Weimar Republic quotations

This Weimar Republic quotations page houses a collection of quotations from or about the Weimar period, 1918 to 1933. Quotations have been selected and compiled by Alpha History authors.

The end of World War I

“The war has ended, quite differently indeed from how we expected. Our politicians have failed us miserably.”
Kaiser Wilhelm II, September 1918

“The real disaster [of 1918] was that the Germans did not think that they had been defeated. They had, as the legend was to have it, been ‘stabbed in the back’. Jews, the Left, soft-brained academics had prevented them from winning the war and setting up a Europe that had more sense, on the ground, than anything dreamed up by the naive Americans. Ludendorff was the main architect of this fantasy.”
Norman Stone, historian

“You have kept the enemy from crossing our frontiers and you have saved your country from the miseries and disasters of war… We end the struggle proudly and with our heads held high, where we have stood for four years in the face of a world full of enemies.”
German general Paul von Hindenburg, November 1918

“As an English general has very truly said, the German Army was ‘stabbed in the back’… Like Siegfried, stricken down by the treacherous spear of savage Hagen, our weary front collapsed.”
General Paul von Hindenburg, November 1919

“The deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a people in history, the Germans have done onto themselves. Egged on and misled by the tribe of Judah [the Jews] whom they hated, who were guests among them! That was their thanks! Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil.”
Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II, December 1919

“Vengeance! German nation! Today in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the disgraceful treaty is being signed. Do not forget it! The German people will… press forward to reconquer the place among the nations to which it is entitled. Then will come vengeance for the shame of 1919!”
Deutsche Zeitung newspaper, June 1919

“This [the Treaty of Versailles] is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”
Attributed to French military leader Ferdinand Foch

The birth of the Weimar Republic

“If the Kaiser does not abdicate, the social revolution is inevitable. But I do not want it, I even hate it like sin.”
Friedrich Ebert, SPD politician, November 1918

“The old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. The new may live. Long live the German Republic!”
Philip Scheidemann, SPD politician, November 1918

“You have no right to proclaim the Republic!”
Friedrich Ebert to Philip Scheidemann, November 1918

“Act! Act! Courageously, decisively and constantly… disarm the counter-revolution, arm the masses, occupy all positions of power. Act quickly!”
Rosa Luxemburg, January 1919

“The despicable actions of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg soil the revolution and endanger all its achievements. The masses must not sit quiet for one minute longer while these brutal beasts and their followers paralyse the activities of the republican government and incite the people more and more to civil war.”
Pro-SPD newspaper, January 1919

“The working class must stand united against the Spartacists if democracy and socialism are not to be lost.”
Gustav Noske, January 1919

“Those troops [who joined the Freikorps] were for the most part men who had no homes and no jobs to go to, or who were reluctant to return to civilian life. All these Freikorps pursued their own policies and very soon ceased to take any notice of the military leadership. They certainly took not the slightest notice of the despised democratic ministers.”
Helmut Heiber, German historian

“At five o’clock this afternoon, Ebert’s swearing-in [as president] before the National Assembly. The stage was festively decorated with the new German colours… The house was crowded, except for the seats belonging to the Nationalists and Independents, which remained ostentatiously empty… When Ebert made a speech, all very decorous but lacking ‘go’, like a confirmation in a decent middle-class home. The republic should avoid ceremonies, they are not suited to this type of government… The whole occasion had something touching and, above all, tragic about it.”
Count Harry Kessler, August 21st 1919

Politics, parties and government

“Socialism excludes everything arbitrary. It is order on the highest level. Disorder, personal caprice and violence are mortal enemies of socialism.”
Friedrich Ebert, SPD political leader

“Without democracy, there is no freedom. Violence, no matter who is using it, is always reactionary.”
Friedrich Ebert, SPD political leader

“We allied ourselves in order to fight Bolshevism… Our aim [in November 1918] was to introduce as soon as possible an orderly government, supported by the army and the National Assembly.”
Friedrich Ebert, SPD political leader

