Germany – 1919-1933: Weimar Republic (1923 – The Invasion of the Ruhr,…
Germany – 1919-1933: Weimar Republic
What is Weimar?
Weimar is the town the politicians met in and a Republic is a country without a
King or Queen
The end of WWI – November 1918
Germany was in a very poor state: the blockade of Germany had lead to a
lack of food and supplies. People were starving. Riots were breaking out.
The navy had mutinied (rebelled) against the Kaiser (king of Germany).
The Kaiser realised the situation was hopeless and abdicated (quit his
job) in October 1918. Germany was left without a leader and in a mess.
The biggest political party in Germany was the Social Democrats. Their leader,
Friedrich Ebert, took on the job of running Germany. He tried to improve people’s
lives by giving them better working conditions and freedom of speech.
Ebert and his government signed the armistice and withdrew from Germany from
WW1 in November 1918
The Weimar Constitution
The Social Democrats won the January 1919 elections. They helD the first meeting of their new government in a town called Weimar – and got the nickname “The Weimar Government”.
Their first job was to write a new constitution (set of rules) for Germany.
Their new rules included:
the Chancellor would be head of the Reichstag and would be voted for every 4
There would be a President who would choose the Chancellor and keep control of
the army and he would be voted for every 7 years
everyone over the age of 20 could vote, people voted for MPs who would sit in the Reichstag, the Reichstag would suggest and vote on new laws,
Germany would use a system called Proportional Representation; this means each
political party would get a fair share of the seats in the Reichstag – if a party won
10% of the votes they would get 10% of the seats.
Proportional Representation seemed fair but had lots of problems; there was so
many parties in the Reichstag that no party ever had a majority (over 50% of the
seats) so they couldn’t pass laws by themselves. This meant parties had to make
deals with each other and this slowed the whole process down. It also helps
Hitler get into power later.
Strengths of the Weimar Constitution
Very fair, particularly the voting
Allowed lots of people to have their
State governments would ensure local
issues were addressed
Wouldn’t allow one person to take over
– the Chancellor and President
balanced each other
A poor Chancellor or President would
only be around for a limited time
Weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution
Proportional Representation meant
that there were loads of different
parties in the Reichstag – it was
difficult to get them to agree on
Article 48 could be abused so that the
President stopped listening to the
State governments could pass laws
that went against what the Reichstag
Not everybody was happy with Germany being a democratic country
and they didn’t like the way Weimar Germany was being run by
The Spartacist Revolution January 1919
In January 1919, the German communist party (the Spartacists)
decided that they wanted to take over Germany from Ebert
They started a revolution attempt on 6th
January. It was not successful. In a week,
Ebert with the help of his Freikorps (ex-WWI soldiers paid
to help the government keep order) had stopped the
rebellion and killed many communists. The Spartacist
leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht, were
It was helpful for Ebert that the Spartacists were no longer
a threat. However, he had to rely on the Freikorps to keep
order – that made him look weak to the public, and it was risky as the Freikorps
could turn on him at any point.
The German communists continued to create riots around Germany, even after the
Spartacist Revolution failed. Freikorps had to be sent round to fight them and
Other opposition to the Weimar Government
The right wing also hated the Social
Democrats. The Freikorps
themselves went against Ebert in
1920 when they supported Wolfgang
Kapp in his attempt to take over the
country (Kapp Putsch).
It was only because of the workers in
Berlin going on strike and refusing to
help the Freikorps, that the Putsch
Over 200 people connected to the Weimar Government were assassinated
between 1919 and 1923. The most famous was Walther Rathenau, the politician
who had been involved with the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. These
assassinations showed how much people disliked their new government and also
made people feel that they were doing a bad job as they weren’t stopping violence
on the streets.
The Treaty of Versailles – June 1919
This is the peace Treaty Germany had to sign after World War
One. The government had no choice but to sign the treaty; if they
didn’t sign the war would continue and Germany would lose.
The Main terms can be summed up as
– Germany had to accept responsibility for starting the war
and causing all the damage. This is called the War Guilt clause.
– Germany had to pay £6.6 billion to pay to repair the
damage caused by the war
– the Germany army was reduced to 100,000 men, and they couldn’t
have any tanks, submarines or planes. The Rhineland (an area of Germany that
borders France) was also demilitarised so no German troops could go there.
– Germany lost 13% of their land and 12.5% of their population. They
also lost all their colonies so they no longer had an empire. Germany was also
forbidden to join with Austria. Some of the land they lost was industrial land with
coal mines etc on; this meant they lost a way to produce income for Germany.
The Germans were outraged. They
called the Treaty a
peace) and accused the Weimar
Government of “stabbing them in the
back” by agreeing to such harsh
terms. People began to look to other
politicians to rule Germany better
than the Social Democrats.
The beginnings of the Nazi Party
Anton Drexler had a party called the German Workers Party.
Hitler joined this in 1920 as he agreed with what the party was saying about
getting rid of the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler soon became its leader. He re-named it the
National Socialist German Workers Party
He gave the party a new flag and a new private army to
protect it (the SA/Brownshirts).
The party was small and would meet in beer houses. It began to attract attention
because of Hitler’s powerful speeches, especially his rants against the Treaty of
Versailles. The SA would also beat up opponents, especially the
1923 – The Invasion of the Ruhr, Hyperinflation and the Munich Putsch
Germany paid her first reparation payment in 1921 but couldn’t afford the 1922
France and Belgium decided to invade Germany in January 1923 and take the
payment by force. They invaded the Ruhr, Germany’s main industrial area, to take
goods, such as coal.
The Germans reacted with passive resistance. They went on strike and refused
to make the goods that the French and Belgians wanted. They sabotaged
factories and flooded mines.
The French and Belgians reacted with violence: shooting some Germans and
expelling some others.
The Weimar Government supported the strikers by printing more
money to pay them so that they could afford to keep striking.
Too many notes in the economy meant that prices went out of
control. November 1923 was the worst month: bread cost
People had to carry their wages home in wheelbarrows. Prices went up so fast
that a day’s wages would just buy a cup of coffee the next day. The middle
classes and the elderly suffered badly as their savings and pensions were wiped
out. This was called hyperinflation.
Hitler chose November 1923 as the moment to attempt his Munich Putsch (putsch
= take power by force). He thought people were so fed up of their situation that
they would support another leader.
On the evening of 8th November 1923, Hitler and 600 Nazis seized a beer hall
where a meeting between the Bavarian leaders was taking place. Hitler and his men
arrested the three leaders (von Kahr, bon Seisser and Von Lossow). He made them
swear their support for Hitler’s takeover before locking them in a room.