Higher still

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theme 1: the creation of the weimar republic

This first main area of the course involves the study of the creation of the Weimar Republic including:

  • military defeat

  • the November Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles

  • social and political instability

  • economic crisis and hyper-inflation.

This is the crucial base on which the course is built. It requires an appreciation of military, political, social and economic matters. It needs a grasp of the wider context surrounding events in Germany, including the attitudes of Allied leaders who shaped the Treaty of Versailles, and events in Russia.

This section of the course therefore deals with the key concepts of:

  • ideology

  • authority

  • revolution.

From careful study of this theme, an understanding of the inter-action between these concepts will be developed.

Issues for investigation/discussion

There are many questions to think about in this section e.g.

  • Were the circumstances in which Weimar was born a burden that was impossible to overcome?

  • Was the Versailles Treaty so unfair to Germany as to leave the Weimar Republic an impossible legacy?

  • Was political opinion in Germany so completely divided that uniting behind the Weimar Government was never going to be possible?

  • Was the Weimar Constitution fundamentally flawed?

  • Did the way the war ended leave Germans with the illusion that they had not been properly militarily defeated?

Part A: Military Defeat

From August 1914, Germany had waged total war. As one historian has commented,

The amount of blood and treasure invested in the First World War made it difficult for Germans to contemplate a future in which the German Reich was not victorious.’

AJ Nicholls, ‘Weimar and the Rise of Hitler’, MacMillan, 2000
The apparently sudden coming of setbacks that threatened defeat was therefore a profound shock that had enormous political consequences.
Notes will be required on the following dimensions:


From Success to Failure from the German Army, 1918

This involves considering:


German victory over Russia


The Treaty of Brest Litovsk


The Ludendorff Offensive in the West


Allied counter-offensives, July-August


German retreat


The collapse of Germany’s allies.


Where did power lie?

This involves considering:


The character and government of Kaiser William II


The German political systems; Reichstag and Bundesrat


The power and influence of Army leaders


The main political parties, their leaders, supporters and policies.


Revolution from above?

This involves considering:


Ludendorff’s views on the need for an armistice


His views on the need for a parliamentary democracy


Prince Max of Baden and the forming of a parliamentary cabinet


The request by Germany for an armistice.

Issues to discuss

  • Was Ludendorff simply trying to avoid being blamed for defeat?

  • Should the Social Democrats have agreed to enter the Government?

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