Weimar Republic

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
German Empire
Weimar Republic
Flag of the German Empire 1919–1933 Coat of arms of the German Empire 1919–1928
flag coat of arms
German Empire (1871-1918) navigation Flag of Germany (1935–1945) .svg
Constitution Constitution of the German Empire of August 11, 1919
Official language German
Capital Berlin
Form of government Federal Republic
Government system semi-presidential system
Head of State
- 1919 to 1925
- 1925 to 1934
Reich President
Friedrich Ebert
Paul von Hindenburg
Prime Minister
- 1919
- 1919 bis 1933

Reich Minister President Reich
( list )
surface 468,787 km²
- 1925

Population density
- 1925
- 1933

133 inhabitants per km²
139 inhabitants per km²
currency Mark , Rentenmark , Reichsmark
proclamation November 9, 1918
National anthem Deutschlandlied , from August 11, 1922
National holiday Constitution Day on August 11th (signing of the democratic constitution)
Time zone UTC + 1 CET
License Plate D.
Map of the German Empire

The Weimar Republic (also known as the German Republic at the time ) is the period in German history from 1918 to 1933 when parliamentary democracy first existed in Germany. This epoch replaced the constitutional monarchy of the imperial era and began with the proclamation of the republic on November 9, 1918. It ended with the takeover of power by the NSDAP and the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor on January 30, 1933.

The Weimar Republic emerged in the course of the November Revolution . This designation of the first German republic to be realized at national level can be traced back to the city of Weimar , where the constituent national assembly was the first to meet . However, the state name German Empire was retained.

After initially the Council of the People's Deputies , the governance was exercised, the decision was to Empire'Raetekongress' the on January 19, 1919 election to the German National Assembly held. On February 11, the National Assembly elected Friedrich Ebert as Reich President , who on February 13 appointed the Scheidemann cabinet . The Weimar Constitution came into force on August 14, 1919. It constituted the German Reich as a federal republic . The head of state was the Reich President, who was directly elected by the people for a term of office of seven years and who, as part of the executive, had extensive powers . The government was led by the Reich Chancellor, who was to be appointed and dismissed by the Reich President and who was responsible to the German Reichstag . As a representative body with extensive legislative, budget and control rights, the Reichstag was elected for a legislative period of four years according to proportional representation. The Reichsrat represented the states . The parliaments at the state level were called state parliaments , and in January 1919 the first was formed in the Free State of Mecklenburg-Strelitz .

After the founding phase, the history of the Weimar Republic can be divided into three sections. In the crisis years from 1919 to 1923, the republic had to struggle with the immediate consequences of the war, hyperinflation as well as numerous attempts at overthrowing and political murders . In the years from 1924 to 1929 it experienced a time of relative stability, economic recovery and foreign policy recognition and appreciation. The global economic crisis from the end of 1929, the presidential cabinets after the breakup of the grand coalition on March 27, 1930 and the rise of the National Socialists ultimately led to their downfall.

Culturally, the Weimar Republic was shaped by the first breakthrough in mass culture in Germany (" Golden Twenties ": radio , cinema , light music, etc.) as well as by avant-garde currents in the arts, some of which were already established in the prewar period.

Main features

The republic had inherited several structural problems from the imperial era, such as the economic and social order as well as the denominational school policy. In addition, there were phenomena that directly influenced the failure of Weimar democracy :

  • The First World War left heavy economic and social burdens. In particular, the factual expropriation of many citizens through hyperinflation and the reparations demanded under the Versailles Treaty proved to be a burden - not least of all psychological issues - and provided the opponents of the republic with ammunition for their agitation against the “policy of compliance ”.
  • Since the democratic politicians in the empire were excluded from conducting state affairs, they continued to rely on the existing personnel in the military, administration and judiciary , who, however, largely rejected the republican form of government and democracy. With the exception of Prussia , there was no fundamental democratization of the civil service. The often politically motivated judgments of the judiciary were symptomatic of this: right-wing offenders were often given much milder judgments than left-wing ones.
  • Large sections of the population also rejected bourgeois democracy and the republic: Conservatives and right-wing extremists represented the stab in the back legend , according to which it was not the imperial but the new democratic government that was responsible for the war defeat and the peace treaty of Versailles, which was perceived as humiliating. On the left, the fighting during the November Revolution had led to an irreconcilable stance on the part of the Communists towards the Social Democrats , which prevented them from taking joint action against the enemies of the republic.

The Weimar constitution was considered one of the most progressive of all in its time. After the March Revolution of 1848, it was the second - and first successful - attempt to establish a liberal democracy in Germany. The thesis that was already widespread among contemporaries that the state of Weimar was a “democracy without democrats” is only partially correct, but points to a major problem: There was no sustainable constitutional consensus that included all parts of the political spectrum from right to left would have. After the death of the first Reich President , the SPD politician Friedrich Ebert , Paul von Hindenburg, a conservative successor who was emphatically critical of the republican form of government , was elected in 1925 .

Most of the political parties at the time of the Weimar Republic had adopted their ideological orientation from their immediate predecessors in the German Empire and largely represented the interests of their respective clientele. The division into interest groups and social milieus such as the labor movement or Catholics was scolded as particularism . In the Reichstag , the parliament, up to 17 and rarely less than 11 different parties were represented at times. There have been 20 cabinet changes in 14 years. Eleven minority cabinets were dependent on toleration from parties that did not belong to the governing coalition .

The relative stabilization of the Weimar Republic after the end of the Great Inflation ended with the economic and social upheavals that followed Black Thursday of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929 in Germany. The withdrawal of short-term loans from American investors, which had fueled an upswing in the meantime, contributed significantly to the onset of the economic depression: sluggish sales of goods, declining production, mass layoffs and unemployment, together with dwindling purchasing power, caused a downward spiral of unprecedented proportions that the social security systems currently in development did not had grown.

Since there was no government supported by the Reichstag majority since March 1930, Reich President Hindenburg and the Reich Chancellors appointed by him ruled from then on primarily with the help of emergency ordinances . The 1930 Reichstag elections brought about the rise of the right-wing Nazi party to become a major force in the Weimar party spectrum. Since the summer of 1932, the anti-republic and anti-democratic parties, in addition to the NSDAP, the right-wing German National People's Party (DNVP) and the left-wing radical Communist Party of Germany (KPD), together had a negative majority in the Reichstag. With the DNVP and other right-wing conservative forces, a new constellation of forces was formed around Adolf Hitler as the party leader of the National Socialists in early 1933. Appointed Reich Chancellor on January 30th, Hitler quickly succeeded in destroying the democratic, constitutional and federal structures of the republic and in enforcing his dictatorship .


Commemorative plaque for the name and constitution-giving Weimar National Assembly at the Great House of the German National Theater in Weimar

Contemporary supporters and opponents of the republic spoke primarily of the German republic . The two social democratic parties wanted to enforce this designation as a state name in the National Assembly in 1919 because they wanted to emphasize the new beginning of the state. The word empire should be avoided because of the imperial claim it implies. The liberal parties, including the constitutional lawyer Hugo Preuss , wanted to keep the tradition of the state name German Reich . The representatives of the center and the German nationalists agreed. Later, however, parts of the right took the view that the republic did not deserve the old name. The first constitutional article The German Reich is a republic was therefore a compromise.

The connection with the city name Weimar was initially only used in connection with the constitution; It was not until 1929, on its tenth anniversary, that backward-looking conservatives, the National Socialist Hitler and the Communist organ spoke of the Weimar Republic . In 1932 this expression appeared in the Vossische Zeitung , which was loyal to the republic .

Early reviews of the republic also rarely used the term. Arthur Rosenberg 's 1935 work was called History of the German Republic . Later new editions of this and other books used the term “Weimar Republic” in the title or in the subtitle. It was only after the Second World War that it became generally accepted in journalism and historical research. In 1946 the first work was published with the title Weimar Republic . After the founding of the Federal Republic was this analogously based on the location of the constitution by many as the Bonn Republic , sometimes called the "Second Republic", in contrast to the "First Republic" of Weimar. Today the terms Weimar Republic , Bonn Republic and Berlin Republic serve to distinguish between the three democratic historical epochs of Germany.


Foundation of a republic (1918/1919)

Shortly before the proclamation of the republic: The SPD politician Philipp Scheidemann speaks to the people from a window in the Reich Chancellery , November 9, 1918
Scheidemann proclaims the republic on the west balcony (second window north of the portico) of the Reichstag .

The sociopolitical developments that led to the emergence of the Weimar Republic were largely determined by the domestic and foreign political constellations and the balance of power that occurred in Germany at the end of the First World War. There were significant impact factors

  1. the surprising admission of military defeat by the Supreme Army Command (OHL),
  2. the energetically accelerated transformation of the system of rule into a parliamentary monarchy in the course of October 1918 ( October reform ),
  3. the revolutionary movement of soldiers and workers set in motion by the seamen mutinying against further war missions in November 1918 and
  4. the establishment of a parliamentary democracy, which was widely supported by the majority Social Democrats and decided by the Reichsrätekongress in December 1918.

The fact that the Chancellor needed the trust of the Reichstag majority in future was not only significant as a constitutional innovation, but also reflected different motives in the given situation: By approaching the demands formulated by US President Woodrow Wilson , it was hoped for milder peace conditions. The OHL, however, wanted to shift the responsibility for a difficult peace agreement on to the representatives of the people. When the American response to the German ceasefire request was essentially aimed at the military capitulation of the German Reich and the abdication of the Kaiser, the OHL turned around and ordered the troops to continue fighting. The triggering moment for the November Revolution that followed was the order of the Naval War Command on October 30th to let the deep sea fleet sail, which had the approval of Kaiser Wilhelm II , but not that of Chancellor Prince Max von Baden . Apparently, the naval command was concerned with "reversing the shift in power within the country and helping the military to regain that dominant position to which it believed it had a historical claim."

The refusal of orders and the revolt of the marines in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel against the seemingly pointless self-sacrifice became a signal of revolution for all of Germany. From northern Germany, were mainly in the cities of workers 'and soldiers' councils formed the previous Empire State violence against emerged as new local organs of power. By the end of November 1918, all 22 monarchs in the German Reich had formally abdicated or resigned. In Bavaria, under the leadership of Kurt Eisner , the Free State was proclaimed on November 7th and a Soviet republic was founded. The main political forces behind the spontaneous council movement were mainly the members and supporters of the social democratic parties MSPD and USPD . They proved to be capable of local self-organization, made demands for an end to the war and the state in authority, as well as for the humanization of military discipline, and established themselves as a regulatory factor alongside and instead of the no longer sufficiently legitimized and disintegrating state power.

In Berlin, on November 9, 1918, events rolled over. First of all, Prince Max von Baden entrusted his Reich Chancellery to MSPD chairman Friedrich Ebert - a process that was not provided for in the constitution. On the same day, Ebert's party friend Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the "German Republic" on the parliamentary-democratic line from the balcony of the Reichstag; at about the same time, the spokesman for the Spartakusbund and later co-founder of the KPD , Karl Liebknecht , proclaimed the "free socialist republic" in the Berlin Tiergarten and about two hours later from the balcony of the Berlin City Palace .

In order to keep the revolutionary events under control in the interests of its own goals, the MSPD offered the USPD equal participation in a provisional revolutionary government, the Council of People's Representatives . Ebert chaired it and came to an understanding with General Wilhelm Groener, who had moved up to the OHL leadership, about mutual support to restore orderly conditions. The Council of People's Representatives received its provisional legitimation from the Executive Council of the Workers and Soldiers Council of Greater Berlin, which was also hastily constituted . The fundamental decision on the future political system in all of Germany was made at the Reichsrätekongress in December 1918, which on the one hand, with a large majority, rejected the application to adhere to the council system (i.e. granting the workers 'and soldiers' councils the highest legislative and executive power), and secondly instead scheduled elections to a constituent national assembly for January 19, 1919 .

The form of organization of the workers 'and soldiers' councils had been adopted from the Russian Revolution in 1917; The establishment of the Bolshevik dictatorship and the resulting Russian civil war, however, were predominantly a deterrent example for the German Social Democrats. The street-fighting resistance against the policy of the Council of People's Representatives, particularly mobilized in the Spartacus uprising , was put down in January 1919 with the help of free-form troops, the political ones Heads of the uprising, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered on January 15, 1919.

The fact that the German constituent assembly met in Weimar was due to the persistently troubled situation in Berlin; However, Ebert also promoted this conference location on the grounds that it would be perceived as pleasant all over the world, “if one combines the spirit of Weimar with the construction of the new German Empire.” In addition, the choice of location was intended to be separatist tendencies and one against Prussia and Berlin-directed antipathy in southern Germany can be counteracted. From the beginning, the tasks of the Weimar National Assembly went beyond the role of the constitution-maker in many ways, because it also had to fulfill all the tasks of a parliament. This already included the election of Reich President Friedrich Ebert and the formation of a government in February 1919. This was able to build on the Reichstag constellations at the time of the October reform of 1918, as the elections to the National Assembly gave the parties MSPD, DDP and Zentrum , which now formed the Weimar coalition , an extremely comfortable majority of 329 out of a total of 421 members. On this basis, Philipp Scheidemann became the first head of government of the Weimar Republic.

Scheidemann himself, however, put this majority to a severe test when in May and June 1919 he categorically opposed the signing of the Versailles Treaty : “Which hand should not wither that puts itself and us in this fetter?” When it became apparent that Under the pressure of the ultimatum of the victorious powers a majority of the Social Democratic MPs would vote for the acceptance of the treaty, he resigned. Gustav Bauer was his successor . The Versailles Treaty was adopted in the National Assembly on June 22, 1919 by 237 votes to 138, with 6 abstentions. With the final vote on the adoption of the constitution on July 31, 1919 and its entry into force on August 14, the founding phase of the Weimar Republic ended. After negotiations and compromises, which were difficult until the end, 265 MPs had spoken out in favor of the Weimar Constitution and 75 against; 86 members of the National Assembly stayed away from the vote, mostly from the ranks of the Weimar coalition.

Early crisis years (1919–1923)

From the beginning, the young republic was exposed to attacks from the extreme right and left. The left accused the Social Democrats of betraying the ideals of the workers' movement because of their association with the old elites; the right blamed the supporters of the republic for the defeat in the First World War, vilified them as " November criminals " and insinuated that they had stabbed the German army, undefeated in the field, from behind with the revolution (→  stab in the back legend ).

Kapp Putsch 1920 in Berlin: Soldiers of the Ehrhardt Marine Brigade hoist the war flag of the German Empire in black, white and red .

The Kapp Putsch of March 1920 put the republic to the first test. Freikorps (which were to be dissolved according to the Versailles Treaty) occupied the Berlin government district under the leadership of General von Lüttwitz and appointed the former Prussian general landscape director Wolfgang Kapp as Reich Chancellor. The legal government withdrew first to Dresden and then to Stuttgart and from there called for a general strike against the putschists. The coup failed quickly, not least because of the refusal of the ministerial bureaucracy to obey Kapp's orders. The Reichswehr, on the other hand, had proven to be unreliable and behaved in a wait-and-see manner according to the motto advocated by the head of the Troop Office, Hans von Seeckt , that the Reichswehr did not shoot at the Reichswehr or troops should not shoot at the troops.

In the course of the Kapp Putsch, parts of the workforce did not leave it at passive resistance, but instead armed themselves against the putschists. Especially in the Ruhr area , where the dissatisfaction about the lack of socialization measures was particularly high, councils were formed again to seek a local takeover of power. In the so-called Ruhr uprising led to civil war battles between the " Red Ruhr Army " and units of the coup and after the failure of Bielefeld Agreement for the bloody suppression of the uprising by military units deployed Empire and volunteer corps. In Bavaria, on the other hand, the Kapp Putsch led to an anti-republican government reshuffle, which in the long term turned the Free State into an authoritarian " regulatory cell " within the Weimar state as a whole and a reservoir for right-wing conservative and reactionary forces. The unstable political conditions in the early phase of the Weimar Republic were also evident in the 1920 Reichstag election , in which the Weimar coalition, which had previously ruled with a three-quarters majority, was voted out.

The extreme right-wing motivated murders of members of the Consul organization of important representatives of the young republic: Finance Minister Matthias Erzberger in August 1921 and Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in June 1922, who are considered compliant "fulfillment politicians" in relation to had defamed the Versailles Treaty. While Erzberger was hostile to the signing of the armistice agreement in 1918, Rathenau, as Foreign Minister, was responsible for the reparations problem, among other things. He had also tried to break through the external isolation of Germany after the First World War through the Treaty of Rapallo concluded with the Russian Federal Soviet Socialist Republic . But even as a Jew, he attracted right-wing extremist hatred (see also Antisemitism Weimar ). The mass solidarity expressed in funeral procession for the murdered, on the one hand, and the passing of a “ Republic Protection Act ”, on the other hand, were intended to put a stop to the right-wing enemies of the Weimar Republic. But the judges, who were conservative during the imperial era, contributed mild judgments against right-wing extremist state criminals to ensure that they could not be deterred permanently from their activities.

The political decisions that brought the Weimar Republic to the brink of collapse in 1923 were set in both German and French politics. The minority government of the non-party Reich Chancellor Wilhelm Cuno ( Cuno's cabinet November 22, 1922 to August 12, 1923), which was tolerated by the Social Democrats, aimed in a demonstrative continuation of the course “First bread, then reparations!” Despite other options at a concession by the Allies that the German The reparations capacity had already been exceeded, while the French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré saw the non-fulfillment of the German reparations deliveries as a lever to achieve the separation of the Rhineland from the German Reich , which the British refused to do in Versailles .

