Recently I've noticed the tendency to refer to certain areas which were historically under that administration as the Weimar Republic (e.g. Wikipedia: Helmut Kohl 'Born Helmut Josef Michael Kohl, 3 April 1930, Ludwigshafen, Bavaria, Weimar Republic')

I can understand the use as a historical marker - for instance in the way that one may refer to the French lands in 1900 as the Third French Republic, or the English lands in 1650 as being a part of the Commonwealth of England. However, I believe in both these cases a resident would say they lived in France, or England, not these terms.

Was the official name of the country the Weimar Republic, and did people (both inside and outside the borders) at the time that it existed call the lands it administered the 'Weimar Republic'?

  • The term would be more meaningful in referring to the areas in the east of the Weimar Republic that are no longer part of Germany. – John Dallman Feb 15 '19 at 8:33
  • 1
    This incorrect wiki entry has now been corrected (and the reason documented) with the correct country name ('Deutsches Reich'). Helmut Kohl was born in the province called 'Pfalz', which at that time belonged to Bavaria. The term 'Weimar Republic', as a country, is incorrect since such a country never existed. See my answer below for details and documentation. – Mark Johnson Jul 21 '19 at 10:21
  • Te areas east of the area when the Weimar Constitution was valid were called Memelland and Poland. You no doubt mean the areas lost in 1945, 13 years after the Weimar Constitution was revoked (Provinces: Pommern, Schlesien, Ost-Preußen and parts of Brandenburg). – Mark Johnson Jul 21 '19 at 10:29

Was the official name of the country the Weimar Republic

No. The official name was "Deutsches Reich", or "German Empire".

did people (both inside the borders, and outside) at the time it existed call those lands 'Weimar Republic'?

It seems not.

Or, at least, not in any significant numbers.

According to the Wikipedia page on the Weimar Republic:

"... *this name only became mainstream after 1933. Between 1919 and 1933 there was no single name for the new state that gained widespread acceptance, which is precisely why the old name Deutsches Reich remained even though hardly anyone used it during the Weimar period*."

  • my emphasis

The source for this is an article in Der Spiegel, titled Der Name des Feindes Warum heißt die erste deutsche Demokratie eigentlich „Weimarer Republik?“. The article states:

" ... es während der gesamten Zeit der "Weimarer Republik" keinen Namen für den Staat gab, mit dem sich alle identifizieren konnten. Der offizielle Name, so entschied die Nationalversammlung, war "Deutsches Reich" - doch den benutzte eigentlich niemand, wie der Historiker Sebastian Ullrich aufzeigt: Auf der rechten Seite des politischen Spektrums wollte man dem demokratischen Staat den vermeintlichen Ehrentitel "Reich" nicht zugestehen. Bei der katholischen Zentrumspartei favorisierte man "Deutscher Volksstaat", bei der SPD "Republik"."


" ... during the entire "Weimar Republic" era there was no name for the state with which everyone could identify. The National Assembly decided the official name was "German Reich" - but nobody actually used it, as the historian Sebastian Ullrich points out: those on the right of the political spectrum did not want to associate the democratic state with the allegedly honourable title "Reich". The Catholic Centre Party favoured ""Deutscher Volksstaat"" ["German People's State"] with the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] "[Deutsche] Republik" [German Republic]".

  • my translation & my emphasis

According to the same Wikipedia article:

The first recorded mention of the term Republik von Weimar ("Republic of Weimar") came during a speech delivered by Adolf Hitler at a National Socialist German Worker's Party rally in Munich on 24 February 1929

going on to note:

Only during the 1930s did the term become mainstream, both within and outside Germany.

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  • You might want to look at de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimarer_Republik#Bezeichnung to compare & get away from Spiegel, and more direct source for Ullrich. – LаngLаngС Feb 14 '19 at 23:14
  • @LangLangC I figured since this is an English site, I'd stick with the source used by English Wikipedia (which is a site most people using this site should find accessible). Besides, both English and German Wikipedia pages ultimately cite Sebastian Ullrich as their source. – sempaiscuba Feb 14 '19 at 23:21
  • Sure. But it's a news magazine relying on Ullrich, and offline. His book chapter I'd value higher. Also the term Deutsche Republik comes up on deWP. Reich also contested precisely to avoid reading imperial ambitions into it. – LаngLаngС Feb 14 '19 at 23:27
  • @LangLangC Whereas Ullrich's book was only published in German (I believe), and so would be likely to be less accessible to most users of this site. FWIW, the English Wikipedia page also goes into the reasons the other parties wanted to avoid using Reich, but that goes rather beyond what the question is asking. – sempaiscuba Feb 14 '19 at 23:43
  • The publisher likes to license libraries with ebooks. His PhD might be worth a look (not checked)? Re scope: reasons might be secondary but "was it X?", "No, it was Y, Z… ". Puzzles me why the WP link I gave doesn't link to sth like youtube.com/watch?v=tVQJHC7nYvo, as de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ausrufung_der_Republik_in_Deutschland gives an online source for the mere usage (no exlp) of German Republic (Fn6). [& yeah, at that time this was more programme than reality.] – LаngLаngС Feb 15 '19 at 0:32

The constitution signed in the town of Schwazburg (about 76 road km from Weimar) was titled:

  • Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches. Vom 11. August 1919

They didn't create a new country, but gave the existing county a new constitution.

A pdf of the original signed document Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs, 11. August 1919 can be downloaded here and a swift look at page 1 will confirm the title and the last page (29) when, where and by whom it was signed.

In everyday life (Postage stamps, coins, treaties, passports) the name of the country did not change.

The short term for the country is 'Reich' (everybody knows which empire is meant by this, just as everyone in the United States understands that Canada, Cuba or Mexico is not meant when the short term America is used).

Artical 1 makes it clear what type of country it is:

  • The German Empire is a Republic

Article 112 [3] introduced the constitutional right

  • that German citizens may not be extradited

which until then was part of the law codex and was taken over in the Grundgesetz Article 16.

Contemporaries would have been familiar with the term 'Weimar-Constitution' or the 'Weimar-Government' (possibly as a dirty word), but normaly the words 'Reichsverfassung' or 'Reichsregierung' would have been used as it is done in the constitution text itself ('Reichsgebiet').

After the signing of the Grundgesetz in 1949, 'Reich' was replaced with 'Bund' ('Bundesgebiet').

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  • Your discussion of the United States is amusing, since "United States" is also a short form, capable of confusion with the United States of Mexico or of Brazil (but not really). Only "United States of America" is an unambiguous name. – C Monsour Jul 21 '19 at 16:03
  • Yes, it is more a reflection of irritation from some Canadian friends when talking about the use of the term. My point is, however, that the term Reich was commonly used even though everybody knew that there was a Austrian, British and Russian Empire nearby. It is just a similar sample, in today's world, to show how it was then understood. Somewhere here somebody described the usage of the term Reich as a form 'Imperial' desire, which was not the case. – Mark Johnson Jul 21 '19 at 16:47

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