Weimar Republic

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Map of the German Reich (1919–1933)

The Weimar Republic (German: Weimarer Republik). The official German name was the Deutsches Reich (German State). The unofficial name derives from the city of Weimar, where a national assembly convened to write and adopt a new constitution, the "Constitution of the German Reich", ratified on 11 August 1919, effective on 14 August 1919.

In 1925 the famous Imperial Field-Marshall, Paul von Hindenburg, became President (Reichspräsident). In March 1930, German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning and his government embarked on restructuring the Weimar state with the ultimate goal to fully overturn the Versailles Treaty.[1]

The Weimar Republic ended when the NSDAP gained power at the end of January 1933 and created National Socialist Germany.


Black, red, and gold (Schwarz-Rot-Gold) national flag
Merchant flag of Germany (1919–1933)
War Ensign of the Reichswehr after 1921
"Das Lied der Deutschen", sometimes short "Deutschlandlied",[2] (Music: Joseph Haydn, 1797; Lyrics:August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, 1841) is the national anthem of Germany (officially 1922–1945;[3] readopted 1952), although the Federal Republic of Germany officially only uses the third stanza as of 1990.
The eastern regions removed from Germany under the Versailles Treaty. The vote in Upper Silesia was held during a Polish insurgency and reign of terror.

The Weimar Republic came about as a result of the November Revolution. This designation of the first ever German republic to be realized at a national level can be traced back to the city where the Constituent National Assembly met, the city of Weimar. However, the official name "Deutsches Reich" (German State) was retained, ruled by a Reichspräsident as head of state and a Reichskanzler as the head of the government. Weimar is an often used unofficial name for the liberal democracy following the German Revolution of 1918–19, within the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (which came into effect on 10 January 1920).


Weimar Germany became a byword for all things degenerate and immoral, for varying degrees of anarchy and chronic corruption, and major crime waves in the large cities. A prime example of the moral degeneracy was the establishment in 1919 by the Ashkenazi Jewish homosexual Magnus Hirschfeld of the notorious Institute of Sexology in Berlin.[4] The influential and notorious Marxist Frankfurt School also originated in the Weimar Republic. In the 1920s the age of German visual mass media began: Berlin was a leading newspaper city of the "roaring twenties".

The coalition governments were not always in control leading to increased sympathies for the National Socialists. Every politician and person in public life who was on the side of the new Republic and who supported its "appeasement policies" and put them into action was at risk. Assassination of numerous prominent people occurred: the Jewish communists Kurt Eisner and Eugen Leviné and the Jewish anarchist Gustav Landauer (all 1919), Matthias Erzberger (1921), and the Jewish liberal Walter Rathenau (1922), Weimar's Foreign Minister, to name but a few.

Otto Braun (1872-1955), a Social-Democrat, served as Prime Minister of Prussia for three terms 1920-1932.

Communist violence

In 1918/19, Communists had made several attempts to take power in coups, such as the Bavarian Soviet Republic and the uprising by the Spartacus League. The parties which formed the new Weimar government had the army and the Freikorps (nationalist militias) and quelled these uprisings by force.

The Communists continued to use large-scale political violence throughout the 1920s, and gained increasing support during the Great Depression. It has been argued that one the main reasons that the NSDAP was allowed take power in January 1933 was that the alternative was increasingly viewed as a possible Communist regime and rule of terror, similar to that in the Soviet Union.

Flag (black, red, and gold)

Black, red, and gold appear in the Reichsadler (Imperial Eagle) of the Holy Roman Empire. They were also the colours of the uniforms (mainly black with red facings and gold buttons) of the Lützow Free Corps during the Napoleonic Wars. In the short-lived German revolution beginning March 1848, the colors black, red and gold became generally accepted. On 9 March, the Bundestag accepted the colors. Even the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV wore such an armband on 22 March when he promised that the Kingdom of Prussia would be absorbed into Germany in the future. On 31 July 1848, the National Assembly passed an Reich law regarding the introduction of a German war (for the Reichsflotte) and trade flag (Reichsgesetz betreffend die Einführung einer deutschen Kriegs- und Handelsflagge), but it was not until 12 November 1848 that the Reich Administrator (Reichsverweser) issued it. With this delay, Reich Administrator Archduke Johann von Österreich (1782–1859) reacted to the lack of recognition of the Reich by the major powers of Europe; Great Britain threatened to view the German flag as a pirate flag. The reaction decisions of the German states (Bundesreaktionsbeschluß) on 23 August 1851 declared it, like all Reich legislation of 1848/49, invalid.