One million marks banknotes, used as a notepad, October 1923
NSDAP meeting in the Bürgerbräukeller, around 1923

After the reparations commission found insufficient German coal deliveries , French and Belgian troops marched into the Rhineland on January 11, 1923. Passive resistance against the occupation of the Ruhr was organized on site by the German side in coordination with the Reich government , with the Reich assuming all downtime costs for the companies in the occupied area and their employees without any productive equivalent. The French side also paid 'extra' rather than profiting from the occupation. The German financial crisis became more and more dramatic in the course of 1923. Financing the war on the Ruhr and compensating for the resulting production losses and loss of tax revenue solely through printing new banknotes led to a dramatic increase in inflation , in which the paper mark finally lost more than half of its purchasing power within one day . In view of the associated economic and social upheaval, resistance to the Ruhr crumbled. With the Rhenish Republic there was a split-off movement (albeit only briefly successful), as a result of which parts of the wage workers became increasingly radicalized. In Saxony and Thuringia this led to communist government participation under social democratic prime ministers. In the meantime, in the Reichstag, the Social Democrats in the Cuno government had failed to tolerate and entered a grand coalition under DVP Chancellor Gustav Stresemann . On September 23, 1923, he ended the Ruhr Resistance in order to enable the planned and urgently needed currency reform in October / November 1923 to be successful. At the changeover date on November 15, 1923 (1 Rentenmark = 1 trillion paper marks at 4.20 Rentenmarks for the dollar), the state was practically debt-free due to inflation, mainly at the expense of its savvy citizens. The inflation winners included property owners and those who had taken on large debts: they could easily repay their loans with devalued money.

The breaking of the Ruhr resistance was branded treason by the nationalist right, especially in Bavaria. In violation of the Weimar Constitution , a state of emergency was declared for Bavaria and the executive power was transferred to Gustav Ritter von Kahr as State Commissioner General. The Reichswehr, headed by General Hans von Seeckt , the head of the Army Command , who in this situation developed his own government ambitions directed against the left-wing parties and Weimar parliamentarism, only behaved loyally to the Stresemann government on its own terms: Against the communist government participation in Saxony and Thuringia, which aimed at a “German October” , a “ Reich execution ” (Art. 48, Paragraph 1) was carried out. But they weren't ready to take action against Bayern. Here by v. Kahr, in cooperation with the Bavarian military district commander Otto von Lossow, prepared a military action aimed at the overthrow of the Reich government. The NSDAP leader Adolf Hitler , who, following the example of the Italian fascists under Benito Mussolini, claimed his own leading role in a “March on Berlin”, tried to subjugate his rivals in a violent coup , but failed with the Hitler putsch on November 9th 1923. With this rift between the right-wing forces among themselves, the threat to the republic from Bavaria was initially defused and the way was cleared for a currency reform that should open up new opportunities for the Weimar state.

Relative stabilization (1924–1929)

The catastrophe of the Weimar Republic, which was averted at the end of 1923, was followed by almost half a decade of internal consolidation and foreign policy understanding, albeit without a solid foundation for this fundamentally parliamentary democracy. With the recognition of the reparation obligation, the reintegration of Germany into the state system of the time and into the world markets was promoted, but it also established a strong dependence on the inflow of American capital: a partly borrowed and only apparent stability.

Economic policy framework

Rentenmark issue on November 15, 1923

An essential basis for the relative stabilization was the new regulation of the reparations question by the Dawes Plan . In it, the future annual payments with regard to scope, composition and transfer security were regulated without setting a final total amount. The latter was supposed to be guaranteed by the American financial expert Parker Gilbert as a reparations agent, who in this function was also able to directly influence German tax and financial policy in order to ensure currency stability. The long uncertain acceptance of the Dawes Plan in the Reichstag - parts of the right spoke of a "new enslavement of the German people", the KPD of the enslavement not only of the German proletariat - brought about an influx of American loans from state funds as well after the Weimar Republic by private investors, which served on the one hand as start-up financing for the reparation services, on the other hand as economic recovery aid.

However, the economic consolidation after hyperinflation was largely at the expense of wage workers and the economic middle class. The eight-hour day as a major social achievement of the revolution of 1918/19 was often watered down and given up; the civil service was affected by massive job cuts and wage cuts; Rationalization and concentration processes in the large-scale industrial sector continued and deprived many small and medium-sized enterprises of their livelihood. The inflation-damaged savers and creditors remained in fact without any appreciable compensation.

"Class society in transition"

Hans Bredow laying the foundation stone of the new radio building on Reichskanzlerplatz in Berlin in 1929
A little dance by six-day travelers in the early hours of the
morning at the Berlin Six-Day Race, 1927

The welfare state guarantees contained in the Weimar Constitution stood in striking contrast to the many experiences of social decline and only had a limited effect. After all, from 1924 those who were impoverished or economically ruined as small savers by inflation were able to take advantage of state-organized social welfare that replaced the previous poor relief. The new system was, however, characterized by “petty means tests by an anonymous social bureaucracy” and only allowances to secure the subsistence level. During the brief boom of macroeconomic recovery and economic optimism, unemployment insurance was introduced in 1927, in some respects the “climax of the social expansion of the republic”, even if it benefited only part of the workforce and did not cover long-term unemployment.

The parliamentarism of the Weimar democracy was an expression of a party landscape that was strongly shaped and fragmented by class and social milieus, in which the interests of the individual constituencies of their own electorate often set narrow limits to the willingness to compromise. This class and status consciousness in the respective social milieus was part of the legacy of the imperial era and continued to have an effect, but was also partly shaped by a consumer and leisure-oriented mass culture that developed in the 1920s, which was driven by new media: records , film and radio . The movie went - and sat in front of the radio - soon people of all classes and strata. The mass culture pointed in the direction of democratization, which was interpreted by the conservative side as intellectual flattening and decline in value. Nonetheless, the class fronts were gradually loosened up by mass culture: a “class society in transition”.

The development of a specific youth movement and youth culture, also going back to the empire and the turn of the century, passed into a new phase against the background of the experience of the world war and revolution of 1918/19: "The 'lost war generation' was followed by the 'superfluous' post-war generations." Conditions at entry into working life, above-average frequency of unemployment and particular vulnerability in terms of social welfare, which not least concerned the next generation of academics . In addition to the rebellion against the ritualized bourgeoisie of the Wilhelminian -influenced parental homes, many young people also turned against the “Americanization” of everyday life that was taking hold in the 1920s. The romantic turn to nature experiences, however, did not necessarily correspond to a reactionary attitude. In the social democratic youth , people went "on a journey" as well as in the middle-class Wandervogel and sang songs from the " Zupfgeigenhansl " on the guitar . "Paths from the youth movement led into more than one political camp and into more than one future."

Cultural freedom and diversity

The image of the " Golden Twenties " reflects less the impending social change or even the political and economic conditions during the Weimar Republic, but a new inspiration and freedom in art and culture. Under the influence of the Expressionist movement , a fascinating variety of styles and an "enormous wealth of ideas and skills" developed: the artists tried their hand at various avant-garde styles such as Cubism , which emerged in 1906, Futurism , which was proclaimed in 1909 , or that which emerged during World War I. Dadaism "to surpass each other in terms of radicalism and willingness to experiment".

Hufeisensiedlung Berlin-Britz, 1925, early form of social housing

The stabilization phase of the republic from 1924 onwards became the era of New Objectivity , the style of which was particularly influenced by the ideas and products of the Bauhaus culture. The associated trend towards "unpathetic utility art ", which had to market its products in a democratic society without patronage , testified to the "objectification" of the entire art business. The objectification had a particular effect in public housing construction , which, with funds now plentifully available, went into industrial series production in the upswing phase after the mid-1920s, especially in some large cities with row houses or row houses : "Steel, concrete, glass, flat roofs and White as the main color. "

Unstable political system

When Reich President Ebert died at the beginning of 1925 at the age of 54 as a result of delayed appendicitis , the candidate of the parties supporting the republic, Wilhelm Marx , was defeated in the 1925 Reich presidential election against the candidate of the nationalist right, Paul von Hindenburg . Admittedly, the latter declared in advance that he wanted to lead the office in accordance with the Weimar Constitution and, under favorable circumstances, could have increased the right-wing acceptance of the republic; on the other hand, his electoral success showed how far the right shift in voter behavior had progressed since the beginnings of Weimar.

Communists demonstrate strength: the Red Front Fighters ' League
march , Berlin-Wedding, 1927

The two Reichstag elections in May and December 1924 were renewed failures for the Weimar coalition, which started so comfortably in 1919 and which only asserted itself as the “bulwark of democracy” in Prussia . Only three out of seven governments between 1924 and 1929 had a majority in the Reichstag. This favored the state-authoritarian and anti-republic thinking, which in any case did not believe in parliamentary democracy and either sought solutions by the state in the spirit of a conservative revolution or sought to eliminate the Weimar system through a proletarian revolution . The weakness of the Reichstag also gave the extra-parliamentary battle groups a lasting importance and political function, which continued alongside the Reichswehr. The steel helmet developed as the most important paramilitary formation of this type , alongside which the National Socialist SA grew in importance in the later years . In order not to leave the streets and halls to the right-wing military organizations for their demonstrations of power, the parties loyal to the republic created the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold from their ranks as a combat alliance counterweight. On the extreme left stood the Red Front Fighters League .

Propaganda car for the "expropriation of princes" in 1926

The plebiscitary elements provided for in the constitution, referendum and referendum , were only used occasionally. In terms of domestic politics, referendums and referendums on the expropriation of princes , initiated by the KPD and supported by the SPD, were particularly significant . In the run-up to the vote, the DNVP invoked the danger of Bolshevism; the right-wing bourgeois camp saw private property as such endangered. In rhetorical exaggeration, the alternative "republic or monarchy" was declared the subject of a vote in which only the principle claims for reimbursement of the German princes expropriated as a result of the November Revolution could be denied or affirmed. A boycott of the voting already helped the opponents of the expropriation of the princes to a rather unconvincing success, as the quorum (participation of the majority of all voters in the vote) was not achieved. However, the fact that 14.5 million votes (36.4%) for the expropriation of the princes came together in June 1926, despite the adverse conditions, especially in rural areas - with considerable proportions of supporters of the bourgeois parties - could mean that a majority of the population was for the republic and against the conservative elite stood.

After the Reichstag election in 1928, the formation of the grand coalition under Chancellor Hermann Müller , supported by a majority in the Reichstag, could have stabilized the Weimar Republic on a parliamentary basis . The fact that this did not happen was only partly due to the strongly divergent positions of the SPD and DVP, for example in the battleship debate . Ultimately, it was the financial problems of the social security system caused by the onset of the global economic crisis that made the differences irreconcilable.

Foreign policy of understanding

With all of the frequent changes in the Reich Chancellery and government cabinets between 1923 and 1928, Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann still had an effective personnel constant until he too, like Ebert before him, had bad health in office and died in 1929. With the change from a “monarchist of the heart” to a “rational republican”, as he witnessed himself, Stresemann exercised a stabilizing influence on the political development of the republic not only as Reich Chancellor in 1923, but throughout the entire duration of his participation in government.

Stresemann in 1926 before the general assembly of the League of Nations

He sought the solution from the shackles of the Versailles Treaty exclusively by peaceful means by way of understanding, but without giving up long-term revision intentions, for example with regard to areas ceded to Poland. By taking the initiative for the Locarno Treaty in 1925 , reaching an understanding with France and securing Germany an equal position in the League of Nations in 1926 , he led the Weimar Republic out of isolation. With the Berlin Treaty , however, a continued unencumbered relationship with the Soviet Union was ensured. As early as 1925 there had been a secret and illegal cooperation between the Reichswehr and the Red Army , in which weapons were tested in the Soviet Union that Germany had banned by the Versailles Treaty: planes, tanks and poison gas .

The favorable effects expected from the Locarno policy on the German side did at least partly materialize: the first Rhineland zone was evacuated in 1925; Franco-German economic relations were expanded through agreements; and the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission to oversee German disarmament left Germany in 1927. In 1928, Stresemann played an important mediating role between the USA and France in the negotiations on the Briand-Kellogg Pact .

When in 1928/29 the Dawes Plan reparation rate was charged in full for the first time, new negotiations took place. In the Young Plan that resulted from this , the question of possible relief was combined with the plan for a final settlement of the reparations question. Instead of the annuity of 2.5 billion Reichsmarks provided for in the Dawes Plan , an average of 2 billion should now be paid in the following 59 years, initially 1.7 billion. With the prospect of what was believed to be a final reparation plan and in view of Germany's willingness to accept a permanent burden until 1988, France agreed in parallel negotiations to withdraw troops from the occupied Rhineland by five years ahead of the Versailles Treaty . For the nationalist right in Germany, it was above all the generational burden of propaganda that fueled their agitation against the Weimar Republic. DNVP and NSDAP carried out a popular referendum that was barely successful and a referendum against the Young Plan that clearly failed in terms of participation in the vote , with which the National Socialists, however, were able to present themselves nationwide in propaganda and to profile themselves on the right edge of the political party spectrum.

Before the fall: the era of the presidential cabinets (1930–1933)

Constitutional celebration in the Berlin stadium with the Reich Banner of the Republic , August 11, 1929
Election results of the Reichstag elections 1919–1933. The KPD (red) and the NSDAP (brown) were radical opponents of the Weimar Republic. The DNVP (orange) had a democratic-conservative and a right-wing radical wing. Around 1928 the conservative wing split off, and the remaining party members decided, under the leadership of Hugenberg , to enter into fundamental opposition and to work together with the NSDAP. The sharp rise in unemployment from 1929 onwards also radicalized many voters. The NSDAP in particular benefited from this, whose share of the vote rose from 2.6% in 1928 to 43.9% in 1933.

After the Great Inflation 1923 caused a few years later, the Great Depression , the second existential crisis of the Weimar democracy. One of the decisive factors was the increasing blockade of the parliamentary system, which from the 1930s onwards was dominated by anti-constitutional parties fighting each other. The core competencies of the Reichstag - forming a government and legislating - were superimposed and replaced by the powers of the Reich President. In the presidential cabinets of Reich Chancellors Brüning, Papen and Schleicher, the constitutionally compliant political intervention rights of the Reich President (emergency ordinances, appointment of the Reich Chancellor, dissolution of the Reichstag), which were intended as a makeshift solution to overcome the crisis, became instruments of regulation that were increasingly used in a direction contrary to democracy. During the long-term socio-economic crisis, this development was favored by the increasing radicalization of voter behavior, which from July 1932 onwards led to a majority of the anti-republican parties NSDAP and KPD in the Reichstag.

Effects of the Great Depression

Feeding of the poor in Berlin in 1931: Goulash cannon of the Reichswehr

The drop in price on Black Thursday of the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929, which led to the global economic crisis , had particularly serious effects in Germany. American investors who had contributed significantly to the economic stabilization of the Weimar Republic on the basis of the Dawes Plan, had retained since 1928 in lending to Germany, as the Fed in the stock market boom in 1928, which preceded the crash, interest rates significantly had raised. Since then, foreign capital has hardly been available, and since 1930 the previously invested credit funds have been withdrawn in several waves. With the onset of a shortage of funds, sales on the domestic market and exports stalled, as protectionist measures to isolate themselves from foreign competition were now spreading . This set in motion an economic downward spiral in which a massive decline in production led to mass layoffs and falling mass purchasing power caused sales to collapse further. Compared to the peak in 1927/28, industrial production fell by more than 43 percent, and steel production by as much as 65 percent. Investment activity practically came to a standstill.

At the same time, rising mass unemployment became a growing burden and financial overload on the social security system, which had just been expanded to include unemployment insurance. In each case in relation to the month of January, the number of unemployed registered at the employment offices rose from 2.85 million in 1929 to more than 3.2 million in 1930 and almost 4.9 million in 1931 to over 6 million in 1932. Only 12 million people were still working regularly . In the big cities particularly affected by unemployment, one encountered long-term unemployed people on the streets with signs: “Look for work at any price”; there were people looking for cheap places to sleep for hours because they could not afford permanent housing, and there were crowds in heated warehouses from those who could not spare money for heating material.

In the summer of 1931, the credit and state financial crisis culminated in a run on the banking institutions, where creditors demanded their deposits back. After two bank holidays (closed days) on July 14th and 15th, the situation was temporarily stabilized by the establishment of a guarantee bank and a bank liability association enforced by emergency ordinance with the help of increased state supervision of the credit system. The escalation came after the plan of a German-Austrian customs union had become known, with which the annexation of German Austria to the German Reich established in the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain should be undermined. The bankruptcy of the Austrian Creditanstalt caused a new wave of recalls from foreign capital to hit the already battered republic in Germany.

