Friedrich Ebert on political divisions in Weimar Germany (1920)


In September 1920 the first Weimar president, Friedrich Ebert, wrote to the prime minister of Sweden, outlining the political divisions within Germany:


“As enormous as our task seems to be, it would be only half as difficult if the working class were united. It is, naturally, quite out of the question to think of reconciliation with the Communist groups. The Independents (USPD) are in a ghastly muddle, oscillating between Soviet dictatorship and democracy. Thus we have to defend the democratic republic for which we have been battling for decades, against attack from the Right but also from the Left.

We are fighting against military putsches and against communist putsches for the safety of the Republic. It is not impossible that one day the putschists from the Right and from the Left will face us in one united front. In any event, we are holding firm to the line of democracy and we will succeed. It is especially difficult to set up a reliable state authority without which even a democracy cannot exist. The peace conditions have forced us to accept a troop of mercenaries — dangerous for any state.

The thing to do would be, first of all, to remove from this body all the reactionary officers… The same kind of cleaning up would also be good for the administration, though there, too, we have to face a lack of suitable candidates. Unfortunately, it is true that our universities and high schools are the breeding ground for reactionaries.

If the revolution has had no more penetrating and persistent effect in these areas, this is, above all, a result of the Versailles Treaty. The brutal attitude towards our national independence and the continuous sadistic attacks on our national feelings must whip up national passions and help to spread nationalist demagogy among the young. They are the greatest enemy of German democracy and the strongest impulse for turning to communism and nationalism.”