Rigid class separation and considerable friction among the classes characterized pre-World War I German society. Aristocratic landowners looked down on middle and working class Germans and only grudgingly associated with wealthy businessmen and industrialists. Members of the middle class guarded their status and considered themselves to be superior to factory workers. The cooperation between middle and working class citizens, which had broken the aristocracy’s monopoly of power in England, had not developed in Germany. In Weimar Germany, class distinctions, while somewhat modified, were still important. In particular, the middle class battled to preserve their higher social status and monetary advantages over the working class.
Gender issues were also controversial as some women’s groups and the left-wing political parties attempted to create more equality between the sexes. Other women’s groups, conservative and radical right-wing political parties, and many members of the clergy resisted these changes. The constitution mandated considerable gender equality, but tradition and the civil and criminal codes were still strongly patriarchal and contributed to perpetuating inequality. Marriage and divorce laws and questions of morality and sexuality were all areas of ferment and debate.
In this section, you will find primary sources by topic: Antisemitism, Gender, Homophobia, Racism, and Religion.