1. The Weimar era began with one of the most democratic constitutions that had existed up to that point. But by 1933, Germany was poised to become a dictatorship. Why did democracy in Germany fail? What were the roles of political parties, the judiciary, the educational system, the economy, and the beliefs and attitudes of citizens themselves? Does Weimar teach us anything about what is necessary to sustain and protect democracy?
  2. Historian Peter Gay has written: “The excitement that characterized Weimar culture stemmed in part from exuberant creativity and experimentation; but much of it was anxiety, fear and a rising sense of doom.”1 How do the readings in this chapter help you understand his statement?
  3. Historian Detlev Peukert has written that the fundamental problem of the Weimar Republic and the main reason for its eventual downfall was the failure of its government to achieve legitimacy, or the people’s trust and acceptance of the government’s authority.2 What groups challenged the legitimacy of the Weimar Republic? What role did economic crises play in making some Germans see their government as illegitimate? 
  4. What is necessary in a democracy to ensure that its citizens have faith in their government?

Proceed to Chapter 5: The National Socialist Revolution


  • 1 Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), xiv.
  • 2 Detlev Peukert, The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity (New York: Hill and Wang, 1987), 3–18.

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