Understanding the Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic was Germany’s first democracy; meaning leaders were tasked with a complete makeover of institutions, political culture, education, and judiciary systems.
- 1How can changes in government affect all aspects of society?
Ask students what they think Germany was like following the end of World War I. What might they expect it to have been like, after a war that saw them lose a great deal of power? Would they expect that the initial response would be radical democracy? Would they expect that democracy could lead to Nazism?
Direct students to the primary sources section for Weimar Culture by Facing History and Ourselves. Go through the site with the class, pointing out the left sidebar that shows the section for primary sources and its subsections. Read through the overviews of Culture, Economics, Politics, and Society found on that first page as a class.
Show students where they can find primary sources for the four categories: Weimar Culture, Weimar Economics, Weimar Politics, and Weimar Society. Click on a couple of the primary source categories to familiarize them with the site. Point out that there are multiple primary sources for each category. Encourage them to explore the site for a minute.
Divide the class into groups of three to five. Assign each group a category from the list of Weimar era categories: Culture, Economics, Politics, or Society. It is alright to assign the same category to more than one group. Have groups prepare a presentation on their given category, having them pick a primary source and explaining the underlying implications. Groups within the same category should choose different primary sources.
If possible, allow students to project some of the primary sources they chose to present. Presentations can be done verbally or with the use of a PowerPoint or Prezi if you’d like to extend the lesson over two sessions. The presentation should attempt to answer the following questions:
- What are we looking at? Please describe the source chosen.
- What are the cultural, economic, political, or societal issues being depicted? What can be observed from it? Show the class some details that reveal deeper meaning.
- Does the source help to explain a rise of extremism? How?
- The road to democracy is full of bumps. Are there ways for a government to ease this burden?
Wisconsin Academic Standards
This lessons meets the following Academic Standards required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.