This Weimar Republic glossary contains definitions for English and German words and concepts, relevant to events in Germany between 1918 and 1933. Words from N to Z.
The National Assembly was a German assembly elected in January 1919. Its task was to formulate a constitution and serve as a transitional or temporary national government. It was dominated by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who held more than one-third of the seats, and chaired by Friedrich Ebert.
Nationalism is a strong affection and loyalty to one’s nation. It is also a belief that the interests of your nation are paramount and override any international considerations.
National Socialism (or Nazism)
National Socialism refers to the ideology and values of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). It was developed in the early 1920s and outlined initially in the NSDAP’s ’25 Points’ charter. National Socialism was largely based on fascism.
National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or NSDAP)
The NSDAP was a right-wing political party led by Adolf Hitler. It was formed from the German Workers Party (DAP) in 1920. The NSDAP was nationalistic, militaristic, authoritarian and statist. It also contained strong racial and anti-Semitic attitudes.
The Organisation Consul was a right-wing terrorist group, closely linked with radical units of the Freikorps. It was responsible for carrying out several assassinations in the early 1920s.
A paramilitary group is an organisation with some of the practices and conditions of a military force, such as uniforms, weaponry or training. Unlike the military, paramilitary groups have their own leadership and are usually outside the control of the state.
A president is the head of state in a republic. In the Weimar Republic, the president was popularly elected for a seven-year term and was responsible for appointing the chancellor and the ministry.
proportional voting (German, Verhältniswahlrecht)
Proportional voting is an electoral system where political parties are allocated parliamentary seats based on their share of the total vote, rather than their ability to win individual seats. The Weimar Republic used proportional voting, which allowed many small political parties to earn seats in the Reichstag.
German for ‘coup’, a putsch is an attempt to seize control or overthrow a government by intimidation or force. There were several putsch attempts during the Weimar period, most notably the Kapp putsch (1920) and the Munich putsch (1923).
Reich is a German word meaning empire, state or realm.
The Reichsrat was the German upper house or senate during the Weimar Republic. The Reichsrat contained delegates appointed by the states. It considered constitutional and state-related issues.
The Reichstag was the elected parliament in Weimar Germany between 1919 and 1933. The Berlin building that housed the parliament was also referred to as the Reichstag.
The Reichswehr was the regular German military, from the end of World War I until 1935. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles the Reichswehr was limited in size, equipment and operations. For example, its army was limited to 100,000 men.
The Rentenmark was a paper currency issued by the Weimar government in November 1923, to replace Reichmarks rendered worthless by hyperinflation. Rentenmarks were backed by the gold standard and initially pegged at 4.2 Rentenmark per US dollar.
Reparations are payments of money or goods, made by the state as compensation for deaths, injuries and destruction inflicted during a war.
A republic is a government where the head of state is an elected president, rather than a hereditary monarch.
A revolution is a period of significant and often dramatic political, social and/or economic change. The critical feature of a revolution is its concerted attempts to overthrow and replace the government.
The Rhenish Republic was an independent, self-governing republic, formed by separatists in the Rhineland, western Germany in October 1923. It was not recognised by the Weimar state or most European powers and was abandoned a year later.
Right-wing individuals or groups adopt a political position that is conservative or reactionary. Right-wing groups in Weimar Germany were nationalistic and sought the restoration of state and military power.
The Ruhr is a region in western Germany, on the border with France. During World War I and the Weimar period the Ruhr was a vital industrial region, producing coal, steel and textiles.
Ruhrkampf (English, ‘Ruhr Struggle‘)
The Ruhrkampf was a campaign of passive resistance and strikes, launched to protest the 1923 occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian troops.
The Ruhr occupation was a period between January 1923 and August 1925, when French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr. This occupation was a result of Germany’s failure to make quarterly reparations payments.
SA (or Sturmabteilung, also Brownshirts or Stormtroopers)
The SA was a Nazi paramilitary brigade, formed in 1919 to wage street battles with political opponents, especially socialists. The SA was banned by the Weimar government until 1932.
German for ‘special path’. Sonderweg is a historiographical school that suggests German history has been dominated and determined by its militarism, nationalism and authoritarian leadership. According to Sonderweg historians, the failure of Weimar democracy and the rise of the Nazis were logical outcomes rather than unexpected outcomes.
A soviet is a council of working-class delegates and representatives, usually from factories, mines and military units. Soviets are considered the basis of a true socialist government.
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (or SPD)
The SPD was the Social Democratic Party of Germany, a left-wing political party formed in 1875. The SPD was the largest party for most of the Weimar period and was involved in most of the Republic’s coalition governments.
Spartacus League (German, Spartakusbund)
The Spartacus League was a left-wing group formed in 1914. It contained former SPD members who opposed the SPD’s support of World War I. In December 1918 it became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the following month launched the failed German Revolution in Berlin.
SPD (see Social Democratic Party)
Stab-in-the-back legend (German, Dolchstosslegende)
The stab-in-the-back legend was a conspiracy theory that claimed Germany’s surrender in World War I was the result of internal plotting rather than military defeat. Its premise was that Germany could still have won the war, had it not been betrayed by subversive elements like socialists, liberals and Jews. The stab-in-the-back legend was popular among right-wing nationalist groups like the NSDAP.
Steel Helmet (German, Stahlhelm)
The Steel Helmet was the largest of the paramilitary Freikorps movements. It was later absorbed into the Nazi Sturmabteilung.
Treaty of Rapallo
The Treaty of Rapallo was a 1922 treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union, restoring diplomatic communication and renouncing earlier treaty claims.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, formally ended World War I. It stripped Germany of her colonies and some European territories, and imposed military and industrial restrictions.
Verhältniswahlrecht (see proportional voting)
Wall Street crash
The Wall Street crash is a term for the collapse of share prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929. This collapse was a significant cause of the Great Depression.
War guilt clause
The ‘War guilt clause’ was Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles. It attributed Germany with full responsibility for starting World War I and provided the legal basis for imposing reparations.
The Wilhelmine period describes Imperial Germany under the leadership of Kaiser Wilhelm II, between 1888 and 1918.
The Young Plan was a 1929 agreement that revised Germany’s reparations debt, reorganising it into 59 annual instalments.