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
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    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 You no doubt mean the areas lost in 1945, 13 years after the Weimar Constitution was revoked (Provinces: Pommern, Schlesien, Ost-Preußen and parts of Brandenburg).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.

  • 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
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    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
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    Wikipedia is either special in looking only for "Republik von Weimar" or just wrong. See "Weimarer Republik" in use already in 1925 in Sozialistische Monatshefte 1925, p437. – Stewie Nov 17 '20 at 12:08

Q Was the Weimar Republic referred to as such by contemporaries?

Yes. Some people at the time sometimes surely used this term.

It probably was not that much in common place popular parlance and surely not anywhere used as anything 'official'.

But in terms of (sometimes a bit academic) debate, this moniker was well established before 1933.

Wikipedia is just wrong on this:

Die Verbindung mit dem Stadtnamen Weimar wurde zunächst nur im Zusammenhang mit der Verfassung verwendet; erst 1929, zu deren zehnjährigem Jubiläum, sprachen rückwärtsgewandte Konservative, der Nationalsozialist Hitler und auch das Organ der Kommunisten von der Weimarer Republik. 1932 tauchte dieser Ausdruck aber auch in der republiktreuen Vossischen Zeitung auf. Wikipeda.de:WeimarRepublic

And also wrong is the unsourced English version:

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. Wikipedia:WeimarRepublic

Example from 1926:

Rätselhaft, wie lange die Republikaner diese Tendenz nicht erkannt haben. Jahre waren nötig, um die Erkenntnis durchbrechen zu lassen, dass die Republik nicht bloß ein Staatswesen mit wählbarem statt erblichem Präsidenten ist sondern ein Wert in sich selbst darstellt. Mancher schlimme Geburtsfehler der Weimarer Republik ist nur aus dem Mangel an jeglicher republikanischer Bewegung zu verstehen.

It is puzzling how long republicans have not recognised this tendency. Years were needed to break through the realisation that the republic is not just a state with an electable rather than hereditary president, but is a value in itself. Some serious birth defects of the Weimar Republic can only be understood from the lack of any republican movement.
Carlo Mierendorff: Republik oder Monarchie? Sozialistische Monatshefte, 32(1926), H. 7, Ausg. vom 12.07. 1926, S. [435] - 439

Example from 1928, also non-Hitlerite, not even right-wing, and amusingly speculating about russiagating elections:

'Rußland und die Reichstagswahlen'
[…] Dreieinhalb Millionen deutscher Proletarier hätten trotz des "wilden antikommunistischen Terrors" sich als geschworene Feinde der Weimarer Republik und als Kämpfer für die proletarische Diktatur erklärt.[…]

Russia and the Reichstag elections
[…] Three and a half million German proletarians had declared themselves sworn enemies of the Weimar Republic and fighters for the proletarian dictatorship despite the "wild anti-communist terror".[…]

Titel: Vorwärts Datum: 24.05.1928 Nummer: 242 Jahrgang: 45 // Vorwärts - Morgenausgabe Nr. A124 (link)

Similarly for the phrase "Republik von Weimar":

We see that Graf Ernst zu Reventlow used it already in 1925 in his book "Minister Stresemann als Staatsmann und Anwalt des Weltgewissens"

Or even in Reichstag protocols from 1928.

What seems to be true in both Wikipedia articles is that after Hitlerites 'embracing the term as derogatory' — and more often than not in the shortened allusion form of just "Weimar" and making clear it is to be understood in that way things changed.

To get a sense of when the talk at the time was not just about the constitution – "Weimarer Verfassung" is indeed found very often and very early – the more difficult to ascertain aspect is of course that in addition to sources like the above some people might have used the shorthand "Weimar" and leaving out any construction with "republic", just like most of the Social-democrats went for the shorthand "Republik" most often. Although that would probably be a bit indicative of using that term "Weimar" in a negative light.

But that the term "Weimarer Republik" or "Republik von Weimar" only came into being that late as 1929 as claimed by Wikipedia and then at first only as a conservative or Nazi-right-wing epithet is evidently untrue.

While I don't have a good quality corpus linguistics analysis at the ready to compare the actual popularity for that term versus alternative phrases or even compared to official designations, (like "Das Reich", "Deutsches Reich", "die deutsche Republik", "die Republik" or "unser Land" etc.) we cannot rely on either 'Wikipedia info' or horribly OCR'd google-books from a fraction of what we actually have as plentiful sources for the time.

  • Deutsches Kaiserreich is the retrospective name for the phase of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918 to clearly distinguish it from the period after 1918. In the German Empire, the German nation-state was a federal (or also member-state) organized constitutional monarchy. The same is true for the Weimar Republic (1919-1932) and the Third Reich (1933-1945). – Mark Johnson Nov 17 '20 at 13:36

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').

  • 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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