The new German Reich of 1919 adopted the tricolour flag on 3 July 1919 (until 1933). The draft constitution by the constitutional lawyer Hugo Preuss, German Democratic Party (DDP), who was commissioned to draft it, already contained the black, red and gold national colors as a commitment to the colors of the revolution of 1848. The States Committee of the Weimar National Assembly had already spoken out in favor of this tricolor on 18 February 1919. However, the representation of the German states (similar to the Bundesrat) was unable to prevail with their vote. The State Committee was involved in the legislation according to the law on provisional Reich control (Reichsgewalt) of 10 February 1919. However, he was unable to decide on the new imperial constitution. This was passed by the National Assembly alone. The German people took an active part in the color discussion. Large parts of the population were against replacing the black, white and red colors of the German Empire. The determination of the flag colors not only divided the German public, but also the Weimar National Assembly. A second sentence was added to the original draft of Article 3. The constitution of the German Reich (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) of 11 August 1919 therefore states:

“The Reich colors are black, red and gold. The trade flag is black, white and red with the Reich colors in the upper inner corner".

In May 1926, Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg issued a new flag regulation at the request of the non-party Reichskanzler Hans Luther and his cabinet, according to which, in addition to the Reich flag, the black, white and red trade flag could also be displayed in German representations in European sea trading ports and outside Europe. After heated debates and protests from the SPD, DDP, Center, trade unions and the leftist Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold military association, as well as a successful motion of no confidence from the DDP, Chancellor Luther had to resign with his cabinet, but the new flag order remained in place.

On 23 May 1949, the FRG once again adopted the black, red, and gold flag. The second German state, the GDR, also opted for black, red and gold, but from 1959 added the hammer and compass emblem surrounded by a wreath of wheat.[5]


In 1920, the German economy laid in ruins, notably by the loss to Poland of almost all the Silesian industrial regions and the French demands in the Rhineland and Ruhr. This led to hyper-inflation. The depreciation of the currency hit the middle classes particularly hard; they lost most of their savings as all capital investments tied to the Reichsmark were literally wiped out. The nation's printing presses, which had constantly churned out floods of paper money, were brought to a standstill on 15 October 1923 by the establishment of the Rentenbank and the Reichstag passing a new law that prohibited the State from unnecessarily expanding the money supply. Both measures enabled confidence to be restored in the currency and the economy, aided by the Dawes Plan and foreign credit (mainly from the USA) began a significant recovery, although not in every field. After 1924 agricultural products from the USA, South America and Australia flooded the German market and brought down prices. The economic boom of the 1920s therefore had feet of clay. Although the export industry experienced a rapid improvement, the general domestic market made only slow progress and even stagnated in many areas.

The Government were also rearming slowly, at considerable cost, during the 1920s, secretly (see below), as well as publicly: by 1927 the 'K' class of modern light cruisers - Königsberg, Köln, Karlsruhe and Leipzig had been added to the fleet. In October 1928 construction began on the first Panzerschiffe or pocket battleship, the Deutschland (later renamed Lützow), which was launched in May 1931. The second of this class, the Admiral Scheer, was laid down in June 1931 and launched on 1st April 1933, after the new National Socialist government had entered office[6]. (This demonstrates the propaganda myth that the National Socialist government were soley responsible for Germany's re-armament.)

