The defeat of Imperial Germany at the hands of the Allied powers in World War I led to the abdication of the emperor Wilhelm II. This gave an opportunity for to parliamentary parties to recast the German polity. Thus a National Assembly met at the town of Weimar to form a republic with a democratic constitution and a federal structure.
Problems faced by the Weimar Republic
Treaty of Versailles
The Weimar Republic was formed at a time of confusion and chaos after Germany had lost the World War One. Many people felt that Germany had experienced a very harsh deal in the Treaty of Versailles and they resented the government for signing it and agreeing to its conditions.
Economic conditions were worse
The Weimar Republic faced violent uprisings from various groups, not to mention devastating economic problems. The German state was financially declined due to overwhelming war debts which had to be paid in gold. Consequently, god reserves depleted and value of German mark fell. Prices of essential goods rose dramatically.
Germany between 1918 and 1919 was in chaos. People were starving, the Kaiser had fled and people hated the government for signing the armistice in November 1918 – they called them the November criminals. Bands of soldiers called Freikorps refused to disband and formed private armies. It was not a good start for the Republic.
But this newborn republic was not well received by its own people for the following reasons:
- The Allied imposed a harsh and humiliating treaty at Versailles, which squarely placed the blame of starting World War I on Germany’s soldier. It was the Weimar Republic that signed the treaty much to the displeasure of the German populace.
- Germany lost all of its overseas colonies and a tenth of its population, along with 75% of its iron and 26 % of its coal to France, Poland, Denmark and Lithuania.
- The War Guilt Clause held Germany responsible for the war and the subsequent damage it caused in the Allied nations. They were forced to pay compensation of £6 billion in total. Due to the loss of most of its revenue-generating colonies, Germany was unable to repay the amount.
- Due to the failure to pay compensation, The Allied Armies occupied the resource-rich Rhineland for a time. The Weimar Republic reacted to this by printing paper currency in large numbers to pay off the huge debt. This led to hyperinflation and the eventual collapse of the economy.
- Coupled with the humiliation of a foreign power occupying German territory and economic collapse, the German public held the new Weimar Republic for the defeat in world war I and accepting the disgrace at Versailles.