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The Constitution of the German Reich (german: Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs), usually known as the Weimar Constitution (''Weimarer Verfassung''), was the
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
that governed
Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It is the in Europe after , and the most populous . Germany is situated between the and seas to the north, and the to the south; it covers an area of ...

Germany
during the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), a ...
era (1919–1933). The constitution declared Germany to be a democratic
parliamentary republicThe Parliamentary Republic can refer to: * A republican form of government with a Parliamentary system A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (o ...
with a
legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure i ...
elected under
proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

proportional representation
.
Universal suffrage Universal suffrage (also called universal franchise, general suffrage, and common suffrage of the common man) gives the right to vote Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (a ...
was established, with a minimum voting age of 20. The constitution technically remained in effect throughout the
Nazi era Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (german: link=no, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP, or National Socia ...

Nazi era
from 1933 to 1945, though practically it had been repealed by the
Enabling Act of 1933 250px, Hitler's Reichstag speech promoting the bill was delivered at the Kroll Opera House, following the Reichstag fire.">Reichstag_fire.html" ;"title="Kroll Opera House, following the Reichstag fire">Kroll Opera House, following the Reichstag ...
and thus its various provisions and protections went unenforced for the duration of Nazi rule. The constitution's title was the same as the
Constitution of the German Empire The Constitution of the German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle wrote in September 1881 that the term "Reich" does not literally connote an empire as has been commonly assumed by English ...
that preceded it. The German state's official name was ''Deutsches Reich'' until the adoption of the 1949 Basic Law.


Origin

Following the end of
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, a German National Assembly gathered in the town of
Weimar Weimar (; la, Vimaria or Vinaria) is a city in the federal state of Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuringia ( ), is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''St ...

Weimar
, in the state of
Thuringia Thuringia (; german: Thüringen ), officially the Free State of Thuringia ( ), is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The ...
, after the 19 January 1919 Federal elections, in order to write a constitution for the ''
Reich ''Reich'' (; , English: ''Riche'') is a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nati ...

Reich
''. The nation was to be a democratic
federal republic A federal republic is a federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of In ...
, governed by a
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
and
parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws and overseeing the ...
. The constitution was drafted by the lawyer and liberal politician
Hugo Preuss Hugo or HUGO may refer to: People * Victor Hugo Victor-Marie Hugo (; 7 Ventôse year X 6 February 1802– 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romanticism, Romantic movement. During a literary career that spanned ...
, who was then state secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, and later became Minister of the Interior. Preuss criticised the
Triple Entente The Triple Entente (from French ''Entente (type of alliance), entente'' meaning "friendship, understanding, agreement") describes the informal understanding between the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic and the United Kingdom of Great B ...

Triple Entente
's decision to prohibit the incorporation of
Republic of German-Austria The Republic of German-Austria (german: Republik Deutschösterreich or ) was a country created following World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that last ...
into the German Republic after the dissolution of
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exe ...

Austria-Hungary
and said it was a contradiction of the
Wilsonian Wilsonianism or Wilsonian idealism describes a certain type of foreign policy advice. The term comes from the ideas and proposals of President Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921). He issued his famous Fourteen Points in Januar ...

Wilsonian
principle of
self-determination The right of a people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a cultu ...
of peoples. Disagreements arose between the delegates over issues such as the national flag, religious education for youth and the rights of the provinces (''Länder'') that made up the
Reich ''Reich'' (; , English: ''Riche'') is a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nati ...

Reich
. The disagreements were resolved by August 1919, but 65 delegates abstained from voting to adopt the Weimar Constitution. The first
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
,
Friedrich Ebert Friedrich Ebert (; 4 February 187128 February 1925) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany The Social Democratic Party of Germany (german: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, ; SPD, ) is a social democratic pol ...

