The Weimar Republic - Germany’s first democracy



The German People’s Party (DVP) was founded in 1918, emerging from the National Liberal Party. Initially, there were efforts during the November Revolution to create an alliance of all liberal forces within a single party. Yet the right-wing liberals supporting Gustav Stresemann could not be integrated into these plans; Stresemann had spoken out vigorously for annexations during World War I. In addition, these liberals were very skeptical of the new republic. Yet over time, Stresemann’s views evolved and he became a Vernunftrepublikaner (republican by reason). In the end, he turned out to be one of the republic’s most important sources of support, as Reichskanzler and Foreign Minister. His early death in 1929 accelerated the DVP’s fall.

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Gustav Stresemann

(© Archiv des Liberalismus)


  • Co-founder of the German People’s Party
  • Reichskanzler in crisis-ridden 1923
  • Foreign Minister and Noble Peace Prize laureate

Gustav Stresemann helped found the right-wing liberal German People’s Party. Initially an opponent of the republic, he became one of its most ardent supporters. As Reichskanzler during the crisis-ridden year of 1923, he saved it from demise. And as Foreign Minister, he achieved the reconciliation with France, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. His early death in 1929 was a major loss for the democracy.

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Hans von Raumer

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2010-0225-502)


  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Minister of the Treasury from 1920 to 1921
  • Minister of Economic Affairs from 1923

Raumer joined the Reichstag in 1920 to represent the DVP, which he left in 1930. Reichskanzler Fehrenbach named him Minister of the Treasury in the same year in which he took office as a Member of the Reichstag. He played a major role in the Treaty of Rapallo negotiations. In 1923, he took on the post of Minister of Economic Affairs in Stresemann’s government. While in office, he focused his efforts first and foremost on promoting economic cooperation with France and the Soviet Union.

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Julius Curtius

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12369)


  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Minister of Economic Affairs from 1926
  • Foreign Minister from 1929 to 1931

Curtius was elected to the Reichstag as a member of the DVP in 1920 and kept his seat until 1932. He was appointed Luther’s Minister of Economic Affairs in 1926 and direct his efforts first and foremost towards strengthening the country’s exports and its trading ties with the Soviet Union. Following Stresemann’s death, Curtius took on the post of Foreign Minister; initially in addition to his existing duties and subsequently as his sole function. He successfully pushed through Germany’s acceptance of the Young Plan. Curtius had to step down from his post as Foreign Minister in 1931 because attempts to create a German-Austrian customs union failed.

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Karl Jarres

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 102-01175)


  • Member of the Reichstag
  • Vice Chancellor and Minister of the Interior from 1923 to 1924
  • Candidate in the 1925 presidential elections

Karl Jarres, a Doctor of Law, was a member of the National Liberal Party during the Kaiserreich. In 1914, he was elected Mayor of Duisburg, an office he was to hold until 1933.  When the Kaiserreich collapsed at the end of World War I, he joined the newly founded DVP. During the French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr Valley, he resisted his forced expulsion, which brought him a two-month prison sentence. His passive resistance against the occupying forces made him very popular with the people. In November 1923, he joined Stresemann’s government as Vice Chancellor and Minister of the Interior. He stayed in these offices in the following cabinets, Marx I and Marx II. In the 1925 presidential elections, he garnered a plurality of the votes during the first round, yet withdrew from the race so as to improve Paul von Hindenburg’s chances of winning. After the Nazis seized power, he withdrew from politics, turning to business activities.

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Hugo Stinnes

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00030A)


  • Entrepreneur
  • Co-founder of Rhenish-Westphalian Power Plant Corporation (RWE)
  • Member of the Reichstag

Stinnes came from a family of entrepreneurs in the Ruhr valley region. At 23, he launched his own business activities, founding several successful companies that took on much greater proportions than the family’s previous portfolio. When building his group of companies, he followed the example of American trusts and big businesses, pursuing similarly aggressive corporate growth policies. Given that Stinnes’ companies were largely financed from abroad, he benefited from the currency devaluation during the inflation period, earning him the nickname of “inflation king”. With his enormous economic clout, he also had political influence, which he used during the 1923 Ruhr struggle in particular. During the November Revolution, Stinnes feared the socialists would overthrow the government. This spurred him to try to reach a settlement with the unions; in 1918, he signed the Stinnes-Legien Agreement with the unionist Carl Legien. The agreement recognized unions as representatives of workers’ interests and social partners with equal standing. In return, the unions promised to not hinder the functioning of the free market economy. Aside from signing this agreement, Stinnes was elected to the Reichstag in 1920, where he was part of the DVP’s right wing. In 1924, Stinnes died from the complications of a gall bladder operation. Soon thereafter, his company started to collapse.

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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
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[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)