The Weimar Republic - Germany’s first democracy


February 1919

1 February

The Weimar soldiers’ council wants to protect the National Assembly’s members themselves; it temporarily disarms the guard of honor sent as an advance party.
The government of the Reich issues a decree limiting stays in Weimar during the duration of the National Assembly. [PK]

4 February

The central council of workers’ and soldiers’ councils in Berlin transfers its powers of control to the National Assembly in Weimar. [PK]

5 February

Germany’s first regular civilian courier air service, serving the Berlin-Weimar-Berlin route, is launched in order to facilitate communication via post from the government and the parliament. [PK]

6 February

The first session of the National Assembly, from 3:15 to 4:26 pm.
Ebert starts his opening speech on behalf of the Reich’s interim government by stating that the objective so far had been to revive the languishing economy in order to end the material misery of the masses. He then says that now, the time has come to entrust the duty of determining the political structure of the Republic to the elected parliament.
After a speech by Wilhelm Pfannkuch (SPD), the president by seniority, the rules of procedure for the Assembly are adopted. They are based on those of the former Reichstag. A roll call individually confirms each member’s attendance, establishing that a quorum has been reached thanks to the total presence of 397 members. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 3-13]

7 February

The second session of the National Assembly, from 3:15 to 5:32 pm. Telegrams that have arrived bearing greetings and commendations are read out; the first requests for leave. Eduard David (SPD) is elected the Assembly’s president. First debate on how the vice presidents should be elected. Constantin Fehrenbach (Center), Conrad Haußmann (DDP) and Hermann Dietrich (DNVP) are chosen in secret elections. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 14-22]

The third session of the National Assembly, from 3:22 to 4:06 pm. Telegrams that have arrived bearing greetings and commendations are read out. Discontent provoked by the obvious manipulation of a ballot by record-keeping secretary Richard Fischer, attempting to undermine assembly member Lore Agnes (USPED).  As state secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, Hugo Preuß (DDP) presents the Bill Concerning the Provisional Exercise of Power. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 23-35]

10 February

The fourth session of the National Assembly, from 3:27 to 6:00 pm.
Extensive discussion of the “Bill concerning the provisional exercise of power”; debates on the retention and future role of the individual states, a right of veto demanded by the central council of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, how the Reichspräsident (Reich’s president) or a Reich council (Reichskollegium) should be elected, and whether the armistice negotiations should be secret or public.  After clarification that this law is only to serve as a temporary transitional constitution, a lot of members put their concerns aside. The law is passed by a large majority. The members stand up to vote for the law and remain seated to vote against it. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 36-84]

11 February

The fifth session of the National Assembly, from 3:20 to 4:29 pm. The central council of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils demands, in writing, that the National Assembly create a single centralized government without any individual states; more telegrams demanding the annexation of German-Austria by the German Reich as well as better train connections from Weimar to the Rhineland.
Friedrich Ebert (SPD) is elected interim Reichspräsident with 277 of 379 votes (73.1%). There are 51 invalid ballots. In his inauguration speech, Ebert assures the public that he will represent all citizens, not just one party. The National Assembly’s members cry out “Long live the people and the Fatherland” three times. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 85-94]

13 February

The sixth session of the National Assembly, from 3:17 to 6:14 pm.
The new cabinet is appointed: Philipp Scheidemann (SPD) is the Präsident des Reichsministeriums (head of government); Eugen Schiffer (DDP) is his deputy as well as Reichsminister der Finanzen (Finance); Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau (independent) is Reichsminister des Auswärtigen (Foreign Affairs); Hugo Preuß (DDP) is Reichsminister des Innern (Interior); Gustav Bauer (SPD) is Reichsarbeitsminister (Labor); Rudolf Wissell (SPD) is Reichswirtschaftsminister (Economic Affairs); Robert Schmidt (SPD) is Reichsernährungsminister (Food); Otto Landsberg (SPD) is Reichsjustizminister (Justice); Gustav Noske (SPD) is Reichswehrminister (Defense); Johannes Bell (Center) is Reichskolonialminister (Colonies); Johann Giesberts (Center) is Reichspostminister (Post); Eduard David (SPD), Matthias Erzberger (Center) and Georg Gothein (DDP) are Reichsminister without portfolios (i.e. the so-called Weimar Coalition of SPD, DDP and the Center Party).
The Scheidemann cabinet’s program is announced. It includes negotiating an immediate, fair peace, relaunching the economy (“creating peace and order, bread and work”), making administrative structures more democratic, and rejecting the USPD’s violence of the revolution.
Reichsminister Erzberger issues a statement regarding the difficulties of the armistice negotiations. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 95-144]

14 February

The seventh session of the National Assembly, from 2:22 to 7:05 pm.
Constantin Fehrenbach (Center) is elected President of the National Assembly; Reichsaußenminister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau (Foreign Affairs) announces his principles for negotiating an armistice - in particular, holding out for the peace program of Wilson; followed by a debate on the question of war guilt. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 145-203]

