The Weimar Republic 1918-29

  • Created by: Katye2310
  • Created on: 27-06-20 16:50

Legacy of WW1:

WW1 ended in 1918 and left Germany scarred and crumbling, having being defeated by the combined force of Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the USA. Friedrich Ebert, leader of the Social Democratic Party, became the first German president and declared Germany a republic. 

What was the impact of the First World War on Germany:

  • 2 million German troops died, over 4 million were wounded, 11 million total fought in the war.
  • Government debts increased from 50 billion marks to 150 billion marks.
  • More than 750,000 Germans died because of food shortages
  • These devastating effects left many with no option other than to revolt by striking and rioting.

The abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II (the Emperor):

9th November - The Kaiser visited army headquarters in Spa. Ministers tried to persuade the Kaiser to abdicate. The Kaiser refused. Army officers refused to support the  Kaiser so he had no option but to abdicate.

10th November - The Kaiser fled to Holland. 

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Declaration of the Republic:

Once the Kaiser had abdicated, the German Republic was declared on 9th November 1918. 

On 10th November, Friedrich Ebert suspended the old Reichstag and formed the Council of People's Representatives as a temporary mesaure. 

Philipp Scheidemann, of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the largest party in the German government (Reichstag), declared the new Republic to the crowds. He was fearful that armed rioters were preparing to declare a Communist government in Berlin, and, keen to prevent this, he promoted a peaceful transition. The Berlin streets were crowded. Some people were armed, hoping to take over parts of the city.

Revolutionary period continued to August 1919, when the Weimar Republic was finally established.

The Armistice - peace agreement between Germany and the Allies:

It was siged on 11th November. It was the first major decision of Ebert's new Republic. The terms of the peace, the Treaty of Versailles, became a very big burden for the country.

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The Weimar Constitution:

Democratic government was established in the drawin up of a new constitution. This was done on 31st July 1919 in the town of Weimar, rather than in Berling where there was still unrest. 

The Electorate consisted of all men and women of 21 years old and over. 

The Parliament is made up of two houses, the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. Normally, all laws had to pass through both houses - proportional representation. The Reichstag was the more powerful of the two houses, controlled taxations, and directly elected by the people at least once every four years. The Reichsrat is also elected every four years. However, it represented the regions of Germany. Each region sent a certain number of representatives depending on its size. 

Within the Government, there is a Chancellor who is head of the government in the Weimar Republic and chooses all government ministers; and the Cabinet which is the main decision-mkaing body of the government.

The Head of State, the President, is head of the Weimar Republic, elected by the people every 7 years and had some important political powers. For example, the President chose the Chancellor. The President could suspend the constitution and pass laws by decree.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Constitution:


  • Proportional Representation made sure small parties had a fair share of seats.
  • Women were able to vote as well as men.
  • Voting age reduced from 25 to 21.
  • No one group or person could have too much power. 
  • There was an election for president every seven years. 
  • Central government more powerful than before, local government retained power in regions.
  • The Reichsrat could regulate power of Reichstag by delaying new laws.


  • Proportional Representation led to coalition governments that were unstable, or found it difficult to have strong policies and often fell apart.
  • Lack of strong government led to weakness in a crisis that ended up with the president passing laws without the prior consent of Reichstag. Article 48 of the constitution enabled president to do this. 
  • It was not the choice of the people so was not that popular. 
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Unpopular Republic?: (1)

The Treaty of Versailles damaged Germany's economy making Weimar Republic weak from start. People blamed leaders of new German Republic for signing it. They were labelled the 'November Criminals' because they surrendered in November 1918 and seen as traitors to country. 

The Treaty and Reparations: - As the war guilt clause made Germany accept the blame for the war, the Allies said they were entitled to reparations (compensation). £6600 million was to be paid in yearly instalments to the Allies to repair damage in their countries. 

The Treaty and Military Forces: -

  • Army limited to 100,000. 
  • Navy limited to 6 battleships, 6 crusiers, 12 destroyers, and 12 torpedo boats, no submarines.
  • All planes were destroyed and no air force was allowed.
  • No military was allowed in the land bordering France (the Rhineland).
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Unpopular Republic?: (2)

The Treaty and Land Losses: -

  • Northern Schleswig voted to become part of Denmark.
  • Eupen and Malmedy was lost to Belgium.
  • Alsace and Lorraine were lost to France.
  • Memel was lost to Lithuania in 1923.
  • Polish corridor (Posen and West Prussia) was lost to Poland. Upper Silesia voted to become part of Poland.
  • Germany also lost 11 of its colonies. Germany lost 13% of its European territory. 

The Stab in the Back Theory: - Many German people never believed their army had been defeated in the war. Those who criticised the treaty said that the army had been betrayed by politicians - that they were 'stabbed in the back' and forced to surrender when they could have won. 

Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles said Germany guilty of starting war. Ordinary German people hated this blame and felt resentful because of it. They believed they fought war in self-defence and other countries were to blame; for example people demonstrated in Leipzig against the Treaty. 

