How did the Weimar Republic survive?

In 1923 the Weimar Republic was teetering at the brink of a very large cliff with problems such as hyperinflation, attempted revolutions and public discontent, pushing it increasingly towards the edge. How could the Republic possibly survive?

Gustav Stresemann and Charles Dawes

In 1923, the Weimar Republic was on the verge of collapse, but, surprisingly, the crisis was the start of a period of stability and success. The period 1923-1929 was a time when the economy boomed and cultural life flourished in Germany.

This dramatic turnabout happened because Germany was saved by two people - Gustav Stresemann and Charles Dawes.

Portrait of Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann had been a nationalist, but he realised that something needed to be done to save Germany. The most important thing he did in 1923 was to organise the Great Coalition of moderate, pro-democracy parties in the Reichstag. At last, Germany had a government that could make laws! Under Stresemann's guidance, the government called off the strike, persuaded the French to leave the Ruhr and even got the rest of the world to allow Germany to join the League of Nations in 1926.

Stresemann also introduced reforms to help ordinary people such as job centres, unemployment pay and better housing.

Portrait of Charles Dawes

Charles Dawes

Charles Dawes was the US budget director. In 1923, he was sent to Europe to sort out Germany's economy. Under his advice, the German Reichsbank was reformed and the old money was called in and burned. This ended the hyperinflation. Dawes also arranged the Dawes Plan with Stresemann, which gave Germany longer to pay reparations. Most importantly, Dawes agreed to America lending Germany 800 million gold marks, which kick-started the German economy.

Weimar culture

You must know the names of the following leaders of the German cultural flowering of the 1920s:

  • singer/actress Marlene Dietrich
  • architect Gropius the leader of the Bauhaus [Bauhaus: The influential German school of Modernist art and design 1919-1933. It was shut down by the Nazis. ] movement
  • artists Paul Klee and Otto Dix
  • writer Erich Maria Remarque who wrote 'All Quiet on the Western Front'
  • film-maker Fritz Lang

Was Weimar stable during 1923-1929?

Despite all the successes, many historians believe that the stability of the Weimar republic was illusory:

  1. The Great Coalition collapsed before the end of 1923, and the Reichstag [Reichstag: German parliament in Berlin. ] returned to chaos. When the crisis came, it was unable to respond.
  2. The nationalists and fascists did not win many seats in the Reichstag, but they were allowed to exist and campaign, so they were just waiting for the right opportunity to attempt a takeover again.
  3. Everything depended on American money - if that stopped, Germany was ready to return to crisis.

Revision tip and answer preparation

Revision tip

Make a list of all the facts from this revision bite, and divide them into two sections:

  1. Things that caused the Weimar period's success.
  2. Things that are evidence of that success.

Answer preparation

As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

  1. Why the Weimar Government survived in 1923.
  2. What the achievements of the Weimar period were.
  3. To what extent the Weimar government recovered after 1923.
  4. Whether Stresemann or Dawes was more important to Weimar Germany's success.
  5. Whether Weimar Germany was a success in the period 1923-1929.

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