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What caused the collapse of the Weimar Republic?

Updated on June 3, 2018
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Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Asteriaa writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.

The Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic

While the collapse of the Weimar republic was the fault of the depression to some extent, contributing factors also further drove the Weimar republic into folding in 1929.

Issues surrounding the Weimar republic included the treaty of Versailles, which had its own detrimental effects on the republic. Secondly, a lack in political stability with far left communists and the far right nationalists caused major disputes within the republic.

Due to the economical failures, which resulted in the Dawes plan by the USA, the Weimar Republic also lost the will of the people during their run of power. These factors, combined with the Great Depression in 1929, resulted in a catastrophic situation for the republic.

The collapse of the Weimar republic in 1929 was a combination of events, which included the depression to some extent.

What was the Weimar Republic?

The Weimar Republic refers to Germany and its political system between late 1918 (the end of World War I) and 1933 (the rise of Nazism) that attempted to establish a modern, liberal democracy.

Unemployed queuing at an employment office in Hanover in 1930

Effect of the Great Depression

The Great depression was to an extent one of the reasons for the collapse of the republic in 1929. The Depression affected Germany in matters of employment, trade and the reparations, which were mandatory by the Treaty of Versailles.

The unemployment rates were plummeting in Germany, in January, 1929 there was approximately 1,500,000 unemployed Germans, this increased to 6,100,00 in January, 1933.

These numbers affected Germany's trade markets. No one could afford products. This resulted in prices being reduced by shop owners, which again impacted the economy.

This shows to what extent the depression had on the impact of the collapse of the Weimar republic in 1929, with the population of Germany becoming enraged with the way the government was dealing with bankruptcy and debt.

Great Depression 1929-32 - Bank Panic, 1931. / crowd outside of a bank at Berlin, Germany, during the financial crisis

Great Depression 1929-32 - Bank Panic, 1931. / Crowd outside of a bank at Berlin, Germany, during the financial crisis. Photographed 13 July 1931.
Great Depression 1929-32 - Bank Panic, 1931. / Crowd outside of a bank at Berlin, Germany, during the financial crisis. Photographed 13 July 1931.

To further impact the Weimar, the depression brought upon the end of the American loans. The Dawes plan was brought into action in 1924.

A loan of 800 million dollars were given to Germany, which scaled down the reparations required to be paid to France, Britain and America, as listed in the Treaty of Versailles. In 1929 the depression hit America and simultaneously Germany.

Americans demanded the repayments of the loans from the Dawes Plans immediately. The instant impact on the German economy was catastrophic. Germany fell deep into rescission and further into debt. Thus, the depression was a contributing factor but not the whole cause of the Weimar’s downfall.

The Treaty of Versailles

German delegates in Versailles: Professor Walther Schücking, Reichspostminister Johannes Giesberts, Justice Minister Otto Landsberg, Foreign Minister Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau, Prussian State President Robert Leinert, and financial advisor C
German delegates in Versailles: Professor Walther Schücking, Reichspostminister Johannes Giesberts, Justice Minister Otto Landsberg, Foreign Minister Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau, Prussian State President Robert Leinert, and financial advisor C

The effect of the Treaty of Versailles

To add to the depression, the Treaty of Versailles contributed to the collapse of the Weimar republic in 1929. The treaty’s impact was to largely affect the republic, as Germany was united in their opposition against the treaty. Those who signed the treaty were labelled ‘November Criminals.’

This was to allow for the greatest piece of anti-republican propaganda to be created, which played a role in the Weimar’s collapse in 1929.

The treaty included;

  • economic provisions of 40 billion dollars in reparations to the allies
  • machinery, locomotives, shipping to be given to the allies
  • large shipments of coal to be made to the allies
  • the army was cut down to 100, 000 men, they were diminished of an air force, submarines and tanks.
  • Germany lost all colonies they had around the world and had to return Poland and Alsace- Loraine,
  • the Anschluss with Austria was forbidden.

This is a political cartoon demonstrating how much money Germany owned in war reparations.

Source

This economically demoralised the German nation, this lead to uproars and protests from the German people, which to an extent lead to the collapse in 1929. The war guilt was also placed heavily on Germany and the people. The Treaty of Versailles left the Weimar Republic in a tough situation with other nations and their own.

The 'November Criminals' were to be remembered when the eventual collapse was to come around, which allowed for the people to end the short reign of the Weimar Republic in 1929.

Weimar Republic Issues after WW1

The effect of political instability

In continuation, the Weimar Republic's collapse was to an extent the fault of the depression, but the contributing factors of the lack of political stability was also at fault. Political violence was heavily conducted between the far left and the far right parties of the Weimar Republic between 1919 and 1922.

During these years, 376 political murders occurred across Germany, 356 of which committed by the right wing. This begun to lose the people's trust in the Weimar’s efficiency to run the country, leading to the eventual collapse in 1929. On March, 12, 1920, the attempt by the right wing party to overthrow the left wing.

The Kapp Putsch was a major turning point in the political stability of the Weimar republic, though it was conducted poorly, its significance would lead to the collapse of the republic in conjunction with other events such as the depression.

The Kapp Putsch showed the army could not be relied upon to support the Democratic Party. It also suggested that the army was becoming a ‘state within a state’ answerable to itself rather than the government. This revealed the lack of political stability in the Weimar republic, which in addition to other factors including the depression, lead to the collapse in 1929.

Economical effects on the Weimar Republic

The economical impacts played a role in unemployment and the hyperinflation which had catastrophic effects on the Weimar republic, which lead to the collapse by 1929. In 1923, hyperinflation hit Germany. Prices and wages begun to rise at a consistent rate that made the German mark have little to no value.

Due to the hyperinflation, workers were paid two or three times a day, prices could double in an hour. The exchange rate collapsed as no nation was willing to buy the German mark (putting an end to international trade). This lack of ability to control the economic turmoil in Germany was showing the public that the Weimar was struggling to run the nation, which would lead to the eventual collapse in 1929.

This shows the extreme nationalism in Germany after the Nazi party took over.

Source

Working class Germans suffered enormously, the unemployed, which was numbering in the millions had nothing. People were reduced to scavenging and picking up coal tips and piles of rubbish. Starvation was also an issue to the working class population due to the hyperinflation. This impacted the left wings supporter base, with many Germans beginning to turn the Nazis on the right wing nationalist party.

It was not until the depression that the public began to turn to the Nazis in significant numbers. The economical impact on the Weimar was detrimental to its eventual collapse in 1929, though the depression was at fault to an extent; the contributing factors of earlier economical turmoil with the hyperinflation played a large role in the Weimar’s downfall.

The Weimar Republic

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Weimar republic's collapse in 1929 was an accumulation of factors in which included the depression. The treaty of Versailles, political issue, and the economical factors, resulted in the failure of the republic. The depression was a contributing factor which was built up upon through the years of power, which was held by the Weimar.

Sources used

  1. http://alphahistory.com/weimarrepublic/
  2. BBC - GCSE Bitesize - Weimar - strengths and weaknesses
  3. http://alphahistory.com/weimarrepublic/why-the-weimar-republic-failed/
  4. http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/weimar.htm
  5. https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy

Comments

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    • Asteriaa profile imageAUTHOR

      Simran Singh 

      2 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for your feedback!

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent and complex analysis of the fall of the Weimar Republic. All of your points are well founded. I believe that the incredibly punitive war remunerations placed on them by the victors mainly caused their horrible Depression. This led to the instability and extreme politics that led to the rise of Nazism. Just as you have written. Great job, Asteria.

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