The Weimar Republic Personalities

Like the primary source documents on this website, this section offers only a sampling of key figures from Weimar Germany. The group represents a wide spectrum of political and social perspectives. Click on any of the names below to begin an exploration of the individuals whose choices and actions helped shape the course of events.

Adolf Hitler emerged from WWI in 1918 as a man with none of the normal prerequisites for success in Germany. He had no University degrees, and lacked even a secondary school leaving certificate. He had no distinguished family name and no family connections. He had not been an officer in the army. He had no money and lacked a trade or profession. He was not even a German citizen. Yet by 1932, he had built the most successful political movement of the Weimar years and had become the most popular political leader in Germany. Consumed by racist antisemitism and contempt for democracy, he destroyed the Weimar Republic and created the genocidal Nazi dictatorship.

Bernard Lichtenberg was a Catholic priest who worked with the poor in Berlin in the 1920’s. He recognized the danger of the Nazi movement, which he considered immoral and unchristian. Father Lichtenberg’s battle against the Nazis from his base at St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in the late 1920's earned him the hatred of Joseph Goebbels who was the party leader in Berlin at that time. Lichtenberg was one of the few clergy to speak out on behalf of the Jews and to keep doing so in the face of constant warnings from the Nazis.

Bertha Pappenheim came from a middle class Jewish family. She was a leader in championing the cause of German women and was the head of the Judisches Frauenbund (Federation of Jewish Women). As a Jew, a woman, and a pacifist Bertha faced enormous obstacles in trying to promote her ideas of legal equality, economic opportunity, reproductive freedom and international peace within Weimar Germany. Facing her own personal demons she was for a number of years the well-reported patient of Sigmund Freud whose case he presented under the name Anna O.

Friedrich Ebert was a German politician and leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Ebert began his professional life as a saddle maker, and became active in his labor union before joining the Social Democratic Party. While an elected member of the Reichstag (German legislature), Ebert became a leader of the SPD. He supported the war effort during World War One, although he opposed the expansionist war aims and lost three sons.

Read biographical information and artistic background on Germain filmmaker Fritz Lang. Lang was a film director in the Weimar Republic.


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