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The Weimar Republic 1918 - 1930


By mid 1918, it was clear Germany would lose the war. ... A loaf of bread that cost 0.63 marks in 1918 cost 201 000 000 000 marks by November 1923. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Weimar Republic 1918 - 1930

The Weimar Republic 1918 - 1930
The Reichstag in session 1930
1918 Defeat and Revolution
  • By mid 1918, it was clear Germany would lose the
  • The entrance of America into the conflict ensured
    fresh allied troops and supplies while the
    British naval blockades and bad harvests in 1917
    and 1918 meant that food supplies were critically
    low in Germany. As a result, malnutrition was
  • By August 1918, all land taken during the German
    Spring Offensive had been lost and German
    territory itself was now under threat.

Defeat and Revolution
  • Confident that peace would be based on Wilsons
    Fourteen Points, moves were made in Germany to
    give the Reichstag parliament greater powers.
  • It was hoped this would extract more favourable
    peace terms from the allies, as they themselves
    had well-developed democracies.

President Woodrow Wilson (USA)
Defeat and Revolution
  • The new government led by Chancellor Prince Max
    of Baden approached the allies for a ceasefire.
  • As news of the impending armistice spread,
    sailors in Wilhelmshaven refused to follow an
    order to sail into the English Channel. They were
    quickly followed by sailors in Kiel who also
    mutinied (above).

Defeat and Revolution
  • Workers and soldiers soviets were set up in many
    towns and cities and demanded an end to the war.
  • A key stumbling block was the continued presence
    of the Kaiser the allies would negotiate only
    with a new government.
  • On the 9th November the Kaiser fled and Germany
    was proclaimed a republic. Friedrich Ebert (SDP)
    was appointed as Chancellor and Philipp
    Scheidemann (SDP) his deputy in a provisional

An Early Threat to the Weimar Republic
  • The Spartacist Rising January 1919
  • Left-wing extremists staged an uprising in Berlin
    ahead of the elections for the new National
  • They wanted more equal power and wealth for the
    working classes and believed that the new
    government would primarily benefit the middle
  • Middle-class newspaper premises were occupied
    and the end of the Ebert-Scheidemann government
    was proclaimed.

  • Ebert called out the Army and Freikorps
    (ex-soldiers) units to deal with the Spartacists
    (KPD) who continued to hold out after 3 days.
  • Hundreds were killed and Spartacist leaders Karl
    Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg were shot by
    Freikorps officers while under arrest.
  • This led to lasting hostility between the SDP and
    the Communists which would make co-operation
    against Nazism much more problematic in future

Main Political Parties in Weimar Germany 1918-1933
  • KPD (Communist)
  • Against the Republic, wanted Communist state
  • NSDAP (Nazi)
  • Extreme nationalism and racism
  • Wide appeal after 1929
  • Z (Centre Party)
  • Catholic working and middle class
  • DNVP (German National Peoples Party)
  • Junker landowners, urban lower middle class
  • Social Democratic Party (SDP)
  • Working and lower middle class
  • Received most votes until 1932
  • DVP (German Peoples Party)
  • Upper middle class, employers
  • Led by Stresemann

The New Constitution
  • Four days after the murder of the Spartacist
    leaders, elections were held for a National
  • 76 of the votes went to parties such as the
    SDP, DDP and the Centre party who clearly
    supported a new democratic Republic.
  • Ebert now became President and Scheidemann
  • In February the new assembly met in Weimar, away
    from the disturbances in Berlin and began to draw
    up a new constitution for Germany.

The Weimar Republic intrinsic political
  • Universal adult suffrage
  • All votes cast were given appropriately weighted
    representation in the Reichstag so it was a very
    democratic system
  • PR resulted in frequently changing coalitions as
    no one party was able to secure a 50 majority
  • Post war Germany had a particularly high number
    of political parties representing very narrow
    sectional interests e.g. religion, regions,
    social class
  • Proportional Representation
  • A voting system in which political parties gain
    representation in parliament according to the
    proportion of votes they receive

  • Powers of the President
  • Elected directly by the people for 7 years
  • An Ersatz Kaiser with the power to appoint and
    dismiss Chancellors
  • Under Article 48 the president could also
    override the Reichstag to pass laws
  • Under Article 48 the elected President could rule
    in times of crisis, ensuring a swift response to
    a crisis e.g Eberts response to threats to the
    Republic 1919-1925
  • In the wrong hands Article 48 could threaten
    democracy e.g. Chancellors could be appointed
    regardless of how much support they had in the

The Birth of the Weimar Republic a bad start?
  • The shock of sudden defeat following years of
    wartime propaganda led some to develop a rabid
    hatred of the culprits allegedly responsible for
    it i.e. Jews and Bolsheviks. This Stab in
    the Back myth particularly struck a chord with
    the right wing.
  • Widespread hunger and the influenza pandemic
    provided the backdrop to rioting, strikes,
    political instability and violence.
  • Peacetime Germany saw the return of many
    traumatised soldiers. There were also huge
    numbers who would never return. Many desperate
    people clung to an unrealistic set of
    expectations of what this new Republic could
    achieve in the short term.
  • The Republic would forever be tainted by the
    signing of the peace settlement at Versailles in
    July 1919.