“The [SPD] leadership has failed… The leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built… And that is why a future victory will bloom from this ‘defeat’… You stupid henchmen! Your order is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will raise itself with a rattle and announce itself with fanfare, to your terror…”
Rosa Luxemburg, Spartacist leader, shortly before her execution

“Everything depends on… making the government firm and keeping it firm. Whether it pleases us or not, there is nothing else, and whoever can, should help. Who is unable to do so, or cannot bring himself to do it, should at least not disturb. But that is done by stupid newspaper articles which publicise the many weaknesses and ridiculous traits of the republic.”
Hans von Seeckt, Reichswehr general, February 1919

“You know what the answer [to signing the Treaty of Versailles] must be. I am going for a walk… You have taken upon yourself a heavy responsibility.”
Paul von Hindenburg to General Wilhelm Groener, May 1919

“Students and citizens, your resistance to the Republic and to democracy is simply a fear of words. You shy at them like restive horses; you fall into unreasoning panic at the sound of them. But they are just words… to think they must refer to some outlandish kind of foreign humbug is mere childishness.”
Thomas Mann, writing in October 1922

“The wave of drunkenness which overtook the country ten years ago has left behind many hungover people who know no other cure for their hangover than to become drunk again. They have learned nothing.”
Kurt Tucholsky on nationalism, August 1924

“Our Republic is not yet an object of mass consciousness but a constitutional document and a government administration. When the people want to see the Republic, they are shown Wilhelmstrasse. And then one wonders why they return home, somewhat shamed. Nothing is there to make the heart beat faster. Around this state, lacking any ideas and with an eternally guilty conscience, there are grouped a couple of so-called constitutional parties, likewise lacking an idea, which are not led but administered by a bureaucratic caste.”
Carl von Ossietzky, September 1924

“The democratic republic offers the most favourable ground for the liberation of the working class and therefore for the development of socialism. For this reason, the Social Democratic Party defends the Republic and is committed to its full development.”
Program of the SDP, revised September 1925

The crisis of the early 1920s

“The campaign for securing out of Germany the general costs of the war was one of the most serious acts of political unwisdom for which our statesmen have ever been responsible.”
John Maynard Keynes, British economist, 1919

“We refuse to buckle under to this military pressure. We did not bring about the revolution to make this bloody Freikorps regiment legal. Workers! Comrades! Go on strike, put down your work and stop this military dictatorship. There is only one way to prevent the return of a Kaiser: shut down the economy!”
Anti-Kapp putsch propaganda, March 1920

“Rathenau has great personal courage. He knows exactly how much he is hated, as a man and a politician, by many in the land, that they are in fact aiming for his life. But he spurns all police precautions and protective measures, and goes the way that may lead to his destruction with a certain fatalism.”
Eugen Schiffer, DDP politician

“This despicable act struck not only one man, Rathenau, it struck Germany in its totality.”
Friedrich Ebert, speaking at Rathenau’s funeral, June 1922

“The French, by their invasion of the Ruhr and their imprisonment of mine directors, have done more to bring together all the parties and all the classes in Germany than it was possible to effect by other means… For the moment all class hostility by the workmen against the owners has been submerged by the patriotic wave. The whole country appears to be united.”
Lord D’Abernon, British ambassador to Germany, January 1923

“The so-called passive resistance of Germany in the year 1923 is really a fable. Bad as the situation was in general for the German masses in the Rhine and Ruhr districts, the really decisive economic battle over the coal mines bore the features of a tragicomedy… The government should have ordered the cessation of work in all industries in the occupied area, and have regarded as a traitor any mine owner who allowed the work of a pit to be carried on… But [Chancellor] Cuno… still felt that he was one of the German capitalists… and could not take strong measures against them. Thus passive resistance was from the very outset a pathetic and halfhearted proceeding.”
Arthur Rosenberg, Marxist historian, 1936

“The inflation [of 1923] had little direct connection with reparation payments themselves, but a great deal to do with the way the German government chose to subsidise industry and to pay the costs of passive resistance to the [Ruhr] occupation by extravagant use of the printing press.”
Philip Bell, historian