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Challenges from the Left:

The new Weimar Republic goernment faced opposition from groups inside and outside the Reichstag, and from both the left and right wings.

The Spartacists:

  • Left-wing.
  • Came from the Independent Socialist Party.
  • Had backing from the Soviet Union.
  • Led by Rosa Luxembug and Karl Liebknecht.
  • Based in Berlin. 

Challenge from the Left - the Spartacist Revolt:

In January 1919, Spartacists took over the government's newspaper and telegraph bureau, tried to organise a general strike in Berlin. The Weimar government sent Friekorps units to put down revolt; Street fighting in Berlin for several days before revolt ended and Spartacist leaders shot.

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Challenges from the Right:

The Freikorps:

  • Right-wing.
  • Made up of ex-soldiers who had kept their weapons.
  • Had 250,000 men in March 1919.
  • Organised by regular army. 

Challenge from the Right - The Kapp Putsch:

In March 1920, Freikorps troops, fearing unemployment, decided to March on Berlin. Ebert asked the head of the army to resist the Freikorps but he refused. A nationalist politican, Dr Wolfgang Kapp, was put in charge by the rebels and the Weimar government fled Berlin seeking safety. In order to put down the rebels, or Kapp Putsch as it became known, the government organised the trade unions to go on strike. This they did and the national strike caused such chaos that Kapp could not rule Germany and was forced to flee. The Weimar ministers returned. 

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Political Attacks on Weimar Republic:

The Weimar Republic:

  • Right-wing parties in the Reichstag.
  • The Kapp Putsch.
  • Right-wing bias in the courts.
  • Political assassinations.
  • Left-wing and right-wing political armies.
  • The Spartacist Revolt.
  • Left-wing parties in the Reichstag. 

Political Assassinations:

  • From 1919-23, politicians in the Weimar Republic were worried about assassinations.
  • In the early years of the republic, 376 political assassinations took place.
  • Some right-wing extremists used the murders to weaken the new republic.
  • Conservative judges were sympathetic to the conservative cause and gave them light punishments. 
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1923 - Hyperinflation:

In 1923, the German people faced terrible economic crisis. There was hyperinflation that made German currency worthless. When prices of good increases, it is inflation; when increases spectacularly, it is hyperinflation.

E.g. in 1919, bread was worth 1 mark, in 1922, 100 marks and in 1923, 200,000 billion marks. 

1914-18 - The government printed more money to pay for WW1, but it didn't have more gold, it was bankrupt.

1918-22 - The Weimar government printer more money for post-war shortages and asked for longer to pay the first reparations instalment. 

January 1923 - French troops invaded Ruhr to take reparations payments in goods and raw materials. German workers went on strike. 80% of German coal, iron and steel reserves were in Ruhr and many factories. The occupation was disaster for Germany's economy. The Weimar government printed more money to pay strikers and make up for lost coal, steel, iron production.

November 1923 - The German mark was worthless.

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Effects of Hyperinflation:

Negative Effects:

  • Some people could not afford essentials like bread.
  • Wages rose, but not as quickly as prices.
  • Some businesses went bankrupt - those that made money took over struggling ones.
  • People with fixed or monthly incomes, such as pensioners, suffered most. 
  • Savings became worthless. This affected the middle classes most.
  • Middle-class people were worst affected.
  • People blamed the Weimar government, which made it even more unpopular. 

Positive Effects:

  • Farmers benefited, as they were paid more for food.
  • Some people and businesses could pay off loans and mortgages. 
  • Fixed rents for rooms or shops became very cheap.
  • Foreign visitors could buy more for their money. 
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Reasons for Recovery, 1923-29: (1)

From 1923-29, Germany managed to recover from immediate crisis of 1923, but still significant weakesses in its economy. Gustav Stresseman, the new Chancellor, played an important role. 


  • November 1923, Stresseman set up Rentenbank, issued new currency called Rentenmark.
  • Supply of these notes was tightly controlled. Their value was tied to the price of gold so it had real value. This encouraged more public confidence.
  • In August 1924, the Reichsbank was given control of this new currency. It was nicknamed the Reichsmark. Hyperinflation was over.
  • The Reichsmark provided a stronger basis for recovery of jobs and businesses, but it could not bring back the losses experienced in the hyperinflation crisis.

International Loans after WW1:

The USA gave loans made under the Dawes and Young plan to Germnay and then Germany used these to make reparations payments back to Britain and France who gave the money back to the USA in the form of paying war loans back.

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Reasons for Recovery, 1923-29: (2)

The Dawes Plan: In 1924, Charles Dawes, an American banker, designed a plan so Germany could pay its reparations. Instalments were temporarily reduced to £50 million a year and US banks agreed to make loans to German industry. The Allies felt more confident that they would get their reparations payments. The Dawes Plan was agreed at a London conference in 1924.

The Young Plan: In August 1929, a committee, set up by the Allies and led by an American banker called Owen Young, proposed a plan. The Young plan reduced the total reparations debt from £6.6 billion to £2 billion. The payments could be made over a longer time, up until 1988. Lower reparations meant lower taxes for German people. There was a lot of oppositionm especially from the extreme political parties, like the Nazis, who felt it was extending the burden for future generations.