Because parallel to the crisis surrounding the Austrian Creditanstalt, it became known that Karstadt was in financial straits, as was the Nordstern insurance . The collapse of the Nordwolle Group was followed by the crisis of its main financier, the Darmstädter und Nationalbank , which was one of the largest German commercial banks at the time. Within a few days, the bank could no longer withstand the onslaught of its investors and closed its counters on July 13th. The Dresdner Bank , which was also heavily burdened with loans for Nordwolle, claimed on July 11, 1931 that it was not in danger - and three days later it was also at an end. After the two general bank holidays on July 14th and 15th, withdrawals were initially only permitted for the most urgent transactions, such as the payment of salaries. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable banks have been provided with money. Loans for the economy were made cheaper by the state and the interest on current bonds was reduced. With large-scale interventions, including the takeover and restructuring of large banks, the government managed to prevent the collapse of the German financial system. The increasing uncertainty and the political crisis of confidence in the population could not be resolved.

Brüning's deflationary policy

Heinrich Brüning , around 1930

From the end of the grand coalition to the first success of the NSDAP in Reichstag elections

In March 1930 the grand coalition of the SPD, Zentrum, DVP and DDP broke up over the socio-political question of how the burdens of unemployment insurance, which had come under cost pressure, could be distributed. After the efforts of the party leader of the Center Party in the Reichstag, Heinrich Brüning , to find a compromise between the coalition wing parties SPD and DVP, which were associated with his own ambitions , the Hermann Müller government resigned on March 27, 1930. The influence group around Hindenburg , leading Reichswehr officers such as Kurt von Schleicher , parts of heavy industry and large-scale agrarians had long been looking for ways to establish a government without and against the SPD. The resulting weakening of parliament was not an obstacle for them, but rather a goal. Before Brüning accepted the appointment as Reich Chancellor on March 30, 1930, he had Hindenburg assured him that he would be able to pursue an independent political course with the help of the president's emergency ordinance law. On April 3rd, with the help of the DNVP, he survived a motion of no confidence brought in by the SPD. However, that Brüning had acted as head of government from the beginning in what was initially a covert presidential regime, it became apparent in July 1930, when his government sought a majority in the Reichstag with increases in unemployment insurance contributions and tax increases to cover the budget. Since this was missed because of the split voting behavior in the DNVP, the government bill then came again as an emergency decree of the Reich President before the Reichstag. When the latter made use of his right on July 18, 1930, also on the basis of Art. 48 WRV, to override the emergency ordinance, Brüning read Hindenburg's prepared ordinance to dissolve the Reichstag in accordance with Art. 25 WRV at the same meeting. Until the new elections on September 14, the emergency ordinance regime could then develop unhindered.

The sensational election success of the NSDAP in the Reichstag election in 1930 , for which there had been signs at the state level, had consequences on several levels:

  • The emergence of the extremists made the formation of a parliamentary majority government less and less likely.
  • The increasingly uncertain political situation led to increased recalls and outflows of foreign capital, which exacerbated the economic downturn. From then on at the latest, the capital market was no longer open to the public sector for refinancing.
  • The social democrats (only after this election they had more seats in the Reichstag than the NSDAP) decided, under the influence of this development, to tolerate Brüning's policy of emergency regulations for the time being in order to prevent even worse things from happening.

Save to the limit

After the hopes of an economic revival in the spring of 1931 were dashed with the banking crisis in the summer and the lack of capital had led to ever greater deficits for the state budget, Brüning's austerity and deflation policy took on ever tougher contours. During his term of office he issued a total of four “ emergency ordinances to secure business and finance”. In it, income tax was increased several times, as was sales tax and various consumption taxes; new types of tax such as a "crisis tax" and a "citizen tax" were introduced.

At the same time, a rigid austerity policy was imposed on the public sector, with the result that it largely failed to buy goods and services in federal states and municipalities: since October 1931, no public buildings were allowed to be built; Funds for repairs and purchases were only released when human life was in immediate danger. With this policy, the Brüning government achieved an active German trade balance for the first time since 1914 ; at the same time, however, the economy was cut off. The further rise in mass unemployment caused - despite the reduced duration of support and reduced entitlement to benefits from unemployment insurance as well as constant cuts in downstream social welfare - ongoing coverage gaps in the state budget, which could not be closed even by a radical reduction in state expenditure.

Nevertheless, Brüning did not deviate from his course, which, on the one hand, he described as having no alternative due to the past experience of inflation and which, on the other hand, he considered the only solution to convince foreign countries that Germany would no longer be able to pay the reparations under such circumstances and that they should consequently be abolished entirely. The Hoover moratorium on the deferral of international payment obligations, which came into force in the summer of 1931 parallel to the German banking crisis and granted the suspension of reparations payments and the inter-allied war debts for one year, did not change Brüning's deflationary policy. He did not expect the possibility of a final waiver of reparations until the beginning of 1933, after the next US presidential election.

After Great Britain abandoned the gold currency standard in September 1931 and improved its terms of trade through the devaluation of the pound sterling , the Brüning government decided to actively promote deflation in order to achieve the same effect: In the “Fourth Emergency Ordinance to Secure the Economy and Finances “On December 8, 1931, wages, salaries, rents, coal and cartel prices and interest rates were reduced and taxes were increased again at the same time. The result was a further worsening of the depression. There was no active economic policy; there was no getting beyond “questionable palliative care” such as the introduction of a voluntary labor service and minor emergency work. It was precisely the disproportionate youth unemployment that prevented the social and political integration of a considerable part of the younger generation and allowed social militancy to grow rapidly, especially in the KPD and NSDAP.

Happily discharged

The longer the economic downturn lasted, without the Brüning government achieving success despite all the hardships prescribed, the less support it had from social interest groups and parties. The Chancellor was all the more dependent on Hindenburg's favor and had to show himself to be compliant, for example in the course of a cabinet reshuffle in October 1931, which was intended to signal a clearer orientation towards the right-wing spectrum, but without the tolerance by the SPD towards Hindenburg had a tense relationship, was allowed to be gambled away. In this phase, the Reichstag actually only had the role of "contradicting motions of censure from the right and left after issuing a bundle of emergency ordinances."

A total of 109 emergency ordinances in Brüning's reign were compared to just 29 laws that were properly passed by the Reichstag. The control function of the Reichstag was also drastically curtailed, with fewer and fewer meetings being held due to frequent adjournments. Until Brüning's fall at the end of May, there were only eight days of meetings in 1932. But Brüning also tried to shield the presidential regime against the participation rights of the federal states and saw the general financial crisis as a lever to disempower them. In particular, the special position of Prussia required consideration, which had to be scraped off in the future through an "implementation" and the abolition of the Prussian state parliament .

Gau meeting of the National Socialists, 1931 in Braunschweig

An extension of the parliamentary tolerance of the presidential regime to the far right, favored by Hindenburg, failed because of the radical anti-republican course not only of the NSDAP under Hitler, but also of the DNVP, meanwhile led by Alfred Hugenberg . When the Harzburg Front was formed in October 1931, both rivaled for leadership in the “national opposition”. Again together, they refused Brüning's approval of the plan to extend Hindenburg's term of office by two-thirds majority resolution of the Reichstag (a procedure that had worked in Ebert's favor in 1923). In the absence of other promising candidates, Brüning had to persuade Hindenburg to run again with the support of parties loyal to the republic, while the KPD put up Ernst Thälmann and the “national opposition” with Theodor Duesterberg for DNVP and Stahlhelm and Hitler for the NSDAP at the same time Candidates presented. When Hindenburg narrowly missed the absolute majority of the vote and in a second ballot again asserted himself against Hitler only with the support of the unloved Social Democrats, he blamed Briining for this. The Reich President was also reluctant to see the government banning the SA and SS in April 1932 with a view to the Boxheim documents and the offensive behavior of the Nazi organizations , which also exposed Hindenburg himself to intensified attacks by the “national opposition”.

The last impetus for Brüning's dismissal was the eastward settlement plans of his government, according to which the Reich Minister of Labor and the Reich Commissioner for Eastern Aid were to ensure that large East Prussian goods that were no longer excusable were acquired by the state and used to settle landless farmers: a form of job creation in rural areas . On the other hand, the spokesmen for the large landowners there intervened at Hindenburg, the comrade and owner of Gut Neudeck , where they did not count on understanding for their campaign against “agrarbolshevik” tendencies or against “slipping into state socialism”. In a dramatic Reichstag speech, Brüning warned against losing domestic political calm “the last hundred meters before the goal”. Hindenburg, however, refused to enact the ordinance on the eastern settlement and let Brüning know that a right-wing cabinet had to be provided at the Reich level, which the National Socialists would be willing to put up with if they came into government there after their recent success in the Prussian state elections . Since Briining did not see any acceptable prospects in this or in the mere continued work as Foreign Minister, he resigned on May 30, 1932.

Von Papen's authoritarian offensive

The Papen Cabinet; standing from left: Gürtner (justice), Warmbold (economy), von Schleicher (Reichswehr); sitting from left: von Braun (nutrition, agriculture), von Gayl (interior), von Papen (chancellor), von Neurath (exterior); missing: von Krosigk (finance), Schäffer (work), von Eltz-Rübenach (transport, post)

The course for Brüning's successor as Reich Chancellor was primarily set by General Kurt von Schleicher , who had become an important advisor to Hindenburg since the late 1920s, as a close collaborator of Reich Defense Minister Wilhelm Groener . At that time he had already advocated Brüning as Chancellor, now proposed the highly conservative central politician Franz von Papen as Reich Chancellor and made a preselection of ministers for the formation of the cabinet, whereby he himself joined von Papen's government as Minister of Defense. In the Center Party, which was raised because of Brüning's dismissal, von Papen anticipated his exclusion by resigning, so that the “Cabinet of Barons”, interspersed with numerous nobility titles, finally consisted of all non-party members after some ministers formerly belonging to the DNVP had left their party. The new government , operating as the “Cabinet of National Concentration”, emphatically set itself apart from party parliamentarism. The replacement Bruning as Chancellor by von Papen is in research as a transition from one presidential administration to presidential dictatorship seen that preceded Hitler's dictatorship for half a year.

In his government statement made on the radio, von Papen railed against the “mismanagement of parliamentary democracy” as well as “constantly increasing state socialism” and “cultural Bolshevism”. There were plans for a constitutional change in the cabinet, including instead of the Reichsrat provided an upper house with dignitaries appointed for life by the Reich President and which was supposed to drastically reduce the rights of the Reichstag.

The attack on the political participation rights of the states was directed primarily against Prussia. Since the state elections in April 1932, the National Socialists had become by far the strongest political force here, but could only have formed a majority government with the center that refused to elect a National Socialist Prime Minister. The government of the Weimar coalition under the Social Democrat Otto Braun remained in office as a minority government until the Altona Blood Sunday , on which a demonstration by the SA, which was re-admitted by the Papen cabinet, led to brutal clashes with protesting communists, provided the Reich government with the pretext Prussian strike , imposing a state of emergency, to take control of the government, authorities and police in what is by far the largest and most important country.

In terms of foreign policy, von Papen was soon able to record the success that had consistently determined Brüning's course: a permanent, relieving, final settlement of reparations payments at the Lausanne Conference . Thereafter, the government expanded the financial framework for company job creation and allowed a drastic fall below the agreed wages in companies that hired workers. In late summer 1932, the Papen cabinet became the government of choice for most entrepreneurs. On the other hand, wage earners and the unemployed were very bitter at the new government, which had previously reduced the duration of unemployment insurance benefits from 20 to six weeks and then left the unemployed to social welfare, which did not even come close to guaranteeing the subsistence level . Very often the unemployed could no longer afford the housing costs; and in many families the nutritional minimum was clearly undercut. In 1932 whole families were looking for work in large numbers on the country road.

At the same time, the political controversy increasingly shifted from the disempowered parliaments to the streets, where, in addition to the right-wing and left-wing extremist groups, the Iron Front of the Republicans tried to assert itself. The National Socialist " Sturmabteilung ", founded in 1920 and largely shaped by Ernst Röhm , accompanied the meetings and rallies of their party and also began street and hall battles at other party meetings in order to systematically prepare for the day of the "seizure of power". The election campaign for the Reichstag elections of July 31, 1932 , which gave the warring parties NSDAP and KPD an overall negative majority in the Reichstag, was marked by street marches and violent clashes, especially between the National Socialists and Communists . Hitler, who thought he was about to go to the Chancellery due to the election results, was refused by Hindenburg, referring to the dictatorial orientation of the NSDAP. Von Papen, whom the Reichstag mistrusted almost completely, remained in office until December 3, 1932 after the Reichstag was again dissolved and the subsequent November election, although this second Reichstag election of 1932, the Reichstag election of November 6 , the NSDAP made considerable losses New growth brought new growth, but did not change anything fundamentally in the previous constellation: Hitler still had a blocking minority with the Communists and still did not make himself available as Vice Chancellor. But Papen's plans to declare a state of national emergency and for the time being not to recognize the purpose of undisturbed implementation of an authoritarian transformation of relationships renewed parliamentary elections in violation of the constitution, Hindenburg refused on 3 December 1932 may be impressed by the last day before " business game Ott ".

From Schleicher's “Querfront” plan

General Kurt von Schleicher goes to the polls, March 5, 1933

When the Reichstag election of November 6, 1932 brought losses to the NSDAP instead of new increases, but did not fundamentally change the previous constellation - Hitler was still not available as Vice Chancellor - Reichswehr Minister Schleicher, who had been pulling the strings in the background until then, offered himself with a new concept for the popular anchoring of the presidential government to the Reich President himself as Chancellor. Hindenburg responded to the lack of support for Papen on all sides. Schleicher's approach aimed across party lines to win over the unions and the respective wing of workers in the parties, to create a "cross front" for a policy that was now more geared towards job creation and youth employment. The General German Trade Union Confederation (ADGB) had reacted with interest to the change of government from Papen to Schleicher, which announced a more social orientation of its policy , because it seemed to open up opportunities for the employment creation plans developed by the ADGB since the end of 1931 to come into effect bring. The SPD met with skepticism, while Gregor Strasser had already spoken of the "great anti-capitalist yearning" for the NSDAP in May 1932 and called for an even more extensive job creation program, which was then distributed in large numbers as the "immediate economic program of the NSDAP" . Assured of the support of the Christian unions anyway, Schleicher now also placed his hopes on the union-oriented wing of the NSDAP under Strasser, to whom he offered the vice-chancellorship and the office of the Prussian prime minister on December 3rd. The next day the NSDAP suffered a strong loss of votes in the local elections in Thuringia compared to the Reichstag elections of the year, which strengthened Strasser's opinion that the NSDAP had to reorient itself. Nevertheless, he complied with Hitler's directive, when Hitler vigorously opposed his ideas, took leave and resigned all party offices ( Strasser crisis ).

This meant that Schleicher had basically failed just a few days after he took up his position as chancellor, even if parts of the ADGB still considered rapprochement with the government to be desirable even at the expense of the close ties with the SPD. For the Social Democrats did not consider the agile general to be trustworthy and the industrial associations suspiciously observed his opening up to the trade unions. Papen, whom he had wanted to praise as ambassador to Paris, had stayed in Berlin at Hindenburg's request and again made contact with Hitler in order to sound out possibilities of jointly taking over government. For his part, Schleicher, with the support of the Hindenburg cabinet, tried to convince that only the declaration of a state of emergency, the dissolution of the Reichstag and the postponement of new Reichstag elections until autumn 1933 would end the crisis of the presidential governments. Hindenburg refused to do this, just as he had refused to do so before Papen at Schleicher's instigation.

End when the National Socialists came to power (1933)

The Cabinet Hitler : 1st row seated, from left: Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler, Franz von Papen; 2nd row standing: Franz Seldte, Günther Gereke, Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, Wilhelm Frick, Werner von Blomberg, Alfred Hugenberg. The three National Socialists (Hitler, Frick, Göring in a pyramid arrangement) are "framed" in this photo by the rest of the cabinet members. (January 1933 in the Reich Chancellery)
On March 23, 1933, Adolf Hitler speaks in the Berlin Kroll Opera House to the members of the Reichstag on the Enabling Act , the basis of his dictatorship

The meeting Papen with Hitler in the house of the Cologne banker Kurt von Schroder on 4 January 1933 was followed by other, most recently in the presence of Otto Meissner , the State Secretary of the President, and Oskar von Hindenburg , who as the son of the President also to consultants in the clique Paul owned by the Hindenburgs. A coalition government made up of the German Nationalists and the NSDAP was agreed, to which, besides Hitler, only two other National Socialists, namely Wilhelm Frick as Minister of the Interior and Hermann Göring as Minister without Portfolio (and acting Prussian Interior Minister), were to belong. Papen himself was intended as Vice Chancellor and Reich Commissioner for Prussia.

The 86-year-old Reich President, who had long resisted the chancellorship of the “Bohemian Corporal” Hitler, was finally reassured by pointing out that a NSDAP leader “framed” by a conservative cabinet majority meant little danger. From the point of view of Hindenburg, however, the formal constitutional conformity of Hitler's current appointment as Reich Chancellor spoke in favor of this attempt. The assumption, however, that Hitler and the National Socialists would be able to keep Hitler and the National Socialists in check in this governmental constellation should prove to be a serious misjudgment. Because Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, in conjunction with the further measures of the so-called seizure of power, effectively brought about the end of the Weimar Republic. The Weimar constitution was not formally suspended during the entire Nazi period . With the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship, however, its democratic function and its binding effect on politics ended.

State and society

Political structures

Christmas address by Wilhelm Marx in December 1923. Marx was the longest-serving Chancellor of the Republic.