French soldiers wait outside the Palace of
Versailles for the signing of the Treaty
The Treaty of Versailles
This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty
years Ferdinand Foch, French Marshal
Terms of the Treaty
  • Alsace Lorraine to be returned to France and
    territories in the East to become part of Poland.
  • Loss of foreign colonies.
  • Saar coalfields under the control of France and
    Danzig to become a free city supervised by the
    League of Nations.
  • Demilitarisation of the Rhineland.
  • Article 231 war guilt Article 232
    6.6 billion reparations to be paid.
  • Anschluss (union) between Germany and Austria
  • Army to be only 100 000 strong, no Air Force or
    submarines allowed.

Dancing in the streets of Paris after the signing
of the Treaty of Versailles 28th June 1919
The Kapp Putsch March 1920
  • Freikorps units under the leadership of Wolfgang
    Kapp forced Eberts government to flee Berlin.
  • In desperation and lacking support from the army,
    the Weimar government persuaded the trade unions
    to lead a general strike to paralyse the city.
    Kapp was forced to surrender but punishments were
    slight due to government concerns about
    alienating the right wing.

The Red Rising
  • Two days after the Kapp Putsch, Communists led an
    uprising of 50 000 in the Ruhr
  • This time the army cooperated and the
    disturbances were more easily suppressed.

  • The early 1920s were also blighted by political
  • Amongst the hundreds of victims of right-wing
    extremists was Walter Rathenau, Germanys Foreign
    Minister. He was a popular and charismatic
    figure, and his state funeral in 1922 was a
    national trauma.

  • In August 1914, the war was expected to be short.
    The Kaiser financed it through government
    borrowing, not by savings and taxation and also
    by simply printing more money.
  • Between 1914 and 1919 prices in Germany had
    already doubled.
  • Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was
    expected to make huge reparations payments and
    yet it had to forfeit the income from important
    industrial areas such as the Saar coalfields.
  • Critics of Versailles such as the economist JM
    Keynes were convinced that the amount set was
    both unrealistic and punitive.

  • In 1922 Germany claimed it was unable to meet the
    second reparations instalment.

Jan 1923 France occupies the Ruhr to seize coal
Germans react with Passive Resistance
  • More economic disruption
  • Increased welfare payments needed for strikers
  • Rapid printing of money
  • Collapse of confidence in the mark

Hyperinflation and economic crisis
The Impact of Hyperinflation
  • Choosing to print more money to pay striking
    workers and compensate industrialists rather than
    raising taxes had a disastrous effect.
  • A loaf of bread that cost 0.63 marks in 1918 cost
    201 000 000 000 marks by November 1923.

Marks per US dollar 1920-3
Pearl Buck, an American writer was in Germany in
1923 "The cities were still there, the houses
not yet bombed and in ruins, but the victims were
millions of people. They had lost their fortunes,
their savings they were dazed and
inflation-shocked and did not understand how it
had happened to them and who the foe was who had
defeated them. Yet they had lost their
self-assurance, their feeling that they
themselves could be the masters of their own
lives if only they worked hard enough and lost,
too, were the old values of morals, of ethics, of
Wallpapering with marks July 1923
Why did the German government not act to halt the
  • The French had sent their army into the Ruhr to
    enforce their demands for reparations, and the
    Germans were militarily powerless to resist.
  • Great German industrialists such as Krupp,
    Farben and Stinnes condoned the inflation. A
    cheaper Mark, they reasoned, would make German
    goods cheap and easy to export, and they needed
    the export earnings to buy raw materials abroad.
    Inflation kept everyone working.
  • The German leaders felt that the collapse of the
    mark was proving how impossible it was for
    Germany to pay the reparations which were
    demanded. Stabilization of the mark would have
    spoiled this proof.

Hyperinflation Winners and Losers
  • Small tradesmen, craftsmen and shopkeepers were
    shielded from the worst effects of the crisis.
  • Some of the working class had unions to fight on
    their behalf for wage rises.
  • Larger businessmen found their debts were wiped
    out and they could exploit bankruptcies.
  • Those that suffered the most were those on fixed
    incomes e.g. pensioners, disabled war veterans.
  • White collar workers e.g. teachers, civil
    servants struggled as salaries were difficult to
    negotiate. Although this group had been
    supportive of Weimar in 1919, after 1923 many
    voted for extremist parties.

The Golden Years 1924 -29
Gustav Stresemann, the German Foreign Minister,
addresses the League of Nations in September 1926
  • Formed the German peoples Party (DVP) in 1918.
  • Chancellor from August - November 1923 and
    resolved the hyperinflation crisis
  • Following this he became Foreign Minister until
    his sudden death in 1929
  • Initially a supporter of military force, but
    later became convinced of the need to support the
    Republic and find peaceful solutions to Germanys

Gustav Stresemann (1878 - 1929)
Stresemanns Achievements
  • September 1923 Passive Resistance called off.
  • November 1923 The new Rentenmark issued and
    secured on a mortgage of all land and industry.
  • 1924 Dawes Plan reduced the total reparations
    bill, spread out the repayments and provided an
    allied loan of 800 million marks to help Germany
    meet the installments.
  • 1925 Locarno Pact saw Germany voluntarily accept
    her Western borders as set at Versailles,
    including the demilitarisation of the Rhineland.
  • 1926 Germany admitted to the League of Nations.
  • 1929 Young Plan set a time limit for reparations
    and reduced the overall amount.

