The Weimar Republic was established in Germany on 11 February 1919, shortly after the first world war. The new parliament went to Weimar, a town in southern Germany, far from the violence in Berlin. A party was entitled to one seat in the parliament, or Reichstag, for every 60,000 votes it received. Elections were to be held every four years, and the head of state was the president, elected every seven years.

The president of the Weimar Republic held a position similar to that of the Kaiser during the war. He could dissolve the Reichstag and call for new elections. Supreme Court judges were appointed by him, as was the Chancellor. He was Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Article 48 gave him authority to rule by special powers during an emergency, and he could suspend civil liberties.

The Chancellor was the head of government and the person responsible for everyday politics. He and his ministers required the support of the Reichstag to carry out policies.

Proportional representation existed in the Weimar Republic. This is a system of voting where parties' candidates were elected on the basis of the total votes cast for the party. An ineffective system, it ensured that many parties were represented and no party achieved an overall majority. Coalition governments were inevitably formed.

Major parties in Germany at this time included:
  • German Workers Party / National Socialist German Workers Pary / Nazi Party (NSDAP).
  • German People's Party (DVP) - the party of big business
  • Catholic Centre Party or Zentrum — a middle-of-the-road party that represented Catholic interests.
  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) — The party which was responsible for the formation of the republic.
  • Communist Party (KPD) — The extreme left. Not a significant party in the Reichstag until 1924.

The early years of the Weimar Republic were marked by disaster. Proportional representation created a political instability and economic problems. The latter were worsened by unreasonably large reparation payments to France, Belgium, UK and Poland as agreed to in the Treaty of Versailles. Loss of colonies resulted in the loss of raw materials. The Saar industrial region was lost to France, and the wealthy Rhineland was demiliatarised. Germany's inability to keep up with reparations was France's excuse for invading and occupying the industrial area known as the Ruhr. Inflation was at a record high.

Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor in 1924 and under his leadership the republic finally achieved stability. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 his run ended, and the Reichstag was dissolved the following year.

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