Compared with the German Empire up to 1917, the cabinets ruled rather briefly during the Weimar period; very few had a parliamentary majority. The “ Weimar coalition ” or “Weimar parties”, which fully supported the republic, are known as “ Weimar coalitions

However, a constitutional reform with a strengthening of the executive branch or the Reich President found supporters well into the middle of these parties.

A typical cabinet from the Weimar period was a minority cabinet made up of the center, the DDP and the right-wing liberal German People's Party (DVP). Since laws are necessary for effective governance, the governments from the center and the DDP (and since 1921 DVP)

  • allow themselves to be tolerated in parliament by the SPD or right-wing parties like the DNVP;
  • partly by including the SPD (1923, 1928–30) or the DNVP (1925, 1927/28) a parliamentary majority was achieved, at least in theory;
  • governs with enabling laws: the Reichstag allowed the government to enact laws itself for a limited period of time (only during the time of Reich President Friedrich Ebert and then in 1933);
  • since 1930 (under Chancellor Heinrich Brüning) ruled with "emergency ordinances of the Reich President" instead of laws (according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution); Nevertheless, the support of the SPD was required, which prevented the Reichstag from repealing the emergency ordinances with its votes in the Reichstag.

When the former center man Franz von Papen became Reich Chancellor in June 1932, the center and the DDP were no longer represented in the cabinet: apart from eight non- party members , only two DNVP ministers were members. The situation was similar with Schleicher's cabinet (December 1932 / January 1933).

A Central State Police (internal intelligence service) was founded in 1919 with Department IA .


Call for elections on the cover of the illustrated newspaper , January 1919: “Germans! Creates clarity both internally and externally. "

After the elections for the constituent assembly (Konstituante) on January 19, 1919, the Weimar National Assembly met for its first session on February 6, 1919 in the National Theater in Weimar. Weimar had been chosen as the conference venue because the security and independence of the representatives of the people did not seem to be guaranteed due to unrest in the capital of Berlin, and because the city could be presented to the Weimar Classic as a signal of a humanitarian return, both internally and externally, also and especially towards the The victorious powers of the World War and the other states, who from January 1919 discussed a peace agreement in Paris. The main task of the National Assembly was to create a constitution with a basic democratic order.

The left-liberal, later Reich Minister of the Interior, Hugo Preuss, was largely responsible for the fundamental draft constitution . During the war he had already submitted a proposal for a democratically revised constitution of the German Reich and was therefore known as an opponent of the authoritarian state and a staunch democrat. In the justification for his draft he said: "To form the German people into a self-determining nation, to realize the principle for the first time in German history : State power rests with the people, - that is the guiding principle of the free German constitution of Weimar [ ...]. "

The draft sparked heated discussions between the various political camps, as it represented a deep turning point in relation to the political order of the empire. After all, the constitution had a genuinely democratic character, but was viewed by many as a compromise constitution, as many parties with opposing positions and interests were involved in its development. In place of the basic political decision, there were often dilatory formula compromises , which resulted in a juxtaposition of programs and positive provisions based on the "most diverse political, social and religious contents and convictions". Although the compromise character made it difficult for many to identify with the constitution, the constitution nonetheless created a normativity that ultimately even made the National Socialists shy away from openly breaking the constitution.

The Weimar Constitution

With the Weimar Constitution, the German Reich became a parliamentary democracy for the first time with liberal and social basic rights anchored in the constitution . At the level of the state as a whole, the Reich laws were passed by the Reichstag , which was elected for four years and which also had the right to budget and which could remove the Reich Chancellor and every minister by means of a destructive vote of no confidence . In addition to the Reichstag, the Reich Chancellor was also dependent on the Reich President, who could appoint and remove him. Since the Reich President held a prominent and potentially influential position in terms of power politics, he is often equated with the emperor in literature , one also speaks of the "substitute emperor". It was elected by the people for seven years and, in agreement with the Reich Chancellor, was able to issue emergency ordinances through which even basic rights could be temporarily suspended. Even the possible resistance of the Reichstag to this could possibly be eliminated, since the Reich President had the right to dissolve him. The constitution was based on legal positivism , which means that it did not put any substantial barriers to the constitutional revision (Art. 76). The leading constitutional commentator Gerhard Anschütz commented on this: “In the legislative channels regulated by Article 76 , constitutional changes of any kind can be brought about: not only less significant, more due to technical than political considerations, but also significant ones, including those that relate to legal ones The nature of the federally organized whole of the Reich ( federal state ), the shift of responsibility between the Reich and the Länder, the state and form of government of the Reich and the Länder (republic, democracy, electoral law, parliamentarism, referendum, referendum) and other questions of principle ( fundamental rights ). The constitutional changing power transferred to the qualified majorities referred to here by Art. 76 is objectively unlimited. "

In the third section of the Weimar Constitution, among other things, a state church was dispensed with; thus the " sovereign church regiment " , which had been in effect until then, was abolished, according to which the sovereign was the bearer of government power in the Protestant regional church.

President Friedrich Ebert, February 15, 1925

On July 31, 1919, the Weimar Constitution was finally adopted in its final form by the National Assembly and drawn up by Reich President Friedrich Ebert on August 11 in Schwarzburg . To commemorate the “hour of birth of democracy”, this day was designated as a national holiday.

Spectrum of parties

Most of the political parties originated from the imperial era, even if most of them had changed their names. Contrary to widespread misconception, the number of parties represented in parliament has remained roughly the same: under the absolute majority suffrage of the imperial era, there were an average of 13.8 parties, in the Weimar Republic 14.4. Although there were no longer any parties from Poles, Danes and Alsatians in the Reichstag, there were still a Hanoverian, one or two Bavarian parties and splinter parties of the middle class such as the economic party .

June 1928: second cabinet under Hermann Müller. Standing from left: Hermann Dietrich (DDP), Rudolf Hilferding (SPD), Julius Curtius (DVP), Carl Severing (SPD), Theodor von Guérard (center), Georg Schätzel (BVP). Sitting from left: Erich Koch-Weser (DDP), Hermann Müller (SPD), Wilhelm Groener (independent), Rudolf Wissell (SPD). Not shown: Gustav Stresemann (DVP)

Already during the Empire, the parties had a great influence on politics through the legislation of the Reichstag. But during the Weimar period they also had to be able to form coalition governments (and put forward candidates for the presidency); That would have been difficult for them even in the German Empire and actually prevented the implementation of the parliamentary system of government before 1918.

In contrast to many constitutions that came into being after 1945, there was no constitutional mandate for the parties and no party law. Legally speaking, parties were associations. Assuming the political spectrum from left to right, there was in the Weimar period following parties are important:

and a number of smaller parties:

President of the empire

The first Reich President , Friedrich Ebert , was in office from 1919 to 1925. He was initially appointed by the National Assembly, after which his mandate was extended several times. The first constitutional election as Reich President took place in 1925, when World War II Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected . In 1932 Hindenburg was re-elected; he died in 1934. Instead of allowing the Reich President to be re-elected according to the constitution, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler appointed himself Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor, legitimized by the subsequent referendum . With that he had seized the last instance of power, because "Hitler did not want to tolerate a Reich President over himself."


The Chancellors in the Empire had not yet belonged to any party; for the first time in 1917 a representative of the Center Party became Reich Chancellor. From November 1918 until the Reichstag election in 1920, the heads of government belonged to the SPD. From 1920 to 1932 the center provided almost all of the Chancellors, with the exception of a Social Democrat, a Liberal and two non-party members. After two more independent chancellors, Hitler took over the office of the NSDAP on January 30, 1933; his appointment marks the end of the Weimar Republic.

Kurt von Schleicher Franz von Papen Heinrich Brüning Hermann Müller (Reichskanzler) Wilhelm Marx Hans Luther Wilhelm Marx Gustav Stresemann Wilhelm Cuno Joseph Wirth Constantin Fehrenbach Hermann Müller (Reichskanzler) Gustav Bauer Philipp Scheidemann Friedrich Ebert

Officials and the judiciary

As with the Reichswehr, no democratic reforms took place in the administration or the administration of justice . In the Weimar Constitution, all civil servants were guaranteed the “freedom of their political convictions” and their “well-earned rights”; Judges received even stronger protection with the fact that they could not be removed. At the time of the German Empire, civil servants and judges had a monarchist-patriotic attitude during their training and recruitment, resulting in a right-wing conservative orientation in the majority of civil servants and judges. The left in particular, whose followers could not take on important posts during the imperial era, now campaigned for freedom of political sentiment. An election of the judges by the people, which the left parties wanted , did not materialize because they did not want to involve the judiciary in politics. The main obstacle to reforming civil servants was the need for a functioning administration at the end of the war, for example to bring soldiers back to Germany. A right-wing civil servants were also not inconvenient for the bourgeois parties to prevent a further socialist revolution . The constitutional oath that officials had to take was related to the state, but not to the republic.

The political attitudes of the judiciary can be clearly seen in their judgments , for the first time in the Munich Soviet Republic and the Kapp Putsch . While left-wing criminals were treated with enormous severity, right-wing criminals very rarely ever faced charges or sentences that were also much milder - the Weimar judiciary was blind in the right eye . The blindness not only affected the judges but also law enforcement agencies. The judge-martial and later Reich attorney (or senior Reich attorney at the People's Court ) Paul Jorns had, among other things, not recorded important traces of the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and also hindered the investigation in other ways. Gustav Noske (SPD), the first Reichswehr Minister of the Weimar Republic, prevented the trial of Waldemar Pabst , who was responsible for the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, from going under review. The process was discontinued; only some of the subordinate participants received minor fines or minimal prison sentences, which were also suspended. The one-sidedness of the judiciary was proven by Emil Julius Gumbel as early as 1921 , but no effective reforms came about. The courts often felt obliged not to the law, but to the state and the fight against communism .

Funeral procession for murdered police officers, Berlin 1931. Front second from right: Deputy Police President Bernhard Weiß (1927–1932)

The blindness also applied to the mass-effective propaganda , which not only came from the right-wing extremists themselves, but was also shared and supported by the media in the middle. The democrats in the administration of the Weimar Republic were, in part, systematically denigrated. The first Reich President, Friedrich Ebert, filed 173 criminal charges for insult and defamation until his death. The best known was the "Magdeburg Trial" of 1924, in which the accused völkisch editor was convicted of insult, but the Magdeburg District Court found in its verdict that the accusation that Ebert had committed treason during the January 1918 strike was correct in the criminal sense. The Berlin police vice-president Bernhard Weiß , who was one of the few staunch officers who regularly took action against violations of the law by Hitler's SA, was defamed anti-Semitically by the Nazi press as a symbol of Jewish emancipation and democratic defensiveness, without being able to achieve any resounding successes against leading Nazis in litigation.

Judicial organs played an important role in the end of the republic. The negotiations in the high treason trial against Hitler could be misused unhindered for incitement and for the dissemination of propaganda. In addition, he only served a short sentence after his attempted coup and was soon released. In the grounds of the judgment, the waiver of the deportation of Hitler ( then an Austrian citizen ), which was appropriate under the Republic Protection Act, was justified by the fact that "on a man who thinks and feels as German as Hitler [...] the provision [...] of the Republic Protection Act […] Cannot be applied ”. Reich President Friedrich Ebert died in February 1925 of a delayed appendicitis, which he had not had treated in time due to a charge of treason . In the so-called Weltbühne trial , journalists Carl von Ossietzky and Walter Kreiser were sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for espionage because the magazine had drawn attention to the secret armament of the Reichswehr .


Parade of the Reichswehr, 1930

The strength of the military power of the Weimar Republic was regulated by Article 160 of the Versailles Treaty . The size of the land army was limited to 100,000 and that of the navy to 15,000 professional soldiers . The Reich was prohibited from maintaining air forces , tanks , heavy artillery, submarines and capital ships . At the same time, the general staff , military academies and military schools were dissolved .

The soldiers of the Reichswehr were sworn in on the Weimar constitution. The Commander-in-Chief was the Reich President, while the Reichswehr Minister exercised the authority. The military command was, however, in the hands of the chief of the army command or the naval command. From this a dualism developed between civil authority and military command authority, which was to become a heavy burden on the republic. Because while Reichswehr Minister Otto Geßler contented himself with limited political and administrative tasks during his term of office, the head of the Army Command, Hans von Seeckt , succeeded in largely removing the Reichswehr from the control of the Reichstag. Under Seeckt, the Reichswehr developed into a " state within a state ". She felt more committed to an abstract idea of ​​the state than to the constitution, and she viewed the political left with pronounced distrust.

As early as the Kapp Putsch in 1920, Seeckt had refused to use the Reichswehr against the putsch Freikorps , but then had the uprising of the Red Ruhr Army brutally suppressed. The Reichswehr also organized the so-called “ Black Reichswehr ”, a secret personnel reserve networked with paramilitary formations, of which it saw itself as the leading cadre. At the same time, new military strategies were developed, for example for the interaction of modern weapons. In this context, extensive cooperation developed with the Red Army , which for example led to the secret training of German military pilots in Lipetsk .

When Seeckt fell in 1926, the Reichswehr changed course, for which Kurt von Schleicher was primarily responsible. The aim was to arouse broad social support for the rearmament project and to militarize society itself for the purpose of future warfare. During the Reich Presidency of Hindenburg, the Reichswehr leadership gained increasing political influence and ultimately also determined the composition of the Reich governments. In this way, the Reichswehr contributed significantly to the development of an authoritarian presidential system during the final phase of the Weimar Republic.

Territorial division

On the day the constitution was proclaimed, the German Empire consisted of 24 countries that had their roots in the member states of the German Empire. The seven Thuringian states merged to form the State of Thuringia with effect from May 1, 1920 (although the "transition period" of the state education and integration process was not ended until April 1, 1923), while Waldeck became Prussian in 1929 (moreover, in 1934, the "Third Reich " Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz united to the state of Mecklenburg , in addition Lübeck became a part of Prussia in 1937).

In its core period, the republic thus comprised the following 18 states (data from 1925) and the Saar area:

Countries of Germany (1925)
country flag coat of arms Area (km²) Residents Inhabitants / km² Capital
Free State of Anhalt Flag of the Duchy of Anhalt.svg DEU Anhalt 1924-1945 COA.svg 2,313.58 351.045 143 Dessau
Republic of Baden Flag of the Grand Duchy of Baden (1891–1918) .svg Coat of arms of the Republic of Baden from 1918.png 15,069.87 2,312,500 153 Karlsruhe
Free State of Bavaria Flag of Bavaria (striped) .svg Coat of arms of the Free State of Bavaria (1923) .png 75,996.47 7,379,600 97 Munich
Free State of Braunschweig Flag of the Duchy of Braunschweig.svg Coat of arms of the Free State of Braunschweig.png 3,672.05 501.875 137 Braunschweig
Free Hanseatic City of Bremen Flag of Bremen.svg Bremen coat of arms (middle) .svg 257.32 338,846 1,322 Bremen
Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg Flag of Hamburg.svg DEU Hamburg COA.svg 415.26 1,132,523 2,775 -
People's State of Hesse Flag of the Grand Duchy of Hesse without coat of arms Coa Germany State Hessen History.svg 7,691.93 1,347,279 167 Darmstadt
Free State of Lippe Flag of the Principality of Lippe.svg Coa Germany State Lippe.svg 1,215.16 163,648 135 Detmold
Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck Flag of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck.svg Coat of arms Lübeck (old) .svg 297.71 127.971 430 -
Free State of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Flag of the Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg.svg Coat of arms of the Free State of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.png 13,126.92 674.045 51 Schwerin
Free State of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Flag of the Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg.svg Coat of arms of the Free State of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.png 2,929.50 110.269 38 Neustrelitz
Free State of Oldenburg Flag of Oldenburg (Scandinavian Cross) .svg Coat of arms Free State of Oldenburg.svg 6,423.98 545.172 85 Oldenburg
Free State of Prussia Flag of Prussia (1918-1933) .svg Coat of arms of Prussia (1918–1933) .svg 291,639.93 38.120.170 131 Berlin
Free State of Saxony State flag of the Saxony (1815-1952) .svg Coat of arms of Saxony.svg 14,986.31 4,992,320 333 Dresden
Free State of Schaumburg-Lippe Flag of the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe.svg Coa Germany State Schaumburg-Lippe.svg 340.30 48,046 141 Buckeburg
State of Thuringia Flag of Thuringia.svg Coat of arms of the state of Thuringia 11,176.78 1,607,329 137 Weimar
Free State of Waldeck Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio) .svg Coat of arms Waldeck (on the Edersee) .svg 1055.43 55,816 53 Arolsen
People's State of Württemberg Flag of the Kingdom of Württemberg Coat of arms of the People's State of Württemberg (color) .svg 19,507.63 2,580,235 132 Stuttgart
German Empire
(excluding Saar area)
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio) .svg Coat of arms of the German Empire (Weimar Republic) .svg 468,116.13 62,388,689 133 Berlin
Saar area Flag of Saar 1920-1935.svg Blason Sarre 1920 - 1935.svg 1,910.49 768,000 402 Saarbrücken
Deutsches Reich Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio) .svg Coat of arms of the German Empire (Weimar Republic) .svg 470,026.62 63.156.689 134 Berlin

German colonies still existed formally until the Versailles Treaty came into force in January 1920 . The recovery of the colonies remained official government policy and was anchored in the administration of the Weimar Republic (first as a central colonial department in the Reich Ministry for Reconstruction and then as a colonial policy department in the Foreign Office). In fact, all German overseas territories were already controlled by the victorious powers at the end of the war in 1918, and after the peace treaty they came under the administration of the League of Nations as mandates .

