From Recovery to Catastrophe: Municipal Stabilization and Political Crisis in Weimar, Germany

By Ben Lieberman | Go to book overview

Introduction
RECOVERING WEIMAR RECOVERY

T he Weimar Republic is understandably remembered for failure rather than for success. The revolution that ended the German Empire and began the Weimar Republic in 1918 left few groups within German society satisfied. Assassinations, attempted coups, economic turmoil, and social deprivation plagued the Republic's early years. Even as Germans confronted an imposing bill for reparations, inflation left German currency virtually worthless. By 1923, the Weimar Republic, suffering from hyperinflation and the occupation of the industrial region of the Ruhr by France and Belgium, appeared on the verge of collapse. Shaken by political, economic, and social crisis, these early years together with the First World War have been recently described as the "Great Disorder."1

If the early years of the Republic were dreadful, the last years were worse. The late 1920s and the early 1930s saw the breakdown of democracy, mass unemployment, social trauma, National Socialist electoral gains, and the Republic's end with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as German Chancellor in January 1933. Looking back on this record of disasters after the Second World War, it was entirely reasonable for observers of the Federal Republic of Germany to stress that " Bonn was not Weimar."2

Because of these traumatic events in the first and last years of Weimar Germany, historical narratives have depicted the Republic as a sequence of disasters. The familiar historical narrative of Weimar disappointments and setbacks begins with the revolution, which marked the end of the German Empire and the start of the new German Republic. Despite disputes about such issues as the range of options during the revolution and the political role of

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