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Context UsefulNotes / WeimarRepublic

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1[[quoteright:350:]]²[[caption-width-right:350:''"They carry the name of the enterprise - but who carries its spirit?"'' [[note]]A ''Simplicissimus'' caricature depicting, from left to right: a [[CorruptChurch cleric]], a [[CorruptPolitician politician]], a [[ArmiesAreEvil Reichswehr soldier]], [[{{Lumpenproleteriat}} a vagrant]], a [[WorkingClassPeopleAreMorons farmer]], a [[CorruptCorporateExecutive capitalist]], an [[IntellectuallySupportedTyranny intellectual]], and an [[ThoseWackyNazis SA trooper]][[/note]]]]²²-> ''The German Reich is a Republic, and whoever doesn't believe it gets one in the neck.''²-->-- ''Literature/BerlinAlexanderplatz''²²If you're ever on ''Series/{{QI}}'' and Sandi Toksvig asks you what Germany was called in 1930 (she hasn't done it yet, but it's bound to come up at some point), don't say "The Weimar Republic". That name is an invention of historians and was not used at the time (like [[UsefulNotes/ByzantineEmpire 'The Byzantine Empire']] or 'UsefulNotes/TheBonnRepublic'). The correct term is "Deutsches Reich" (German Empire).[[note]]"Reich" is a bit hard to translate accurately into English, as it is a mostly neutral term that can apply to both dynastic and non-dynastic states; The German word for France, for instance, is Frank''reich''. An interesting fact is that the constituent assembly in Weimar had some trouble deciding whether the state should be called "Deutsche Republik" (indicating a democratic republic) or "Deutsches Reich" (smacking of monarchism) ultimately a compromise between the center-left that favored the former and the (center)-right that favored the latter was found with Article 1 opening with "Das Deutsche Reich ist eine Republik" - the German Reich is a Republic[[/note]]²²Weimar (so-called because that's where the constitution was written--Berlin remained the capital [[note]]but when the constitution was made, there was too much unrest there (again), so the delegates, fearing for their lives, moved to the much-quieter city of Weimar[[/note]]) was the government that ran Germany from the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarOne until the UsefulNotes/{{Nazi|Germany}}s took power.²²Ironically Friedrich Ebert, the chief founder and first president of the Weimar Republic, had not wanted to establish a republic at all. Though a social democrat, he was also a monarchist and wanted to keep the Hohenzollerns (albeit reduced to figurehead status as in Britain); the declaration of the republic was only a desperate move by a member of his cabinet to stop the communists declaring one instead. Technically, it failed in that - the communists declared a Soviet Republic a few hours later. Very few people cared about the second declaration. After that there was no going back, even if the monarchists wished to.²²Structurally, the Republic wasn't actually terribly different from the Hohenzollern Empire. Rather than an Emperor, there was a directly-elected ''[[UsefulNotes/ThePresidentsOfGermany Reichspräsident]]'' (Reich President), who, on account of his level of power, was called (only half-jokingly) the ''[[CaptainErsatz Ersatzkaiser]]'' ("Fake/Replacement Emperor"). Other than that, there were only a few other changes: the requirement that the Chancellor have the support of the Reichstag and the extensive emergency powers of the President (Article 48) being the most important. Their new constitution was supposed to be the Best Constitution Ever, thus uniting the best things (considered) from the constitutions of the most successful western democracies: a strong president as in America, a strong parliament as in the (Third) French republic, and direct democracy/plebiscites as in Switzerland.[[note]]Interestingly, none of the plebiscites on the Reich level succeeded, though some came awfully close. The constitution of UsefulNotes/TheBonnRepublic does not allow for any form of direct democracy on the federal level and many state constitutions initially didn't either. Whether this is a good thing or not has come up repeatedly in UsefulNotes/TheBerlinRepublic and overall a tendency in favor of direct democracy has shown itself in state constitutional amendments and local plebiscites being easier than ever before[[/note]] [[GoldenMeanFallacy All of these backfired spectacularly]]: the strength of the president became a problem when a half-senile, easily influenced Hindenburg had almost-dictatorial powers; the strong parliament, which could kick out every government they didn't like, made governing first difficult and finally impossible when the Nazis and the Commies got more than 50% of the votes, and the plebiscites were welcome opportunities for agitators from both left and right to spread their propaganda.