1919-1923 1929-1932






Weimar Republic, 1923-1928

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Cultural History



Administration . President 1919-1925 Friedrich Ebert (SPD), 1925-1934 Paul von Hindenburg (non-party). Chancellors Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum) 1923-1925, Hans Luther (non-party) 1925-1926, Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum) 1926-1928, Heinrich M&uum;ller (SPD) 1928-1930. Minister of Foreign Affairs 1923-1929 Gustav Stresemann (DVP). Capital Berlin. General elections were held in May 1924, December 1924 and in 1928.

Foreign Policy . The Weimar Republic had been established with the somewhat reluctantly granted approval of the OHL (army high command) in November 1918; irregular army units, the Freikorps, had been instrumental in suppressing the German Revolution in January to March 1919. The German Army regarded itself as beyond the control of the Weimar government and was unwilling to accept the restrictions imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles, and the various German cabinets supported it in this policy. The Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 permitted the German army to train pilots on Soviet territory, outside of the view of Allied observers in Germany.
Gustav Stresemann, Germany's minister of foreign affairs 1923-1929, sought to end Germany's international isolation. In November 1923 the German government called off the non-violent resistance in the French-occupied Rhineland. The Dawes Plan of 1924 reorganized reparations payments, somewhat relieving the financial burden on Germany. In 1925 Germany and France signed the Treaty of Locarno. In this treaty, Germany recognized its new borders in the west, thus accepting that Alsace-Lorraine was French. The French agreed to withdraw the forces occupying the Ruhrgebiet and Rhineland step by step (1925-1930). The city of Cologne was evacuated by the French in 1926. In 1926, Germany and the USSR signed a Pact of Friendship. Germany was admitted to the League of Nations.

Domestic Policy . With the currency reform (November 1923), the political situation stabilized. Cabinets now were in office 18 months on average, as compared to less than 6 months in 1919-1923. The parties of the governing coalition kept their share of seats, the SPD increased its share considerably. The republic, despite being resented by significant sectors of German society, despite it being associated with the hated Treaty of Versailles, despite the economic uncertainty, the desperation of many, seemed stable.
The radical parties (communists and Nazis), strongly representated in 1924, took considerable losses. However, the Weimar Republic suffered from a number of weaknesses, (1) a fragmented political landscape. Too many political parties, often hostile to a number of other parties, made the formation of coalition governments difficult; some were radical, some regional, some religiously based, some special interest. (2) The Weimar Republic had been established in violence (German Revolution 1918-1919), and saved by an irregular militia, the Freikorps. Thus, militias had been tolerated and remained so, when the revolution was suppressed; most political parties had party militias, the Republikanischer Schutzbund of the SPD for example. The Weimar Republic did not attempt to ban such party militias; in the 1920es Hitler's NSDAP was insignificant; his militia, the SA, got into the newspapers. (3) A significant, but influential minority publicly accepted, but at the same time resented the republic. Among those were the judges who sentenced Hitler in April 1924 for his role in the March on the Feldherrnhalle (Nov. 1923, attempted blackmail of the state), giving him merely 5 years in prison ("he-thinks-right-mentality"; Hitler served only one year, during which he wrote "Mein Kampf", which was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926).
During the same time, a number of German democrats and pacifists published details on the policy of army and government circumventing the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles on the German army, most notably Kurt Tucholsky and Carl von Ossietzky.

Germany, seats in the Reichstag, 1924-1928
after the elections of May 4th 1924, Dec. 7th 1924 and May 20th 1928


USPD and KPD
SPD
Zentrum
DNVP
DVP
DDP
BVP
NSDAP

total


Independent Social Democrats and Communists
Social Democrats
Centre (Catholics)
Germ. Nat'l People's Party (nationalistic)
German People's Party (national liberal)
German Democratic Party (progessive liberal)
Bavarian people's party (regional, nat'l liberal)
National Socialists (Nazis)
smaller parties
May '24