On 25 October 1929, The Great Crash, or Black Friday, occurred, commonly known as the beginning of 'The Depression'. When the repercussions had fully hit the economy of the Weimar Republic, their welfare state was faced with bills that it was no longer able to pay. After the USA, Germany was the country most strongly affected by the world economic crisis that had begun in Wall Street, New York. High levels of unemployment, even before the crisis, State debt, industry and agriculture, the consequences of inflation and the psychological and political repercussions of war reparations, now created significant social unrest.[7]

Discontent and insecurity generally was widespread in all branches of the economy, among employers as well as workers. It is still a matter for debate whether misjudged economic and social policies led to the downfall of the Weimar Republic, which in any case was unable to avoid the Depression. The modern notion that the forces of capital were to blame for the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists by giving them 'a foot up' is said to be no longer convincing - even if large sections of industry and the employers did have nationalist, anti-republican and anti-Bolshevik tendencies.[8] Certainly numerous industrialists and financiers aided the National Socialists.[9]

On 30 January 1933 a new National Socialist dominated government was elected, inheriting the Weimar Republic's "exceedingly precarious financial situation".[10]


On 16 October 1925 the Treaty of Locarno was signed by Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain and Italy. Weimar Germany agreed to recognise and accept Germany's new western borders with France and Belgium, but left the eastern borders questions (with Poland) in abeyance as "unsettled".[11]

Following the installation by elections of the new National Socialist Government on 30 January 1933, the Foreign Ministry telegraphed embassies abroad stating that "any apprehensions regarding future German foreign policy should be met by reference to the Foreign Minister (Baron von Neurath), who has been a member of the last two Cabinets and who has the confidence of the President to conduct foreign policy. Continuity of policies is guaranteed."[12]

Soviet Union

Gustav Stresemann, the best-known of the Weimar Republic's Foreign Affairs Ministers (1923-29).
Lipetsk 1927. A Fokker D fighter has flipped over after an emergency landing. Men are trying to right the plane.

Weimar Germany was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with the new Soviet Union. On 16 April, 1922 during the Genoa Conference, the Weimar Republic signed an agreement in Rapallo, Italy, which meant the political recognition of Soviet Russia by Germany, the establishment of diplomatic relations between them and expansive economic cooperation. In addition the two States mutually cancelled all pre-war debts and renounced war claims.[13]

Germany sought to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles, imposed by the Western plutocratic Allies, by engaging in secret agreements with the Soviet Union covering a wide range of matters, throughout the 1920s. In 1921 a number of German firms (among them Junkers, Krupp, and Stolzenberg) were encouraged - and partly financed - by the Reichswehr to provide military-technical assistance for Russia in the reconstruction of her shattered armaments industry. By 1924 German assistance had led to the creation of a joint German-Soviet company for the manufacture of poison gas, a factory for aircraft production organized as a German concession, and a number of Soviet munitions plants under the supervision of German technicians. The purpose of the 1926 Treaty of Berlin was to stabilize the German-Soviet partnership. The hard core of the agreement was a promise by Germany and the Soviet Union that they would maintain scrupulous neutrality in any conflict stemming from an unprovoked attack on one of them by another state. The signatories further promised that in the event of such a crisis they would not participate in economic or financial measures against each other. Germany also exchanged notes saying that while it was a member off the League of Nations that would not conflict with a policy of friendship towards the USSR and promised it would "energetically oppose" anti-Soviet machinations at Geneva. Meanwhile their military relations and co-operation were shrouded in secrecy. This co-operation had indispensable technical military benefits not obtainable elsewhere. It allowed the Germans to test weapons and equipment denied them by Versailles and to train military personnel in their use. The Soviets used it to exploit German military and technical prowess in the development of their deficient and backward military establishment. Of three German bases eventually put into operation the first and most important was a flying school at Lipetsk, about 250 miles south-west of Moscow, which was started in 1924. It conducted its initial training course for fighter pilots the following year. Observer training was added to its programme in 1928, the year that also saw Lipetsk emerge as an important centre for the technical and operational testing of prototypes of new German combat aircraft. The testing projects, which at one stage required the services of as many as 200 German technicians, enabled the Reichswehr and German aircraft firms to freeze proven types of fighter planes and short and long-term reconnaissance aircraft for eventual mass production. The Red Army, for its part, shared fully in the benefits of both programmes, which included a tank school and testing centre near Kazan, first used as a training ground for tanks, artillery and communications after 1926. It entered its most important phase in 1929 as a testing site for prototypes of heavy and light tanks developed by Krupp and Rheinmetall on contract to the Reichswehr, and the adaption of foreign-made tanks for German purposes. It is argued that these clandestine military ties played a crucial role in the build-up of the German and to a lesser extent the Soviet military establishments, especially by the Reichswehr, which also had bases on Soviet soil for the development of prohibited (to them) types of weapons.[14]