²²The first few years (and, for that matter, the last few years) of the Weimar Republic was a time of enormous political instability. Between 1918 and 1923, there was an attempted coup by either the far right or the far left every year, as well as almost 500 political assassinations--most of them committed by right-wing organizations like the ''Freikorps'' or ''Organisation Konsul'', most of which went unpunished--especially those committed by right-wing extremists, as many judges were unreconstructed monarchists. The last one, the Munich Beer Putsch in 1923, was actually led by UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler. He got less than half a year in jail and wrote ''Mein Kampf''.²²Culturally, the Weimar Republic was very productive. Most notably, it contained the Cabaret culture (which produced Creator/MarleneDietrich), UsefulNotes/{{Dada}}ism, Bauhaus architecture, Main/GermanExpressionism and director Creator/FritzLang, who probably created the RobotGirl trope (and others) in ''Film/{{Metropolis}}''. Even Creator/AlfredHitchcock made some British-German coproductions during this time. Then there were [[UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker lots and lots of famous writers and intellectuals]]: Creator/BertoltBrecht, Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Maria Remarque, Erich Kästner, brothers Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Elias Canetti, Lion Feuchtwanger, Ödön von Horváth, Robert Musil, and so on. UsefulNotes/{{Berlin}} grew to a size it still hasn't reached again and some of the social housing from that era is now protected as UNESCO world heritage sites - Not exactly what you'd expect of "the Projects".²²Economically, though...well, the Mark suffered from RidiculousExchangeRates, thousands of people lost any money that wasn't saved as gold, foreign currency, or silver, and when things looked as if they had somewhat stabilized, the economic crisis of 1929 struck. This might have also recorded one of the first cases of RidiculousFutureInflation...except not in the future, and with somehow worse inflation. Case in point: you could sit down for tea when the inflation was at its worst at taking the bill two hours later, only to find that your bill had somehow doubled within the two hours you were eating. Germany became so ruined that people didn't even hesitate to give their vote to UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler after he promised them economic prosperity. The Nazis beating up their opponents also contributed, though the violence was entirely mutual.²²In fact, in ''Language of the Third Reich'' one of the characters, an old Jewish doctor, mentions that it was possible to see who won the last street brawl just by the injuries alone: if there were mostly [[ImprovisedWeapon crushed skulls and blunt trauma from beer bottles, chair legs or just plain old clubs]], that was the Communists beating Nazis, and if the wounds were [[KnifeNut mostly by the knife]] then vice versa, such was the political climate of the time.²²Near the end, the Republic was in chaos. No party could gain a majority, and they all hated each other so much that forming a coalition was impossible. At the very first meeting of the Reichstag of 1932, the first and only thing it did was dissolve itself and call for new elections. In 1933 there still wasn't a majority and the German government was desperate, feeling that if they didn't act there'd be a civil war. The Nazis at this time, while without a majority, were the largest party. Faced with either working with them, declaring a national emergency or [[RedScare facing Communist upheaval]], President Hindenburg invited Hitler and his Nazis into the government. They hoped they would be able to control them. [[ForegoneConclusion They couldn't.]]²²The question of whether the Nazis were "voted into power" or seized it sometimes comes up. On the one hand, it's true that Hitler was defeated soundly in the 1932 ''presidential'' election, and that the Nazi party never won an absolute majority of votes--in the March 1933 election with Hitler already chancellor, the National Socialist party gained 43.9% of the vote.[[note]]Even ''with'' voter intimidation and persecution of leftists.