November Revolution (1918) and Weimar Republic (1919–1933) 1

November Revolution (1918) and Weimar Republic (1919–1933) Part I

November Revolution and the end of the monarchy

The decision of the naval command to let the deep-sea fleet run out against England at the last minute triggered a mutiny in Wilhelmshaven (October 28, 1918) and the sailors’ revolt in Kiel (November 3, 1918), which spread across the entire Reich. The “November Revolution” led to the collapse of the monarchical system of government at the imperial level and in all federal states. On November 9, 1918, Chancellor Prince Max von Baden announced the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm IIand handed over the business of government to F. Ebert (SPD).

On the same day P. Scheidemann (SPD) proclaimed the “German Republic” from the building of the Reichstag.

Ebert formed a council of people’s representatives from the SPD and USPD as the provisional government of the Reich, which among other things. on November 12th, 1918 decided to give women the right to vote. His “alliance” with the OHL under General W. Groener (November 10, 1918) served to maintain state order (repatriation of the western army, demobilization of 8 million soldiers). With that of M. Erzberger (Center) signed the Armistice of Compiègne (11.11.1918) officially ended the fighting between the German Reich and its war opponents. Everywhere in the Reich “workers and soldiers councils” were formed, which, by virtue of revolutionary legitimacy, claimed the decisive power in the state. In the dispute over the question of the council system or the parliamentary-democratic constitution, the Reich Congress of Workers and Soldiers in Berlin (December 16-20, 1918) decided in favor of the parliamentary solution advocated by the SPD and cleared the way for elections to a German National Assembly on January 19, 1919. Within the Workers and Soldiers Councils, the radical forces, which were based on the model of the Russian October Revolution, formed a small minority. Nevertheless, they tried to implement the council model in the “Christmas battles” and in the “January uprising” (January 5–12; “Spartacus uprising”). The uprisings were put down by government troops and voluntary corps; Members of Freikorp troops murdered the KPD co-founders on January 15, 1919 Rosa Luxemburg and K. Liebknecht.

Origin and maintenance of the republic (1919-23)

In the elections to the National Assembly on January 19, 1919, the SPD received 37.9%, the left-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP) 18.5% and the Center (Z) 19.7% of the votes. As parties of the so-called “Weimar Coalition” they had a three-quarters majority. The National Assembly met in Weimar on February 6, 1919, because Berlin seemed too uneasy politically. She chose F. Ebert on February 11 to the Reich President. The parties of the moderate labor movement and the moderate bourgeoisie formulated the founding compromise of the “Weimar Imperial Constitution”: Germany became a parliamentary republic with strong central power. The federal order was preserved. Private property was guaranteed. In the “Stinnes Legien Agreement” (November 15, 1918; formation of a “central working group”) the unions were recognized by employers as equal partners; it was the eight-hour day. The cooperation between employers and trade unions during the war was continued by the “community economy” (Wichard von Moellendorff [* 1881, † 1937]). The Weimar Constitution came into force on August 11, 1919.

Under pressure from the victorious powers, the National Assembly adopted the Treaty of Versailles on June 22, 1919, which ended the First World War and caused Germany to lose major territories (Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmedy, Posen province, establishment of the “Polish Corridor” and the “Free City” «Danzig).

The Weimar Republic then had fewer minorities than the Empire and was nationally more homogeneous. High reparations were imposed on the German Reich (London ultimatum, May 5, 1921: 132 billion gold marks). The connection of Austria to Germany was forbidden by the Allies.

The Reich governments under P. Scheidemann (SPD; 1919), G. Bauer (SPD; 1919/20), Hermann Müller (SPD; 1920), K. Fehrenbach (Z; 1920/21) and J. Wirth (Z; 1921/22) saw themselves domestically with uprisings, in economic policy with worsening inflation and economic crisis and in foreign policy with strong pressure from the Entente powers v. a. faced on the reparations issue. With the help of the newly created Reichswehr, the Reich government dissolved the Soviet republic in Bavaria (7.4. – 2.5.1919) and put down several communist uprisings between 1919 and 1921 (including the KPD’s “March Action”, March 20, 1921). The Kapp Putsch (March 13-16, 1920), carried out by right-wing extremists, failed because of the general strike of the trade unions and the loyalty of the ministerial bureaucracy. The lack of reliability of the Reichswehr came to light. The nationalist hatred of the far right further fueled anti-Semitism and led to numerous political murders: K. Eisner(February 21, 1919), the former Reich Finance Minister M. Erzberger (August 26, 1921) and Foreign Minister W. Rathenau (June 24, 1922) were the most prominent victims (Reich Chancellor J. Wirth: “The enemy stands on the right”).

The USPD and SPD then reunited. Learn more about Germany and Europe, please click

With the Rapallo Treaty (April 16, 1922), the Reich government ended its isolation from foreign policy. Nevertheless, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr area in order to emphasize the reparation demands. The Reich government under W. Cuno (1922/23) then called on the population of the Ruhr area to passive resistance. Financing the resistance further fueled the existing inflation and shattered the German currency for good. Since the spring of 1923, weekly adjustments to the collectively agreed wages have been necessary. Affected by the currency devaluation were v. a. Owners of capital and the subscribers of the war bonds that were de facto expropriated. The question of compensation for these property losses alienated the petty-bourgeois layers of the republic.

The “Grand Coalition” (SPD, Z, DDP, DVP) under Reich Chancellor G. Stresemann (DVP; August – November 1923) broke off passive resistance to the occupation of the Ruhr.

While a military execution of the Reich was carried out against the united front government made up of the SPD and KPD in Saxony (October 1923), there was no intervention against the anti-constitutional policies of the right-wing Bavarian government. On November 9, 1923, the Hitler coup failed in Munich. The Rentenmark introduced on November 15, 1923 ended hyperinflation, but the social climate worsened considerably. Employers canceled the eight-hour day and cooperation with the trade unions.

November Revolution (1918) and Weimar Republic (1919–1933) 1