Stalin has been said to have later helped Hitler to come to power by forbidding German Communists to make common cause with the Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) against the National Socialists. Stalin is also said to have viewed the National Socialists and Germany as an "icebreaker", intended to be one part of new war between capitalist countries, similar to The Great War, which would make them weakened and then easily conquered by Communist uprisings and invasions.

By the early months of 1933 "Russia had become the largest buyer of German industrial products."[15]

Jewish influence and anti-Semitism

Dr. jur. Bernhard Weiß, Jewish lawyer and Vice-President of the Berlin police during the Weimar Republic

Jewish influence and anti-Semitism are seen as significant aspects of the Weimar Republic. Jews were often prominent in stab in the back theories during and after The Great War and seen as influential during the German Revolution of 1918–19. This naturally led to the criticism of the relationship between Jews and Communism and Jewish influence in attempted Communist coups in Germany, such as Munich, and elsewhere. The first generation of Weimar's Frankfurt School were all Jews, and the Institute of Social Research itself was funded by a Jewish millionaire, Felix Weil.

With the fall of the German Empire restrictions on Jews, such as appointments to higher governmental positions, were removed. Jews seemed to surface all over the place: Weimar's Otto Landsberg was a member of the 'Revolutionary Council of the People's Deputies' that took power during the German Revolution of 1918–19; he then served as the first Minister of Justice and in that capacity, he also was a member of the German delegation that went to Versailles to receive the Allies' imposed Treaty of Versailles. In these respects he was for many a marked man. The first Minister of Finance was Eugen Schiffer (Feb-April 1919); from October 1919 to March 1920, he was deputy head of government and Minister of Justice. In 1921, he once more became Minister of Justice. Schiffer was a co-founder of two liberal parties, the German Democratic Party (DDP) during the Weimar Republic as well as the fake Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (LDPD) of communist East Germany (DDR) in 1946. Bernhard Dernburg followed Landsberg as Minister of Finance; he was also Vice-chancellor of Germany from 17 April to 20 June 1919. From February to June 1922 the Foreign Minister was Walther Rathenau; all were Jews. In the author Volker Kutscher's faction book (2007) (and subsequent film series), Babylon Berlin (2017), set in 1929, the Head of Berlin's Political Police was the Jewish Superintendent Herr Benda (based upon the real-life Jew in that position, Bernhard Weiß).

The relationship between Jews and finance was seen by many as related to the 1920s hyperinflation and later the Great Depression. On August 26, 1936 the British Embassy in Berlin compiled a researched report and sent it to the Foreign Office in London, stating that "in 1931 out of 3,450 lawyers in Berlin, 1,925 were Jews. In Breslau the numbers were 285 and 192, and in Frankfurt-on-Main 659 and 432 respectively. In Berlin the number of Jewish doctors was 52%, while in most towns the average was 30%. Fifteen Jewish bankers are stated to have held 718 director-ships in banks and commercial undertakings. Of theatre directors, 50.4% were Jews. Although Jews formed less than one per cent of the total population, there is a widespread feeling that they blocked the approaches to all the leading positions in the State, monopolising them for themselves." [16]

Critics, such as the National Socialists, saw Jewish influence as contributing factor in degeneracy. Examples abound: Magnus Hirschfeld, an Ashkenazi Jew founded the World League for Sexual Reform and the Institute for Sexology in Berlin, which promoted homosexuality and a range of other degeneracies. Other examples were in the arts: atonal [music], jazz, 'modern art', etc. (See the Degenerate art article.)