Criticisms of Stresemann
  • Calling off Passive Resistance was seen by many
    as Germany again surrendering to the allies.
    Hitler and other right-wing extremists
    capitalised on this during the Beer Hall Putsch
    in Munich 1923.
  • Many Germans felt Stresemann was more of a
    European peace broker than a German minister and
    it brought him domestic unpopularity.
  • Snyder has argued that the Dawes Plan actually
    promoted a cycle harmful for international
    finance. Close links between the German,
    British, French and American economies meant that
    serious problems in one country would impact
    unavoidably in the others.

However, Stresemann was far-sighted and
calculating, ensuring that although Germanys
Western borders were finalised under Locarno.
.her Eastern borders could still be revised.
Stresemann refused to sign mutual guarantees with
Poland and Czechoslovakia over this issue
  • By the late 1920s Germany was no longer an
    outcast but a key player on the European stage
    once again.

When we came back from Locarno the English
ambassador made a speech The world will never
forget that it was Germany who took the
initiative towards peace in Europe. Gustav
Stresemann October 1925
Recovery in Germany 1924-29
  • During the late 1920s, the Weimar government
    invested heavily in public housing, schools,
    parks and other facilities.
  • A more comprehensive unemployment insurance
    scheme was introduced and wages, particularly in
    the public sector, increased.
  • By 1927 German industrial production had
    recovered to pre-war levels.
  • The late 1920s saw a rise in car ownership and a
    growth of the cinema industry, both indicators of
    a more prosperous society.

  • Artistic movements such as the Bauhaus and
    expressionism were developed as artists like Klee
    and Kandinsky experimented with modern abstract

The Bauhaus School, Dessau
Verdichtung, 1929
  • However, economic recovery between 1924-9 was
  • Farmers faced a world-wide agricultural
    depression and were unable to modernise
    production. In 1929, agricultural production was
    only 74 that of pre-war levels.
  • Although wages did increase in industry they did
    not go far above the cost of living.
  • Those without union representation still
    experienced economic difficulties e.g. civil
  • The balance of trade was in the red i.e. in debt.
  • There were still 1.9 million unemployed in early
  • German government finances from 1925 were
    continuallly run in deficit.

October 1929
  • On October 3rd 1929 Stresemann died suddenly of a
    stroke. This would inevitably leave a political
  • The president at the time, Hindenburg, (elected
    in 1924 following Eberts unexpected death) had
    been one of the highest ranking army generals
    during the war and was keen for a return to more
    autocratic rule.

Paul von Hindenburg
October 1929
  • In October 1929, the US stock market suddenly
    collapsed. On Black Tuesday (29th October) more
    money was lost in one day alone than the US
    government had spent during the whole of the
    first world war.

  • Banks closed and businesses collapsed in America.
  • However, American dominance of the world economy
    meant that a worldwide depression soon followed.

Wall Street New York Oct 1929
Fall in demand
The Cycle of Economic Depression
Less money available
Less goods sold
Workers left unemployed
Effect of the American Depression on Germany
German politics in the early 1930s
  • A 5 party coalition struggled on under Chancellor
  • However, the SDP members demanded higher levels
    of unemployment benefit, while the DVP wanted
    lower taxes and lower benefits. Agreement could
    not be reached.

The legislative process therefore was paralysed.
Muller asked Hindenburg to pass new laws by
decree instead. Hindenburg refused.
Frustrated, Muller resigned. Hindenberg replaced
him in March 1930 with Bruning, leader of the ZP,
the second largest party in the Reichstag.
Bruning, keen to avoid inflation, wanted lower
welfare benefits and increases in taxes was
supported by Hindenberg who passed these
increasingly unpopular measures by decree.
September 1930 Reichstag elections
  • The Reichstag challenged the presidential use of
    Article 48 in July 1930 when Hindenburg used it
    to put Brunings new budget through.
  • In the resulting deadlock, Bruning asked
    Hindenburg to dissolve the current Reichstag and
    call another election.
  • However, instead of resulting in a more workable
    coalition of centre-right, pro-democratic
    parties, the real beneficiaries of the election
    were to be the extremist parties of both the left
    and right.
  • The KPD increased their share of the vote to
    13.1 while the Nazi Party with 18.3 of the vote
    was now the second largest party in the
    Reichstag. Democratic parliamentary government
    was now going to find it even more difficult to

The Dead Parliament by John Heartfield
  • Produced in October 1930 by a German communist,
    the caption below stated
  • Its whats left from 1848! This is what the
    Reichstag will look like when it opens in October