The Weimar Republic (German: Weimarer Republik) is an often used unofficial name for the liberal democratic state created by the German Revolution of 1918–19 and the Treaty of Versailles. It ended when the NSDAP gained power in 1933 and created National Socialist Germany. The name derives from the city of Weimar where a national assembly convened to write and adopt a new constitution which became effective on August 11, 1919.
Jewish influence and anti-Semitism
A less well-known aspect is the anti-Semitism and extensive restrictions on Jewish influence in Poland after independence. This contributed to migration of many Polish Jews to Germany which has been argued to have contributed to the anti-Semitism in Germany.
The influential Frankfurt School originated in the Weimar Republic.
Another criticism was of the relationship between Jews and Communism and Jewish influence on Communist (attempted) coups in Germany and elsewhere.
See also the "External links" section in the article.
The establishment of the Republic (1918–1919)
Main article: German Revolution
From 1916 onwards, the 1871 German Empire had effectively been governed by the military headed by the Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL, Supreme Army Command) with the Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg. When it became apparent that World War I was lost, the OHL demanded that a civil government be installed in order to meet a key peace talk condition from United States President Woodrow Wilson. The new Reichskanzler Prince Max von Baden thus offered a cease-fire to President Wilson on October 3, 1918. On October 28, 1918, the 1871 constitution was finally amended to make the Reich a parliamentary democracy, which the government had refused for half a century: the Chancellor was henceforth responsible to Parliament or Reichstag, and no longer to the Kaiser.
The plan to transform Germany into a constitutional monarchy similar to Britain quickly became obsolete as the country slid into a state of near-total anarchy. Germany was flooded with soldiers returning from the front, many of whom were wounded physically and psychologically. Violence was rampant, as the forces of the political right and left fought not only each other, but among themselves.
Rebellion broke out when on October 29, the military command, without consultation with the government, ordered the German High Seas Fleet to sortie. This was not only entirely hopeless from a military standpoint, but was also certain to bring the peace negotiations to a halt. The crews of two ships in Wilhelmshaven mutinied. When the military arrested about 1,000 seamen and had them transported to Kiel, the Wilhelmshaven mutiny turned into a general rebellion that quickly swept over most of Germany. Other seamen, soldiers and workers, in support of those arrested, began electing worker and soldier councils modelled after the soviets of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and seized military and civil powers in many cities. On November 7, the revolution had reached Munich, causing King Ludwig III of Bavaria to flee.
In contrast to Russia one year earlier, the councils were not controlled by a communist party. Still, with the emergence of the Soviet Union, the rebellion caused great fear among the German people. The country appeared to be on the verge of a communist revolution.
On November 7, the worker's councils demanded that Emperor Wilhelm II abdicate. When he refused, Prince Max von Baden simply announced that he had done so and frantically attempted to establish a regency under another member of the House of Hohenzollern. On November 9, 1918, the Republic was proclaimed by Philipp Scheidemann at the Reichstag building in Berlin, to the fury of the Reichskanzler, who still hoped to preserve the monarchy. Two hours later a Soviet republic was proclaimed at the Berliner Stadtschloss by communist Karl Liebknecht.
On November 9, Reichskanzler Prince Max von Baden transferred his powers to Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the Social Democrats, who, shattered by the monarchy's fall, reluctantly accepted. It was apparent, however, that this act would not be sufficient to satisfy Liebknecht and his followers, so a day later, a coalition government called "Council of People's Commissioners" (Rat der Volksbeauftragten) was established. Although the new government was confirmed by the Berlin worker and soldier council, it was opposed by the Spartacist League led by communists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Ebert called for a National Congress of Councils, which took place from December 16 to December 20, 1918, and in which the Social Democrats had the majority. Ebert thus managed to enforce quick elections for a National Assembly to produce a constitution for a parliamentary system, marginalizing the movement that called for a communist government.
From November 1918 through January 1919, Germany was governed dictatorially by the Council of People's Commissioners. In those three months the government issued a large number of decrees. Its main activities were confined to labor and social reforms.