Improvements in the Economy:

The Weimar's Republic economy improved because industrial output doubled by 1928 and finally passed pre-WW1 levels and employment and trade increased. However, there will still problems as the extreme political parties were completely against Germany paying the reparations at all; and the economic recovery depended on American loans, so it remained fragile.

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Stresseman's Success:

Stresseman's most important achievements were in economic and foreign policy. However, his main aim was to stabilise political situation in Germany. Stresseman was instrumental in making sure Germany was member of three important international pacts or agreements: The Locarno Pact, the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. 

Stresseman's Success:

Gustav Stresseman resigned the chancellorship in November 1923, but stayed as foreign secretary until 1929. His work in foreign affairs:

  • Strengthened the confidence of the German people in the Weimar Republic.
  • Reduced the support for extremist political parties like the Nazis and the Communists. 
  • Increased support for moderate parties, reduced economic hardships of German people.

It wasn't all a success. Still some discontent in spite of Stressemann's work. The hated terms of the Treaty of Versailles were still in place, the League of Nations was, for some, a symbol of the unpopular Treaty of Versaills. Some didn't like the confirmation of the new border with France. There will still extremist parties around.

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Stressemann's Pacts:

The Locarno Pact: This was an agreement between Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Belgium. In it: Germany agreed to its new border with France, improving relations with the French; the Allies and Germany agreed to the permanent demilitaristion of the Rhineland; German membership of the League of Nations was up for discussion.This was a success as it improved relations with France with the border agreemet, wasn't imposed on Germany, unlike the Treaty of Versailles, and, increased the status and popularity of the Weimar republic. It helped boost confidence in more moderate political parties.

League of Nations: This was a new international body that hoped to discuss world problems to avoid war. It was set-up in 1920 but Germany was initially excluded. In 1926, they were invited to join and they became a member of the council. It was a success as it showed German's views counted and boosted confidence held by most Germans in Weimar government. 

Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928): This was an agreement between 62 nations. It committed countries to avoiding the use of war to achieve foreign policy objectives. It was a success as it showed Germany was once again a major power and it showed that moderate political parties could build Germany's strength internationally. It increased public confidence in how Germany was being led.

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Changes for Workers:

The period 1924-29 saw some important improvements for workers and women in Germany, but there were still underlying problems in German society. 

Changes in Living Standards:

Living standards improved after 1924, brought about by government funding and policies.

Wages and Work: Working hours reduced. Wages rose. Working conditions improved. Hyperinflation = employment insecure. Well-off Germans resented seeing workers benefitting.

Unemployment Insurance: 3% of workers' earnings were deducted to be put towards insurance that would give them a basic amount of benefits if they became unemployed or sick.

Housing: 15% rent tax was introduced to fund building associations. Between 1925-29, 101,000 homes were built. There was still a housing shortage but things had improved.

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Changes for Women:

Women at Work:

  • Some of the gains in equality brought about by the war were lost.
  • Women gave up work once married. Drop women working from 75% in 1918, 36% in 1925.
  • Few women secured high status jobs.Increase in part-time work. Some professions, like teaching, medicine, offered new opportunities. Women encouraged to go to uni.

Women at Leisure:

  • Greater earning power led to more independence, for younger, single, women.
  • Women less interested in marriage and family and more interested in having a 'good time'.
  • Behaviour of new women not liked by men and women, felt traditional values being eroded.

Women in Politics: -

  • Women earned vote in 1918 and could stand for elections. 90% turned out at elections. Article 109 of constituion stated women had equal rights as men and could enter professions on equal basis, marriage was also an equal partnership.
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Cultural Chages, 1924-29: (1)

A variety of factors led to a rise in cultural changes and experimentation in Germany between 1924 and 1929. The main driving force in art and cinema was the movement called Expressionalism.


  • Weimar artists painted everyday life so that everyone could have access to their art. They wanted to make art that commented on problems in German society, or to make people think. Their style of work was called Expressionism, which was concerned with raw emotion, the seedier side of everyday life and confronting the disaster of WW1. Artists like Otto Dix and George Grosz were influential to this movement, as was Paul Klee.


  • Films became popular all over the world in the 1920s. Expressionism flourished in film-making, particularly in Weimar Germany due to fewer restrictions. Some German films were very new and exciting in how they challenged traditional cinema. 
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Cultural Changes, 1924-29: (2)

A variety of factors led to a rise in cultural changes and experimentation in Germany between 1924 and 1929.


  • New designs and architects challenged traditional ideas and practices in building and interiors.
  • The Bauhaus School was set up in Weimar, in 1919, by the architect, Walter Gropius.
  • Gropius wanted to bring together all the disciplines (art, architecture, design, typography, sculpture, etc).
  • The school attracted many talented artists and designers.
  • Their ideas challenged traditional styles that had been popular before the war.
  • Their approaches looked radical compared to what had come before. 
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