“I vividly remember paydays… I used to have to accompany the manager to the bank in an open six-seater Benz, which we filled to the brim with bundles and bundles of million and milliard [billion] mark notes. We then drove back through the narrow streets, quite unmolested. And when the workmen got their wages, they did not even bother to count the notes in each bundle.”
A transport clerk recalls the hyperinflation of 1923

“Germany, far from making the slightest effort to carry out the treaty of peace, has always tried to escape her obligations… Until now she has not been convinced of her defeat… We are also certain that Germany, as a nation, resigns herself to keep her pledged word only under the impact of necessity.”
French leader Raymond Poincare, December 1922

“It pounds daily on the nerves: the insanity of numbers, the uncertain future… An epidemic of fear and naked need: lines of shoppers, long since a customary sight, once more form in front of shops, first in front of one, then in front of all… The lines always send the same signal: the city, the big stone city, will be shopped empty again. Rice, 80,000 marks a pound yesterday, costs 160,000 marks today, and tomorrow perhaps twice as much. The day after, the man behind the counter will shrug his shoulders: “No more rice!”
Friedrich Kroner on hyperinflation, August 1923

“Unknown heights have now been reached. The floating debt increased this morning by 160,000 milliard [billion] paper marks… The shops are demanding pounds, francs, Danish crowns, any other foreign currency you may care to enumerate… Except for things like tram fares we are now charged for most articles a few hundred million more than… present exchange rates in London… The Adlon Hotel charges the equivalent of four pounds or five pounds for a bottle of wine.”
Joseph Addison, British diplomat, September 1923

“Lingering at shop windows was a luxury because shopping had to be done immediately. Even an additional minute could mean an increase in price. One had to buy quickly. A rabbit, for example, might cost two million marks more by the time it took you to walk into the store. A few million marks meant nothing, really. It was just that it meant more lugging. The packages of money needed to buy the smallest item had long since become too heavy for trouser pockets. They weighed many pounds… People had to start carting their money around in wagons and knapsacks. I used a knapsack.”
George Grosz on the hyperinflation of 1923

“Wir wollen keine Judenfetzen von Berlin!” (‘We don’t want any Jew confetti [paper money] from Berlin’)
A Bavarian farmer, 1923

“Few families can afford meat more than once a week, eggs are unprocurable, milk terribly scarce and bread already 16 times the price of a few days ago… The expensive restaurants are full of well-dressed people drinking wine and eating of the best of Munich, but they are either German-Americans or Ruhr industrialists… No one expects political disturbances but hunger riots are another matter… and the cold, no one can afford central heating. No one images the Rentenmark will help.”
Joseph Clive, British consul-general, October 1918

“I do not consider a Stresemann cabinet viable, not even after its transformation. This lack of confidence I have expressed to the chancellor himself, as well as to the president, and I have told them that in the long run I could not guarantee the attitude of the Reichswehr to a government in which it had no confidence… A Stresemann government cannot last without the support of the Reichswehr and of the forces standing behind it.”
General Hans von Seeckt, November 1923

The Golden Age of Weimar

“[Our] task would be hopeless if the present situation in Germany accurately reflected her potential capacity. In that case, the proceeds from Germany’s national production could not enable her to meet her national needs and ensure the payment of her foreign debts. But Germany’s growing and industrious population, her great technical skills, the wealth of her material resources, the development of her agriculture on progressive lines, her eminence in industrial science… all these factors enable us to be hopeful with regard to her future production.”
Report of the Dawes Committee, 1924

“The virtuous circle established by the Dawes Plan worked very well… but it could stop at any moment and would then appear to have been vicious. The French were eager to receive reparations payments so they had to be grateful for the Dawes Plan, but on the other hand, they wanted to use the reparations as a political handle to keep Germany on their leash.”
Dietmar Rothermund, historian

