Weimar Republic

"Weimar Germany" redirects here. For the German city, see Weimar, Germany.
German Reich
Deutsches Reich
Flag Coat of arms
Das Lied der Deutschen
"Song of the Germans"
Germany in 1930
German states during the Weimar Republic period
Capital Berlin
Languages German
Religion 1925 census [1]
64.1% Protestant ( Lutheran, Reformed, Prussian United)
Government 1919–30 Semi-presidential
representative federal republic
1930–33 De facto authoritarian
rule by decree
 •  1919–25 Friedrich Ebert
 •  1925–33 Paul von Hindenburg
 •  1919 (first) Philipp Scheidemann
 •  1933 (last) Adolf Hitler
Legislature Reichstag
 •  State Council Reichsrat
Historical era Interwar period
 •  Established 9 November 1918
 •  Government by decree begins 29 March 1930 [2]
 •  Hitler appointed Chancellor 30 January 1933
 •  Reichstag fire 27 February 1933
 •  Enabling Act 23 March 1933
 •  1925 [3] 468,787 km² (181,000 sq mi)
 •  1925 [3] est. 62,411,000 
     Density 133.1 /km²  (344.8 /sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
German Empire
Nazi Germany
Today part of
The coat of arms shown above is the version used after 1928, which replaced that shown in the "Flag and coat of arms" section. [4]

Weimar Republic ( German: Weimarer Republik [ˈvaɪmaʁɐ ʁepuˈbliːk]) is an unofficial, historical designation for the German state between 1919 and 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the state was still Deutsches Reich; it had remained unchanged since 1871. In English the country was usually known simply as Germany. A national assembly was convened in Weimar, where a new constitution for the Deutsches Reich was written, and adopted on 11 August 1919. In its fourteen years, the Weimar Republic faced numerous problems, including hyperinflation, political extremism (with paramilitaries – both left- and right-wing); and contentious relationships with the victors of the First World War. The people of Germany blamed the Weimar Republic rather than their wartime leaders for the country's defeat and for the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles. However, the Weimar Republic government successfully reformed the currency, unified tax policies, and organized the railway system. Weimar Germany eliminated most of the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles; it never completely met its disarmament requirements, and eventually paid only a small portion of the war reparations (by twice restructuring its debt through the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan). [5] Under the Locarno Treaties, Germany accepted the western borders of the republic, but continued to dispute the Eastern border.

From 1930 onwards President Hindenburg used emergency powers to back Chancellors Heinrich Brüning, Franz von Papen and General Kurt von Schleicher. The Great Depression, exacerbated by Brüning's policy of deflation, led to a surge in unemployment. [6] In 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor with the Nazi Party being part of a coalition government. The Nazis held two out of the remaining ten cabinet seats. Von Papen as Vice Chancellor was intended to be the " éminence grise" who would keep Hitler under control, using his close personal connection to Hindenburg. Within months the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933 had brought about a state of emergency: it wiped out constitutional governance and civil liberties. Hitler's seizure of power ( Machtergreifung) was permissive of government by decree without legislative participation. These events brought the republic to an end: as democracy collapsed, a single-party state founded the Nazi era.

Even so, German Foreign Office official Harry Graf Kessler had predicted as early as February 1919 that the Republic was doomed. "The paradox", he wrote, "by which a Social Democratic Government allows itself and the capitalist cash-boxes to be defended by royalist officers and unemployed on the dole is altogether too crazy." [7] His friend and socialist liberal German Democratic Party colleague Walther Rathenau was assassinated, just like Matthias Erzberger before him, by right-wing assassin squads Organisation Consul. Like the Nazis, the Consul was founded by the Freikorps. Ultimately, the Republic in Germany was destroyed by gangsterism, infighting, incompetence, political naivete, and international debt obligations.


The Weimar Republic is so called because the assembly that adopted its constitution met at Weimar, Germany from 6 February 1919 to 11 August 1919, [8] but this name only became mainstream after 1933. Between 1919 and 1933 there was no single name for the new state that gained widespread acceptance, which is precisely why the old name "Deutsches Reich" continued in existence even though hardly anyone used it during the Weimar period. [9] To the right of the spectrum the politically engaged rejected the new democratic model and cringed to see the honour of the traditional word "Reich" associated with it. [10] The Catholic Centre party, Zentrum favoured the term "Deutscher Volksstaat" ("German People's State") while on the moderate left the Chancellor's SPD preferred "Deutsche Republik" ("German Republic"). [10] By 1925 "Deutsche Republik" was used by most Germans, but for the anti-democratic right the word "Republik" was, along with the relocation of the seat of power to Weimar, a painful reminder of a government structure that had been imposed by foreign statesmen, along with the expulsion of Kaiser Wilhelm in the wake of massive national humiliation. [10] The first recorded mention of the term "Republik von Weimar" ("Republic of Weimar") came during a speech delivered by Adolf Hitler at a National Socialist German Worker's Party rally in Munich on 24 February 1929; it was a few weeks later that the term "Weimar Republik" was first used (again by Hitler) in a newspaper article. [9] Only during the 1930s did the term become mainstream, both within and outside Germany.