Friedrich Ebert
, signed the new German constitution into law on 11 August 1919. The constitution is named after Weimar although it was signed into law by Friedrich Ebert in Schwarzburg because Ebert was on holiday in Schwarzburg while the parliament working out the constitution was gathered in Weimar. Federal elections were held in Germany on 6 June 1920 in line with the Weimar Constitution. Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) ''Elections in Europe: A data handbook'', p. 762 Gerhard Anschütz (1867–1948), a noted German teacher of constitutional law, was a prominent commentator of the Weimar Constitution.


Provisions and organization

The Weimar Constitution was divided into two main parts ''(Hauptteile)''. The two parts were divided into seven and five sections, respectively. In all, there were over 180 articles in the Constitution. Some of the more noteworthy provisions are described below, including those provisions which proved significant in the demise of the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), a ...
and the rise of
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
. The
preamble A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subje ...

preamble
to the Constitution reads:
''Das Deutsche Volk einig in seinen Stämmen und von dem Willen beseelt, sein Reich in Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit zu erneuen und zu festigen, dem inneren und dem äußeren Frieden zu dienen und den gesellschaftlichen Fortschritt zu fördern, hat sich diese Verfassung gegeben.''
In English, this can be translated as:
The German people, united in its tribes and inspired with the will to renew and strengthen its realm ''(Reich)'' in liberty and justice, to serve internal and external peace, and to promote social progress, has adopted this Constitution.


Main Part I: Composition of the Reich and its Responsibility

The first part (''Erster Hauptteil'') of the Constitution specified the organization of the various components of the Reich government.


Section 1: The Reich and its States

Section 1 consisted of Articles 1 to 19 and established the German Reich as a republic whose power derived from the people. ("The power of the state emanates from the people.") The Reich was defined as the region encompassed by the German states (''Länder''), and other regions could join the Reich based on popular self-determination and Reich legislation. Section 1 also established that generally recognized principles of international law were binding on Germany and gave the Reich government exclusive jurisdiction of: * foreign relations, colonial affairs, citizenship * freedom of movement * immigration, emigration, and extradition. * defense * customs and trade * currency and coinage * postal, telegraph, and telephone service With the exceptions of the subjects for which the Reich government had exclusive jurisdiction, the states could govern their respective territories as they saw fit. However, Reich law superseded or nullified state law in the event of a conflict. Adjudication of conflicts between the ''Länder'' and the Reich government was the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. State authorities were required to enforce Reich law and must have a constitution on free state principles. Each state parliament (''
Landtag A Landtag (State Diet Diet may refer to: Food * Diet (nutrition), the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group * Dieting, the deliberate selection of food to control body weight or nutrient intake ** Diet food, foods that aid in creating ...

Landtag
'') was to be elected by an equal and secret ballot according to representative election. Each state government could serve only so long as it had the confidence of the respective state parliament.


Section 2: The Reichstag and the Reich Government

Articles 20 to 40 described the national
parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of ...

parliament
, the ''
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
'', which was seated in the capital,
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
. The Reichstag was composed of representatives elected by the German people by an equal and secret ballot open to all Germans aged 20 or older.
Proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

Proportional representation
principles governed Reichstag elections. Members of the Reichstag represented the entire nation and were bound only to their own conscience. Members served for four years. The Reichstag could be dissolved by the Reich president and new elections held not more than 60 days after the date of dissolution. Members of the Reichstag and of each state parliament (''Landtag'') were immune from arrest or investigation of a criminal offense except with the approval of the legislative body to which the person belonged. The same approval was required for any other restriction on personal freedom which might harm the member's ability to fulfil his duties. (Article 37) The President served a term of seven years and could be re-elected once. He could be removed from office by
plebiscite A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. This may result in the adoption of a ...
upon the vote of two-thirds of the Reichstag. Rejection of the measure by the voters would act as a re-election of the president and causes the Reichstag to be dissolved. If a state failed to fulfil its obligations under the constitution or Reich law, the president could use armed force to compel the state to do so. Furthermore, Article 48 gave the President the power to take measures – including the use of armed force and/or the suspension of civil rights – to restore law and order in the event of a serious threat to public safety or Reich security. The president was required to inform the Reichstag of these measures and the Reichstag could nullify such a presidential decree. (
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
later used this Article to legally sweep away the civil liberties granted in the constitution and facilitate the establishment of a dictatorship.) The Reich chancellor determined the political guidelines of his government and was responsible to the Reichstag. The chancellor and ministers were compelled to resign in the event the Reichstag passed a
vote of no confidence A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, manager ...
. The Reich government (cabinet) formulated decisions by majority vote; in the case of a tie, the Reich president's vote was decisive. The Reichstag could accuse the Reich president, chancellor, or any minister of willful violation of the Constitution or Reich law, said case to be tried in the Supreme Court.


