The Weimar Republic - Germany’s first democracy



The German National People’s Party (DNVP) was founded in 1918. It was the successor of the Kaiserreich’s conservative parties. It rejected the democratic political system, pushed for aggressive nationalism, and spoke out for reinstalling the Kaiser. It also represented anti-Semitic groups. Leading DNVP politicians’ reputations were sullied during the Kapp Putsch and a series of politically motivated murders. Yet later on, the party took on governmental responsibility - at the national and state levels. Still, from 1928, under Alfred Hugenberg’s leadership, it moved back towards its more radical roots, winding up as the Nazi’s stepping stone to power.

Wikipedia entry

Alfred Hugenberg

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2005-0621-500)


  • Head of the media firm Hugenberg
  • Became Chairman of the DNVP in 1928
  • Appointed minister in Hitler’s cabinet in 1933

Alfred Hugenberg worked for several major coal and steel companies, holding - for example - the post of chief financial officer at Krupp. He was also a co-founder of the nationalistic Pan-German League. In 1916, he acquired the publishing company Scherl-Verlag, which he built up over the years, making it a major media group. He was politically active in the right wing of the DNVP from 1918. When he became the party’s chairman in 1928, he terminated the phase of willingness to cooperate with the left wing and made a pact with the Nazi party, which was still insignificant at the time. With the help of his media empire, the party became respectable and well-known. Overestimating his own power, he thought he could use Hitler as a tool. As it turned out, just the opposite occurred. Although appointed Superminister for Economic and Agricultural Affairs in January 1933, he was pushed out of office just a few months later. He had to sell his company. Still, he kept his post as a Member of the Reichstag up to 1945, as a “guest of the Nazi party”.

Wikipedia entry

Kuno von Westarp

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 102-01916A)


  • Co-founder of the DNVP
  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Chair of the DNVP’s parliamentary group
  • Chair of the DNVP

Westarp helped found the conservative DNVP party in the fall of 1918. From 1920, he represented the DNVP in the Reichstag. In the early days of the republic, he was a harsh critic of the Weimar democracy and maintained close contact with the conspirators of the Kapp Putsch. After that, he increasingly pushed for the DNVP’s integration into the government. From 1925 to 1929, he was the DNVP’s Reichstag group’s chair and from 1926 to 1928, the party’s chair. Hugenberg was elected party chair in 1928. He wanted the party to strongly oppose the government and tried to thwart Westarp’s plans to support the Brüning cabinet. Together with another member in the top echelons of the DNVP, Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, Westarp founded the Conservative People’s Party, having left the DNVP in 1930.

Wikipedia entry

Oskar Hergt

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2009-0316-500)


  • Co-founder of the DNVP (German National People’s Party)
  • DNVP Chairman
  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Vice Chancellor and Minister of Justice from 1927 to 1928

Oskar Hergt, while not affiliated with any party during the Kaiserreich, helped found the DNVP in November 1918. In December, he was elected the party’s first chairman. Hergt was considered a monarchist and opponent of the republic. At the same time, as a moderate conservative, he was critical of attempts to overthrow it. He allowed DNVP Reichstag members to vote on the Dawes Plan as they wished and a large part of the party voted for the plan. He then had to step down under pressure from the party’s right wing. He served as Justice Minister and Vice Chancellor in Marx’s cabinet from 1927 to 1928. Hergt stayed in the party even after he lost to Hugenberg in the fight to chair it in 1928. He withdrew from the political arena in 1933.

Wikipedia entry

Karl Helfferich

(© Library of Congress (USA), ID: ggbain.21735, gemeinfrei via Wikimedia)


  • Banker
  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Spokesman for right-wing groups

Helfferich was one of the strongest opponents of the Weimar democracy and its representatives, having served in several cabinets during the final days of the Kaiserreich. He was a DNVP member of the Reichstag from 1920. He openly attacked Erzberger, Rathenau, Wirth, and other politicians in his vitriolic publications. He is considered to have been responsible in large part for the prevailing climate of political discord during the first years of the republic, and thereby also for the so-called Feme murders. In November 1923, the new Rentenmark was backed with tangible assets. Helfferich had proposed a similar solution. Despite his fame, Helfferich was not chosen to head the Reichsbank, as the government and the Reichspräsident voted against him because of his radically anti-democratic views.

Wikipedia entry

Alfred von Tirpitz

(© Bundesarchiv, Bild 134-B2595 / o. Ang.)


  • Naval officer, last rank: Großadmiral (grand admiral)
  • Co-founder of the DNVP (German National People’s Party)
  • Member of the Reichstag

Tirpitz was and is known in Germany first and foremost for his role in building up the German navy’s fleet under Kaiser Wilhelm II. Together with the Kaiser, he pushed through the armament of the fleet from the turn of the century, alienating the United Kingdom more and more. In the end, he resigned in 1916 because he, the Kaiser, and the Chancellor could not find common ground regarding unrestricted submarine warfare. Together with Wolfgang Kapp, he founded the nationalist and völkisch German Fatherland Party in 1917, reacting to the Reichstag’s peace resolution. After the war, he founded the DNVP with other conservatives. From 1924 to 1928, he was a DNVP member of the Reichstag.

