Weimar Republic


Weimar, city in central Germany, in Thüringen, on the Ilm River. Weimar is a railroad junction, and factories in the city manufacture textiles, paper, machinery, automobiles, musical instruments, electrical equipment, glass, and shoes. Weimar projects a medieval quality, with its many narrow streets and old, gabled houses, and it is the site of numerous architectural landmarks. In 1919, following World War I, the German National Assembly meeting in Weimar, established the German Republic, known also as the Weimar Republic, and drafted a democratic constitution. Weimar became the capital of the newly created state of Thüringen in 1920.

The period of German history from 1919 to 1933 is known as the Weimar Republic. It was persisted from 1919 until 1933, when Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler suspended the constitution and assumed power. It is named after the city of Weimar, Germany, where a national assembly convened to produce a new constitution after Germany’s defeat in World War I. Weimar Republic, term used to describe the German republic The republic was established after workers and troops in the German empire shocked in early 1918 against the government’s refusal to end World War I (1914-1918). On November 9, Emperor William II run away from the country and a provisional coalition government was formed between the moderate Social Democrats under Friedrich Ebert and the more radical Independent Social Democrats, who were hoping for a more fundamental socialist revolution. The new National Assembly met in Weimar, Thüringen, in February 1919 and wrote a constitution that established Germany as a democratic federal republic and provided for two houses of parliament, the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. Ebert was elected president of the new republic.

This first attempt at establishing a liberal democracy as Weimar Republic, in Germany was a time of great tension and inner conflict and, ultimately, failed with the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933. Although technically, the 1919 constitution was never entirely invalidated until after World War II, the legal measures taken by the Nazi government in 1933 that are commonly known as Gleichschaltung in fact destroyed all mechanisms provided for by a typical democratic system, so it is common to mark 1933 as the end of the Weimar Republic.

Post-War Problems:

World War I had left Germany with many economic, social, and political problems. In addition to enduring high inflation and a large national debt, Germans were deeply embittered by the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty, signed in June 1919, which formally ended the war. Among other things, the treaty called for German disarmament and huge reparation payments to the Allies. Unable to meet the payments, Germany’s currency collapsed and the German people suffered large financial losses. In January 1923 French and Belgian forces occupied Germany’s main industrial region, the Ruhr, claiming that Germany had defaulted on reparation deliveries.

Statesman Gustav Stresemann took over the German government as the head of a broadly based coalition on August 13, 1923, and helped stabilize the country. In 1924 the Allies made it easier for Germany to pay reparation through the Dawes Plan, which established a milder payment schedule. In 1925 Stresemann signed the Treaties of Locarno, which secured Germany against further incursions on its western frontiers. The allies withdrew their occupation forces and in the following year Germany was elected to the League of Nations, an international alliance for the preservation of peace. A new currency, the Reichsmarkí, was established with much tighter monetary control, and an impressive economic recovery began. However, the economy was dependent on foreign loans, and government expenditure was dangerously high with businesses suffering from low profit margins. In 1925 Paul von Hindenburg was elected the second president of the republic.

Collapse of Weimar Republic:

A worldwide economic depression began in 1929, casting the republic into crisis. In March 1930 Chancellor Heinrich Brüning took over, supported by the emergency powers available to the president. Brüning cut government spending and secured an agreement in Lausanne, Switzerland, that effectively ended reparations payments. But Brüning’s deflationary policies were widely unpopular, and he was dismissed. Taking advantage of the disorder caused by the economic crisis were the Communist party, which was dedicated to disrupting the parliamentary republic, and the Nazis in Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ party, who were extremely nationalistic and anti-Semitic. Reichstag elections held in September 1930 made the Nazis the second largest party, their support growing as the depression deepened. In the elections of July 1932, the Nazis became the largest party in the Reichstag. Hindenburg was persuaded to bring Hitler into the government, with conservative politicians believing they could control the inexperienced Hitler in a coalition government. Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor on January 30, 1933. Hitler soon abolished the office of president and declared himself Führer (leader) of the Third ReichH, thus ending the Weimar Republic.

It can be argued that the Weimar Republic never actually had a real chance of survival from the start. It had a particularly unfortunate amount of problems but nevertheless it succeeds in defeat them. It was pure bad luck that in 1929 not only was Weimar confronted with more economic adversity but also Stresemann died at this crucial time. The Nazis were in the right place at the right time in order to exploit this misfortune. If it had not been for these fateful circumstances, it is believe that the Weimar Republic would have survived longer.

In the end it was the actions of the people at the top that reinforced the collapse of popular confidence in the democracy. Together with an initially weak political system, an economy in slump and the not too distant memories of the war and Versailles, it was easy for the Nazis to advertise the benefits of authoritarian government. Even though there was a short period of relative stability, the beginning of depression brought hidden defect to the surface again once more. Democracy was in unreliable hands and the Nazis could offer competence, certainty and an all-important sense of confidence, something the Weimar Republic lacked during all of its years.

Failure of the Weimar Republic:

The failure of the Weimar Republic was besides other factors, due to these inherent ideological abnormalities. The German Republic under Weimar Constitution started life in the most discouraging condition. It was faced everywhere with disorder, disorganisation and destitute. Its first task was to rectify the Versailles Treaty and its name was thus associated in German minds with a national disgrace. Hence, the German people raised their strong slogan of “End with Versailles”, and the Weimar constitution could not succeed though the main object of the Weimar Republic was to provide a respect­able place to Germany in the comity of nations, but the German leaders were sharply divided on the issue whether Germany should join hands with Soviet Russia or with France and Britain. But, when France captured Rhur region in 1923 and damaged the economic power of Germany. Germany looked towards west for strengthening her position. When Gustav Stressman came in leadership, he stressed on the policy of fulfil­ment and reconciliation. It was his attempt that the Dawes plan was implemented and even Great Britain joined hands with Germany. The year 1927 witnessed a conspicuous event in the political life of Germany when it became one of the members of the League of Nations and acquired a place in the comity of nations under the regime of Stressman. Germany was given a seat on the Permanent Mandate Commission. He requested France to withdraw her forces from the Rhine region and he became successful in this respect. In spite of this marked success achieved by Stressman, the German people were not satisfied and they became more restive due to the economic depression and growing unemployment and a strong wave of aggressive nationalism grew up in Germany. Fascist ele­ments also gained grounds; demand for militarism became the order of the day; and all restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles were condemned by the majority of German leaders ultimately the Nazi Party became very popular and its leaders helped Hitler to come to power.

Since striking workers also had to be paid by the state, additional currency was printed, which fuelled a period of hyperinflation. The value of the Mark declined from 4.2 per US dollar to 1,000,000 per dollar by August 1923 and 4,200,000,000,000 per dollar on November 20. On December 1, a new currency was established at the rate of 1,000,000,000,000 old marks for 1 new mark, the Reichsmark.