Weimar Republic


July 5, 2022

The Weimar Republic (German: Weimarer Republik) is the name given by historians to the bourgeois democratic federal republic with parliamentary representation that replaced the German monarchy in 1919, named after the city of Weimar, where the Constituent Assembly met. The official name of the country was still the German Empire (Deutsches Reich). The republic was formed in the German revolution of 1918-1919 following the First World War. Based on the January 1919 elections, the national assembly convened in Weimar elected Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the strongest party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - SPD), as president of the republic, formed a coalition government under the leadership of Philipp Scheidemann (SPD), drafted the so-called Weimar constitution, which was adopted on August 11 of the same year. Despite its shortcomings, it was one of the most democratic constitutions in Europe at the time, which ensured broad civil liberties. The stabilization of the republic took years, and there were many left- and right-wing attempts to overthrow it, such as the Bavarian Council Republic (1919), the Ruhr Uprising (1920), the Kapp Putsch (1920) and the Munich Beer Putsch (1923). The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War, punished Germany with a large-scale loss of territory and extremely heavy reparations. The economy was on the verge of collapse, and inflation was rampant. The introduction of the German annuity mark and the Dawes plan settled the issue of reparations, and the American loans started the economic development, which in a few years produced the world's largest increase in productivity. In the field of foreign policy, the Rapallo Convention (1922) served to break out of international isolation, while the Locarno Convention (1925) served European reconciliation by guaranteeing borders and Germany's admission to the League of Nations (1926). After the death of the President of the Republic Friedrich Ebert (1925), Paul von Hindenburg held the position. The first sign of a serious crisis in the republic was when in 1928 the leadership of the two bourgeois parties with the largest voter base, the German National People's Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei - DNVP) and the Center Party, shifted to the right. The far-right Alfred Hugenberg became the president of the DNVP, while the political influence of Heinrich Brüning and Franz von Papen increased in the Center party. As a result of the outbreak of the Great Depression (1929), unemployment skyrocketed, and support for the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) led by Adolf Hitler grew rapidly. It became the second strongest party in the 1930 elections, and the strongest in the 1932 elections. The governance of the republic was only possible through the increasingly frequent application of Article 48 of the constitution, which provides extraordinary powers. Finally, on January 30, 1933, the re-elected Hindenburg entrusted Hitler with the formation of a government, who in a short time abolished the republic's democratic laws and institutions and built a total National Socialist dictatorship, the so-called Third Reich. The Weimar constitution was never formally revoked, but the legislature with a National Socialist majority made it irrelevant at the very beginning of its activity.


The constitutional reform

With the defeat of the First World War becoming certain, the desire to conclude an armistice as soon as possible led Imperial Chief of Staff Erich Ludendorff and the political forces gathered around him to propose that, in order to save the power of the House of Hohenzollern, II. Chancellor Wilhelm Hertling