Section 3: The President of the Reich and the National Ministry

Articles 41 to 59 describe the duties of the President, including criteria for the office. Furthermore, they also further explain his relationship to the National Ministry and its relation to the Chancellor.


Section 4: The Reichsrat

Section 4 consisted of Articles 60 to 67 and established the ''Reichsrat'' (State Council). The Reichsrat was the means by which the states could participate in the making of legislation at the national level. Members of the Reichsrat were members or representatives of the state parliaments, and were bound by the instructions of their respective state governments. Government ministers were required to inform the Reichsrat of proposed legislation or administrative regulations to permit the Reichsrat to voice objections.


Section 5: Reich legislation

Articles 68 to 77 specified how legislation is to be passed into law. Laws could be proposed by a member of the Reichstag or by the Reich government and were passed on the majority vote of the Reichstag. Proposed legislation had to be presented to the Reichsrat, and the latter body's objections were required to be presented to the Reichstag. The Reich president had the power to decree that a proposed law be presented to the voters as a
plebiscite A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. This may result in the adoption of a ...
before taking effect. The Reichsrat was entitled to object to laws passed by the Reichstag. If this objection could not be resolved, the Reich president at his discretion could call for a plebiscite or let the proposed law die. If the Reichstag voted to overrule the Reichsrat's objection by a two-thirds majority, the Reich president was obligated to either proclaim the law into force or to call for a plebiscite. Constitutional amendments were proposed as ordinary legislation, but for such an amendment to take effect, it was required that two-thirds or more of the Reichstag members be present, and that at least two-thirds of the members present voted in favor of the legislation. The Reich government had the authority to establish administrative regulations unless Reich law specified otherwise.


Section 6: Reich administration

Articles 78 to 101 described the methods by which the Reich government administered the constitution and laws, particularly in the areas where the Reich government had exclusive jurisdiction – foreign relations, colonial affairs, defence, taxation and customs, merchant shipping and waterways, railroads, and so forth.


Section 7: Justice

Articles 102 to 108 established the justice system of the Weimar Republic. The principal provision established
judicial independence Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institut ...
 – judges were subject only to the law. This section established a Supreme Court and also established administrative courts to adjudicate disputes between citizens and administrative offices of the state.


Main Part II: Basic rights and obligations of Germans

The second part (''Zweiter Hauptteil'') of the Weimar Constitution laid out the basic rights (''Grundrechte'') and basic obligations (''Grundpflichten'') of Germans. The
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
guaranteed individual rights such as the freedom of speech and assembly to each citizen. These were based on the provisions of the earlier constitution of 1848.


