The Formation of the Weimar Republic
Why was there a revolution in Germany, November 1918?
The revolution in November 1918, was due to Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Germany had gone to war in 1914, against France, Britain and Russia, confident of an early victory. Although, generally successful in the in the East against Russia, the German armed forces were dragged into a long drawn – out conflict with France and Britain on the Western Front. The entry of the United States, in 1917, against Germany tipped the balance of the conflict. By early November 1918, German armies were in retreat and Germany itself was threatened with occupation.
Furthermore, the war had brought terrible hardships to the German people. The British navy had block loaded the German coastline throughout the war, preventing the import of much – needed supplies of raw – materials and food. By 1918, there were serious food shortages and increasing opposition to the war. In addition, a serious flu epidemic struck and killed many German people.
The revolution originated from sailors in the German navy in the port of Kiel. At the end of October 1918, they refused to set out to fight the British navy. Instead, they marched to Berlin, where they were joined by many discontented civilians, all demanding the abdication of Kaiser (emperor) William 2nd, who was blamed for Germany’s defeat.
On 9th November, the Kaiser abdicated and went to live in exile, Holland. On the following day, a republic was set up under its new president, Friedrich Ebert, who was the leader of a Social Democratic Party. Finally, on the 11th of November, the new republic agreed to an armistice (cease fire).
What was the ‘stab in the back’ theory?
The ‘stab in the back’ theory was the belief, put forward by leading members of the German army, and later supported by Hitler and the Nazis, that the German army had been on the verge of winning the war when they were betrayed by the politicians of the new republic, who agreed to an armistice. Although untrue, the theory was believed by many Germans, who refused to accept that Germany had been defeated. This meant that, the republic was unpopular with many from the start.
How was the Weimar Republic set up?
Germany was a federation of 18 states, each with its own parliament, police and laws. In January 1919, elections took place for a new parliament. This new parliament met in the south German town of Weimar, because of the fighting that was taking place in Berlin, between the Spartacists and the Freikorps. The parliament made two important decisions. First of all, it elected Ebert as president. Secondly, it set up a new constitution for the new Germany.
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the new constitution?
Proportional representation was one of the strengths of the new constitution, but one of its weaknesses at the same time. Positively, it made sure that all parties…