Population characteristics

The society of the Weimar Republic started with considerable, war-related gaps in the male population: 2.4 million fallen soldiers and 2.7 million long-term disabled people dying prematurely in the age group of 20 to 50-year-olds resulted in a corresponding surplus of women and, at the same time, a sharp decline in birth rates. Loss of territory and population as a result of the Versailles Treaty caused an additional shrinkage of more than 5.7 million people.

The changing position of women

Galka Scheyer , the “Prophetess of the Blue Four”, with Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Alexej Jawlensky, collage on a newspaper page of the “San Francisco Examiner” from November 1, 1925

With the establishment of the Weimar Republic, women were given the right to vote and stand for election . In the elections to the constituent national assembly, 78 percent of women eligible to vote took part, 9.6 percent of the MPs were women. Even in the 1920s, women remained underrepresented in all parties and were rarely represented in high party offices.

Due to the long-term structural change in economic life, the number of jobs in the agricultural sector continued to decline, while in the service sector it increased and rose to a third of all employment. More than a third of the women were employed in 1925. Offers for female gainful employment were mainly available in the expanding service sector: in public administration, in school service and in health care. In the private sector, many women found a job as shop assistants or shorthand typists.

According to Hans-Ulrich Wehler , the proportion of women in salaried and civil servant positions was soon higher than that of men. However, women usually performed the subordinate, lower-paid functions and were even paid less than men for the same work in collective bargaining agreements. In the Great Depression, female “double earners” could be dismissed as needed based on a 1932 law.

Young people in precarious circumstances

Wandering Bird Group (around 1930)

The fatherless growing up of many children and young people due to the war, as well as inflation-related material and status losses in the social middle classes had consequences. They were reflected in a continued loss of authority on the part of parents and the social and moral norms they conveyed. A criticism of the “ossified adult world”, inspired by the youth movement , spread.

Almost half of the nine million young people were members of a youth association. Sports clubs (1.6 million) and church associations (1.2 million) had the largest share; Jungbanner (700,000), Arbeiterjugend (368,000) and Bündische Jugend (51,000) lagged far behind in terms of members, but with their lifestyle and publications also had an external impact and became partners in the dialogue with reform education , life reform and sexual reform . With regard to “Americanism” as a model, on the one hand many young people of both sexes were open-minded because it was excitingly new; in the Bündische Jugend and in national-conservative youth groups, on the other hand, this tendency was uncompromisingly rejected as "corrosive" and "un-German".

During the global economic crisis, young people were often the first to be laid off and were therefore particularly hard hit by mass unemployment. Even young graduates found themselves disappointed in their professional ambitions. This gave rise to an awareness of the crisis that led to cultural and political radicalization. The young academics in particular declared war on an “aged” republic that could not accommodate their offspring in the name of the “young generation”.

Jews between assimilation and exclusion

Anti-Semitism , supported by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself, was further fueled during the First World War by organizations such as the Pan-German Association by linking a war between Aryans and Jews and blaming the Jews for the defeat under the stab in the back. Since the winter of 1918/19, the publicly practiced anti-Semitism developed an unprecedented effect. The wave soon subsided and there was a noticeable calming down during the years of relative stability. With the global economic crisis, however, the multifaceted anti-Semitic currents formed again in society.

Albert Einstein, 1930

In 1925 the 564,000 religious Jews in Germany made up just 0.9 percent of the population, four fifths of whom were long-established Jewish citizens; in addition there were 108,000 East Jewish immigrants. The professional orientation of the Jews, half of whom were self-employed (otherwise 16 percent) and who dominated or were strongly represented in trade, banking and some liberal professions, differed greatly from the population average, but little in industry and only very rare in agriculture.

The relationship of the Jews to the Weimar Republic was not one-sidedly determined by fear and resistance; for the formal and informal barriers that blocked the career of Jews in civil service or in the academic field during the Empire, were removed by the Weimar Constitution. The assimilation and cultural amalgamation process that had been going on since the 19th century intensified in the 1920s for the majority of German Jews, while others emigrated or professed Zionism . The successes of German Jews as scientists during the Weimar Republic speak for themselves: Among the nine German Nobel Prize winners were five Jewish scientists: Albert Einstein , James Franck , Gustav Hertz , Otto Meyerhof and Otto Warburg .

55 percent of German Jews lived in large cities, one third in Berlin alone. “Berlin and its Jews: That was the most intense increase in what conservative Germany hated about the state of Weimar.” In Bavaria, the writer Ludwig Thoma said in 1920 in the Miesbacher Anzeiger : “Berlin is not German, is the opposite of it today, is Galician messed up and messed up. ” The hatred of the anti-Semites was discharged especially against the immigrant Eastern Jews , who clearly differed in their appearance and demeanor (“ Caftan Jews ”versus“ Tie Jews ”) and were perceived as foreigners. The Scheunenviertel , mainly inhabited by poor Eastern Jews , became a place of pogrom-like excesses of violence by anti-Semites in 1923 , which were only stopped by a massive police operation. According to Wehler, anti-Semitism was one of the “integration brackets” of the NSDAP, alongside the leader cult and radical nationalism. Even without Hitler's Chancellorship, the republic would not have come to terms with anti-Semitism easily. "How much more disastrous it must have been when a hateful, unscrupulous anti-Semite came into the possession of the state and prepared to use its means to realize his utopia of a Jewish-free racial empire."

Arts and Culture

The breakthrough of a modern mass culture, which showed various traits of "Americanization" in the contemporary consciousness, was more an urban than an overall social phenomenon in the Weimar democracy and was accompanied by unstable conditions and resistance to an "un-German process of alienation". The development focus of innovations in cultural life in the 1920s was Berlin, at that time the third largest city in the world with four million inhabitants and "as a city of cinema, theater, newspaper and sports, even from the point of view of contemporaries, the cultural capital of the interwar period."

Much of what, in retrospect, counts as the art and culture of the Weimar Republic was temporally and spatially laid out outside of itself. It was part of a classical modernism that stretched from the end of the 19th century to the 1930s and fell into its development phase. In order for the already established tendencies to become culturally hegemonic , according to Henning Köhler , two factors had to be added to the imperial era: the shock caused by the cruelty of the World War, which culturally delegitimized much of the traditional, and the social equality of the German Jews, which was finally achieved from 1918 onwards as an artist, but above all as a buyer for art.

Since Germany was then, on the one hand, a selected test field for the latest avant-garde trends and, on the other hand, the place of the most violent reactions to it, it became, in the opinion of Walter Laqueur, “naturally the most interesting country in Europe.” According to Hagen Schulze, “the twenties are unprecedented intellectual fertility, nourished by the nervous, neurotic feeling of insecurity and homelessness that pervades intellectual and political life after the war and makes people restlessly search for Archimedean points from which the entire present can be unhinged. "

Political and cultural developments from 1918 to 1933 show recognizable parallels: “The experience of world war and revolution allowed the Expressionists to make their utopian pathos of humanity public. Revolutionary gestures and also revolutionary engagement sought the liberating connection with the 'masses'. ”A proletarian message could be inferred from the compassionate portrayals of workers by Otto Dix as well as from his brutal portraits of pimps and prostitutes. Käthe Kollwitz 'graphic work with grieving mothers, starving children and the victims of war and capitalist exploitation also made a political appeal . In contrast, during the phase of relative stabilization, the New Objectivity developed as an overarching motif. What was characteristic of them was the search for a location in the real world. The final phase of the republic from 1929/30 onwards, which was partly associated with socially critical realism, marked, as in politics, a turning point that led to breakdown and radicalization in art and culture. Peter Hoeres sees the legacy of a disparate cultural modernity, as fascinating as it is ambivalent, "which came along so quickly and was uncomfortably furnished that many were not ready to follow their ambitious clients."

Modern times in transition

Johannes Theodor Baargeld: Typical vertical distortion as a representation of the Dada Baargeld , 1920, Kunsthaus Zürich , graphic collection. This alienated representation of Venus von Milo was shown as part of the First International Dada Fair.

On November 9, 1918, the day the republic was proclaimed under the sign of the revolution, a “council of intellectuals” was formed in the Reichstag building that evening, most of them expressionists, which among other things, the nationalization of all theaters and one in the people load-bearing, world-changing art demanded. The November Group with Max Pechstein and César Klein , which was constituted on December 3, 1918, saw itself in the role of an “art council”, which claimed decisive influence on all political issues relating to art. He was very popular, for example from the architects Peter Behrens , Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe , from painters such as Ludwig Meidner , Wassily Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger or artists such as George Grosz , Conrad Felixmüller and Otto Dix . However, the group was too heterogeneous in terms of individual socio-political ideas and artistic programs to actually develop any significant impact. The same thing happened to the Arbeitsrat für Kunst , which sought to unite all artists into a real working group. In addition to members of the November Group , Bruno Taut , Erich Heckel , Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Emil Nolde were also involved .

In addition to Expressionism, which continued to have an impact across the art genres, the early phase of the republic provided space for a number of other avant-garde styles such as cubism , futurism , purism , verism and constructivism . In the early days of the Weimar Republic , Dadaism , which originated in Zurich in 1916, had a shocking effect and radically questioned all previous art from Berlin. Instead of a new art direction, it was primarily about photography, machines and political happenings. Dada soirées were held, for example with a race between a sewing machine (operated by George Grosz) and a typewriter (operated by Walter Mehring ). "The Dadaists appeared in grotesque masks, in military uniforms, with monocles, rode on wooden horses (French: Dada), on large iron crosses and paper machete skulls ." On the occasion of the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920, there were photo collages , stickers, joke posters and stuffed ones Puppets in the foreground: the slapstick, the emphatically anti-painting. George Grosz and John Heartfield posed at the opening with the sign: "Art is dead. Long live Tatlin's new machine art ." (The dada collage Raoul Hausmann's "Tatlin at home" portrayed a man who has nothing but machines in his head.) . The state supported the new trends by purchasing contemporary works of art for the National Gallery, including impressionist works by Leo von König , Ernst Oppler or Ulrich Hübner, but also expressionist art by Franz Heckendorf or Joseph Oppenheimer , right through to the first works of the New Objectivity.

The multitude of directions and variants among artists and intellectuals in this phase of upheaval agreed on one motive: the search for the “completely new and the new perfection”. Mostly it was about nothing less than a “New World” and a “New Man”. The Weimar state, which was founded on compromises between social democracy and the middle class, did not have many important advocates among them, as did the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann . Hermann Hesse, for example, resigned from the Poetry Section of the Prussian Academy of the Arts , expressly expressing his distrust of the German Republic. The few good spirits of the revolution were beaten to death, the courts unjust, the officials indifferent and the people infantile. As far as the spread of the “republican idea” is concerned, Kurt Tucholsky already assumed a very limited scope. Outside of the capital, Berlin, something of him was "only spotty". East of the Elbe it looks “lazy”, “right of the Oder lazy”.

Changing lifestyles

With the introduction of the eight-hour day and the first collective vacation regulations, recreational activities only became part of everyday life for the bulk of the wage earners in the Weimar Republic. A diverse range reflected the new options: Fairgrounds , Variétés , dance halls, movie palaces, Boxarenen and Sechstagerennen offered entertainment; Theaters, libraries and adult education centers benefited the educational need. Sports and sports clubs achieved the greatest popularity. Membership and audience numbers as well as the number of sports newspapers and magazines increased many times over. Media suitable for the masses such as records , film, magazines and radio served, among other things, to democratize the enjoyment of art, which until then was largely reserved for the upper class of society. In place of the previous gap between “serious” electronic art and “entertaining” underground art, A (general) art should now emerge as an arc.

Josephine Baker dances the Charleston

Strong impulses for the cultural development of the republic came from the United States : “The image of the shining victor from overseas, the myth of the land of unlimited possibilities, American economic and financial strength and the lead in mass production and mass consumption were linked with ideas of unhindered rationality, innovation without tradition, mass cultural avant-garde, development of new media worlds ... ”The reaction to the “ American wave ”that was spreading in terms of new technology, consumer expectations, film, dance and jazz was different and, in the right-wing political spectrum, was determined by polemical defenses, which in terms such as “Negro music”. By the time Josephine Baker performed with her Charleston Jazz Band in Berlin in 1927 , jazz had already established itself as part of the entertainment industry and was considered chic and fashionable by its followers.

The ground on which new forms of life emerged was the big city. In their anonymity, hardly affected by neighborly control, there was plenty of room for free personal development as well as a wide range of media and goods. Berlin became the “entertainment metropolis of Europe”, and since 1920 with 4.3 million inhabitants the third largest city in the world after New York and London. The dance movement and the sex wave developed more irrepressibly than elsewhere in Berlin: “Sexual questions were at the fore in literature, in film and in theater. Sometimes the censor stepped in, but overall there was a climate of tolerance, and in any case during those years people were more generous here than in any other country. ”In coffee houses, the avant-garde and ordinary audiences, writers and critics met to exchange ideas. The Romanisches Café , where painters and actors came and went, was a particular attraction of the cultural scene . As a city of superlatives, Berlin at the time was the largest and most diverse newspaper city in the world, the city of theaters, concert halls and political cabaret . Berlin had the fastest light rail and, with almost half a million connections, was also the city with the most phone calls in the world.

Radiant "New Objectivity"

With the end of hyperinflation , new framework conditions arose for art and culture in the republic. Artists and bourgeois intellectuals had often lost the small and medium-sized fortunes from which they had mainly earned their living. Now it was up to them to face new consumer demands on a changed market and to develop a “democratic”, unpathetic art of use. A general objectification of aesthetic forms of expression has now established itself as a new style across all genres. The term “New Objectivity” was first applied to painting, where the avant-garde, often in the form of well-known artists, now aimed at objectivity and detachment in still lifes and “emphatically unpretentious portraits”, at a “new objectivity”.

In architecture, which more than any other aspect of Weimar culture exerted a lasting international influence , the Bauhaus , founded in Weimar in 1919 and relocated to Dessau in 1925, had a particularly strong impact . It was here that the claim to "reunite all artistic disciplines - sculpture, painting, applied arts and handicrafts - into a new architecture" was raised. The concept of a restored unity of artistic and craft training, represented by Walter Gropius as director and successor to Henry van de Velde , attracted important artists to the Bauhaus as teachers, including Lyonel Feininger , Johannes Itten , Paul Klee , Oskar Schlemmer , Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy . With the first Bauhaus exhibition organized by Gropius in 1923 under the title “Art and Technology - One Unit”, the ideas from the early Weimar era of an artistic total work of art (whereby the artist was understood as an enhancement of the craftsman) gave way to an effort to connect to economic exploitation options . The construction and furnishing of houses was based on the development of prototypes for craft and industrial series production. Exemplary “Masters' Houses” were built in the vicinity of the Dessau Bauhaus building, the commonality of which was expressed in the flat roof, the basic cubic shape and the white paint.

The Frankfurt kitchen from 1926

For contemporary urban planning, which was seen as a political, social and economic challenge, Gropius envisaged wide blocks with south-facing terraces, the main building materials being steel, glass and concrete. The execution should be precise, practical and functional and free from superfluous ornamentation, with the aim of creating an effect aimed at the cubic composition. The interior furnishings were also designed for straightforward functionality . The aim was not to create enslaved abundance, but rather a liberating emptiness, for example through an apartment type without wallpaper, curtains and tablecloths. Folding tables, folding beds or sofas with bed boxes made the furniture functional. “Almost everything can be folded, swiveled, adjusted, stacked, put away and thus ultimately exchanged and could just as easily be used, put away or folded away by someone else.” In 1926, the Frankfurt kitchen was introduced as the world's first fitted kitchen . “Functional living for every income”, according to a publication title, consisted mostly in very small apartments, which, however, gave the impression of spaciousness, because almost all of the rooms merged into one another without doors. Whitewashed walls and large windows created brightness, but there was hardly any space for personal items. “The modern furniture also contributes to this impersonality. Most of the time, it is about lacquer furniture with metal parts that could also be in a dentist's treatment room. In general, the lacquered, chrome-plated, steel, synthetic dominates, while warm wood tones are almost completely absent. "

But the pure living machine was also controversial in the ranks of the architectural avant-garde . Some of them advocate building settlements with low houses and as many green spaces as possible. Wherever appropriate funds were available to remedy the housing shortage that occurred after the World War, such as at times in Berlin's social housing construction - between 1924 and 1929, almost 85 percent of the newly built settlements and apartment blocks were financed by the public sector - there were generously planned settlements in various parts of the city created with green zones, some of which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites .

Theater, film, music and literature

Georg Wilhelm Pabst and Albert Préjean (as Mackie Messer) during the filming of the Threepenny Opera in 1931
Fritz Lang filming Frau im Mond in 1929

In the 1920s, Berlin also became a “world metropolis of theater”, where the most important directors, the most talented actors and the most renowned theater critics could be found and an audience that was enthusiastic about the theater. The theater reflected the zeitgeist, the stage resembled a national institution: “New plays were hotly debated as if they were events of the greatest political or social importance. A premiere was discussed more thoroughly than a new novel, [...] and the theater reviews were devoured with eager attention. ”Among the theater directors, Max Reinhardt, the master of impressionistic, neo-romantic drama, and Leopold Jessner, with fast-paced and symbolic productions, were among the highest among critics and audiences Look at. Erwin Piscator's proletarian theater and Bertolt Brecht's plays stood for strong political accents . Enthusiasm for theater was also evident outside of the established theater apparatus in hundreds of groups, play communities and political collectives. Political and social experiences with the drama were publicly articulated in chorus movements , group teaching theater and in agitational theater.