Section 1: The Individual

Articles 109 to 118 set forth individual rights of Germans, the principal tenet being that every German was equal before the law. Men and women had "in principle" the same civil rights and duties, which meant that the family law rules of the Civil Code from 1896 remained unaffected. Privileges based on birth or social status were abolished. Official recognition of the titles of
nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
ceased, except as a part of a person's name, and further creation of noble titles was discontinued. A citizen of any of the German provinces was likewise a citizen of the Reich. Germans had the right of mobility and residence, and the right to acquire property and pursue a trade. They had the right to immigrate or emigrate, and the right to Reich protection against foreign authorities. The "national identity" of foreign language communities in Germany was protected, including the right to use their native language in education, administration, and the judicial system. Other specific articles stated that:
* The rights of the individual are inviolable. Individual liberties may be limited or deprived only on the basis of law. Persons have the right to be notified within a day of their arrest or detention as to the authority and reasons for their detention and be given the opportunity to object. This is equivalent to the principle of
habeas corpus (; from Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, ...
in the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most-us ...
of England and elsewhere. (Article 114)
* A German's home is an asylum and is inviolable. (Article 115)
* Privacy of correspondence, of mail, telegraph, and telephone are inviolable. (Article 117)
* Germans are entitled to free expression of opinion in word, writing, print, image, etc. This right cannot be obstructed by job contract, nor can exercise of this right create a disadvantage. Censorship is prohibited. (Article 118)


Section 2: Community Life

Articles 119 to 134 guided Germans' interaction with the community and established, among other things, that:
* Germans had the right to assemble peacefully and unarmed without prior permission. (Article 123)
* Germans were entitled to form clubs or societies, which were permitted to acquire legal status. This status could not be denied because of the organization's political, socio-political or religious goals. (Article 124)
* Free and secret elections were guaranteed. (Article 125) * All citizens were eligible for public office, without discrimination, based on their abilities.
Gender discrimination Sexism is prejudice Prejudice can be an affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived group membership. The word is often used to refer to a preconceived (usually unfavourable) evaluation or classification of another per ...
toward female civil servants was abolished (Article 128). This allowed the first women, like
Anita Augspurg Anita Augspurg (22 September 1857 Verden an der Aller – 20 December 1943 Zürich) was a Germans, German jurist, actress, writer, activist of the radical feminist movement and a Pacifism, pacifist. Biography The daughter of a lawyer, during h ...

Anita Augspurg
, to practice law. * Civil servants served the whole nation, not a specific party. They enjoyed freedom of political opinion. (Article 130) * Citizens could be required to provide services to the state and community, including compulsory military service under regulations set by Reich law.


Section 3: Religion and Religious Communities

The religious rights of Germans were enumerated in Articles 135 to 141. Residents of the Reich were granted freedom of belief and conscience. Free practice of religion was guaranteed by the constitution and protected by the state, and no state church was established. Furthermore, the exercise of civil and civic rights and admission to state office were independent of one's religious beliefs. Public declaration of religious beliefs were not required, and no one was forced to join in a religious act or swear a religious oath. Five articles from this section of the Constitution (Nos. 136–139 and 141) were explicitly incorporated into the
Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (german: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the le ...
(passed in 1949), and so remain Constitutional Law in Germany today.


Section 4: Education and School

Articles 142 to 150 guided the operation of educational institutions within the Reich. Public education was provided by state institutions and regulated by the government, with cooperation between the Reich, the province, and the local community. Primary school was compulsory, with advanced schooling available to age 18 free of charge. The constitution also provided for private schooling, which was likewise regulated by the government. In private schools operated by religious communities, religious instruction could be taught in accordance with the religious community's principles.


Section 5: The Economy

Constitutional provisions about economic affairs were given in Articles 151 to 165. One of the fundamental principles was that economic life should conform to the principles of justice, with the goal of achieving a dignified life for all and securing the
economic freedom Economic freedom, or economic liberty, is the ability of people of a society to take economic actions. This is a term used in economic and policy debate Policy debate is a form of debate competition in which teams of two advocate for and against ...
of the individual.
The right to property was guaranteed by Article 153.
Expropriation Nationalization, or nationalisation, is the process of transforming privately owned asset In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangibl ...
of property could be made only on the basis of law and for the public welfare, with appropriate compensation.
The Reich protected labor, intellectual creation, and the rights of authors, inventors, and artists. The right to form unions and to improve working conditions was guaranteed to every individual and to all occupations, and protection of the self-employed was established. Workers and employees were given the right to participate, on an equal footing with employers, in the regulation of wages and working conditions as well as in economic development.


