A History of the German Republic, Arthur Rosenberg 1936


In 1928, in the preface to my book, The Birth of the German Republic, I wrote as follows:

I chose 10 November 1918 as the closing date for my study, although it would have been scientifically better to have brought it down to the acceptance of the Weimar Constitution by the National Assembly. For research purposes the line of division still comes on 10 November – the documents for scientific investigation being largely available before but not after that date. To write a critical history of Germany after 10 November 1918 is impossible at present.

At the time when these lines were written all that was known of the documentary background to German history since 1918 was what had been published in 1926 and 1927 by the Reichstag Commission for the Investigation of the Vehm Murders. These publications were largely the work of its energetic rapporteur, Paul Levi. Meanwhile documentary evidence has piled up to an extraordinary height. Stresemann’s Vermächtnis contained a great number of new and very important documents bearing on the history of the years 1923-29. Wentzke’s book on the Ruhr struggle further illuminated the year 1923. Volkmann’s historical work on the revolution also contained new material. Finally, I was given an opportunity of utilising for the purposes of this book the as yet unpublished Minutes of the Council of People’s Representatives for the months of November and December 1918. It is undoubtedly true that there are still many dark places in our knowledge of the history of the Weimar Republic. Nevertheless the material has become so voluminous that it seems possible to venture upon an historical sketch of the republic’s life.

In writing the present book I have striven to avoid one-sided judgements arising out of my own political activities in the years 1919-28. I was a responsible official of both the USPD and the KPD, and from 1924 to 1928 a member of the Reichstag. The struggles of these years already lie so far behind us that it seems as if not six years but a whole generation had passed away since 1928. The internal dissensions in the German labour movement that were so bitter at the time are today one with the historic past. I have imposed upon myself the task of writing the history of the Weimar Republic without prejudice or partiality. I have never at any time made a secret of my own personal convictions. At the same time I have endeavoured to found my judgements upon the facts, and have not written anything merely to please or to annoy any existing or defunct German labour organisation. It must be left to my readers, and especially to such readers as wish for a scientific analysis and not a propagandist work, to decide the extent to which I have achieved my aim.

The work itself proves that I am justified in bringing my narrative to a close with the year 1930. From the standpoint of historical evolution the events of January 1933 did not effect any fundamental change in Germany, but only an extraordinary intensification of the tendencies that had shown themselves to be possessed of decisive influence ever since Brüning issued his emergency decrees in 1930.

This book has been written since 1933, in the external circumstances attendant upon the German emigration. It was begun in the summer of that year in Zurich, where I was able to make use of the excellent library of the Central Organisation for Socialist Literature (Zentralstelle für sozialistische Literatur). It was finished in Liverpool.

I wish to take this opportunity of thanking the University of Liverpool for enabling me to continue my teaching activities and scientific work. In common with other British universities, the University of Liverpool has in these chaotic days shown that it is determined to remain faithful to the fundamental truths of Science and Knowledge without regard for ‘race’ or political opinion.

Arthur Rosenberg
November 1935