Boxing matches in the Berlin Lustgarten as part of the gymnastics and sports week in 1924

Since the mid-1920s, the cinema was also generally accepted as an art form. According to contemporary estimates, around two million people went to the cinema every day. Not every adult went to the cinema, but some went much more often. In the silent film era up to 1929, German directors Robert Wiene ( Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari ) , Fritz Lang ( Dr. Mabuse, the player ) , Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau ( Nosferatu - A Symphony of Horror ) and GW Pabst ( The joyless alley ) a name. The films by Charlie Chaplin and "Russian films" such as Sergej Eisenstein ( Battleship Potemkin ) were also popular . With the transition to sound film , established artistic concepts of the silent film era lost their basis and because of the investments required for the new technology, a process of concentration began in the film industry. The new genre that had been gaining ground since 1929, especially the so-called sound film operetta, offered the most popular form of distraction during the economic crisis of that time, for example in the products The Blue Angel (1930) or The Congress Dances (1931). The actors Lilian Harvey and Willy Fritsch advanced to become the first “dream couple in German film” and attracted millions of viewers to the cinemas.

During the first years of the Weimar Republic, music was also dominated by Expressionism , the climax of which was the premiere of Wozzeck at the Berlin State Opera in 1925. At the same time, Arnold Schönberg had already initiated the turn from free atonality to twelve-tone music. If the new musical genre was about liberation from the subjective, others rediscovered the “pre-subjectivist” music, especially from the Baroque period. Composers like Georg Friedrich Händel and Johann Sebastian Bach experienced a renaissance. Others turned to jazz. Ernst Krenek's jazz opera Jonny plays on (1927) had great success , but also revues such as Chocolate Kiddies with music by Duke Ellington or the Revue Nègre with Louis Douglas and Josephine Baker . These revues presented clichéd depictions of the life of Afro-Americans in the USA, but like jazz in general, they became the target of nationalist and racist agitation. The popular music was nonetheless based on American models and at the same time made use of new channels of distribution such as records , radio and sound film. Paradigmatic for this development is the career of the Comedian Harmonists , who had jazz titles as well as variety pieces and folk songs in their repertoire and appeared in films such as Die Drei von der Gasstelle. In addition, film composers such as Werner Richard Heymann ( there's only one time, that won't come back ) or Friedrich Holländer ( I'm in love from head to toe ) created popular hits that became international successes thanks to their interpretation in the multi-lingual sound films.

While the literary life of the Weimar Republic was largely determined by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann , Heinrich Mann or Stefan George , whose main works had been written before 1918, reportage ( Egon Erwin Kisch ) and contemporary novels (including Lion Feuchtwanger , Arnold Zweig) developed , Jakob Wassermann , Hans Fallada , Erich Maria Remarque ), who dealt directly or in literary cipher with manifestations and social problems of the present, including Alfred Döblin's urban novel Berlin Alexanderplatz and Thomas Mann's retrospective educational novel The Magic Mountain . Another genre was the critical-satirical "utility poetry" by, for example, Erich Kästner or Kurt Tucholsky .

Contemporary literature was very popular during the Weimar Republic. Remarques Nothing New in the West, for example, had sold over a million times by May 1930. Among the foreign authors, Knut Hamsun , John Galsworthy and Jack London in particular sold very well. However, literature of an anti-modern style reached in some cases many times higher print runs. In addition to nationalistic war literature such as Werner Beumelburg and Ernst Jünger, these were not least books that had already appeared in the prewar period, such as works by Gustav Frenssen or Ludwig Ganghofer . Exotic locations ( Karl May ) and detective novels ( Edgar Wallace ) also appealed to a mass audience. However, Hedwig Courths-Mahler achieved the highest editions .


One of the innovations in the scientific community in the Weimar Republic was the institutionalization of sociology , the German founders of which still held professorships in economics or philosophy, such as Max Weber , Georg Simmel or Werner Sombart . Classics that lastingly stimulated the development of theories in various social science disciplines included Karl Mannheim , Alfred Weber , Emil Lederer , Norbert Elias , Theodor Geiger and Alfred Vierkandt in the partially newly created chairs for sociology .

Peter Hoeres describes the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main as the most momentous foundation of the Weimar years . The Psychoanalytical Institute, founded in 1929, with Erich Fromm as the link between the two institutions, was also housed here. Theodor W. Adorno , a supporter of the composer Arnold Schönberg , made a name for himself as a representative of Marxist music criticism . Max Horkheimer , who has headed the Institute for Social Research since 1930, shifted the focus of research from the history of the labor movement and socialism to the theory of society. The emerging critical theory of the Frankfurt School "combined empirical social science, psychoanalysis and philosophy into a comprehensive ideology criticism of the bourgeois-capitalist society and its institutions and values ​​(family, culture, music, reason, personality)."

Other innovative institutions attracted the liberal spirits of the republic, in particular the cultural studies library founded by Aby Warburg . With his reflections on the relationship between myth and logos, Warburg became a stimulus for modern cultural studies and the Hamburg library became a magnet for researchers interested in art history and symbol history, such as the philosopher Ernst Cassirer and the art historian Erwin Panofsky .

Martin Heidegger's work Sein und Zeit , published in 1927, quickly established itself as a highly regarded and lasting opus of contemporary philosophy, which took shape in Karl Jaspers as an existential philosophy and led to a time-critical inventory in his work The Spiritual Situation of Time (1931). In the Philosophical Anthropology , co-founded by Max Scheler and Helmut Plessner, a special position of humans in the cosmos or their “eccentric positionality” was established, taking into account scientific findings, especially from biology and zoology.

In the 1920s, it was possible to build on the achievements of chemists and physicists, some of which were still awarded Nobel prizes during the imperial era. Albert Einstein , who received the Nobel Prize in 1921, headed the Berlin Institute for Physics . Significant achievements were also made in other disciplines such as medicine, mathematics or astronomy, even if German science was initially marginalized as a result of the First World War and the German language lost its importance as a congress and scientific language.

In the sign of the global economic crisis

“Degenerate Art”: Ecce Homo by Lovis Corinth , 1925

The turning point for the culture of the Weimar Republic, which had withstood all major tremors up to 1928, was the noticeable effects of the Great Depression from 1930 onwards. With the onset of the global economic crisis, which led to the halt of municipal housing projects, theater closings and mass layoffs, including artists, it became clear that the "culture for everyone" that had been promoted up to that point was based on an uncertain material basis. The ticket prices for theater and opera seats became too expensive for the audience. Cinemas issued reduced tickets for the unemployed, and yet a hundred houses in Berlin alone had to give up. Many musicians lost their jobs due to the closure of cabarets and variety shows. It is estimated that around three quarters of all musicians were ultimately unemployed.

Slacking artistic creativity on the one hand and increasing polarization and radicalization on the other, according to Eberhard Kolb , determined the cultural development from 1929/30: “While some of the artists turned away from the New Objectivity, which was now stigmatized as bourgeois and purely affirmative, and the extreme left art was only seen as a weapon in the political struggle, the traditionalist forces intensified their attacks on modern literature, painting, architecture and theater. ”The National Socialists and other right-wing opponents of the republic mobilized against all modern art with terms such as“ cultural Bolshevism ”and“ Degeneration ”. The “asphalt culture” of the big city, which was attacked as “unnatural”, “Jewish-corrosive” and “ruined”, was contrasted with the ideal of an intact rurality and province that should stand for a return to the original, natural and popular. The split in Weimar's cultural life in its final phase was, according to Laqueur, the fatal consequence and side effect of the economic crisis: “The groups would have coexisted, not necessarily peacefully, just as circles of different political and cultural attitudes coexisted in other countries. It could have happened, but it shouldn't be. "

Although the culture of the Weimar Republic had on the one hand moved closer to universal democratic values ​​and the “ western ” lifestyle, there were, on the other hand, those forces that remained anti- universalist, anti-American and anti-parliamentary and persisted on a specifically “German” path to modernity, one path , to which terms such as national or ethnic "Sonderweg" are assigned (see also Deutscher Sonderweg ). The American historian Jeffrey Herf has called this cultural orientation "reactionary modernism". Its supporters, so the reading, accepted modern technological developments as neutral in themselves and as possible means on the way to power, but rejected the cultural, social and political developments of modernity. In the case of authors such as Oswald Spengler , Ernst Jünger , Hans Freyer or Carl Schmitt, there is, therefore, not only cultural pessimism, but also an aestheticization of technology.

Reasons for the Failure of the Weimar Republic

“Anyone who talks about Weimar”, says Hagen Schulze , “means Weimar's failure”. Quite simple formulas were coined by contemporaries of the events at that time; the Social Democrats Otto Braun and Friedrich Stampfer, for example, got along with “Versailles and Moscow”. Schulze himself and the more recent research literature, on the other hand, consider a variety or a bundle of causes and reasons, which, however, are weighted differently in their separate significance.

The fall of the republic until the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship, which began with Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor, is hardly regarded as inevitable. Rather, it is mostly emphasized that the Weimar Republic had a chance to survive up to this point in time. Heinrich August Winkler writes: “Hitler's appointment as Chancellor was not the inevitable outcome of the German state crisis, which began with the breakup of the grand coalition on March 27, 1930 and had dramatically come to a head since Brüning's dismissal on May 30, 1932. Hindenburg did not have to part with Schleicher any more than he had to replace Brüning with Papen. " Hans Mommsen also speculates:" If the Reichstag had been dissolved under the Schleicher government and Hitler had been denied the Prime Minister's bonus, the following Reichstag elections would have taken place ended with heavy losses for the NSDAP and a strengthening of the republican parties. ”But the“ transfer of power ”associated with Hitler's appointment was not only due to the failure of Hindenburg and his preferred advisers, but also to the interests of the right-wing bourgeois parties in the elimination of social democracy and the free and Christian trade unions opposed to an authoritarian system.

Such interests did not take effect until January 1933, but fit into the bundle of long-term and continuing causes that contributed to the demise of this first democracy in Germany. Since the source material does not necessarily have to weight and link the interrelated causal lines, the relevant interpretations are subject to the time-related and individual interest in knowledge as well as the respective "perspective of the individual researcher or an entire generation of researchers", as Kolb emphasizes.

Social history basics and group mentalities

Weltbühne's own advertisement (1929). As a weekly magazine for politics, art and economics, it was a forum for left-wing intellectuals.

The Weimar Republic did not even last a decade and a half from its turbulent beginnings to its elimination by the Nazi regime. The majority of its citizens grew up in the German Empire and lived through the First World War. The influences received during these times, their social ties and political ideas brought them with them into the now democratically structured new order. According to Peter Longerich , the social elites of the Weimar Republic "were shaped by anti-democratic principles, and the loyalty of their civil servants was largely due to the monarchy". Anti-republican resentments existed in state authorities, in the judiciary and in the Reichswehr. According to Hagen Schulze, however, they were not decisive for the downfall of the republic because these tendencies had proven to be controllable on the occasion of the Kapp Putsch, although they were dependent on the awareness of power in the parties and government.

The political orientation of the various social milieus in the Weimar Republic can be assigned to four broad directions: The conservative camp was essentially rooted in the circles of the large Protestant landowners in East Elbia ; in that part of the urban bourgeoisie, which was also shaped by Protestants, the national liberals and the middle-class middle parties had their strongholds; Catholics of all classes traditionally supported the Center Party; and the labor movement, which was split into Social Democrats and Communists after World War I, was at home in industrial estates and urban industrial agglomerations. This split into Social Democrats, who wanted the republic to be preserved, and Communists, who tried to break it up, was one of the heavy burdening factors on the Weimar state that was effective from the start.

In the middle classes of society, the continuing change in industrial society sometimes triggered uncertainty and social status worries, which increased in times of economic crisis. Between 1907 and 1925, the proportion of self-employed fell from 19.6 percent to 15.6 percent, while the proportion of employees and civil servants rose from 10.3 to 17.3 percent. Mass unemployment and severe loss of income at the time of the Great Depression brought the NSDAP a large increase in votes from these classes.

Large parts of the total population, made up of wage laborers and the middle class, had not built up a solid bond with the republic, as the crisis showed. In the political camps, “party patriotism” outweighed the willingness to compromise democratically. Despite the exaggeration it contains, the catchphrase of the “republic without republicans” marks a central flaw in Weimar democracy.

In the end, the few defenders of democracy, from Mommsen's point of view, were lost to the interaction of the opponents of the parliamentary system in the economy, army, bureaucracy and justice. In the “authoritarian turn” under the presidential cabinets between 1930 and 1932, the old elites succeeded in deliberately destroying the ailing parliamentary-democratic institutions. The decisive prerequisite for the transfer of power to Hitler, however, was the mass base of the NSDAP, which was achieved in July 1932 and maintained despite losses in the November election, which made it by far the strongest political force in the Reichstag.

Structural deficits in the political system

The political structures of the Weimar Republic arose from the results of the November Revolution, were shaped by the relevant parties in the National Assembly - then in the Reichstag and in the state parliaments - and had been part of the Weimar Constitution since 1919. The results of the revolution, the political actions of the parties and the characteristics of the Weimar constitution were and are discussed in historical research with regard to their possible contribution to the failure of Weimar democracy.

Outside of the specifically Marxist-oriented research, a council system is rarely considered as a better post-revolutionary alternative than the parliamentary system. Failure to convene the National Assembly and forcible socialization of the economy would have meant civil war, according to Hagen Schulze, and wiped out the parliamentary-democratic development from the outset. Beyond the fundamental decision in favor of the parliamentary system, however, serious shortcomings are asserted in this revolutionary phase of restructuring. Because even if the councils for the most part were just a “makeshift in the transition period without a parliament”, they were nevertheless able to support an energetic government reform policy: “Preventive structural reforms were possible in 1918: first steps towards democratization of administration, creation a military system loyal to the republic, the public control of economic power up to the socialization of the coal and steel sector. That radical break with the past that would have been necessary to shake off the entire legacy of the imperial government was not possible. "

The missed opportunity at the beginning of the November Revolution to change anti-democratic structures through reforms, according to Kolb, resulted in excessive social continuity between the imperial government and the democratic republic and prevented many Social Democrats from identifying with the new state: " The social-democratic power aversion weakened parliamentary democracy and gave the already strong anti-parliamentary forces in the bourgeoisie an additional boost. "

Alfred Hugenberg, "Media Tsar" and "DNVP Chairman" (photo from 1933)

When it comes to the role of the parties in the context of the Weimar Republic, the thesis of the "self-surrender" of Weimar democracy is sometimes put forward: they lacked insight and the ability to compromise, which was shown by the breakup of the grand coalition in March 1930. However, there have been similar problems since the Reichstag election in 1920 , after which the Weimar coalition no longer had a majority, but only tense grand coalitions including the DVP or right-wing coalitions from the center to the DNVP as majority governments. While the first constellation did not fit together in economic and social policy, the second could hardly be reduced to a common denominator in foreign and cultural policy. With the postponement of the dispute over unemployment insurance, the SPD could probably have kept the grand coalition until autumn of the same year, says Winkler. In this situation, however, the parties' willingness to compromise could have suffered from the fact that, unofficially, a “Hindenburg government” had been unofficially being considered - a presidential regime.

The powers of the Reich President according to the Weimar Constitution, which enabled him to appoint and dismiss a Reich Chancellor at his own discretion (Art. 53), to exempt him from parliamentary legislation through emergency ordinances (Art. 48) and the Reichstag in the event of constitutional obstruction dissolving against the presidential regime (Art. 25) are considered to be the cause of the downfall of the Weimar Republic with ambivalence: while under Reich President Ebert in 1923 they made a significant contribution to overcoming the crisis, under Reich President Hindenburg from 1930 onwards they led to a massive weakening and increasing erosion of the parliamentary system Systems. On the other hand, the question arises whether the Weimar Republic would not have perished earlier without the presidential “reserve constitution”.

Proportional suffrage has also been mentioned as a design flaw in the constitution , which encouraged fragmentation and made it difficult to form functioning coalitions in the Reichstag. In the absence of a cross-check, however, such considerations remain hypothetical, such as the one that a majority vote could have prevented the rise of the NSDAP. In any case, the introduction of proportional representation after the experience with the right to vote in the empire was a core demand for the Social Democrats, but it was also supported by the bourgeois parties.

A deficiency that has had consequences in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the lack of value in the Weimar Constitution, which as a result could be changed at will with a qualified majority. Defenders of the Weimar Constitution had no constitutional advantage over enemies of the republic in terms of the values ​​on which their actions were based.

Persistent war burdens and profound economic crises

Demonstration against the Versailles Treaty in June 1932 in the Berlin Lustgarten

In the consciousness of its citizens, the Weimar Republic was burdened not so much with the legacy of the Empire as the Treaty of Versailles with its provisions, conditions and consequences. There was nothing more politically agreed than in the refusal to accept the consequences of defeat. The material burdens that actually resulted did not play the most important role, not even for the development and course of the Great Inflation or the Great Depression.

