The Weimar Republic, the post–World War I German government named for the German city where it was formed, lasted more than 14 years, but democracy never found firm footing. This chapter explores Germany in the years preceding the Nazis' ascension to power by highlighting efforts to turn a fledgling republic into a strong democracy and examining the misunderstandings, myths, and fears that often undercut those efforts.

Essential Questions

  • How do fears, both real and imagined, shape the way we as individuals and as citizens define our nation’s universe of obligation?
  • How can we as citizens build and maintain a democracy that protects the nation as a whole without undermining individual rights? 
  • How could a society that is politically and culturally liberal and progressive fall victim to a government that espouses intolerance, discrimination, and hatred?



Before exploring our readings on the Weimar Republic, get familiar with their central themes and historical context.

Reading 1 of 21

The November Revolution

Learn about the political uprisings in Germany after World War I that resulted in the fall of the German empire.

Reading 2 of 21

Rumors of Betrayal

Reading 3 of 21

Creating a Constitutional Government

Examine the rights, protections, and democratic aspirations in the constitution of Germany’s newly formed democracy, the Weimar Republic.

Reading 4 of 21

In Search of Meaning

Consider why paramilitary groups such as the Freikorps formed in the aftermath of World War I in Germany.

Reading 5 of 21

Law and Disorder

Read about the Weimar Republic’s responses to two political uprisings–a left-wing rebellion in Bavaria and a conservative uprising by paramilitary group the Freikorps.

Reading 6 of 21

Attitudes toward Life and Death

Learn about the pamphlet published by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche that sparked a national debate about race and eugenics in Germany in the 1920s.

Reading 11 of 21

The Myth of a Jewish Conspiracy

Learn how the myth of the Elders of Zion contributed to scapegoating and antisemitism toward Jews in the Weimar Republic.

Reading 12 of 21

Voices in the Dark

Reading 13 of 21

Antisemitism and Jewish Identity

Consider Ernst Toller, Sigmund Freud, and Arnold Schoenberg’s reactions to the growing antisemitism in Germany in the 1920s.

Reading 14 of 21

From Unrest to Peace and Prosperity

Consider how the return of peace and prosperity in Germany in 1924 affected the popularity of extremist groups like the Nazis.

Visual Essay 15 of 21

Visual Essay: Free Expression in the Weimar Republic

Explore Weimar-era fine art, film, and ballet with this collection of images. Analyze the experimental styles and social commentary of German art in the 1920s.

Reading 16 of 21

Women in the Weimar Republic

Learn what defined the “new woman” in Weimar Germany and read about society's resistance to women’s changing roles in politics and the workforce.

Reading 18 of 21

A New Economic Crisis

Gain insight into the devastating poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness experienced by Germans during the Great Depression.

Reading 20 of 21

Hard Times Return

Compare the party platforms of the Communists, Nazis, and Social Democrats in Germany’s 1932 presidential elections, a time of deep economic crisis. 

Reading 21 of 21

Hitler in Power

Consider the motivations and expectations of Paul von Hindenburg when he appointed Hitler to chancellor of Germany (Spanish available).

Analysis and Reflection

Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on the Weimar Republic with these follow-up questions and prompts.

Get Our Companion Unit: Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior

Lead your middle and high school students through a thorough examination of the history of the Holocaust. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to:

  • Craft an argumentative essay
  • Explore primary sources, videos, and readings that lead them through an in-depth study of the Holocaust
  • Recognize the societal consequences of "we" and "they" thinking
  • Understand the historical context in which the Nazi party rose to power and committed genocide

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