THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC (1919-33)
This is the name given to the system of government between the end of World War I and
Hitler coming to power.
It is named after the town of Weimar in central Germany where the German parliament
met in January 1919. (It was unsafe for the parliamentarians to meet in Berlin or any of
the major cities as street fighting was taking place between the Communists and the
Freikorps; law & order had broken down.)
It was a Republic because the emperor (Kaiser) had left the country; a republic is a
country without a king, queen or emperor that is headed by an elected President.
Eventually law & order was restored but Germany was in a dreadful state as:
The Germans were shocked by their defeat in 1918
They were resentful at the harsh and “unfair” Treaty of Versailles
Reparations payments were difficult to pay and this had led to French troops occupying
Germany’s main industrial area (the Ruhr) in 1923.
All these issues humiliated the Germans.
Additionally massive inflation (hyperinflation) developed in 1923 and the currency lost its
There were attempted rebellion by the Communists and the new Nazi party; all these
failed but the public had little confidence in their governments and looked for a return to
the “good old days” (ie before 1914) or else rule by one strong man.
From 1924 onwards conditions in Germany started to improve; a new currency was
introduced; there were no more rebellions and American loans enabled the German
economy to revive.
BUT in 1929 the Great Depression started and many American banks & businesses failed
– US banks recalled their loans to Germany and the German economy collapsed: German
unemployment rose to over 6 million and people blamed the German government. Hitler
& his Nazi party revived and claimed that if people voted for them there would be an end
to poverty, humiliation & chaos. Hitler promised to:
Undo the Versailles Treaty
Make Germany strong & great again
THE NAZIS IN POWER
People voted for Hitler and the Nazis, they became the largest party in the German
Parliament; Hitler was therefore appointed Chancellor (the German equivalent of Prime
Minister) in January 1933. Hitler did fulfil his three promises BUT stopped anyone else
expressing any other views; Germany ceased to be a democracy; people were arrested
and sent to Concentration Camps. Germany became a Police State. Jews and others
were persecuted and the physically and mentally ill were killed. Hitler planned for war
even though the war of 1939 came about in a different way than Hitler had envisaged.