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Creation of Wiemar constitution in 1919:


  • Elections were held in January for the constituent assembly.
  • January 1919 Women were now allowed to vote.
  • SPD had the largest vote but no majority = had to form many coalitions with other parties.
  • Met in Weimar as Berlin was too dangerous and Ebert was elected by the assembly as the first president.
  • The SPD Coallitioned with the Centre and German Democratic Party.
  • The W/S councils also gave their powers to the constituent assembly. Political authority now derived from the people, now had more rights and liberties. 


  • Centre - Pro-democracy.
  • German Democratic Party (DDP) - Centre left and pro-democracy.
  • German National Peoples' Party (DNVP) - Right wing, anti-democracy.
  • German Peoples Party (DVP) -  Centre right and anti-democracy.
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Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Offered the right to vote for all before England and France. (Universal Suffrage).
  • Proportional representation meant that small parties could now win seats in the Reichstag.
  • Full democracy in local and central gov which was the opposite to the second empire.
  • Individual rights protected, all were equal before law, freedom of individuals and religion.
  • Referendums could be called by the president.


  • The Weimar also had many weaknesses though.
  • Proportional representation meant that small parties could now exploit the parliamentary system.
  • coalition governments meant that no party could get an overall majority as there was too many parties.
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How it the constitution works.

  • President was elected every 7 years and could use article 48 in an emergency.
  • Appoints the Chancellor who had to have 50% in the Reichstag.
  • He provided advice to the Reichsrat who provided advice on laws but could be overridden by the Reichstag.
  • The Chancellor also drafted laws for the Reichstag to debate.
  • The Reichstag was elected every 4 years and voted on new laws.
  • Individuals were able to vote, be equal, free, and have a right to belong to trade unions, work and use their power for the community.


  • Rule by presidential decree in which article 48 could be used in emergencies.
  • But Ebert used it on 136 times to get rid of opposition in the Reichstag.
  • No one could stop him as he could dissolve the Reichstag.
  • This made him a hypocrite as he was pro-democracy  abused article 48.
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Undemocratic institutions:

  • The survival of undemocratic institutions like army, civil service and judiciary was because they wanted stability over desire from democratic government.
  • The institution couldn’t be reformed.
    • The Army - Was free in the 2nd empire and wanted to maintain this in the republic. Army was now far from politically neutral. Full force military could be used against left wing revolts and generals like Seecke said the republic needed no loyalty but timeless reich was and regarded the republic as temporary. He wouldn’t allow officers to have a say in politics.
    • The Civil services - were given a ‘war earned rights’ and freedom of political opinions and expression, tthey were loyal to the state. This meant that the Government administration could even be anti-democratic as Foreign office was recruited by aristocracy.
    • The Judiciary - were given article 54 where judges were now independent. Many were pro-monarchists and anti-republic, showed their bias in legal judgements. Republic said life imprisonment for treason but judges were lenient to right wing criminals than left wing criminals who were treated harshly. 
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