People use the term “Weimar Republic” to refer to a period in German history between 1919 and 1933 when the government was a democratic republic governed by a constitution that was laid out in the German city of Weimar. Technically, the Weimar Constitution lasted until 1945, when the German government was formally dissolved in the wake of the Second World War, but most people date the end of the Weimar Republic to 1933, when Adolf Hitler took control and the constitution became effectively meaningless under his Third Reich.
Under the Weimar Constitution, Germany was divided into 19 states. All citizens had the right to vote, electing members of the Reichstag or German Parliament along with the President. The President in turn appointed a chancellor and an assortment of cabinet members. As many historians have noted, on paper, the Weimar Constitution was a brilliant document, and Germany under the Weimar Republic was a true democracy.
However, even from the start, the Weimar Republic was deeply troubled. When the constitution was first established, many Germans were highly suspicious of the new government, and extremists on the left and right rejected the authority of the republic, undermining its effectiveness. While the government was theoretically a coalition comprised of numerous political parties, it was beset on all sides, making it difficult to assert its authority.
In addition to being in political trouble from the beginning, the Weimar Republic also faced serious financial challenges. Inflation in Germany skyrocketed early 1920s but was eventually stabilized at great cost. This was followed by an economic boom known as the "Golden Twenties" which came to an end when the Great Depression hit in 1929. The combination of the recession and an economic policy of severe austerity to pay World War I reparations led to deflation and spiralling unemployment, and at one point, six million Germans were unemployed. Citizens grew increasingly restless and angry, and Adolf Hitler took advantage of this once he was sworn in as Chancellor on 30 January 1933. Less than a month later, the Reichstag building was gutted by a fire of mysterious origin, and Hitler effectively took control, suppressing opposition political parties under the guide of public safety and turning the republic into a dictatorship.
When learning of Hitler's rise to power and the events which followed, many people express astonishment that the German people allowed Hitler to effectively destroy the Weimar Republic and take control of Germany. However, Hitler's rise must be viewed in context. He promised the German people that he would put an end to inflation, joblessness, and political violence, even notably saying that what Germany needed was a dictatorship, and many Germans heeded these promises when they flocked to vote for him. For a people struggling with economic, social, and political chaos under the Weimar Republic, Adolf Hitler appeared to have a lot to offer, and while many Germans later regretted their support for Hitler, they also pointed out that they felt like they had little choice.