The seeds of the Weimar Republic began in the shadow of the last months of World War I. In October 1918, Prince Max von Baden became Chancellor of Germany, and began forming a new government from the leading members and parties of the Reichstag, Germany's parliament, in an effort to negotiate with the Americans, who Germany hoped would prove to be a fairer negotiator than Britain or France. When a rebellion broke out in Kiel among sailors and revolutionary fervor spread to the citizens, the sailors formed councils and made demands of the German government, including an immediate end to the war and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. This revolution, afterward called the German Revolution of 1918, caused von Baden to give the Chancellorship to Friedrich Ebert, the head of the Social Democratic party (SPD). The new government, under pressure from the American government and popular unrest, forced the Kaiser to retire. A delegation from the new republic negotiated and signed an armistice on November 11, 1918, ending the war.1
The democratic government was the machination of Kaiser Wilhelm II's generals Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg. Germany's enemies had never set foot on its soil, and the liberal republican government would be blamed for signing the treaty at Versailles, leading to popular unrest. This would cause the public to embrace the military leaders who had actually led them to ruin.2 The new government, called the Weimar Republic by historians because its constitution was formed in the city of Weimar instead of Berlin, would only last twelve years. During this time, the government was plagued by inflation, economic depressions, assassinations, international pressure, unforeseen constitutional consequences, and the inability of the government to enforce laws and bans against right-wing organizations – many of which were in the defiant state of Bavaria, making permanent stability unattainable. Article 48, which documented the president's emergency powers, was exercised to circumvent parliament rather than the original emergency-only use purpose. Parliament was dissolved by the president multiple times, making functional government impossible. When the worldwide depression hit in 1929, things only got worse in Germany.
Instability bred discontent, and discontent bred further instability. Radical groups became political parties with increasing memberships, including the NSDAP. In 1928, the Nazi party garnered 800,000 votes and 12 seats in parliament. In 1930 after the Great Depression hit, the Nazi Party garnered 1.2 million votes and 107 seats in parliament.3 By this time, Paul von Hindenburg, who had been president since 1925 due to the seven-year terms detailed in the constitution, had become a virtual dictator, using Article 48 to circumvent parliament and even dissolve parliament when the Reichstag became too obstinate for the functionality of the chancellor's government. In 1932, Adolf Hitler decided to run for the presidency against Hindenburg, who had decided to run for a second presidential term, but was not able to secure the vote over Hindenburg. In the 1932 election, the Nazi Party took 230 seats in parliament before the current chancellor von Papen convinced Hindenburg to dissolve parliament again to get a new round of voting. The Nazis secured 34 fewer seats in the Reichstag, but were still powerful enough that Hindenburg and von Papen's successor, Schleicher, were forced to contend with them. Hitler was able to plot with von Papen on how to take the chancellorship.4 Through skillful plotting and maneuvering that included threats and thuggery, von Papen and Hitler were able to force Hindenburg to accept Hitler as chancellor on the basis that the Nazis were losing support. On January 30, 1933, Hitler became chancellor of Germany. This date is seen by many to be the very beginning of the Nazi takeover of Germany. On January 31, Hitler convinced Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag for another round of elections, which Hitler publicly assured would be the last election in Germany.5
Hitler's year and a half as Chancellor was colored with more maneuvering, politicking, ruthless tactics, and the beginnings of the erosion of rights within Germany. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler was "promptly appointed 'Führer and Reich Chancellor.'" An unconstitutional vote was held on August 19 that approved Hitler as "head of state, chancellor, supreme commander of the armed forces, and head of the judiciary" with 89.9 percent of Germans voting in favor.6 The Third Reich was formally in power.