The Weimar Republic was the state and political system in Germany from late 1918 to the rise of Nazism in 1933. It is sometimes referred to as Weimar Germany.
What followed was months of unrest, turmoil and attempts at socialist revolution. The national government remained in the hands of moderates, however, and by August 1919 they had developed a new political system underpinned by a written constitution.
The Weimar experiment
The Weimar Republic began as a bold experiment in constitutional and representative government. Its creators sought to create a modern liberal democracy in a nation that had known only militarism and authoritarian monarchy.
The first years of the Weimar Republic were unsettled and tumultuous, due to Germany’s post-war international isolation, economic exhaustion and the activities of radical political groups.
In the mid-1920s, Germany moved into a more prosperous period dubbed the ‘Golden Age of Weimar‘, marked by economic recovery, social renewal and cultural innovation. Much of this prosperity, however, was propped up by foreign loans, while the Weimar government remained weak and unstable.
The collapse of 1929
The Great Depression of the early 1930s plunged Germany into widespread unemployment and brought the Weimar dream crashing to earth. By late 1933, Weimar democracy had given way to Nazi totalitarianism.
The Weimar Republic is of great significance to historians and history students alike. It demonstrates how democracy can fail when it is too ambitious and when internal forces work against it.
Weimar Germany was a society at the crossroads of history. It was torn between several old ideas and values of the 19th century (tradition, militarism and authoritarian government) and those of the modern era (republicanism, liberalism and democracy).
The rise of Nazism
In 1920, the Nazis were one of many small groups filled with disgruntled nationalists and ex-soldiers. Their growth, development and rise to power were shaped by the political and economic conditions in the Weimar Republic.
The culture of the Weimar era – such as its art, which was innovative, modernist and flourished in spite of Germany’s political and economic instability – is also worthy of study.
Alpha History’s Weimar Republic website contains hundreds of primary and secondary resources for researching, learning and understanding the German republic between 1918 and 1933.