1. Weimar Republic: its early problems and achievements

Note by ShreyaDas, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by ShreyaDas almost 6 years ago


Revolution of 1918 Strengths and weaknesses of the new Constitution Reactions to Versailles Treaty Spartacist and Kapp Uprisings Ruhr occupation Hyperinflation - causes and effects Role of Stresemann, including: Economic recovery Rentenmark US loans - Dawes and Young Plans Improved international relations League of Nations Locarno Treaties Kellogg-Briand Pact

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25th October 1918Naval base at KielSuicidal bid for glory ordered - sailors mutinied

26th October - 5th NovemberKaiser didn't crush the mutiny - sailor went on = strikes and demonstrations all over Germany- soldiers joined in

- 6th Novembersoldiers' and workers' councils taken over cities- did it to end the war but politicians thought they were doing it for revolution- politicians wouldn't be in place if there was revolution

Social Democrats = leading party Social Democrats had control of the Reichstag- in theory = socialist- main support was the workers- Socialists want social change but change = revolution and they didn't want it- were actually conservativeleader = Friedrich Ebert- wanted to save the Kaiser- friends were saying no to saving the Kaiser 

7th NovemberSocial Democrats told the Kaiser that he needed to abdicate- if he didn't abdicate they would join in the revolution = ultimatum

9th November- armed general strike in Berlin- sailors, workers, soldiers were having a massive strike in Berlin- had guns- potentially dangerous- soldiers organizations = Freikorps opposed the revolution 

Social Democrats were worried- don't want revolution = they would lose power- announced that the Kaiser abdicated- set up a new government = Weimar/German Republic- coalition (more than one party in control) of all Socialist parties- Friedrich Ebert = Chancellor 

10th NovemberKaiser Wilhelm fled into exile into Holland- abdication

11th November - Armistice- between Allies and Germany- based around the nonexistence of the Kaiser

Weimar Constitution - President elected every 7 years- President appoints Chancellor who has to be a member of the Reichstag- has to be supported by a majority

The Reichstag- proportional representation: parties got the same proportion of seats as their proportion of votes

States keep their own governments with reduces powers- National laws could overrule state laws

Strengths:- all Germans had equal rights (right to vote included)- proportional representation = fair (all people represented)- strong president in case of crisis- each state had their own traditions - some control over own affairs was good

Weaknesses:- many enemies (equal rights??)- - coalitions = weak government- hard to reach agreement- president had too much power - possible dictatorship- states could be hostile to government (could try to overthrow)- appointment of Chancellor was completely up to the President- Article 48 meant that the president was the most powerful

Blame - War Guilt Clause 231Germany had to accept all blame for starting World War I - hurt Germany's pride- many felt it was unfair- nationalists were especially angry (felt that Germany joined the war in self-defense) 

Reparations - 6.6 billion- many doubted whether Germany would be able to pay- large amount, Germany in debt

Army - Reduction- soldiers reduced to 100,000- no submarines- 6 battleships- no air force- 150,000 sailorsdone because of France's "need" for security- German's felt insecure and unsafe- thought France would attack

Territory - Losses- Alsace Lorraine returned to France- Polish Corridor lost to Poland- Eupen and Malmedy lost to Belgium- Northern Schleswig lost to Denmark- Part of Upper Silesia lost to Poland- Danzig taken over by the League of Nations- Memel taken by Leagues then given to Lithuania- Saarland taken over by League of Nations (mining area)- lost 13% of its land and six million of its population

Germany's Expectations1. Kaiser had gone + new democratic government- requirement for peace which Germany had fulfilled

2. New republic needed suport- Social Democrat's epected turmoil while setting down in Germany after the chaos and revolution- assumed Allies would want to help them out- give them a chance to establish themselves- harsh treaty = harder to get a stable government

3. President Wilson and 14 Points- main force of negotiations- believed the treaty shouldn't be too harsh on Germany- if it was too harsh Germany would one day recover than get revenge- Fourteen Points were relatively fair

4. Germany was not to blame for the war- Germans believed that all countries should bear equal blame for the first world war- Germany had been forced into it by the way it was being treated- did not expect to be punished

Stab in the Back myth- many Germans thought Germany never really lost the war- Ludendorff (army leader) encouraged the view- said the army would have fought on for preserving honour- if weak politicians and Communist revolutionaries had not demanded peace- army had been stabbed in the back by politicians - people blamed the democratic government for making peaceTreaty = symbol for Germany's humiliation and defeat

