After it was formed in 1871, the German Empire was controlled by a powerful emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The country had a parliament, the Reichstag but those who had been elected as its members only had limited powers. Germany was under the firm control of the Kaiser and his ministers.

In 1914, Germany went to war against Britain, France and Russia.

By September 1918, leading German generals began to realise they had lost the war. This came as an enormous shock to the country. Weeks of violence followed as the Germans expressed their anger.

On 11 November 1918, Germany signed an Armistice to bring World War One to an end. On 19 January 1919, elections were held for the new government.

A new government met for the first time in Weimar on 6 February 1919. Friedrich Ebert became President and Philipp Scheidemann was appointed Chancellor. Germany was now a Democratic Republic. Democracy had been forced on the Germans.