Wikipedia entry

Show glossary
A project of Weimarer Republik e.V., with generous support from


Abkürzungs- und Siglenverzeichnis der verwendeten Literatur:

ADGBFederation of German General Trade Unions
AEGGeneral Electricity Company
AfA-BundGeneral Free Federation of Employees
AVUSAutomobile Traffic and Training Road
BMWBavarian Motor Works
BRTgross register tons
BVPBavarian People’s Party
CenterCenter Party
DAPGerman Workers’ Party
DDPGerman Democratic Party
DNTGerman National Theater
DNVPGerman National People’s Party
DVPGerman People’s Party
GmbHLimited (form of company)
KominternCommunist International
KPDCommunist Party of Germany
KVPConservative People’s Party
MSPDMajority Social Democratic Party of Germany; the Majority Socialists
NSnational socialism (Nazi)
NSDAPNational Socialist German Workers’ Party; Nazi party
NVNational Assembly
O.C.Organization Consul
OHLArmy High Command
SASturmabteilung; Brownshirts
SPDSocial Democratic Party of Germany
StGBPenal Code
UfAUniversum Film Aktiengesellschaft
USPDIndependent Social Democratic Party of Germany
VKPDUnited Communist Party of Germany
ZentrumCenter Party
[AB]August Baudert: Sachsen-Weimars Ende. Historische Tatsachen aus sturmbewegter Zeit, Weimar 1923.
[AS]Axel Schildt: Die Republik von Weimar. Deutschland zwischen Kaiserreich und „Drittem Reich“ (1918-1933), hrsg. von der Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Erfurt 2009.
[BauerBauer, Kurt, Nationalsozialismus. Ursprünge, Anfänge, Aufstieg und Fall, u.a. Wien 2008.
[BihlBihl, Wolfdieter, Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914 - 1918. Chronik - Daten - Fakten, Wien 2010.
[BüttnerBüttner, Ursula, Weimar. Die überforderte Republik 1918-1933, Stuttgart 2008.
[DNV]Die Deutsche Nationalversammlung im Jahre 1919 in ihrer Arbeit für den Aufbau des neuen deutschen Volksstaates, hrsg. v. Ed.[uard] Heilfron, Bd. 1 bis 6, Berlin [1919].
[Ebert/Wienecke-JanzEbert, Johannes/Wienecke-Janz, Detlef, Die Chronik. Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts bis heute, Gütersloh/München 2006.
[EK]Eberhard Kolb: Die Weimarer Republik, 3. überarb. u. erw. Aufl., München 1993.
[EtzoldEtzold, Hans-Rüdiger, Der Käfer II. Die Käfer-Entwicklung von 1934 bis 1982 vom Urmodell zum Weltmeister, Stuttgart 1989.
[GG]Gitta Günther: Weimar-Chronik. Stadtgeschichte in Daten. Dritte Folge: März 1850 bis April 1945 (Weimarer Schriften, Heft 33), Weimar 1987.
[GrüttnerGrüttner, Michael, Das Dritte Reich 1933-1945 (= Bd. 19, Gebhardt. Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte), Stuttgart 2014.
[HildebrandHildebrand, Klaus, Das Dritte Reich, 7. Aufl., München 2010.
[Kessler Tgbb]Harry Graf Kessler. Tagebücher 1918-1937, hrsg. von Wolfgang Pfeiffer-Belli, Frankfurt a. M und Leipzig 1996.
[KittelKittel, Erich, Novembersturz 1918. Bemerkungen zu einer vergleichenden Revolutionsgeschichte der deutschen Länder, in: Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 104 (1968), S. 42-108.
[KolbKolb, Eberhard, Die Weimarer Republik, 7. durchges. und erw. Aufl., München 2010.
[NiedhartNiedhart, Gottfried, Die Außenpolitik der Weimarer Republik, 2. aktualisierte Aufl., München 2010.
[O/S]Manfred Overesch/ Friedrich Wilhelm Saal: Die Weimarer Republik. Eine Tageschronik der Politik, Wirtschaft, Kultur, Düsseldorf 1992.
[Overesch/SaalOveresch, Manfred/Saal, Friedrich Wilhelm, Die Weimarer Republik, Eine Tageschronik der Politik, Wissenschaft Kultur, Augsburg 1992.
[PeukertPeukert, Detlef, Die Weimarer Republik. Krisenjahre der Klassischen Moderne, Frankfurt a.M. 1987.
[PK]Paul Kaiser: Die Nationalversammlung 1919 und die Stadt Weimar (Weimarer Schriften, Heft 16), Weimar 1969.
[PM]Paul Messner: Das Deutsche Nationaltheater Weimar. Ein Abriß seiner Geschichte. Von den Anfängen bis Februar 1945 (Weimarer Schriften, Heft 17), Weimar 1985.
[ThHB]Thüringen-Handbuch. Territorium, Verfassung, Parlament, Regierung und Verwaltung in Thüringen 1920 bis 1995, hrsg. von Bernhard Post und Volker Wahl, Redaktion Dieter Marek (Veröffentlichungen aus Thüringischen Staatsarchiven, Bd. 1), Weimar 1999.
[TofahrnTofahrn, Klaus W., Chronologie des Dritten Reiches. Ereignisse, Personen, Begriffe, Darmstadt 2003.
[UB]Ursula Büttner: Weimar. Die überforderte Republik 1918-1933. Leistungen und Versagen in Staat, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur, Stuttgart 2008.
[VU]Volker Ullrich: Die Revolution von 1918/19, München 2009.
[WinklerWinkler, Heinrich-August, Weimar 1918-1933. Die Geschichte der Ersten deutschen Demokratie, München 1993.
[WirschingWirsching, Andreas, Die Weimarer Republik. Politik und Gesellschaft, 2. erw. Aufl., München 2010.

(zusammengestellt von Dr. Jens Riederer und Christine Rost, bearbeitet von Stephan Zänker)