15 February

The eighth session of the National Assembly, from 2:22 to 7:32 pm.
Reichsfinanzminister (Finance) Schiffer (DDP) reports on debt burden and the catastrophic financial situation. Debate on the government’s program and necessary supplement to the Reich’s 1918 budget of 25 billion marks. Hugo Haase (USPD) strongly criticizes Minister of Defense Noske’s (Defense, SPD) order to shoot protesters and condemns the brutal murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in Berlin. 
The observers in the gallery are told to stop expressing their agreement or disagreement. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 204-294]

15 – 18 February

The Pan-German League meets in Bamberg, vowing to fight the new republic. It founds the anti-Semitic “Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund” (German Nationalist Protection and Defiance Federation).  [UB]

17 February

The ninth session of the National Assembly, from 2:25 to 2:52 pm.
Reichsminister Erzberger (Center) reports on Germany’s signing of the now indefinite armistice agreement on 16 February in Trier, forced by the Triple Entente. He also relays the government’s protests against the unjustifiably harsh conditions. In consternation, the session is broken off.  [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 295-304]

18 February

The tenth session of the National Assembly, from 2:20 to 7:40 pm.
Extensive debate on the individual terms of the signed armistice agreement and payment of the reparations imposed; harsh personal attacks from the right on Reichsminister Erzberger (Center) and the way he headed negotiations in Spa. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 305-403]

19 February

The eleventh session of the National Assembly, from 2:19 to 6:39 pm.
The debate on meeting the terms of the armistice agreement continues. Deliberation on the 1918 budget supplement, with suggestions to address the housing shortage and economic situation. Marie Juchacz (SPD) addresses the assembly, becoming the first woman to take the floor in a German parliament. She states that women’s rights are now about ensuring women’s legal and socio-economic equality. [DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 404-476]

20 February

The twelfth session of the National Assembly, from 2:26 to 9:42 pm.
Deliberations on the urgent supplement to the 1918 budget of 25 billion marks continue; the assembly approves this supplement.
Debate on the armistice that was concluded: the war-guilt question, the return of prisoners of war, President Wilson’s promise of peace, the losses of German territories, and the draft covenant for the planned League of Nations. 
Delegate Luise Zietz (USPD) argues with Minister of Defense Noske (SPD) over the disbanding of the Weimar soldiers’ council; Noske is attacked by the USPD because of the military occupation of Gotha.
[DNV, Vol. 1, pp. 477-594]

21 February

Minister-President Kurt Eisner (USPD) is murdered in Munich. [VU]

The thirteenth session of the National Assembly, from 2:26 to 6:36 pm. Time taken to honor the memory of Minister-President Kurt Eisner, who was murdered.  The Law on Monthly Remuneration of 1,000 Marks for Delegates is adopted without debate and with all delegates present. Reichsministerpräsident Scheidemann (SPD) defends himself against the accusation that he had not fought hard enough with President Wilson for a fair peace and draws attention to the danger of the Republic collapsing due to continuing insurgency, particularly in the industrial region of Rhineland-Westphalia. The National Assembly approves the government’s work plan and expresses its confidence in the government. [DNV, Vol. 2, pp. 5-32]

24 February – 10 March

General strike in Central Germany (esp. Halle-Leipzig region) [PK]

24 February

The fourteenth session of the National Assembly, from 2:21 to 4:26 pm.
Interior Minister Hugo Preuß (DDP) presents a “draft constitution for the German Reich”, proposes black-red-gold as the new Reich colors, and explains the controversial division of competences between the Reich and its constituent states - particularly with regard to Prussia (“Prussia problem”) -, the standing and rights of a Reichspräsident as a head of state directly elected by the people, and the ministers’ accountability to the parliament. Foreign policy, military affairs, transport and postal services, financial matters now lie in the competency of the Reich, while the church and schools remain the responsibility of the Länder (federal states). [DNV, Vol. 2, pp. 33-55]

27 February

The fifteenth session of the National Assembly, from 10:19am to 1:38pm
Deliberations on the “Bill concerning the formation of a provisional Reichswehr” consisting of existing volunteer units and newly recruited volunteers (following the disbandment of the Imperial German Army). Debate i.a. on the role of the old officer corps, existing Volkswehren (militia armies) and the soldiers’ councils in the new army.
[DNV, Vol. 2, pp. 56-77]

27 February

The sixteenth session of the National Assembly, from 10:20am to 1:25pm and 3:48pm to 7:25pm
Deliberations and adoption of the Reichswehr Act and emergency legislation for displaced people coming from occupied Alsace-Lorraine.
Deliberations on the Transition Act regulating until further notice the continued validity of imperial laws (prior to 9 November 1918), legislation from the revolution, and the ordinances issued after 10 February 1919. [DNV, Vol. 2, pp. 78-121]

28 February

The seventeenth session of the National Assembly, from 10:21am to 1:37pm and 4:27pm to 7:14pm
The third reading of the Transition Act is postponed in favor of the first deliberations on the “Draft of the future constitution” (general part). Debate on the relationship between the Reich and the federal states (“Prussia problem”), the powers of the Reichspräsident, the Reich colors, the socialization of key industries, and much else. [DNV, Vol. 2, pp. 122-148]

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)