The origins of the Weimar Republic and revolution of 1918-19
When Germany was clearly losing WWI, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. In November 1918, the government of Germany was left in the hands of a new Chancellor, Friedrich Ebert. Ebert and his colleagues drew up a new democratic constitution for Germany and in the summer of 1919, he was elected the first President of the new Weimar Republic.
A democratic Germany
In theory, the new Weimar constitution gave Germany a nearly perfect democratic system.
- The 'lower house', or Reichstag was elected by proportional representation. The vote was by secret ballot and universal suffrage. Elections were to be held at least every four years.
- The 'upper house', or Reichstrat, was made up of representatives from each of the German states. It could delay new laws.
- The President was also the head of state and was elected every 7 years. The President appointed a Chancellor (usually leader of the largest party in the Reichstag) to form a government.The Chancellors role was therefore similar to the Prime Ministers role in UK.
In practice, it proved very difficult to get one party into power. Governments were usually coalitions of different parties and they tended not to last very long.
Problems in the new Republic
In the years immediately after WW1 the Weimar Republic was constantly under threat from extreme political groups:
- Spartacists revolt, 1919, opposition from the left.
In November 1918, an independent socialist state was created in Bavaria under the leadership of Kurt Eisner. Communists in Germany, known as Spartacists wanted a revoultion similar to the one in Russia 1917. In January 1919 communistactivists led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg siezed power in Berlin and the Baltic ports. Within weeks all the revolts had been crushed by regular troops and the Frei Korps. The commun nist leaders were assassinated.
- The Kapp Putsch, 1920, opposition form the right
German nationalists saw democracy as weak. For many nationalists, the new Weimar Republic was a symbol of Germay's defeat in the war. They were furious wth the government for signing the Treaty of Versailles. Many Germans wanted a strong government to make Germany great again. In March 1920, Wolfgang Kapp, an extreme nationalist, and a group of Freikorps seized power in Berlin. Kapp was not supported by the workers in factories. The workers organised a strike in Berlin in support of the government. Within hours the German capital came to a halt and supplies of gas,water and coal stopped. After 4 days Kapp and his supporters gave up and fled Berlin. Ebert and Weimar Government returned to power.
Economic and political problems in Germany during the 1920's
Reparations and Invasion of the Ruhr
According to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany had to payfor the damage caused during WW1. These payments were known as reparations and were a major burden to the new state. The Reparations Commission announced that Germany would be required to pay 132,000 million gold Marks in…