62
100
65
95
45
28
16
32
29
472
Dec '24

45
131
69
103
51
32
19
14
29
493
May '28

54
153
62
73
45
25
16
12
51
491


The Economy, When Germany's young democracy survived the turbulent year of 1923, things turned to the better. Although unemployment began to rise after the currency reform, the economy stabilized. The inflation rate was close to zero. The unemployment figures were 1.5 % inh 1922, 9.6 % in 1923, 13.5 % in 1924, 6.7 % in 1925, 18.0 % in 1926, 8.8 % in 1927, 8.4 % in 1928 [IHS p.160]
Germany's plight during the post-war years had resulted in international efforts to deal with the reparations, still a lasting burden on Germany's economy.
Advances were made in the chemical industry, where now Synthetical Fertilizer was produced on large scale in Leuna, a result of war-time research. The car and airplane industry developed, but unlike the United States, where Henry Ford pursued a policy of making the car affordable, in Germany only a small minority could consider buying a car. Both Ford (Ford-Werke, Cologne, 1927) and General Motors (Opel Werke, Rüsselsheim) bought German car factories.

Demography . Jan Lahmeyer estimates the German population for 1923 as 61.5 million, for 1928 as 64.3 million.

Cultural History . Berlin became a cultural center of international reputation. Germany's film industry at Babelsberg, with directors such as Fritz Lang was pioneering. Varieties were plenty, the setting of the Hollywood movie 'Cabaret' - the carefree life enjoyed by a minority of wealthy people inspired some to christen this short period of seeming prosperity as the Golden Twenties. Movie theatres mushroomed, providing the masses with distraction. the Wochenschau (weekly newsreels) informed about what was going on in the world. Successes of German athletes at the Olympics and the fame of Count Ferdinand Zeppelin's Blimps helped to restore German national pride.
German athletes did not participate in the Summer Olympics of Paris 1924, did participate in the Summer Olympics of Amsterdam 1928, where Germans took 10 gold.
Germans G.L. Hertz (1925), J. Franck (1925) were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, H.O. Wieland (1927) and A.O.R. Windaus (1928) the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Gustav Stresemann (1926) and L. Quidde (1927) the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thomas Mann published Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) in 1924. In 1927, Hermann Hesse (since 1924 in self-imposed exile in Switzerland) published Der Steppenwolf.
In 1927, the Comedian Harmonists, a close vocalist ensemble, rose to national and international fame.
In 1924, at Babelsberg Film Studios, Fritz Lang directed Die Nibelungen, in 1927 Metropolis.






EXTERNAL
FILES
Articles from Wikipedia : Elections in Germany, Gustav Stresemann, Wilhelm Marx, Hans Luther, Hermann Müller, Dawes Plan, Kurt Tucholsky, Carl von Ossietzky, Germany at the 1928 Summer Olympics, Nobel Laureates by Country : Germany, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Fritz Lang, Comedian Harmonists
Biography of Gustav Stresemann, from nobel.se
Studio Babelsberg History, from Studio Babelsberg
N.H. Dimsdale, N. Horsewood and A. van Riel, Umemployment and Real Wages in Weimar Germany (2004)
DOCUMENTS Weimar documents in German Original, in English translation, from psm-data
Weimar documents, from Document Archiv, in German
Germany : World War I and Weimar Republic, from Eurodocs, collection of links
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Heidelberger Programm, 1925, posted by Marxists' Internet Archive, in German
SPD election poster 1928, posted by Library of Congress
REFERENCE Bernd Widdig, Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany, Berkeley : University of California Press 2001, KMLA Lib.Sign. 332.41 W638c
Weimarer Republik, Informationen zur politischen Bildung 261, revised edition 2003 [G]
Frederic V. Grunfeld, The Hitler File. A Social History of Germany and the Nazis, 1918-1945, NY : Random House 1974 [G; actually a pictorial history]
Article : Germany, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1924 pp.933-981, 1925 pp.945-990, 1926 pp.917-961, 1928 pp.934-981 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1927 pp.372-380, 1928 pp.331-336 [G]
Article : Germany, in : New International Year Book 1925 pp.279-285, 1928 pp.294-298 [G]
IHS : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics, Europe 1750-1988, NY : Stockton Press 1992 [G]


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 27th 2008

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