These Weimar Republic essay questions have been written and compiled by Alpha History authors, for use by teachers and students. They can be used for essays but also for short answer questions, classroom activities, research tasks or revision. If you would like to contribute a question, please contact Alpha History.
- Explain how Germany came into existence in 1871 and who wielded power in the new nation.
- Many suggest that Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II was nationalistic, militaristic and authoritarian. Explain what these terms mean and to what extent the claim is true.
- Discuss the contribution of Count Otto von Bismarck to the German government, society and foreign affairs in the late 19th century.
- Describe the relationship between German citizens and their government between 1871 and 1914. To what extent was the German government democratic, representative and beneficial for the people?
- Kaiser Wilhelm II is sometimes described as the personification of the German Empire and its values. Why is this?
- Discuss the relationship between civilian government and the military high command in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War I.
- Explain the contribution of Prussia and Prussian aristocrats to German politics and policy between 1871 and the outbreak of World War I.
- What role did Germany and its leaders play in the outbreak of World War I?
- What impact did World War I have on Germany’s domestic economy and its civilian population?
- What was the ‘Silent Dictatorship’ in Germany during World War I and what impact did it have on German society?
The birth of the Republic
- Research and discuss the political and economic situation in Germany in the last three months of World War I.
- Summarise the demands of the Kiel mutineers. How did the events in Kiel contribute to the downfall of the Hohenzollern monarchy?
- What were the factors behind Germany’s willingness to agree to an armistice on November 11th 1918?
- Explain the evolution of the Dolchstosslegende, or ‘stab in the back’ theory. Was Germany really ‘stabbed in the back’ in 1918? Who or what was responsible for circulating this theory?
- Research and discuss living conditions for ordinary Germans in 1918 and 1919.
- How did Germans respond to the Treaty of Versailles? Citing at least five different clauses, explain how this treaty fueled German nationalism.
- Evaluate Germany’s transition from a monarchy to a republic in late 1918. Was this transition an organised and controlled one?
- Describe three socialist attempts to seize political power in Germany between late 1918 and 1920. Why did these attempts fail?
- What were the Freikorps? Why did these groups organise and mobilise in the early years of the republic?
- Evaluate the role of Friedrich Ebert in leading and shaping the new republic.
Parties and politics
- Citing at least five specific clauses, explain why the Weimar constitution was liberal, democratic and progressive for its time.
- Explain how the Weimar constitution sought to protect the rights of individuals in Germany.
- What were the Weimar constitution’s ’emergency powers’? Why were these powers included in the constitution?
- Why did the Weimar Reichstag contain so many small political parties. What effect did these parties have on government?
- Why did the Weimar Republic have so many chancellors? Discuss the challenges and obstacles faced by the men who held this office between 1919 and 1932.
- Referring to at least two specific examples, explain why government coalitions in the Weimar Republic frequently collapsed.
- What were the political values and objectives of the Social Democratic Party (SPD)? How successful was the SPD in its attempts to improve German society?
- Research and summarise the leadership, membership, values and actions of two right-wing political parties, excluding the NSDAP.
- Which leaders and groups were involved in the Great Coalition of 1923? What were their objectives and how successful were they?
- Describe the origins, membership and political aims of the NSDAP. What kind of Germany did this group want?
The troubled 1920s
- How did far right wing and nationalist groups contribute to political unrest and instability in early 1920s Germany?
- Referring to at least three specific examples, explain the impact that political violence had on the republic in the 1920s.
- Evaluate the relationship between the Weimar government and the Reichswehr during the 1920s. Did the military support the government or make its job more difficult?
- What events or factors led to the Kapp putsch of 1920? How was this putsch eventually defeated?
- Was Germany’s failure to make reparations payments in 1921-22 the result of financial inability, political defiance, or both?
- Why did foreign troops occupy the Ruhr in early 1923 and how did the German government, press and people respond to this?
- How did the Weimar government contribute to the hyperinflation crisis of late 1923? How was this crisis eventually resolved?
- Which groups or classes were most affected by the hyperinflation of 1923? Did anyone benefit from hyperinflation?
- How successful was Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP’s attempt to seize power in Bavaria in November 1923? How did this attempted putsch shape the future development of the NSDAP?
- Why was Paul von Hindenburg elected president of the republic in 1925? What did this outcome reveal about the state of Germany?
The golden years
- Evaluate the work of the Dawes Committee in 1924. What were the recommendations of this group?
- How and why did Germany’s reparations obligations change between 1921 and 1929?
- Explain how the policies and actions of Gustav Stresemann helped Germany return to the international community in the 1920s.
- What was the economic basis of the Golden Age of Weimar? How and why did Germany’s economy and living standards recover so quickly?
- Was the Golden Age of Weimar ‘golden’ for everyone? Which Germans were the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ during this period?
- Many criticised the Golden Age of Weimar for its urban decadence. What was life like in German cities during this period?
- What ideas and social criticisms were contained in the work of artists Otto Dix and George Grosz?
- How did Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus movement combine style with functionality during the 1920s and early 1930s?
- Discuss how German expressionist filmmakers broke new ground in the 1920s. How did German cinema in this period compare to that of Hollywood?
- How was cabaret used to express political ideas and criticisms during the Weimar period?
The rise of Nazism
- Explain why the economic and social effects of the Great Depression were felt most severely in Germany.
- How did President Hindenburg and Chancellor Bruning respond to the economic crisis of the early 1930s? How effective was this response?
- On his release from prison in 1924 Adolf Hitler promised to reorganise and transform the NSDAP. How did the party change during the mid to late 1920s?
- Describe how the economic downturn in Germany impacted on the electoral fortunes of the NSDAP between 1929 and 1933.
- Referring to specific individuals, parties and interest groups, explain who supported Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1931-32.
- Explain the tactics used by Hitler between 1929 and 1933, in order to increase his public profile and popularity.
- How did the NSDAP’s paramilitary groups, the Sturmabteilung (SA) and Schutzstaffel (SS), contribute to the party’s political objectives between 1928 and 1933?
- Why did Hindenburg appoint Adolf Hitler as German chancellor in January 1933? What other people, events and factors were behind Hitler’s appointment?
- How did a fire in the Reichstag building in February 1933 lead to Adolf Hitler strengthening and expanding his power over Germany?
- Referring to at least five key events, explain how Hitler and the NSDAP ‘killed off’ democracy in Germany between February 1933 and August 1934.
Evaluating the Weimar Republic
- Identify and discuss three lessons the Weimar Republic offers for democratic political systems.
- Were the German people ‘not ready’ for democracy, as is sometimes claimed? Or did democracy fail the German people?
- Was the Weimar Republic ‘murdered’? Or was it ‘terminally ill’ from the beginning? Discuss.
- Was the failure of the Weimar Republic caused more by conditions and forces, or inadequate individual leadership?
- “The Weimar Republic could have survived, had Germany been treated more reasonably by Europe.” To what extent is this statement true?
- To what extent was the German military and militarism to blame for the failure of the Weimar Republic?