The Reichswehr and the Revolution
To ensure that his fledgling government was able to maintain control over the country, Ebert made an uneasy pact with the OHL, now led by Ludendorff's successor General Wilhelm Groener. This Ebert-Groener pact stipulated that the government would not attempt to reform the Army so long as the army swore to protect the state. On the one hand, this agreement symbolised the acceptance of the new government by the military, assuaging concern among the middle classes; on the other hand, it was considered a betrayal of the radical left wing. The new model Reichswehr armed forces, limited by the Treaty of Versailles to 100,000 army soldiers and 15,000 seamen, remained fully under the control of the German officer class despite its nominal re-organisation. As an independent and conservative group in Weimar, it wielded a large amount of influence over the fate of the republic.
The split became final after Ebert called upon the OHL for troops to put down another Berlin army mutiny on November 23, 1918, in which soldiers had captured the city's garrison commander and closed off the Reichskanzlei where the Council of People's Commissioners was situated. The ensuing street fighting was brutal with several dead and injured on both sides. In December, the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of Germany KPD) was formed out of a number of radical left-wing groups, including the radical left wing of Social Democrats and the Spartacist League group.
In January, more armed attempts at establishing communism, known as the Spartacist uprising, by the Spartacist League and others in the streets of Berlin were put down by paramilitary Freikorps units consisting of volunteer soldiers. Bloody street fights culminated in the beating and shooting deaths of Rosa Luxemburg and Liebknecht after their arrests on January 15. With the affirmation of Ebert, those responsible were not tried before a court martial, leading to lenient sentences, which made Ebert unpopular amongst the radical leftists.
The National Assembly elections took place January 19, 1919. To avoid the ongoing fights in Berlin, the National Assembly convened in the city of Weimar, giving the future Republic its unofficial name. The Weimar Constitution created a republic under a semi-presidential system with the Reichstag elected by proportional representation. The Socialist and (Non-Socialist) Democratic parties obtained a solid 80 per cent of the vote.
During the debates in Weimar, fighting continued. A Soviet republic was declared in Munich, but was quickly put down by Freikorps and remnants of the regular army. The fall of the Munich Soviet Republic to these units, many of which were situated on the extreme right, resulted in the growth of far-right movements and organizations in Bavaria, including the National Socialists, Organisation Consul, and societies of exiled Russian Monarchists. Sporadic fighting continued to flare up around the country. In eastern provinces, forces loyal to Germany's fallen Monarchy fought the republic, while militias of Polish nationalists fought for independence: Great Poland Uprising in Provinz Posen and three Silesian Uprisings in Upper Silesia.
The carefully thought-out social and political legislation introduced during the revolution was generally unappreciated by the German working-class. The two goals sought by the government, democratisation and social protection of the working class, were never achieved. This has been attributed to a lack of pre-war political experience on the part of the Social Democrats. The government had little success in confronting the twin economic crises following the war.
The permanent economic crisis was a result of lost pre-war industrial exports, the loss of supplies in raw materials and food stuffs from Alsace-Lorraine, Polish districts and the colonies along with worsening debt balances and reparations payments. Military-industrial activity had almost ceased, although controlled demobilisation kept unemployment at around one million. The fact that the Allies continued to blockade Germany until after the Treaty of Versailles did not help matters, either.
The Republic's first Reichspräsident ("Reich President"), Friedrich Ebert of the SPD, signed the new German constitution into law on August 11, 1919.
The early years: internal conflict (1919–1923)
The Republic was under great pressure from both left and right-wing extremists. The radical left accused the ruling Social Democrats of having betrayed the ideals of the workers' movement by preventing a communist revolution. Right-wing extremists were opposed to any democratic system, preferring an authoritarian state like the 1871 Empire.
For the next five years Germany's large cities suffered political violence between left-wing and right-wing groups, both of which committed violence and murder against innocent civilians and against each other, resulting in many deaths. The worst of the violence was between right-wing paramilitaries called the Freikorps and pro-Communist militias called the Red Guards, both of which admitted ex-soldiers into their ranks.