Transition and Final Clauses

The final 16 articles (Articles 166 to 181) of the Weimar Constitution provided for the orderly transition to the new constitution, and stipulated in some cases when the various provisions of the new constitution take effect. In cases where legislation had yet to be passed (such as the laws governing the new Supreme Court), these articles stipulated how the constitutional authority would be exercised in the interim by existing institutions. This section also stipulated that new bodies established by the constitution took the place of obsolete bodies (such as the National Assembly) where those bodies were referred to by name in old laws or decrees. It was mandated that public servants and members of the armed forces were to take an oath on this constitution. The previous constitution, dated 15 April 1871, was suspended but other Reich laws and decrees that did not contradict the new constitution remained in force. Other official decrees based on hitherto-valid law remained valid until superseded by law or by decree. The National Assembly was regarded as the Reichstag until the first Reichstag was elected and convened, and the Reich president elected by the National Assembly was to serve until 30 June 1925.


Weaknesses

In his book ''
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich ''The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany'' is a book by the journalist William L. Shirer, in which the author chronicles the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1889 to the end of World War II ...
'', historian
William L. Shirer William Lawrence Shirer (; February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist and war correspondent. He wrote ''The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich ''The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany'' is a book ...
described the Weimar Constitution as "on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had ever seen ... full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy." Yet, the Weimar Constitution had serious problems. The allocation of presidential powers was deeply problematic. The Weimar Constitution allowed the president to dismiss the chancellor, even if the chancellor retained the confidence of the Reichstag. Similarly, the president could appoint a chancellor who did not have the support of the Reichstag. Further, the government structure was a mix of presidential and parliamentary systems, with the president acting as a " replacement
Kaiser ''Kaiser'' is the German word for "emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, m ...

Kaiser
" and assuming some of the powers the monarch would have wielded. Article 48, the so-called ''Notverordnung'' (emergency decree) provision, gave the president broad powers to suspend civil liberties with an insufficient system of
checks and balances Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict ...
. This presented an opportunity that
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
was quick to seize once he became
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the ' of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the ''cancelli'' or lattice work screens of ...
(see
Reichstag fire The Reichstag fire (german: Reichstagsbrand, ) was an arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament in Berlin, on Monday 27 February 1933, precisely four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hit ...
). The use of a
proportional electoral system Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideological partitioning of the electorate. ...

proportional electoral system
without thresholds to win representation has also been cited. This system, intended to avoid the wasting of votes, allowed the rise of a multitude of splinter parties, many of which represented the extreme ends of the political spectrum, which in turn made it difficult for ''any'' party to establish and maintain a workable parliamentary majority. This factionalism was one contributing factor in the frequent changes in government. Shirer cites the presence of some 28 political parties in the 1930 national elections; Otto Friedrich cites 40 different groups in the Reichstag in 1933. There was no threshold to win representation in the Reichstag, and hence no safeguard against a quick rise of an extremist party. It was possible to win a seat in the chamber with as little as 0.4 percent of the vote. In the 1924 elections, for instance, the
Bavarian Peasants' LeagueThe Bavarian Peasants' League (german: Bayerischer Bauernbund, or BB) was an agrarian Agrarian means pertaining to agriculture, farmland, or rural areas. Agrarian may refer to: Political philosophy *Agrarianism *Agrarian law, Roman laws regulati ...
got just 0.7% of the vote—but this was enough for three seats in the Reichstag. However, the rise of the Nazis (NSDAP) to form the largest party during the 1932 elections, can only be attributed to the sentiment of electors in Weimar Germany. Critics of electoral thresholds dispute the argument that the Nazis' token presence in the Reichstags of the 1920s significantly aided their rise to power and that the existence of thresholds in the Weimar constitution would not in fact have hindered Hitler's ambitions—indeed, once the Nazis had passed the thresholds, their existence would have actually aided the Nazis by allowing them to marginalize smaller parties even more quickly. Even without these real and/or perceived problems, the Weimar Constitution was established and in force under disadvantageous social, political, and economic conditions. In his book ''
The Coming of the Third Reich ''The Third Reich'' Trilogy is a series of three narrative history books by British people, British historian Richard J. Evans, covering the rise and collapse of Nazi Germany in detail, with a focus on the internal politics and the decision-making ...
'', historian Richard J. Evans argues that "all in all, Weimar's constitution was no worse than the constitutions of most other countries in the 1920s, and a good deal more democratic than many. Its more problematical provisions might not have mattered so much had the circumstances been different. But the fatal lack of legitimacy from which the Republic suffered magnified the constitution's faults many times over."