A less well-known aspect is the anti-Semitism and extensive restrictions on Jewish influence in Poland after the new State was established in 1919 and stepped up in the 1930s. This contributed to the migration of many Jews to Germany, which has been argued to have contributed to an increase in anti-Semitism in Germany.


  • “We shall realise that which Fichte has given to the German nation as its task. We want to establish a state of justice and truthfulness founded upon the equality of all humanity.” – Friedrich Ebert, first Reichspräsident of the Weimar Republic, on 19 February 1919[17]
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

See also

Further reading

  • Ludwig, Emil, Hindenburg, Heinemann, London & Toronto, 1935. (German edition by Querido Verlag, Amsterdam, Jan 1935.)
  • Barraclough, Professor Geoffrey, The Origins of Modern Germany, Blackwells, Oxford, 1949, chapter 14 (iv).
  • Watt, Richard M., The King's Depart - The Tragedy of Germany, Literary Guild, London, 1969, ISBN: 297-17858-X.
  • Kimmich, Professor Christoph M., Germany and the League of Nations, University of Chicago Press, 1976, ISBN: 0-226-43534-2.
  • Craig, Gordon A,., Germany 1866-1945, Clarendon Press, Oxford, U.K., 1978, republished 1988, ISBN:M 0-19-822113-4, chapters XI to XV.
  • Koch, Professor H. W., A Constitutional History of Germany, Longmans, London, 1984, ISBN: 0-582-49182-7, chapters 7 and 8.
  • Palmer, Torsten, and Neubauer, Henrik, The Weimar Republic, Lonemann, Cologne, 2000, ISBN 3-8290-2697-8

External links


  1. The Deluge - The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931, by Professor Adam Tooze, London 2014, p.490, ISBN: 978-1-846-14034-1
  2. Lied der Deutschen
  3. "Das Lied der Deutschen", unofficially already a hit, was not played at an official ceremony until Germany and the United Kingdom had agreed on the Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, when it appeared only appropriate to sing it at the ceremony on the now officially German island of Heligoland. During the time of the German Empire it became one of the most widely known patriotic songs. The song became very popular after the 1914 Battle of Langemarck during World War I, when, supposedly, several German regiments, consisting mostly of students no older than 20, attacked the British lines on the Western front singing the song, suffering heavy casualties. They are buried in the Langemark German war cemetery in Belgium. On 11 August 1922, German President Friedrich Ebert made it the official German national anthem.
  4. Get Schooled by the World’s First Sexology Institute of 1920s Berlin
  5. Vor 100 Jahren: National­versammlung stimmt Reichsfarben Schwarz-Rot-Gold zu
  6. German Pocket Battleships by Gordon Williamson, Osprey Publishing, UK, 2003, ISBN 1-84176-501-5
  7. Palmér & Neubauer, 2000, p.153.
  8. Palmér & Neubauer, 2000, p.118-119: "The German Economy Takes Off"
  9. Thyssen, Fritz, I Paid Hitler, Hodder & Stourton, London, Nov 1941.
  10. Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, by an editorial committee, Series C, vol.1, p.257, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1957.
  11. Grenville, Professor J. A. S., The Major International Treaties 1914-1973, Methuen & Co., London, 1974, pps:101-107. ISBN: 416-09070-2.
  12. German Documents, 1957, p.1.
  13. Grenville, 1974, p.139-140.
  14. Dyck, Harvey Leonard (Columbia University), Weimar Germany and Soviet Russia 1926-1933, Chatto & Windus, London, 1966, pps: 13 & 18-23.
  15. Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, by an editorial committee, Series C, vol.1, p.259, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London, 1957.
  16. Medlicott, Professor W.N., Dakin, Professor Douglas, Bennett, Gillian, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Second Series, vol.xvii, HMSO London, 1979, p.175.
  17. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814)