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BACKGROUND FOR THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC: The political unification of Germany and ongoing divisions of German society.
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Germany experienced political fragmentation at the end of the Middle Ages, but it enjoyed a great cultural blossoming in the late 18th century and dramatic economic growth in the 19th century.
In 1871 Germany finally experienced national unification under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck and the Kingdom of Prussia, but this development alienated large minority groups. Imperial Germany developed three distinct political cultures:
A Protestant/middle class dominant culture.
A Catholic subculture, resentful of the Kulturkampf.
A socialist/proletarian counter-culture.
But then conflicts between Emperors and Popes tore
the Empire apart….
“The Court of Frederick II in Palermo” (painted in 1865):He reigned 1220-1250 as Holy Roman Emperor and liberated Jerusalem (cf. Peter Gay, pp. 49-51)
Luther faces Charles V at the Reichstag of Worms, April 1521:“The verses of Holy Scripture that I cite have overcome my conscience and trapped me in the word of God. Therefore I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience does not bring safety or salvation. God help me!”
Luther’s new doctrines plunged Germany into turmoil:
Salvation through faith alone!
Only the Bible!
The priesthood of all believers!
The Protestant Reformation caused deep divisions between North and South: Lucas Cranach, “The Supper of the Evangelicals and the Damnation of the Papists” (ca. 1530)
“Seven-Headed Martin Luther” (Catholic caricature, 1529).Charles V conquered Saxony and Hessein 1547 but found himself unable to stamp out Protestantism.
Prussia’s King Frederick the Great (r. 1740-86) became a hero for his victories in the Seven Years’ War (painted here at the Battle of Hochkirch by Adolph von Menzel, 1856)
Duke Karl August engaged Germany’s most brilliant writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):
The Sorrows of Young Werther;
Iphigenia on Tauris;
Faust I & II
“Goethe in the Roman Campagna” (1787)
He joined the Freemasons, wrote the first great history of the Dutch War of Independence against Spain, and denounced tyranny in famous dramas:
The Wallenstein Trilogy;
The Goethe-Schiller Monument,before the Weimar National Theater(the building where the National Assembly wrote the Weimar constitution in 1919)
German unification was in fact carried out by the Prussian army in three wars planned by Otto von Bismarck: “The Battle of Königgratz, July 3, 1866”
* Right column refers to West Germany only
The population in 1890 was:
Bismarck repressed Catholic “Enemies of the Reich” in the Kulturkampf (1872-80) and then outlawed socialism (1878-90). Here the police offer “Holiday Travel Assistance” to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, and Bishop Melchers
“Only he deserves freedom and life who must conquer them daily” (a “proletarian house blessing” from Berlin)“Revenge for our persecuted comrades, 1878-88. Long live Social Democracy”
For dedicated Social Democrats, Bismarck was a tyrant, and Karl Marx, the true hero.
Liberty summons Progress to demolish the Bastille of capitalism with the 8-Hour day and free the prisoners within (Der wahre Jacob, SPD, 1895)
VOTING TRENDS IN IMPERIAL GERMANY: The three leftist parties critical of Bismarck increased their share of the popular vote from 28% in 1871 to 63% in 1912