Hitler's subversion of the Weimar Constitution

Less than a month after
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the
Reichstag Fire Decree 250px, '' Das Andere Deutschlands final issue, announcing its own prohibition (''Verbot'') by the police authorities on the basis of the Reichstag fire decree The Reichstag Fire Decree (german: Reichstagsbrandverordnung) is the common name of th ...
invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, suspending several constitutional protections on
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', ...
. The articles affected were 114 (habeas corpus), 115 (inviolability of residence), 117 (correspondence privacy), 118 (freedom of expression/censorship), 123 (assembly), 124 (associations), and 153 (expropriation). The subsequent
Enabling Act An enabling act is a piece of legislation Legislation is the process or product of enrolling, enacting, or promulgating Promulgation is the formal proclamation or the declaration that a new statute, statutory or administrative law is enacte ...
, passed by the Reichstag on 23 March 1933, stated that, in addition to the traditional method of the Reichstag passing legislation, the Reich government could also pass legislation. It further stated that the powers of the
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
, Reichsrat and Reich President were not affected. The normal legislative procedures outlined in Articles 68 to 77 of the constitution did not apply to legislation promulgated by the Reich government. The Enabling Act was effectively a constitutional amendment because of the foregoing alterations to the normal legislative process. The act met the constitutional requirements (two-thirds of the Reichstag's members were present, and two-thirds of the members present voted in favor of the measure). The Act did not explicitly amend the Weimar Constitution, but there was explicit mention to the fact that the procedure sufficient for constitutional reform was followed. The constitution of 1919 was never formally repealed, but the Enabling Act meant that all its other provisions were a dead letter. Two of the penultimate acts Hitler took to consolidate his power in 1934 actually violated the Enabling Act. Article 2 of the act stated that
Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.
Hindenburg died on 2 August, and Hitler appropriated the president's powers for himself in accordance with a law passed the previous day. However, due to a constitutional amendment made in December 1932, the acting president, pending new elections, should have been , the president of the ''
Reichsgericht Image:Leipzig Reichsgericht.jpg, 300px, The Reichsgericht building in Leipzig The Reichsgericht (, ''Reich Court of Justice'') was the supreme criminal and civil court in the German Reich from 1879 to 1945. It was based in Leipzig, Germany. The Supr ...

Reichsgericht
'' (Imperial Court of Justice), not the chancellor. Nonetheless, the Enabling Act did not specify any recourse that could be taken if the chancellor violated Article 2, and no legal challenge was ever mounted.


Legacy

After the passage of the Enabling Act, the constitution was largely forgotten. Nonetheless, Hitler used it to give his dictatorship the appearance of legality. Three Reichstag elections were held during his rule. However, voters were presented with a single list of Nazis and "guest candidates". Secret voting technically remained possible, but the Nazis made use of aggressive extralegal measures at the polling stations to intimidate the electors from attempting to vote in secret. Thousands of his decrees were based explicitly on the Reichstag Fire Decree, and hence on Article 48. In Hitler's 1945 (written shortly before his suicide), he appointed Admiral
Karl Dönitz Karl Dönitz (sometimes spelled Doenitz; ; 16 September 1891 24 December 1980) was a Nazi Germany, German admiral who briefly succeeded Adolf Hitler as head of state in May 1945, holding the position until the dissolution of the Flensburg Gover ...

