The Weimar Republic - Germany’s first democracy


The Churches

The November Revolution brought difficulties for the Protestant churches in particular. With the unity of the throne and the altar, the German princes of the individual states had ruled as heads of the clergy, alongside their secular authority. With the revolution, this system started to collapse. The Catholic Church, harshly persecuted under Bismarck, experienced fewer difficulties during the upheaval. Yet it too was - to the same extent - faced with anti-religious initiatives demanding a strict separation of church and state. The schooling issue and that of religion classes in particular triggered fiery disputes, especially in Prussia. Overall, the trend towards secularization accelerated during the Weimar Republic, diminishing the churches’ influence and power even further.

Wilhelm Marx

(© Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1973-011-02)


  • Member of the National Assembly and the Reichstag
  • Head of the Center Party’s parliamentary group
  • Chairman of the Center Party
  • Reichskanzler from 1923 to 1924 and 1926 to 1928
  • Minister-President of Prussia from February to March 1925

A jurist, Marx’s political career started during the Kaiserreich. He joined the Center Party and served as a Member of the Reichstag from 1910 to 1918. As an experienced politician, he was elected to the National Assembly and the Reichstag after the November Revolution. At the start of the 1920s, he strongly considered leaving politics. Yet with the Center Party having lost two key leaders - Erzberger and Trimborn - within a short period of time, he decided to continue his political work. He first took on the chairmanship of the party and its parliamentary group. Then, in the crisis-ridden year of 1923, he took on the post of Reichskanzler, remaining in office until 1924. In the 1925 presidential elections, he lost to Paul von Hindenburg in the second round of voting by a very small margin. He served again as Reichskanzler from 1926 to 1928, making him the Weimar Republic’s longest-serving chancellor. He took on a mediating role, promoting dialogue and compromise. This proved decisive in many decision-making processes.

Wikipedia entry

Ludwig Kaas

(© Büro des Reichstags (Hg.): Reichstags-Handbuch 1928, Fotograf unbekannt, gemeinfrei)


  • Member of the National Assembly and the Reichstag from 1919 to 1933
  • Theologian

Kaas studied theology in Trier and was ordained in Rome after finishing his studies. He then obtained a doctorate in philosophy and theology. In 1905, he started studying religious law. From 1918, he worked as a professor of religious law at the University of Trier. In Munich in 1917, he became the canonical advisor of papal nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, continuing on in this role in Berlin from 1920. His close ties with Pacelli brought him a lot of influence within the Catholic Center Party. Without any serious political ambitions, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1919. However, O.C. there, Kaas became very interested in politics and constitutional issues. Accordingly, he became a Center Party Reichstag member. In 1928, he was elected Chairman of the Center Party. As part of the party’s moderate right wing, he supported Brüning’s presidential cabinet. He underestimated the Nazis’ ambitions and tried to convince his party to cooperate with Hitler. During the vote on the Enabling Act, he pushed the Center group to vote for its adoption. He also played a crucial role in negotiating the concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich. He decided to stay in Rome permanently from 1933 on.

Wikipedia entry

Otto Dibelius

(© Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F005314-0028 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)


  • Protestant theologian
  • General Superintendent of Kurmark
  • Member of the DNVP
  • Member of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) after World War II
  • Head of the Evangelical Church in Germany after World War II

After having studied Protestant theology and philosophy, Dibelius obtained a Ph.D. in Gießen in 1902 and a Lic. Theol. in Berlin in 1906. He managed to work his way up quickly within the Evangelical Church. During World War I, he was one of the many Protestant clergymen who, with their excessive nationalistic zeal, supported the government’s war goals. After the war was lost, he supported the “stab-in-the-back myth”, very common within nationalistic and right-wing conservative groups, and was critical of the republic. Nevertheless, he was able to continue his career, as many in the Evangelical Church shared his views. Accordingly, he became General Superintendent of Kurmark in the Consistory of Brandenburg in Berlin in 1925. He joined the DNVP during the same year. In 1930, Dibelius published “Peace on Earth?”, in which he rejected war and demanded support for conscientious objectors. Although he was softening his radical views in part in this publication, he is still pointed to as an example demonstrating the extent to which the Evangelical Church’s leadership distanced itself from the republic. Although Dibelius initially sympathized with the NSDAP, he resigned from his posts when the Evangelical Church was struck by the Gleichschaltung process. After the war, he joined the CDU and became head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

Wikipedia entry

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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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[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)