The first challenge to the Weimar Republic came when a group of communists and anarchists took over the Bavarian government in Munich and declared the creation of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. The communist rebel state was quickly put down one month later when Freikorps units were brought in to battle the leftist rebels.
The Kapp Putsch took place on March 13, 1920, involving a group of Freikorps troops who gained control of Berlin and installed Wolfgang Kapp (a right-wing journalist) as chancellor. The national government fled to Stuttgart and called for a general strike. While Kapp's vacillating nature did not help matters, the strike crippled Germany's ravaged economy and the Kapp government collapsed after only four days on March 17.
Inspired by the general strikes, a communist uprising began in the Ruhr region when 50,000 people formed a "Red Army" and took control of the province. The regular army and the Freikorps ended the uprising on their own authority. Other communist rebellions were put down in March 1921 in Saxony and Hamburg.
In 1922, Germany signed a treaty - the Treaty of Rapallo - with Russia, and disarmament was brought to a halt. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany could only have 100,000 soldiers and no conscription, Naval forces reduced to 15,000 men, 12 destroyers, 6 battleships, and 6 cruisers, no submaries or aircraft. The Treaty with Russia worked in secret, as the treaty allowed Germany to train military personal, and Russia gained the benefits of Germany military technology. This was against the Treaty of Versailles, but Russia had pulled out of World War I against the Germans due to the 1917 Russian Revolution and was looked down on by the League of Nations. Germany seized the chance to make an ally.
By 1923, the Republic claimed it could no longer afford the reparations payments required by the Versailles treaty, and the government defaulted on some payments. In response, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr region, Germany's most productive industrial region at the time, taking control of most mining and manufacturing companies in January of 1923. Strikes were called, and passive resistance was encouraged. These strikes lasted eight months, further damaging the economy and increasing the expense of imports. The strike meant no goods were being produced. This infuriated the French, who began to kill and exile protestors in the region.
Since striking workers were paid benefits by the state, much additional currency was printed, fueling a period of hyperinflation. Hyperinflation started when Germany had no goods to trade with. The government printed money to deal with the crisis; this allowed Germany to pay war loans and reparations with worthless marks and helped formerly great industrialists to pay back their own loans. This also led to pay raises for workers and for businessmen who wanted to profit from it. Circulation of money rocketed, and soon the Germans discovered their money was worthless.
Further pressure from the right came in 1923 with the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, staged by Adolf Hitler. In 1920, the German Workers' Party had become the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), and would become a driving force in the collapse of Weimar. Hitler was named chairman of the party in July 1921.
On November 8, 1923, the Kampfbund, in a pact with Erich Ludendorff, took over a meeting by Bavarian prime minister Gustav von Kahr at a beer hall in Munich. Ludendorff and Hitler declared a new government, planning to take control of Munich the following day. The 3,000 rebels were thwarted by 100 policemen. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, a minimum sentence for the charge and he served less than eight months before his release. Following the failure of the putsch, his imprisonment and subsequent release, Hitler focused on legal methods of gaining power.
Stresemann's Golden Era (1923–1929)
Gustav Stresemann was Reichskanzler for a brief period in 1923, and served as foreign minister from 1923-1929, a period of relative stability for the Weimar Republic when there were fewer uprisings and the beginnings of economic recovery.
Stresemann's first move was to issue a new currency, the Rentenmark, to halt the extreme hyperinflation crippling German society and the economy. It was successful because Stresemann refused to issue more currency, the cause of the inflationary spiral. To further stabilise the economy, he reduced spending and bureaucracy while increasing taxes. He signed the Locarno Treaties with the Allied countries in 1925 as a means of restoring Germany's diplomatic status in Europe.
During this period, the Dawes Plan was created, tying reparations payments to Germany's ability to pay. Germany was admitted into the League of Nations, made agreements over its western border. However, this progress was funded by overseas loans, increasing the nation's debts, while overall trade decreased and unemployment rose. Stresemann's reforms did not relieve the underlying weaknesses of Weimar but gave the appearance of a stable democracy.