The assessment of inflation events in the post-war period is no longer unanimously negative in today's research. With relative full employment, it initially enabled a changeover from a war economy to a peacetime economy with little disruption compared to the rest of the world. The expropriation associated with hyperinflation did not affect the middle classes as a whole, but for many it became a highly explosive socio-political catastrophe experience in which they became proletarian, politically unstable and vulnerable to National Socialism.

Compared to the prewar period, Germany emerged economically considerably weakened from war and inflation. The economic upswing at the time of relative stabilization resembled a pseudo bloom and was accompanied by relative stagnation. The low economic growth, according to Detlev Peukert , “narrowed the room for maneuver which the political and social innovations of the Weimar Republic had made acceptable to the most diverse population groups. Wherever there was not only no growth to be distributed, but even compromises had to be made to the substance, all struggles for distribution became more radical and the segmentations and polarizations of society deepened, in which ultimately there were only opposing camps that were as irreconcilable as they were incapable of acting in themselves In economic and social policy in particular, there has been a change from the promise of reform to the blockade of action to the withdrawal of achievements, with entrepreneurs taking action against the “union state” and the “welfare state” with wage cuts and working hours extension.

At the beginning of the global economic crisis, according to Peukert, the republic's loss of legitimacy had progressed alarmingly. But those who hold the parties at the time unwilling to compromise must also show the material foundations on which compromises could have been based under the conditions of the crisis. The disintegration into ideological and interest parties was therefore an expression of a profound fragmentation of society: “So the basic compromises of 1918/19 were undermined instead of designed until the partners withdrew from the hollowed-out building of the republican order in 1918 and the old elites became what was left of them Brought down. "

Whether there was an alternative to Brüning's economically damaging and pro-cyclical austerity and deflation policy is controversial. The "hunger chancellor" was criticized by historical research early on. In 1979, however, the economic historian Knut Borchardt put forward the thesis that an anti-cyclical financial policy in the spirit of John Maynard Keynes was neither feasible nor desirable in 1931/32, since Germany's core problem was not weak demand , but real wages that were too high . This triggered an intense controversy: His opponents, such as the Berlin economic historian Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich , held against it that the wage development in the 1920s was not exorbitant by international standards; In addition, prior to the publication of Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, there had been realistic considerations about stimulating the economy through deficit spending and job creation measures , such as the WTB plan by Wilhelm Lautenbach , a senior official in the Reich Ministry of Economics of the trade unions or the Wagemann plan of the President of the Reich Statistical Office. Even today, the question of whether, from a counterfactual point of view, a different policy would have been possible and sensible is still controversial. The economic historian Albrecht Ritschl, for example, denies the question and refers to the German balance of payments problems . The social historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, on the other hand, judges that Brüning rejected an active economic policy, which was entirely possible, in order to prevent renewed inflation, but above all to achieve a cancellation of the reparations through proof of the German insolvency.

The thesis that Brüning's goal of getting rid of reparation obligations had "absolute priority" over his economic and financial policy is widespread. It is contested by the reparations historians Bruce Kent and Philipp Heyde as well as by the Berlin contemporary historian Henning Köhler , who assume that Brüning's minority government did not approach the revision of the Young Plan according to a coherent concept, but for domestic political reasons in order to be able to show activity to the nationalist public . Brüning and his employees did not pursue their economic and financial policy for repair policy purposes, but because they were factually convinced of it.

Mistakes and omissions of those politically responsible

Reich President Paul von Hindenburg

In addition to the socio-historical, structural-political and economic reasons for the failure of the Weimar Republic, the influence and actions of people in a prominent position and responsibility are also examined by historical studies with regard to their contribution to the democratic decline process, especially in the era of the presidential cabinets.

President Paul von Hindenburg had to be suspicious of the supporters of the republic as a reactionary since his election in 1925 because of his military career and monarchical stamping in the empire, because of his main role in spreading the stab in the back legend and because of his membership in the conservative East Prussian landowning milieu. At the head of the state he embodied the right shift in the weight of political power, demanded and promoted authoritarian government action. However, he also saw himself in a constitutional role and refused to use his means of power in blatant breach of the constitution. For a long time he firmly refused Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, with clear reference to his dictatorial ambitions and the lofty claim to power of his violent supporters. The fact that he gave in in January 1933 was less due to himself than to the advisors around him, who underestimated the dynamic potential of Hitler and his followers.

The politics and role of Heinrich Brüning , who was appointed as the first chancellor in the series of presidential cabinets by Hindenburg, are controversial . This also includes his actions in the break-up of the grand coalition in March 1930. Hindenburg's State Secretary Otto Meißner and the German national MP Kuno Graf Westarp envisaged a new government in January 1930 that would be both “anti-Marxist” and “anti-parliamentary” and a “change in Prussia ”, which means that the social democratically led state government should be replaced by Otto Braun . The question of whether the grand coalition failed because of an internal "crisis of the party state" or because of the intentions of Hindenburg and the Reichswehr leadership was the subject of controversy between Werner Conze and Karl Dietrich Bracher in the 1950s . The question remains controversial to this day. On the other hand, there is agreement that the end of the Müller government on March 27, 1930 represented an important turning point: the historian Arthur Rosenberg ended his overall account of the Weimar Republic published in 1935 with this - what came after that was only an epilogue for him. Heinrich August Winkler judges that when Brüning took office, "the time of relative stability came to an end and the phase of dissolution of the first German democracy began."

Otto Braun (left) with Rudolf Breitscheid , 1932

With regard to Franz von Papen's chancellorship with increasingly authoritarian features, two opposing options for protecting the republic are being considered. On the one hand, the essentially resigned acceptance of the Prussian strike by those responsible for the SPD, with Otto Braun and Carl Severing at the top, as well as by the unions, is problematized. However, even more recent research has not come to the conclusion that the declaration of a general strike or the appeal for armed resistance to the Prussian police and the Iron Front, for example , would have likely been successful. On the other hand, not only the organizations of the NSDAP, but also an anticipated use of the Reich Defense Force with resounding effect. On the other hand, the chances of an even more unilateral, authoritarian regime are considered, as Papen aimed at by imposing a state emergency and suspending new elections for an indefinite period. Since Hindenburg rejected such a breach of the constitution at the decisive moments, the republic could only be saved hypothetically in this way.

Even Kurt von Schleicher prepared as the last Chancellor before Hitler after his other plans had failed, for their own continuance in office the declaration of state necessity before - and thus also failed to Hindenburg. However, the Reichswehr leadership was already thoroughly prepared for the tasks that would arise in this case.

Under the conditions of a presidential government that might have survived the economic and state crisis, Longerich mentions social concessions and an active crisis-fighting policy, as was most clearly associated with Schleicher's “cross-front” concept. However, this approach by Schleicher, who at the time had advocated both Brüning's and Papen's vocation at Hindenburg, came too late to compensate for the loss of confidence and to sustainably revive the lost hopes with the help of a program that had yet to be implemented. "Certainly," says Mommsen, "this would have had a better chance in August 1932 than after the discrediting of the presidential system by von Papen's amateurish solo attempts."

Reception and aftermath aspects

An overview of the Weimar Republic's perspectives in West German contemporary historical research and published opinion is offered by Thomas Raithel in 2018 in the Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte . He states that the first general German Weimar representations from the second half of the 1940s still painted a positive picture that brought the achievements of the Weimar Republic to the fore. It was about a counter-position to the National Socialist abuse of Weimar and about impulses for a renewed establishment of democracy.

With the drafting of the Basic Law at the end of the 1940s, however, the Weimar Republic had already turned into a negative film from which "lessons" had to be drawn. Now the failure and the internal weakness of the republic have come into focus. "The West German Weimar analyzes of the 1950s were embedded in an overall perspective of totalitarianism, which the Weimar Republic positioned in a defensive struggle against extremisms from left and right." Since the 1960s and 1970s, he said, parallel to political and social reform efforts in the Federal Republic Germany the failure of the Weimar democracy was explained primarily by the - in view of an "unfinished revolution" - continuing dominance of the old elites from the imperial era. The late 1980s brought another new pattern of interpretation, with a view of the failure of the Weimar Republic, not so much on the internal structural problems as on the contradictions and totalitarian potentials of modern industrial society that were particularly pronounced in Germany. On the other hand, this gave rise to the perspective of understanding the Weimar Republic “as a modern space for contemporary forms of life”.

"Today's research image of Weimar democracy has a high degree of plurality, complexity and confusion, not least because of the abundance of income," sums up Raithel. This applies in particular to the question of failure, "whereby the reference to the diverse and high pressure of the problem undoubtedly finds broad approval." In his opinion, recent references to "Weimar conditions" in the public discussion are related to the economic and political developments of the past Years together, beginning with the global financial crisis that broke out in 2007 and followed by the euro crisis since 2010, which partly fueled fears of a national bankruptcy, partly - with a view to the austerity course of the federal government towards southern European states - of the consequences of a rigid austerity course like the Reich Chancellor Brüning warned. As a result of the refugee crisis from 2015 and the strengthening of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), both the problems of forming governments with a majority as well as those of xenophobic propaganda would conjure up a “crisis of democracy” and encourage new Weimar comparisons.

Overall, Raithel sees the social and political differences between Weimar Germany and today's Germany - for example with regard to the concept of the people - as so far-reaching that equations seem inappropriate. The Weimar image of horror has long since lost its force in historical studies and now appears more like a “rhetorical chimera” in public. On the other hand, the history of the first German republic continues to offer, and with increasing differentiation in research, "a complex fund of - always historically located - illustrative material for structural and functional processes and problems in parliamentary-democratic states."

In 2018, Raithel placed his contribution to the current public debate about the aftermath of the Weimar Republic, not least in the context of the 100th anniversary of the founding: “In this context, the memory of the difficult and initially quite successful democratic establishment of the state of 1918/19 may be intensified gain positive accents. "

See also

Source collections

  • Wolfgang Michalka, Gottfried Niedhart (ed.): German history 1918–1933. Documents on domestic and foreign policy (=  Fischer pocket books 11250, history ). Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-596-11250-8 .
  • Nils Freytag (Ed.): Sources on the domestic politics of the Weimar Republic 1918–1933 , Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2010, XXI – 254 S., ISBN 978-3-534-07559-1 (=  Freiherr vom Stein - commemorative edition. Series B: Selected sources on German modern history , Volume 31).


  • Ursula Büttner : Weimar. The overwhelmed republic 1918–1933. Performance and failure in the state, society, economy and culture. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-608-94308-5 .
  • Dieter Gessner: The Weimar Republic (=  controversies about history ). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2002, ISBN 3-534-14727-8 .
  • Peter Hoeres : The culture of Weimar. Breakthrough of modernity (=  German history in the 20th century. Volume 5). Bebra Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89809-405-4 .
  • Anke John: The Weimar federal state. Perspectives of a federal order . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-412-20791-5 .
  • Ulrich Kluge : The Weimar Republic (=  UTB . 2805). Schöningh (UTB), Paderborn [u. a.] 2006, ISBN 978-3-8252-2805-7 .
  • Eberhard Kolb : The Weimar Republic (=  Oldenbourg outline of history . Volume 16). 7th, revised and expanded edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-58870-5 .
  • Eberhard Kolb, Dirk Schumann : The Weimar Republic . 8th, updated and expanded edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-486-71267-4 .
  • Detlef Lehnert: The Weimar Republic. Party state and mass society (=  Reclams Universal Library . Volume 18646 Reclam non-fiction book ). 2nd, revised edition, Reclam, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-15-018646-6 .
  • Peter Longerich : Germany 1918–1933. The Weimar Republic. History manual. Torch bearer, Hanover 1995, ISBN 3-7716-2208-5 .
  • Werner Maser : Between the German Empire and the Nazi regime. The first German republic 1918 to 1933. Bouvier, Bonn / Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-416-02354-4 .
  • Horst Möller : The Weimar Republic. An unfinished democracy (=  dtv 34059). 7th, expanded and updated new edition, Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-423-34059-2 .
  • Hans Mommsen : Rise and Fall of the Republic of Weimar. 1918–1933 (=  Ullstein No. 26508 Propylaeen-Taschenbuch ). Revised and updated edition. Ullstein, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-548-26508-1 .
  • Gottfried Niedhart, Wolfgang Michalka (Hrsg.): The unloved republic. Documentation on domestic and foreign policy in Weimar 1918–1933 . Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-423-02918-8 . (4th edition 1986; revised new editions: Deutsche Geschichte 1918–1933. Documents on domestic and foreign policy , Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1992/2002).
  • Detlev JK Peukert : The Weimar Republic. Crisis years of classical modernism (=  Edition Suhrkamp. Volume 1282 = NF Volume 282 New Historical Library ). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-11282-1 .
  • Hagen Schulze : Weimar. Germany 1917–1933 (=  The Germans and their Nation. Volume 4). Severin & Siedler, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-88680-050-4 .
  • Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. Revised edition, CH Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-43884-9 .
  • Heinrich August Winkler: The German State Crisis 1930–1933. Scope for action and alternatives (=  writings of the Historisches Kolleg . Colloquia. Vol. 26). Oldenbourg, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-486-55943-5 ( digitized ).
  • Heinrich August Winkler: Did Weimar Have to Fail? The end of the first republic and the continuity of German history (= writings of the historical college. Lectures 31) . Munich 1991 ( digitized version ).
  • Hartmann Wunderer: The Weimar Republic . Reclam, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-15-017070-0 .

Web links

Commons : Weimarer Republik  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Weimar Republic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Sources and documents