“There are three great tasks that confront German foreign policy… The solution of the reparations problem in a way that is tolerable for Germany. The protection of those 10 to 12 million Germans who now live under foreign control in foreign lands. [And] the readjustment of our eastern frontiers: the recovery of Danzig, the Polish corridor and… the frontier in Upper Silesia.”
Gustav Stresemann, September 1925

“Our representatives are little men who are no match for British diplomacy and its kind condescension. Like the chancellor and ambitious busy-bodies who must have their fingers in every pie. Like Stresemann, the man of general distrust, but it seems impossible to get rid of him… My opposition to our foreign policy is generally known.”
General Hans von Seeckt, April 1926

“The foreign policy which the government has pursued since the end of the war rejects the idea of revenge. Its purpose is rather the achievement of a mutual understanding.”
Chancellor Wilhelm Marx, February 1927

“Berlin transformed itself into the Babel of the world… Germans brought to perversion all their vehemence and love of system. Made-up boys with artificial waistlines promenaded along the Kurfustendamm… Even [ancient Rome] had not known orgies like the Berlin transvestite balls, where hundreds of men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes, danced under the benevolent eyes of the police. Amid the general collapse of values, a kind of insanity took hold of precisely those middle-class circles which had been unshakeable in their order. Young ladies proudly boasted that they were perverted: to be suspected of virginity at 16 would have been a disgrace in every school in Berlin.”
Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer

Weimar culture

“Together let us desire, conceive and create the new structure of the future, which will one day rise towards heaven from the hands of a million workers, like the crystal symbol of a new faith.”
Walter Gropius, Bauhaus founder

“Theatricality appeared to be the common denominator of all manifestations of life – from Expressionism to Marlene Dietrich’s spectacular legs in Blue Angel; from the bloody comedy of Hitler’s 1923 putsch to Brecht’s Threepenny Opera; from the impressive funeral of Rathenau to the calculated banditry of the Reichstag fire of 1933. The permanent crisis proved to be an excellent metteur en scene, one who knew how to direct quite a few memorable effects.”
Peter Sloterdijk, German philosopher

“My drawings [in the 1920s] expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment. I drew drunkards, puking men, men with clenched fists cursing at the moon… I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands… I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. I drew a cross-section of tenement house: through one window could be seen a man attacking his wife; through another, two people making love; from a third hung a suicide, the body covered by swarming flies. I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms; two medical soldiers putting a violent infantryman into a strait-jacket made of a horse blanket.”
George Grosz, Weimar artist

“My aim is to be understood by everyone. I reject the ‘depth’ that people demand nowadays, into which you can never descend without a diving bell crammed with cabbalistic bullshit and intellectual metaphysics.”
George Grosz, Weimar artist

“A welcome attitude to vehicles and machines… Avoiding all decoration… Using only basic shapes and colours… Economy in the use of space, materials, time and money… Simplicity.”
Walter Gropius on the principles of Bauhaus

“A condition of illumination dominates nowadays which is thoroughly alien to poetry – or at any rate to the poetry created and understood by an earlier generation… [Modernist] poetry will be different and will have to be different, if it is to do justice to this changed, clear-sighted young generation.”
Stefan Zweig, 1927

“Life in the big city is a multiple interweaving of surfaces. But everyone wants an art in which one sees life reflected… For the big city dweller, the true mirror and abbreviated chronicle of the age has always been the revue [cabaret], that colourful, whirring, easy going, incredibly mobile suggestive replica of existence, aswirl in a storm.”
Maximilian Sladek, German dramatist

“That is the secret of the cabaret: the aphoristic novel, the burst of short-lived drama, the two-minute song of our times, the sweetness of love, the heartbeat of unemployment, the bewilderment of politics, the standard issue uniform of cheap amusement. All without the drain of five acts, three volumes and a thousand kilograms of psychology.”
Friedrich Hollaender, German composer

“Under the cover of an evening’s relaxing entertainment, cabaret, like nothing else, suddenly dispenses a poisoned cookie. Suggestively administered and hastily swallowed, its effects reach far beyond the harmless evening, to make otherwise placid blood boil, to inspire a sluggish brain to to think.”
Friedrich Hollaender, German composer