Despite the progress during these years, Stresemann was criticized by opponents for his policy of "fulfilment", or compliance with the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and by the German people after the invasion of the Ruhr, in which he agreed to pay the reparations set by the treaty in order for the French troops to evacuate.
In 1929, Stresemann's death marked the end of the "Golden Era" of the Weimar Republic. He died at the age of 51, four months after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hitler's chancellorship and the death of the Weimar Republic (1933)
Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on the morning of January 30, 1933. By early February, a mere week after Hitler's assumption of the chancellorship, the government had begun to clamp down on the opposition. Meetings of the left-wing parties were banned, and even some of the moderate parties found their members threatened and assaulted.
The Reichstag Fire on February 27 was blamed by Hitler's government on the Communists, and Hitler used the ensuing state of emergency to obtain the assent of President von Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree the following day. The decree invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution and suspended a number of constitutional protections of civil liberties, allowing the new government to take swift action against Communist political meetings.
Hitler addressed disparate interest groups, stressing the necessity for a definitive solution to the perpetual instability of the Weimar Republic. Hitler's successful plan was to induce what remained of the now Communist-depleted Reichstag to grant him, and the Government, the authority to issue decrees with the force of law.
Hitler cabinet meeting in mid-March
At the meeting of the new cabinet on March 15, Hitler introduced the Enabling Act, which would have authorised the cabinet to enact legislation without the approval of the Reichstag. Meanwhile, the only remaining question for the National Socialists was whether the Catholic Centre Party (Zentrum) would support the Enabling Act in the Reichstag, thereby providing the two-thirds majority required to ratify a law that amended the constitution. Hitler expressed his confidence to win over the Centre's votes. Hitler however assured his coalition partners that arrests would resume after the elections, and in fact some 26 SDP Socialists were physically removed. After meeting with Centre leader Monsignor Ludwig Kaas and other Centre Trade Union leaders daily, and denying them a substantial participation in the government, negotiation succeeded in respect of guarantees towards Catholic civil-servants and education issues.
At the last internal Centre meeting prior to the debate on the Enabling Act, Kaas expressed no preference or suggestion on the vote, but as a way of mollifying opposition by Centre members to the granting of further powers to Hitler, Kaas somehow arranged for a letter of constitutional guarantee from Hitler himself prior to his voting with the centre en bloc in favor of the Enabling Act. This guarantee was not ultimately given. Kaas, the party's chairman since 1928, had strong connections to the Vatican Secretary of State, later Pope Pius XII. In return for pledging his support for the act, Kaas would use his connections with the Vatican to set in train and draft the Holy See's long desired Reichskonkordat with Germany.
Ceremonial opening of the Reichstag in Potsdam on March 21
The ceremonial opening of the Reichstag on March 21 was held at the Garrison Church in Potsdam, a shrine of Prussianism, in the presence of many Junker landowners and representatives of the imperial military caste. This impressive and often emotional spectacle — orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels — aimed to link Hitler's government with Germany's imperial past and portray National Socialism as a guarantor of the nation's future. The ceremony helped convince the "old guard" Prussian military elite of Hitler's homage to their long tradition and, in turn, produced the relatively convincing view that Hitler's government had the support of Germany's traditional protector — the Army. Such support would publicly signal a return to conservatism to curb the problems affecting the Weimar Republic, and that stability might be at hand.
Passage of the Enabling Act by the Reichstag on March 23
The Reichstag Government convened on March 23, 1933, and in the midday opening, Hitler made a historic speech, appearing conciliatory. Hitler presented an appealing prospect of respect towards Christianity by paying tribute to the Christian faiths as "essential elements for safeguarding the soul of the German people". He promised to respect their rights and declared his government's "ambition is a peaceful accord between Church and State" and that he hoped "to improve our friendly relations with the Holy See." This speech aimed especially at the future recognition by the named Holy See and therefore to the votes of the Centre Party addressing many concerns Kaas had voiced during the previous talks. Kaas and the Center Party were persuaded and voted for the Enabling Act.
