Challenges to the government of the Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic's unpopularity meant it faced violent uprisings from both sides of the political spectrum during 1919 and 1920.

The Weimar Republic faced challenges from the left wing (Spartacists) and right wing (Kapp Putsch)

The threat from the Left: The Spartacist Uprising

  • During 5 – 12 January 1919, 50,000 members of the post-World War One Communist Party, known as the Spartacists, rebelled in Berlin, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.
  • The government was saved when, through the army, it armed bands of ex-soldiers, known as the Freikorps, who defeated the Spartacist rebels.
  • In the aftermath, communist workers' councils seized power all over Germany, and a Communist People's Government took power in Bavaria.
  • Liebknecht and Luxemburg were killed by the Freikorps after being arrested on the 15th. Luxemburg’s body was dumped in a canal.
  • By May 1919 the Freikorps had crushed all of these uprisings.

The threat from the Right: The Kapp Putsch

  • In crushing the communists the Freikorps had saved the government, but the terms of the Treaty of Versailles meant Germany’s army had to be significantly reduced and the Freikorps had to be disbanded.
  • During 13 - 17 March 1920, as a reaction to this, the right-wing nationalist, Dr Wolfgang Kapp led a Freikorps takeover in Berlin.
  • The regular army refused to attack the Freikorps; Kapp was only defeated when the workers of Berlin went on strike and refused to cooperate with him.

Other violence

  • Nationalist terrorists assassinated 356 government politicians, including Walter Rathenau (June 1922), the foreign minister, and Matthias Erzberger who had been finance minister. Judges in their trials, many of whom preferred the Kaiser's government, consistently gave these terrorists light sentences, or let them go free.


Rathenau’s killers only got 4 years in prison, despite the fact that over a million people had marched through Berlin in mourning over his death.