It is important to understand the main elements of the democratic constitution in Germany and also to understand its weaknesses

Establishment of the Constitution[edit | edit source]

This was formulated in Weimar, mainly by Hugo Preuss, and was adopted 262-75 by an assembly. The constitution declared Germany to be a republic, and political authority would be derived from the people.

The Rights of People[edit | edit source]

  • Equality for women
  • Equality before the law
  • Freedom of speech, the press, association, religion
  • Freedom from unjust arrest
  • Right to work
  • Right to own private property

Problems[edit | edit source]

  • One problem was that the German people were not used to having these freedoms, they were used to being ruled by the Kaiser.

The President[edit | edit source]

  • Head of state, figure-head of the republic, Commander and Chief of the armed forces.
  • To be elected every 7 years- there were only 2 presidents in the Weimar period.
  • Clause 48 of the constitution gave the president special powers in times of national emergancy including use of the armed forces and suspension of normal laws
  • Appointed and dismissed the Chancellor.

Problems[edit | edit source]

  • For many Germans the President was just a "Ersatz Kaiser" - fake Kaiser.
  • Clause 48 could be misused by presidents - for example in the 1930s

The Chancellor[edit | edit source]

  • Appointed by the President
  • Needed Reichstag's confidence to remain in power
  • Involved in clause 48


The Reichstag[edit | edit source]

  • Elected at least every 4 years by universal suffrage
  • All citizens over 20 could vote
  • Proportional Representation used
  • Passed laws


Problems[edit | edit source]

  • Encouraged small extreme parties, giving them power
  • PR led to coalitions

The Judicary[edit | edit source]

  • Judges appointed for life

Problems[edit | edit source]

  • Tended to be Right wing


The Civil Service and Army (Reichswehr)[edit | edit source]

Problems[edit | edit source]

  • Tended to be right wing

The Constitution in general[edit | edit source]

  • Democratic, but
    • Germans not used to full democratic rights
  • MAny people continued to oppose the WG
  • Associated with Treaty of Versailles
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