These features of the Republic served to ensure that it was the perfect democracy: A Bill of Rights guaranteed every German citizen freedom of speech and religion, and equality under the law. All men and women over the age of 20 were given the vote. This was even better than Britain where only women over 30 could vote. There was an elected president and an elected Reichstag (parliament). The Reichstag made the laws and appointed the government, which had to do what the Reichstag wanted. It looked marvellous.However, hidden in the detail were two flaws that eventually destroyed the Republic: Proportional representation - instead of voting for an MP, like we do in Britain, Weimar Germans voted for a party. Each party was then allocated seats in the Reichstag exactly reflecting (proportional' to) the number of people who had voted for it. This sounds fair, but in practice it was a disaster it resulted in dozens of tiny parties, with no party strong enough to get a majority, and, therefore, no government to get its laws passed in the Reichstag. This was a major weakness of the Republic. Article 48 - this said that, in an emergency, the president did not need the agreement of the Reichstag, but could issue decrees. The problem with this was that it did not say what an emergency was, and in the end, it turned out to be a back door that Hitler used to take power legally.

Spartacist Uprising  On 6th January 1919, 100,000 communists  demonstrated in Berlin and took over key  buildings such as newspaper offices. The  communists were inspired by the Spartacist  League led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.  Chancellor Ebert and his defense minister,  Gustav Noske, persuaded the 250,000 strong  Freikorps (demobilised soldiers who had refused to give back their weapons) to put down the  Spartacist uprisings. Thousands of communists  were arrested or killed, mostly in Berlin. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were arrested on 15th January and were murdered by the  Freikorps. The threat from the left was over. 

Causes:- wanted a full socialist revolution like Russia's in 1917- didn't trust Ebert's government(wanted more power to the workers, wanted government by Soviet Councils and wanted to abolish army and land-owning classes

Effects: - government relied on Freikorps and army to stay alive- showed Germany as politically unstable

Kapp Putsch  In March 1920, elements of the Freikorps and military supporters of Dr. Wolfgang Kapp marched on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic and bring back the Kaiser. On the evening of 12th March, they took over the government quarter of the city. President Ebert and the government fled to Dresden on 13th   March, urging German workers not to co-operate  but go on strike. Up to 12 million workers responded to the call and refused to work. The gas, electricity, water and transport all stopped in Berlin. Kapp realised he could not govern and fled to Sweden. 

Causes:- resented that the  ‘November Criminals’; - hated and feared the communists, wanted to reverse Versailles, reinstate the Kaiser, boost the army and return Germany to its former strength. Had the support of the military, judiciary and civil service.- Unpopularity of new Weimar Government – Between 1918-23, German people hated the  Weimar leaders’ decision to admit defeat in 1918 - hated the Versailles Treaty for its guilt placed on Germany and hated the hardships caused by unemployment and inflation. - Everyone blamed the government and looked to more extreme methods to replace it.   

Effects: - showed that the government relied on workers to stay in power- other extremist parties gained in strength - this proved that they could gain power through the military = Munich Putsch

Reparation sum: 6600 million euros- to be paid in goods as well as in money- end of 1922: Germany fell behind in paymentsFrance and Belgium forced their way in in 1923 to force the Germans to pay upno German army big enough to stop them (after the treaty) French invaded to get money- government ordered passive resistance = hyperinflationGerman politicians and people were united against Frenchworkers in Ruhr strikedgoods trains lay idleFrench brought in their own workersFrench tried to cut off the Ruhr from the rest of Germanydeported leaders of resistanceGerman resistors were killedGermany had many demonstrations and protests against the French  Effects of hyperinflation:- German inflation reached its peak value of notes went down more notes needed suitcases replaced wallets Banks printed more moneyGerman mark was worthless Streseman was appointed chancellor - loss of production in Ruhr was affecting the inflation - government said that stopping resistance was important and reparations would commence again Recovery- Stresemann stopped passive resistance- introduced a new currency- Dawes Plan: loans helping Germany's economy- Young Plan gave them more time to pay reparations- US loans 


Causes:- government was bankrupt -- all resources used in war- treaty took away important industrial areas and reparations made it worse- Ruhr occupation + passive resistance- government printed more money when shortages made prices go up

Effects:- savings wiped up- loans were paid off easily- shortages in goods- major discontent

Revolution of 1918

Strengths and Weaknesses of the New Constitution

Reactions to the Treaty of Versailles

Spartacist Uprising and Kapp Putsch

Ruhr Occupation and Hyperinflation

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