  1. This shows the older coat of arms from 1923, which was replaced in 1928 by the imperial coat of arms created by Karl-Tobias Schwab (1887–1967) in the mid-1920s , which Theodor Heuss also announced as the federal coat of arms in February 1950 . Cf. Jana Leichsenring: State symbols: The federal eagle. In: Scientific services of the German Bundestag (Ed.): Current term. No. 83/08, December 12, 2008, ZDB -ID 2256061-0 , p. 1–2, here p. 2 online (PDF; 73 kB) ( Memento from January 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ); Jürgen Hartmann : The federal eagle. In: Quarterly Books for Contemporary History . Vol. 56, Issue 3, 2008, pp. 495–509, here pp. 499–502 ( PDF ). See the illustration of the Reich coat of arms on the panel "German Empire: Wappen I", in: Der Große Brockhaus. Handbook of knowledge in twenty volumes. Vol. 4: Chi-Dob. 15th, completely revised edition, Brockhaus, Leipzig 1929, plate between p. 648 and 649.
  2. See Sebastian Ullrich : More than sound and smoke. The dispute over the name of the first German democracy 1918–1949. In: Moritz Föllmer, Rüdiger Graf (ed.): The "Crisis" of the Weimar Republic. On the critique of an interpretation pattern , Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2005, ISBN 3-593-37734-9 , pp. 187-207.
  3. Winkler 1998, p. 25.
  4. Longerich 1995, p. 46.
  5. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949. Munich 2003, p. 209.
  6. Quoted from Longerich 1995, p. 87.
  7. Heiko Holste: Why Weimar? How Germany's First Republic came to its birthplace. Böhlau, Cologne 2017.
  8. Quoted from Winkler 1998, p. 91.
  9. Longerich 1995, p. 97.
  10. It has not been proven that Seeckt used the often-quoted phrase on this occasion. “In the matter, however, Seeckt's attitude was clear. Above all, he was concerned with one thing: He wanted to keep the Reichswehr intact as a domestic political instrument. "(Winkler 1998, p. 121.)
  11. Foreign Minister in the Wirth II cabinet since January 31, 1922
  12. Winkler 1998, p. 187.
  13. Mommsen 1998, p. 184.
  14. Longerich 1995, p. 145.
  15. Mommsen 1998, p. 230; Longerich 1995, p. 153.
  16. Mommsen 1998, p. 224; Winkler 1998, p. 187.
  17. Mommsen 1998, p. 234; Longerich 1995, p. 150.
  18. Longerich 1995, p. 174 f.
  19. Mommsen 1998, p. 282.
  20. Winkler 1998, p. 296.
  21. Longerich 1995, p. 187.
  22. Winkler 1998, p. 297 f.
  23. Longerich 1995, p. 176 f.
  24. Longerich 1995, p. 178; Eberhard Kolb recognizes the “real” Weimar art style in the New Objectivity ( The Weimar Republic , 7th complete and extended edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, p. 98).
  25. Mommsen 1998, p. 292; Winkler 1998, p. 276: "There is hardly any doubt that Ebert's health was also weakened by emotional insults", including allegations of treason because of Ebert's role in the Berlin ammunition workers' strike in January 1918 and unfounded accusations of corruption in connection with the Bar Speculative affair . In the trials against it, Ebert was only partially right by anti-republican judges.
  26. Mommsen 1998, pp. 296-300; Longerich 1995, p. 239 f.
  27. Eberhard Kolb: The Weimar Republic . 7th through and exp. Ed., Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, p. 70 f.
  28. In this sense, Eberhard Kolb (2009, p. 122), Heinrich August Winkler (1998, p. 356) and Peter Longerich (1995, p. 256 f.) Rate the initiative against the Young Plan as a partial success for the NSDAP ; Otmar Jung ( plebiscitary breakthrough 1929? On the significance of referendums and referendums against the Young Plan for the NSDAP . In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft , 4 (1989), pp. 489-510) expresses doubt; Andreas Wirsching ( The Weimar Republic. Politics and Society . 2nd edition 2008, p. 58) sees a continuing need for research.
  29. Heino Kaack: History and Structure of the German Party System , Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-322-83527-7 , pp. 105-108.
  30. ^ Werner Plumpe : Economic crises. Past and present . Beck, Munich 2010, p. 81.
  31. Mommsen 1998, p. 441.
  32. Longerich 1995, p. 303. The unregistered “invisible” unemployed are estimated at an additional 1 million for 1931 and at an additional 1.5 to 2.5 million for 1932 (Longerich ibid).
  33. a b Mommsen 1998, p. 444.
  34. Mommsen 1998, pp. 463-474.
  35. Winkler 1998, p. 378.
  36. Reiner Marcowitz: Weimar Republic 1929–1933. 3rd edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 66.
  37. Dietmar Keese: The total economic variables for the German Reich 1925-1936. In: Werner Conze , Hans Raupach (ed.): The state and economic crisis of the German Reich 1929/33. Six posts. Klett, Stuttgart 1967, pp. 74-78.
  38. Reiner Marcowitz: Weimar Republic 1929–1933. 3rd edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 67; Mommsen 1998, p. 460; Winkler 1998, p. 441 f. Quotes Brüning as follows: “If Hoover is re-elected, you can negotiate again from November; if he is not re-elected, negotiations cannot begin before March 1933, when the new president takes office. 'Until then we have to hold out.' "
  39. ^ Gerhard Schulz: From Brüning to Hitler. The change in the political system in Germany 1930–1933. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1992, p. 626 ff.
  40. Mommsen 1998, p. 448.
  41. Winkler 1998, p. 475: "In the last instance, what counted was not what Brüning wanted, but what the Reich President and those around him considered necessary."
  42. Mommsen 1998, p. 486.
  43. Reiner Marcowitz: Weimar Republic 1929–1933. 3rd edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 69.
  44. Mommsen 1998, p. 481.
  45. Winkler 1998, p. 464 f.
  46. ^ Gerhard Schulz: From Brüning to Hitler. The change in the political system in Germany 1930–1933 . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1992, pp. 845–863.
  47. Peter Longerich: Germany 1918-1933 , p. 325.
  48. Winkler 1998, p. 480 f.
  49. Mommsen 1998, p. 597.
  50. Winkler 1998, p. 515 f.
  51. Winkler 1998, p. 482 f.
  52. Mommsen 1998, pp. 601 ff.
  53. Winkler 1998, p. 574 ff.
  54. Carl Schmitt : Verfassungslehre. 3rd, unchanged edition, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957, p. 30.
  55. Gerhard Anschütz: The Constitution of the German Empire of August 11, 1919. A commentary for science and practice. Third edition, 12th edition, Stilke, Berlin 1930, p. 403 (first published in 1919).
  56. Cf. Gerhard Lingelbach: Weimar 1919 - Way in a Democracy. In: Eberhard Eichenhofer (Ed.): 80 years of the Weimar Constitution - what has remained? 1999, pp. 23–47, here p. 47.
  57. Quotation from Hanns-Jürgen Wiegand: Direct Democratic Elements in German Constitutional History (=  Legal Contemporary History , Section 1: General Series. Vol. 20). BWV - Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-8305-1210-4 , p. 146 f., Note 16 with additional information (also: Darmstadt, Techn. Univ., Diss., 2004).
  58. ^ Wolfgang Birkenfeld: The character assassination of the Reich President. On the borderline forms of the political struggle against the early Weimar Republic 1919–1925 . In: Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 5 (1965), pp. 453–500, here p. 453.
  59. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918-1933: The history of the first German democracy. 3rd edition, CH Beck, Munich 1998, p. 276.
  60. ^ Dietz Bering: Battle for names. Bernhard Weiß versus Joseph Goebbels . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1991, p. 351.
  61. Eberhard Kolb (Ed.): Friedrich Ebert as President of the Reich: Administration and Understanding of Office , Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 1997, p. 307 .
  62. ^ Andreas Wirsching: The Weimar Republic. Politics and society . Munich 2000, p. 55 f .; Eberhard Kolb: The Weimar Republic. 6th edition, Munich 2002, p. 42.
  63. Ernst Willi Hansen. The state in the state - military history of the Weimar Republic 1919 to 1933. In: Basic course in German military history . Vol. 2. The age of the world wars: 1914 to 1945. Völker in Waffen , Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, pp. 138–144.
  64. Ernst Willi Hansen. The state in the state - military history of the Weimar Republic 1919 to 1933. In: Basic course in German military history . Vol. 2. The age of the world wars: 1914 to 1945. Völker in Waffen , Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, pp. 150–167.
  65. ^ Hans Mommsen: Military and civil militarization in Germany 1914 to 1938 . In: Ute Frevert (Ed.): Military and society in the 19th and 20th centuries. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, p. 273.
  66. ^ Bernhard Post, Volker Wahl: Thuringia Handbook. Territory, constitution, parliament, government and administration in Thuringia 1920 to 1995 (=  publications from Thuringian state archives. Vol. 1). Böhlau, Weimar 1999, ISBN 3-7400-0962-4 .
  67. ^ Otto Beckmann: Beckmanns Welt-Lexikon and Welt-Atlas. A – Z. Beckmann publishing house, Leipzig [a. a.] 1931, DNB 578298031 .
  68. At that time, the Saar area was part of the German Empire under international law , but from 1920 to 1935 it was under the administration of the League of Nations .
  69. Caroline Authaler: The international legal end of the German colonial empire. In: From politics and contemporary history. 69th vol., 40–42 / 2019, pp. 4–10 ( online ).
  70. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 232 f. (Original edition: Munich 2003); Peukert 1987, p. 92.
  71. Peukert gives 35.6 percent (1987, p. 101), Wehler 36 percent ( Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Issued under license for the Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn 2009, p. 237 (original edition: Munich 2003))
  72. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 237. (Original edition: Munich 2003)
  73. Peukert 1987, p. 101 f.
  74. Peukert 1987, p. 97.
  75. Peukert 1987, p. 96 f.
  76. Peukert 1987, p. 98 f .; Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 236. (Original edition: Munich 2003)
  77. Peukert 1987, p. 99; Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 236. (Original edition: Munich 2003)
  78. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 496 f. (Original edition: Munich 2003).
  79. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 499. (Original edition: Munich 2003).
  80. Peukert 1987, p. 161 f.
  81. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 501. (Original edition: Munich 2003).
  82. Winkler 1998, p. 300.
  83. Quoted from Winkler 1998, p. 299.
  84. Peukert 1987, p. 162 f.
  85. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . Licensed edition for the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2009, p. 511. (Original edition: Munich 2003).
  86. Hoeres 2008, pp. 8 and 84 f.
  87. Peukert 1987, p. 166.
  88. ^ Henning Köhler: Germany on the way to itself. A story of the century . Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, p. 195 ff.
  89. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 44.
  90. Schulze 1982, p. 128 f.
  91. Peukert 1987, p. 167.
  92. Peter Gay : The Republic of the Outsiders. Spirit and culture in the Weimar period 1918–1933. Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 144.
  93. Peter Gay: The Republic of the Outsiders. Spirit and culture in the Weimar period 1918–1933. Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 162.
  94. a b Kolb 2009, p. 240.
  95. Hoeres 2008, p. 159.
  96. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 139.
  97. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, pp. 360-362.
  98. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 363.
  99. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 151.
  100. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, pp. 363-3365.
  101. Kristina Kratz-Kessemeier: Art for the Republic: The Art Policy of the Prussian Ministry of Culture 2008, p. 504.
  102. Schulze 1982, p. 129.
  103. Peukert 1987, p. 187.
  104. Schulze 1982, p. 132 f.
  105. Quoted from Winkler 1998, p. 301.
  106. ^ Arnd Krüger : Sport and Politics. From gymnastics father Jahn to state amateur. Torch bearer, Hanover 1975, ISBN 3-7716-2087-2 ; Peukert 1987, p. 177.
  107. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 70.
  108. Peukert 1987, p. 177.
  109. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 314.
  110. Peukert 1987, p. 181 f.
  111. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 281.
  112. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 283.
  113. Kolb 2009, p. 106.
  114. Longerich 1995, p. 177 f .; Peukert 1987, p. 168 f.
  115. Longerich 1995, p. 179; Kolb 2009, p. 99. The then director of the Mannheim Kunsthalle Gustav Hartlaub is considered to be the inventor of the term, who associated it with a general feeling of resignation and cynicism after a period of exuberant hopes. (Peter Gay: The Republic of Outsiders. Spirit and Culture in the Weimar Period 1918–1933. Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 161.)
  116. Kolb 2009, p. 102 f .; Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 232.
  117. Hoeres 2008, p. 125.
  118. Kolb 2009, p. 103.
  119. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 225 f.
  120. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, pp. 408-410.
  121. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 410.
  122. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 418.
  123. Kolb 2009, p. 100 f. At that time there were 49 theaters in Berlin, plus 75 cabarets and cabaret stages. (Hoeres 2008, p. 141).
  124. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 174 f.
  125. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, pp. 176-193.
  126. Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 199 f.
  127. Kolb 2009, p. 108.
  128. Kolb 2009, p. 108 f.
  129. Jost Hermand, Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 292.
  130. Heike Goldbach: A firework of charm. Willy Fritsch. The Ufa actor. About a great film career in changeable times. tredition, Hamburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-7439-1290-8 , p. 100.
  131. a b Ursula Büttner: Weimar. The overwhelmed republic. 1st edition, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-608-94308-5 , p. 316.
  132. ^ Andreas Jacob: Weimar and the pluralization of lifestyles. In: Sabine Mecking and Yvonne Wasserloos (eds.). Music, power, the state. Cultural, social and political change processes in the modern age. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-89971-872-0 , pp. 150–153.
  133. Peter Jelavich: Berlin Cabaret. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 1996, ISBN 0-674-06762-2 , pp. 170-175.
  134. ^ Andreas Jacob: Weimar and the pluralization of lifestyles. In: Sabine Mecking and Yvonne Wasserloos (eds.). Music, power, the state. Cultural, social and political change processes in the modern age. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-89971-872-0 , pp. 170-174.
  135. Longerich 1995, p. 179 f .; Peukert 1987, p. 170; Kolb 2009, p. 102.
  136. Nicole Nottelmann: Strategies of Success. Narratological analyzes of exemplary novels by Vicki Baum. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-8260-2305-6 , pp. 21-25.
  137. Hoeres 2008, pp. 60-64.
  138. Hoeres 2008, pp. 51–53.
  139. Hoeres 2008, p. 62 f.
  140. Hoeres 2008, pp. 54–56.
  141. Hoeres 2008, p. 66 f.
  142. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 61.
  143. Longerich 1995, p. 182; Jost Hermand / Frank Trommler: The culture of the Weimar Republic. Munich 1978, p. 257.
  144. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt 1976, p. 327.
  145. Kolb 2009, p. 98. “The development in the cultural sector from 1929/30 is characterized by a double trend, by a certain slackening of artistic creativity and increasing polarization.” (Ibid.)
  146. Longerich 1995, p. 183; Peukert 1987, p. 189.
  147. ^ Walter Laqueur: Weimar. The culture of the republic. Frankfurt am Main 1976, p. 103.
  148. ^ Andreas Wirsching: The Weimar Republic. Politics and society. R. Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-486-55048-9 , p. 85 f .; Louis Dupeux: “Cultural Pessimism”, Conservative Revolution and Modernity. In: Manfred Gangl and Gérard Raulet (eds.). Intellectual discourses in the Weimar Republic. On the political culture of a mixed bag. Lang, Frankfurt 2007, ISBN 978-3-631-56625-1 , p. 416 f.
  149. Schulze 1982, p. 10.
  150. This also applies to Longerich in the first few months afterwards. (1995, p. 353 f.)
  151. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. First volume: From the end of the Old Reich to the fall of the Weimar Republic. 5th, revised edition, Munich 2002, p. 549.
  152. Mommsen 1998, p. 642 f.
  153. Eberhard Kolb: The Weimar Republic . 7th through and exp. Ed., Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, p. 251; similarly Schulze 1982, p. 417 f.
  154. Longerich 1995, p. 354.
  155. Schulze 1982, pp. 423-425.
  156. Peukert 1987, p. 149 f.
  157. Winkler 1998, p. 595.
  158. Peukert 1987, p. 22.
  159. Reiner Marcowitz: Weimar Republic 1929–1933. 3rd edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 99; Mommsen 1998, p. 425/427: “The efforts of the NSDAP to pull the officials, whose resentment they skillfully satisfied with the promise of a restoration of the professional civil service and the guarantee of the acquired rights, to their camp had particular success. [...] This confirms the observation that primarily those social groups sympathized with the NSDAP who were subjectively and objectively threatened with social decline, which was true for the civil service. "
  160. Schulze 1982, p. 421 f.
  161. Mommsen 1998, p. 643 f.
  162. a b Peukert 1987, p. 260.
  163. Winkler 1998, p. 607.
  164. Schulze 1982, p. 420.
  165. "In 1918/19 it could not be about any connections between the parliamentary and the council system, but only about social changes that promised to consolidate the aspired parliamentary democracy." (Winkler 1998, p. 601.)
  166. Winkler 1998, p. 601.
  167. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The way into the disaster. Workers and the labor movement in the Weimar Republic 1930 to 1933. Berlin / Bonn, 2nd edition 1990, p. 952; quoted from Kolb 2009, p. 176.
  168. Winkler 1998, p. 597 f.
  169. Winkler 1998, p. 597.
  170. Kolb 2009, p. 231.
  171. Schulze 1982, p. 422 f .; Winkler 1998, p. 604; Kolb 2009, pp. 180-182.
  172. Kolb 2009, p. 183 f .; Schulze 1982, p. 423.
  173. Schulze 1982, p. 422.
  174. Schulze 1982, p. 418 f .; Winkler 1998, p. 602; Kolb 2009, p. 216 f.
  175. Kolb 2009, pp. 202-206.
  176. Winkler 1998, p. 603 f.
  177. Peukert 1987, p. 267.
  178. Peukert 1987, p. 269.
  179. Knut Borchardt: Distress and Scope for Action in the Great Economic Crisis of the Early Thirties. For the revision of the traditional image of history . In: Yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , 1979, pp. 85–132.
  180. ^ Rainer Meister: The great depression. Constraints and room for maneuver in economic and financial policy in Germany 1929–1932. transfer, Regensburg 1991; Andreas Wirsching: The Weimar Republic. Politics and Society , Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, p. 110 ff.
  181. ^ Albrecht Ritschl: Knut Borchardt's interpretation of the Weimar economy. On the history and impact of an economic-historical controversy (PDF; 137 kB), 2001; ders .: Germany's crisis and economy 1924–1934. Domestic economy, foreign debt and reparation problem between the Dawes plan and transfer ban , Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2002.
  182. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949. CH Beck, Munich 2003, pp. 520-528; similar to Kolb 2009, p. 235 f.
  183. ^ Hermann Graml : Between Stresemann and Hitler. The foreign policy of the presidential cabinets Brüning, Papen and Schleicher. Oldenbourg, Munich 2001, p. 41 (here the quote); Reiner Marcowitz: Weimar Republic 1929–1933. 3rd edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 67; Mommsen 1998, p. 460; Winkler 1998, p. 441 f.
  184. ^ Henning Köhler: Job creation, settlement and reparations in the final phase of the Brüning government. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 17 (1969), pp. 276–306 ( PDF ); ders .: Germany on the way to itself. A story of the century. Hohenheim, Stuttgart 2002, p. 240 ff .; Bruce Kent: The Spoils of War. The Politics, Economics, and Diplomacy of Reparations 1918–1932. Clarendon, Oxford 1989, pp. 332, 335, etc .; Philipp Heyde: The end of the reparations. Germany, France and the Young Plan 1929–1932. Schöningh, Paderborn 1998, pp. 463-470.
  185. Johannes Hürter : Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, pp. 240-260 (here citations p. 257); Hans Mommsen: The playful freedom. The way of the republic from Weimar into the downfall 1918 to 1933. Propylaen, Berlin 1989, pp. 287 f., 292; Heinrich August Winkler: Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. 2., through Aufl., CH Beck, Munich 1994, pp. 362 ff., 366, 368 f .; Peter Longerich: Germany 1918–1933. The Weimar Republic. History manual. Torch bearer, Hannover 1995, pp. 259 f., 262 f.
  186. Dieter Gessner : The end of the Weimar Republic. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1978, p. 12 ff .; Eberhard Kolb: The Weimar Republic. 3rd edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, pp. 211 ff.
  187. Peter Gay : The Republic of the Outsiders. Spirit and culture of the Weimar period 1918–1933 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 179.
  188. Winkler 1998, p. 372; see Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 , CH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 515, for which “the parliamentary republic failed” on this day; similar to Andreas Wirsching : The Weimar Republic. Politics and Society , Oldenbourg, Munich 2000, p. 111 f.
  189. Mommsen 1998, p. 604; Longerich 1995, p. 359.
  190. Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. (PDF) In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 66, Issue 2, April 2018, pp. 299–308.
  191. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, volume 66, issue 2, p. 303.
  192. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, volume 66, issue 2, p. 304.
  193. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, volume 66, issue 2, p. 306.
  194. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, volume 66, issue 2, p. 300 f.
  195. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 66, Issue 2, April 2018, p. 307 f.
  196. Thomas Raithel: Still a horror picture? Today's Germany and the Weimar Republic. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 66, Issue 2, April 2018, p. 302.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 19, 2005 .