The republic created by the Constituent Assembly at Weimar lasted in theory for fourteen years, from 1919 to 1933. Its real life was shorter. Its first four years were consumed in the political and economic confusion which followed the First World War, and in its last three years there was a temporary dictatorship, half cloaked in legality, which reduced the republic to a sham long before it was openly overthrown. Only for six years did Germany lead a life ostensibly democratic, ostensibly pacific; but in the eyes of many foreign observers these six years appeared as the normal, the 'true' Germany, from which the preceding centuries and the subsequent decade of German history were an aberration. A deeper investigation might have found for these six years other causes than the beauty of the German character.
Few Germans, perhaps none, had understood the meaning of the armistice; hardly more took in the meaning of the Treaty of Versailles. For more than four years the Germans had believed that they were winning the war; only for a month (from October 2nd, 1918, until November 11th) were they faced with the truth of defeat, and as soon as the fighting was over the impression of the truth began to fade. The fact of defeat was not yet explained away by the intellectual trick of the