|“||Jews were especially visible in private banking in Berlin, which in 1923 had 150 private Jewish banks, as opposed to only 11 private non-Jewish banks. They owned 41% of iron and scrap iron firms and 57% of other metal businesses. Jews were very active in the stock market, particularly in Berlin, where in 1928 they comprised 80% of the leading members of the stock exchange. By 1933, when the Nazis [sic] began eliminating Jews from prominent positions, 85% of the brokers on the Berlin Stock exchange were dismissed because of their ‘race’. At least a quarter of full professors and instructors (at German universities) had Jewish origins. In 1905-6 Jewish students comprised 25% of the law and medical students. In 1931, 50% of the 234 theatre directors in Germany were Jewish, and in Berlin the number was 80%.||”|
—Sarah Gordon, 1984, Hitler, Germans and the Jewish Question.
|“||In the all-important administration of Prussia, any number of strategic positions came into the hands of Hebrews. A telephone conversation between three Jews in Ministerial offices could result in the suspension of any periodical or newspaper in the state. No one who lived through the period from 1919 to 1926 is likely to forget the sexual promiscuity that prevailed. Throughout a town like Berlin, hotels and pensions made vast fortunes by letting rooms by the hour or day to baggageless, unregistered guests, throngs of child prostitutes outside the doors of the great Berlin hotels and restaurants. Most of them (the night clubs and vice-resorts) were owned and managed by Jews.||”|
—Edgar Mowrer, 1939, Germany Puts the Clock Back.
|“||In the Berlin of pre-Hitler years most of the theatres were Jewish-owned or Jewish-leased, most of the leading film and stage actors were Jews, the plays performed were often by German, Austrian or Hungarian Jews and were staged by Jewish film producers, applauded by Jewish dramatic critics in Jewish newspapers. The Jews are not cleverer than the Gentiles, if by clever you mean good at their jobs. They ruthlessly exploit the common feeling of Jews, first to get a foothold in a particular trade or calling, then to squeeze the non-Jews out of it. It is not true that Jews are better journalists than Gentiles. They held all the posts on those Berlin papers because the proprietors and editors were Jewish.||”|
—Edgar Mowrer, 1939, Disgrace Abounding.
|“||Even in November 1938, after five years of anti-Semitic legislation and persecution [sic], they still owned, according to the Times correspondent in Berlin, something like a third of the real property in the Reich. The banks, including the Reichsbank and the big private banks, were practically controlled by them. So were the publishing trade, the cinema, the theatres and a large part of the press all the normal means, in fact, by which public opinion in a civilized country is formed. The largest newspaper combine in the country with a daily circulation of four millions was a Jewish monopoly. Every year it became harder and harder for a gentile to gain or keep a foothold in any privileged occupation. At this time it was not the ‘Aryans’ who exercised racial discrimination. It was a discrimination that operated without violence. It was exercised by a minority against a majority. There was no persecution, only elimination.||”|
—Sir Arthur Bryant, 1940, Unfinished Victory.
|“||The Ullstein group was a kind of super-trust; the largest organization of its kind in Europe, and probably in the world. They published four daily papers in Berlin alone, among these the venerable Vossische Zeitung, founded in the eighteenth century, and the B.Z. am Mittag, an evening paper. Apart from these, Ullstein’s published more than a dozen weekly and monthly periodicals, ran their own news service, their own travel agency, etc., and were one of the leading book publishers. The firm was owned by the brothers Ullstein – they were five, like the original Rothschild brothers, and like them also, they were Jews.||”|
—Arthur Koestler, 1949, The God that Failed.
- The German-Jewish Kulturkampf in the Weimar Republic at Occidental Observer
- Jewish Domination of Weimar Germany 1919-1932
- THE SEXUAL DECADENCE OF WEIMAR GERMANY, by Lasha Darkmoon
- ↑ Das Deutsche Reich im Überblick. Wahlen in der Weimarer Republik. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
- ↑ Cf. Der Große Brockhaus: Handbuch des Wissens in zwanzig Bänden: 21 vols., completely revis. ed., Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 151928-1935, vol. 4 (1929): "Vierter Band Chi–Dob", article: 'Deutsches Reich', pp. 611-704, here pp. 648 and 651. No ISBN.