Karl Dönitz
to succeed him. However, he named Dönitz as President, not Führer, thereby re-establishing a constitutional office which had lain dormant since Hindenburg's death ten years earlier. On 30 April 1945, Dönitz formed what became known as the Flensburg government, which controlled only a tiny area of Germany near the Danish border, including the town of
Flensburg Flensburg (; Danish language, Danish, Northern Low Saxon, Low Saxon: ''Flensborg''; North Frisian language, North Frisian: ''Flansborj''; South Jutlandic: ''Flensborre'') is an independent city, independent town (''kreisfreie Stadt'') in the nor ...

Flensburg
. It was dissolved by the Allies on 23 May. On 5 June, the Allied Berlin Declaration abolished all the institutions of German civil government, and this established that the constitution no longer held any legal force. The 1949
Constitution of the German Democratic Republic The Constitution of East Germany refers to the constitution of the German Democratic Republic, commonly known as East Germany. Its original constitution was promulgated on 7 October 1949. It was heavily based on the "Weimarer Reichsverfassung", ( ...
(otherwise known as East Germany) contained many passages that were directly copied from the 1919 constitution. It was intended to be the constitution of a united Germany, and was thus a compromise between liberal-democratic and Marxist–Leninist ideologies. It was replaced by a new, explicitly Communist constitution in 1968, which remained in force until the
reunification of Germany German reunification (german: link=no, Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , ...
in 1990. The
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (german: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a ...
, enacted in 1949, said "provisions of Articles 136, 137, 138, 139 and 141 of the German Constitution of 11 August 1919 shall be an integral part of this Basic Law".See Article 140 of th
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
(last amended on 23 December 2014), p. 126.
These articles of the Weimar constitution (which dealt with the state's relationship to the different Christian denominations) remain part of the German Basic Law. In the judicial system based on the Basic Law, the Weimar constitution initially retained the force of law (with the exception of the Church articles on a non-constitutional level), where the Basic Law contained nothing to the contrary. These norms were, however, largely redundant or dealing with matters reserved to the '''', and as such officially set out of force within two decades; aside from the Church articles, the rule that
titles of nobility Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobili ...
are to be considered part of the name and must no longer be bestowed (Art. 109 III) is the only one left in force. The of the
Republic of Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. A cou ...
(commonly referred to as South Korea) was originally based on the Weimar Constitution.


Notes

† Protections provided by Articles 114,
115 115 may refer to: *115 (number) 115 (one hundred ndfifteen) is the natural number following 114 (number), 114 and preceding 116 (number), 116. In mathematics 115 has a square number, square sum of divisors: :\sigma(115)=1+5+23+115=144=12^2. There ...
, 117,
118 118 may refer to: *118 (number) 118 (one hundred ndeighteen) is the natural number File:Three Baskets.svg, Natural numbers can be used for counting (one apple, two apples, three apples, ...) In mathematics, the natural numbers are those numbers ...
, 123, 124, and
153 Year 153 ( CLIII) was a common year starting on Sunday A common year starting on Sunday is any non-leap year (i.e. a year with 365 days) that begins on Sunday, January 1, 1 January, and ends on Sunday, December 31, 31 December. Its dominical ...
could be suspended or restricted by the President through invocation of his authority granted under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.


References


External links


The Constitution of the German Federation of August 11, 1919
nbsp;– Selected Articles


The Reich Constitution of August 11th 1919 (Weimar Constitution) with Modifications

The Constitution of the German Reich (Weimar constitution) of 11 August 1919, in full text


nbsp;– five lectures on the Weimar Republic

(additional info) {{Authority control Germany, Weimar Politics of the Weimar Republic Law in Nazi Germany Government of Nazi Germany Legal history of Germany 1919 in law Constitutions of Germany 1919 in politics 1919 documents August 1919 events