Weimar Problems 1919-1923


The Weimar Republic faced many problems.  Perhaps the greatest danger was 'the weakness within' - the constitution gave the President, the states and the army too much power, whilst proportional voting meant that the Reichstag was divided and weak.  In 1919-23, extremists on both the Left (especially the Spartacist revolt) and the Right (especially the Kapp Putsch) tried to overthrow the government.

      The worst crisis occurred in 1923, when the French invaded to try to force Germany to pay reparations.  This led to hyperinflation and a number of rebellions (particularly Hitler's Munich Putsch).



Was the Republic doomed from the start?      


Good notes

HistoryLearning on the early problems - excellent


German attitudes 1918-21 - sources



Munich Putsch



- Giles Hill on the challenges facing the Weimar republic



Munich Putsch - from the TV drama The Rise of Evil

Mr Portman's great video

Germany 1919–1923

  • 1919

    • Spartacist revolt (Jan) and other Communist rebellions.

    • Communist 'People's Government seizes power in Bavaria.

  • 1920

    • Kapp Putsch (Mar)

    • 'Red Army' (communist) rebellion in the Ruhr

  • 1921

    • assassination of Matthias Erzberger

  • 1922

    • assassination of Walter Rathenau

  • 1923

    • (Jan) France invades the Ruhr

    • General Strike and hyperinflation

    • (Oct) Black Reichswehr rebellion

    • The Rhineland declared independence (Oct) and Communists take power in Saxony and Thuringia

    • (Nov) Hitler's Munich Putsch



What problems faced the Weimar Government 1919–1923?


1. Ineffective Constitution

The Weimar Constitution did not create a strong government:

  • Article 48 of the constitution gave the President sole power in ‘times of emergency’ – something he took often.

  • The system of proportional voting led to 28 parties. This made it virtually impossible to establish a majority in the Reichstag, and led to frequent changes in the government. During 1919-33, there were twenty separate coalition governments and the longest government lasted only two years. This political chaos caused many to lose faith in the new democratic system.

  • The German states had too much power and often ignored the government.

  • The Army, led by the right-wing General Hans von Seeckt, was not fully under the government’s control.  It failed to support government during the Kapp Putsch or the crisis of 1923.

  • Many government officials – especially judges – were right-wing and wanted to destroy the government.  After the Kapp Putsch, 700 rebels were tried for treason; only 1 went to prison.  After the Munich Putsch, Hitler went to prison for only 9 months.

2. Left-wing Rebellions

The Communist KPD hated the new government:

  • In Jan 1919, 50,000 Spartacists rebelled in Berlin, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht.

  • In 1919, Communist Workers’ Councils seized power all over Germany, and a Communist ‘People’s Government’ took power in Bavaria.

  • In 1920, after the failure of the Kapp Putsch, a paramilitary group called the Red Army rebelled in the Ruhr.

3. Right-wing terrorism

Many right-wing groups hated the new government for signing the Versailles Treaty (June 1919):

  • The Kapp Putsch: in March 1920, a Freikorps brigade rebelled against the Treaty, led by Dr Wolfgang Kapp.  It took over Berlin and tried to bring back the Kaiser.

  • Nationalist terrorist groups murdered 356 politicians.  In August 1921 Matthias Erzberger, the man who signed the armistice (and therefore a 'November criminal'), was shot.  In 1922, they assassinated Walter Rathenau, the SPD foreign minister, because he made a treaty with Russia.

4. Invasion-Inflation: the crisis of 1923

The cause of the trouble was Reparations – the government paid them by printing more money, causing inflation.  In January 1923, Germany failed to make a payment, and France invaded the Ruhr.  This humiliated the government, which ordered a general strike, and paid the strikers by printing more money, causing hyperinflation:

  • In Berlin on 1 October 1923, soldiers calling themselves Black Reichswehr rebelled, led by Bruno Buchrucker.

  • TheRhineland declared independence (21–22 October).

  • In Saxony and Thuringia the Communists took power.

5. Munich Putsch

On 8–9 November 1923, Hitler’s Nazis tried to take control of Bavaria (the Munich Putsch).


Source A

The new republic faced problems mainly as a result of signing the Treaty of Versailles 

A modern textbook.


One of the main problems for the Weimar government was the right-wing Dolchstosslegende - the claim that the Army had been 'stabbed in the back' by the government (whom the right called 'the November criminals').




1.  List all the problems facing the Weimar republic in its early years in order of date.  For each problem, decide how big a problem it was.

2.  Here is a list of the factors which helped to cause the Weimar government’s problems:


   Right-wing parties

   Officials - the judges wanted to destroy it


   Proportional voting

   Occupation of the Ruhr

   Printing money.

For each factor:

a.  find the times when it caused problems for the government.

b.  think how it created instability in Germany.

3.   Do you agree with Source A?

4.  Looking at all the information on this page, what do you think: was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start?