The Great Depression

“Rushes on the banks are beginning. Savers have been seized by panic. They are certain that their money, for which they have saved and slaved, is lost. They stand as early as midnight in endless lines to be first when the cash drawers open… The ordered life of the banks is being torn apart. All personnel must be mobilised to disburse payments. Nobody makes deposits. All credit is being called in… And then, the banks begin to crash because they cannot make the payments… The little banks crash first. The larger ones get by, by limiting banking hours first to two hours, then to one. Then the larger banks begin to crash.”
The White Rose, Berlin, 1929

“I would be happy if I could properly provide for my household and children, but of the 25 marks a week [I receive from work], one and a half marks goes for transport, six marks for childcare… I wonder what I live for and why everything is so unequal.”
A female textile worker, 1930

“An almost unbroken chain of homeless men extends the whole length of the great Hamburg-Berlin highway. It is the same scene for the entire 200 miles… They walked separately or in small groups with their eyes on the ground. And they had the queer stumbling gait of barefoot people, for their shoes were slung over their shoulders… This was the strongest impression that the year 1932 left with me.”
Heinrich Hauser, German writer

“They do not make it easy for you to get supper and a bed in a municipal lodging house… Long lines of men were leaning against wooden walls, waiting in silence and staring… The municipal lodging house means waiting, waiting, standing around… My impression is the helplessness of the men. Eight out of ten men are young fellows and about a third of these are just boys.”
Heinrich Hauser on Berlin’s shelters for unemployed men

The rise of the Nazis

“Instead of working to achieve power by an armed coup, we will have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against Catholic and Marxist members. It outvoting them takes longer than outshooting them, at least the result will be guaranteed by their own constitution. Sooner or later we shall have a majority…”
Adolf Hitler, writing in prison in late 1923

“He [Adolf Hitler] is the only man… who has any political sense. Go and listen to him one day.”
Attributed to Erich Ludendorff, German general

“There must be no majority decisions. The decisions will be made by one man, only he alone may possess the authority and right to command.”
Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, 1924

“We have recognised that the distress of agriculture is inseparably bound up with the political misery of the German people. Let us do away with this Marxist-capitalist extortion system that has made Germany, our homeland, powerless, without honour, defenceless… and has turned free German farmers into poor misused slaves of the world stock exchange.”
A rural Nazi Party resolution, January 1928

“Hindenburg told me he would serve another term as president, but the office must be laid in his hands as an accomplished fact, because he is not inclined or in a position to undertake a new election campaign.”
Heinrich Bruning, German chancellor in early 1932

“I must dismiss you, for the sake of my name and my honour.”
President Hindenburg to Heinrich Bruning, May 1932

“It is [Franz von Papen] who is the preferred one, the favourite of the Marshal [Hindenburg]. He diverts the old man through his vivacity, his playfulness. He flatters him by showing respect and devotion. He beguiles him with his daring. He is, in the Marshal’s eyes, the perfect gentleman.”
Andre Francois-Poncet, French diplomat, 1932

“A presidential cabinet led by Hitler would develop into a party dictatorship, with all its consequences for an extreme aggravation of the conflicts within the German people.”
President Paul von Hindenburg, November 1932

“Gentlemen, I hope you will not hold me capable of appointing this Austrian corporal to be Reich Chancellor.”
President Paul von Hindenburg, January 1933

“It was the greatest good fortune for us that the [1923 Munich] putsch failed… Cooperation with General Ludendorff would have been absolutely impossible. The sudden takeover of power in the whole of Germany would have led to the greatest of difficulties because the essential preparations had not been begun by the National Socialist party. [And] the events of November 9th 1923, with their blood sacrifice, have proven the most effective propaganda…”
Adolf Hitler, speaking in 1933

“Never in my life have I been so well disposed and inwardly contented as in these days. For hard reality has opened the eyes of millions of Germans to the unprecedented swindles, lies and betrayals of the Marxist deceivers of the people.”
Adolf Hitler, writing during the Great Depression