History: Germany - Weimar Republic

Breif over view of Germany and the Weimar republic.

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Weimar Republic - the beggining

1914 -

  • WW1 started by Kaiser Wilhelm

1918 -

  • Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated - government passed from royal hands to a democratic, elected government known as the Wiemar Republic. It was called 'Weimar' because the German capital, Berlin was under the control of Communists when the new government was being formed and the new government was forced to meet in Wiemar instead. Ebert was elected as the Chancellor
  • The war ended by an armistice (signed on the 11th of November 1918) between the allies and axis, signed by Ebert. This gave the Wiemar republic the title of 'November criminals' for the Germans felt betrayed by the Wiemar for 'giving into' the allies.
  • Treaty of Versailles signed by Ebert in 1918, this crippled the country. The treaty meant that Germany had to: pay £6.6 million in war reparations, reduce its army to 100,000 men without conscription, no tanks, heavy artillery, had to have a navy beneath the weight of 100,000 tonnes, had to surrender 13-15% of its land and take the blame for the war.
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Workings of the Weimar Republic:

Weimar Key Points Translated

  • The Wiemar Republic was a democracy. The German people voted for 'Members of Parliament' to represent them in 'Parliament' (Reichstag).
  • The political party that gained a majority large enough to win votes formed the government.
  • The leader of that party became the 'Prime Minister' (Chancellor) and ministerial posts were given to other prominent members of the party.
  • To keep a check on the actions of the new government, a head of state (President) was elected.This person did not run Germany on a day to day basis that was the Chancellor’s job. The relationship between Chancellor and President was similar to the relationship between Monarch and Prime Minister in the UK today. In 1933 Hitler took both positions (President and Chancellor) illegally, and gave himself the title of Fuhrer.
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Weimars Problems:

Putsches (Armed uprisings) 1919-23 :

  • Spartacist uprising in Berlin 1919. Tried to set up a Communist state in Germany. Leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht executed
  • Bavarian Communist Uprising November 1918 – May 1919. Attempted to create a Bavarian Soviet Republic
  • The Kapp Putsch 1920. A right-wing attempted military takeover in Berlin by the Freikorps. Aimed to destroy Wiemar Republic and the threat of communism
  • Munich Putsch 1923.The Nazi Party’s first failed attempt to seize control of Munich in Bavaria before taking power in the rest of Germany. Hitler sent to prison.

To survive, Ebert’s government had to crush the Spartacists. Using nationalistic ex-soldiers known as the Freikorps (Free corps), the Wiemar Republic defeated the Spartacists. In the same year, the Wiemar Republic faced a similar communist revolt in Bavaria, which was also defeated. In 1920 the Freikorps themselves attempted a right-wing takeover in Berlin known as the Kapp Putsch. Following the French invasion of the industrial heart of Germany, the Ruhr, in 1923, another right-wing nationalist coup was tried in Munich by the Nazi Party. It failed. The period 1919-1923 was a difficult time for the new democratic Wiemar Republic. Democracy was weak and both communists and right-wing nationalists believed they had the answers to Germany’s problems.

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Weimars Problems:


  • The only way anything can get done in a democracy is if the leading party of that country with a majority vote and can therefore pass through what it wants e.g. a new law
  • This was a problem, for Germany used proportional representation and had many small minority parties. This meant no single party ever had a majority in the Reichstag to pass through what they wanted.
  • This meant for anything to happen, political parties had to form coalitions and come to an agreement to be able to pass through what the majority wanted. However, these coalitions were weak and could not run the country properly for the parties in the coalitions always had opposing ideas.
  • Overall this made the government weak and overall an easy target for putsches.
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Weimars Problems:

The Invasion of the Ruhr:

  • In 1922 Germany claimed that it could not afford to pay the next installment of the war reparations for the next three years.
  • The French disagreed and and with the Belgians (60,000 men all together) invaded the Ruhr - Germany's industrial region and started to take raw materials by force, such as coal, steel and iron.
  • The Wiemar republic called 'passive resistance' (a general strike) so that the French could no longer obtain raw materials from the mines. However, this resulted in mass expulsion of Germans from their homes and some workers being shot.
  • The government still needed to pay the workers on strike and so printed out lots of money - this led to hyper-inflation, prices boomed and hundreds of people became unemployed.
  • However, in August 1923 Gustav Stresemann became chancellor and foreign minister. He called off passive resistance, however this made the people of Germany angry, for it made their country seem weak. Stresemann also managed to cancel the hyperinflation by introducing a new currency - the rentmark :)
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