[[/note]] While this may seem extraordinary, it only seems so to countries with a two-party system (like the US). Many countries in the world have multiple parties in their governments, requiring parties to make alliances to govern effectively. In such a system, a party receiving 44% of the vote is a big win. Even though the Nazis "only" held 44% of the vote, its opponents were fractured into so many little parties that they didn't matter. The Nazis managed to get an agreement with another right wing party, and ''that'' got them over 50% both of the votes and of the seats in parliament. Furthermore, the third-largest party was the communists. Either way, democracy had been given a thumbs down by a majority of Germans. The Nazis banned the Communist party while still maintaining a facade of democracy, and there was a relatively free vote (with the Communists "abstaining" due to mostly being in jail) on whether Hitler should be given the power to make laws on his own. Hitler got the required two-thirds majority of those present, despite the Social Democrats voting against him, and the other parties (that had voted for Hitler in exchange for promises Hitler mostly broke) dissolved themselves, with the social democratic party being dissolved through Hitler's new legislative powers.²²Historians' perceptions of the Weimar Republic differ. Marxist historians present it as an example of capitalism in crisis, arguing that the rise of the far-right and later the Nazis was orchestrated and abetted by business interests to preserve their power. Others, like William L. Shirer, present it as being doomed from the start, and that its later history was simply a failed state stumbling from crisis to crisis until its inevitable final collapse. Still more, like Ian Kershaw, adopt a more moderate approach, pointing out that at no point was the rise of Hitler and the end of the republic inevitable; on the contrary, the Republic gained strength during the boom years, and, even after the crisis of the Great Depression, the electoral support of the anti-democratic forces of Nazism and Communism was actually falling, and the Nazi Party almost bankrupt by the time Franz von Papen made his fateful decision to invite the Nazis into the cabinet in 1933.²----²!! Films made in this era²²* ''Film/TheBlueAngel''²* ''Film/TheCabinetOfDrCaligari''²* ''Film/DrMabuseTheGambler''²* ''Film/{{Faust}}''²* ''Film/TheLastLaugh''²* ''Film/{{M}}''²* ''Film/{{Metropolis}}''²* ''Film/{{Nosferatu}}''²* ''Film/{{Spies}}''²* ''Film/DasTestamentDesDoktorMabuse''²* ''Theatre/TheThreepennyOpera''²* ''Film/Westfront1918''²* ''Film/TheWildcat''²* ''Film/WomanInTheMoon''²²!! Works of fiction set in this era:²²* The novel ''Literature/BerlinAlexanderplatz'' and its film and tv adaptations are considered one of the definite portraits of the CityNoir side of the era.²* The musical and movie ''{{Theatre/Cabaret}}'' takes place during this time. The rise of the Nazis helps lead to a [[spoiler: DownerEnding]].²* ''Literature/TheTinDrum'' is partially set in this era, though it also covers UsefulNotes/WorldWarTwo and the [[UsefulNotes/WestGermany aftermath]].²* "Ich Erinnere Mich an die Weimarer Republik", a song by Music/TheWorldInfernoFriendshipSociety, told from the point of view of Creator/PeterLorre and other German exiles.²* The part of ''Anime/FullmetalAlchemistTheConquerorOfShamballa'' which takes place in our world is mostly in this era; in fact, the Munich Beer Putsch occurs on-screen during the events of the film.²* ''Film/ShadowOfTheVampire'', a movie that mythologizes the production of ''Nosferatu''. The movie fairly quickly switches locations from Germany to Czechoslovakia, however.²* A few strips in ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia'' show Germany towards the tail end of the Republic, growing more than peeved at having to put up with the Treaty of Versailles.²* Part of the song "Learn to Do It" in ''{{WesternAnimation/Anastasia}}'' (it's not clear at what point in the song they've crossed the Polish-German border, but they're boarding a ship in Stralsund by the end)²* Klaus Mann's ''Literature/{{Mephisto}}'' and [[TheFilmOfTheBook its film adaptation]].²* ''Series/BabylonBerlin'' is set during this time and prominently features the political turmoil of the age.²* ''[[ Berlin - The Wicked City]]'', a 2019 setting book for ''TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu'' Seventh Edition, details Weimar Berlin and it's various connections to The Mythos.²----


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