Winter 2015 -- History 214: Germany, 1914-2000 -- Prof. Patch

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key Provisions of the Weimar Constitution,

adopted on August 11, 1919:

 The German people, united in its tribes [Stämmen], has given itself this constitution, animated by the resolve to renew and reinforce its Reich in liberty and justice, to serve domestic and international peace, and to promote social progress. 


The German Reich is a republic.  All state power is derived from the people. 


The Reich colors are black, red, and gold.  The merchant flag is black, white, and red with the Reich colors in the upper inside corner. 


Federal law supercedes state law.... 


Every state must have a republican constitution.  The legislature much be chosen in a universal, equal, immediate, and secret ballot by all German men and women according to the principles of proportional representation.  The state government must possess the confidence of the legislature.

The principles for elections to the state legislature must also apply to municipal elections….   


Reichstag delegates represent the whole people.  They are bound only by their conscience and not by any instructions. 


Reichstag delegates are chosen in a universal, equal, direct, and secret ballot by all men and women over twenty years of age according to the principle of proportional representation.  Election day must be a Sunday or public holiday. 


The Reich President is elected by the entire German people. 


The Reich President appoints and dismisses Reich officials and military officers, unless other provisions are made by law.... 


The Reich President is commander in chief of the entire military forces of the Reich. 


If a state does not fulfill its responsibilities under the federal constitution or federal laws, the Reich President can compel it to do so with the help of armed force.

If the public security and order of the Reich are significantly disrupted or endangered, the Reich President can take all measures needed for the restoration of public security and order, if necessary with the help of armed force.  To this end he may temporarily suspend the fundamental rights granted in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153.[1]

The Reich President must immediately notify the Reichstag of all measures adopted under Paragraph 1 or Paragraph 2 of this article.  These measures must be rescinded if the Reichstag demands it. 


All orders and decrees of the Reich President, including those pertaining to the military, must be counter-signed by the Reich Chancellor or the responsible Reich minister to be valid.  Responsibility for the measures [before parliament] is assumed through this signature. 


The Reich Chancellor and the Reich ministers nominated by him are appointed and dismissed by the Reich President. 


The Reich Chancellor and Reich ministers require the confidence of the Reichstag to exercise their offices.  Each of them must resign if the Reichstag withdraws its confidence through an explicit vote. 


A Reichsrat is formed to give the German states representation in the legislation and administration of the Reich. 


Each state has at least one vote in the Reichsrat.  In the case of the larger states one vote shall be assigned for every million inhabitants....  No single state shall have more than two-fifths of the total number of votes. 


A law passed by the Reichstag must be submitted to a popular referendum if the Reich President demands this within a month.[2]

A law supported by at least one-third of the Reichstag must be submitted to a popular referendum if one-twentieth of those eligible to vote demand this.

A popular referendum must also be conducted if one-tenth of all those eligible to vote sign a petition containing a draft law....


The Reichsrat may protest against laws passed by the Reichstag.  In case of such protest, the law is returned to the Reichstag, which may override the objection by a two-thirds majority.  The Reich President must then either promulgate the law within three months or call for a referendum. 


The constitution can be altered by the legislature.  However, acts amending the constitution are only valid if two-thirds of the members of the Reichstag are present, and two-thirds of them approve. 


All Germans are equal before the law.

Men and women have the same fundamental civic rights and duties.

All legal privileges or liabilities based on birth or hereditary estate [Stand] are abolished.  Noble titles are only recognized as part of a name and may no longer be conferred.

Titles may only be conferred if they correspond to an office or a profession; academic ranks are not affected hereby.

Medals and honors may not be granted by the state.

No German may accept a title or medal from a foreign government. 


Marriage stands under the special protection of the constitution as the foundation of family life and of the preservation and multiplication of the nation.  It is based on equality between the sexes.

To maintain the purity, health, and social well-being of the family is the task of the state and municipalities.  Families with many children have a claim to special support.

Motherhood has a claim to the protection and support of the state. 


            Civil servants are hired for life, unless laws determine otherwise.  Pensions are set by law.  The duly earned rights of civil servants are inviolable....[3]

Civil servants can only be suspended from office, compelled to retire, or transferred to another office with a lower salary according to procedures established by law. 


The economy must be regulated according to the principles of justice with the goal of assuring humane living conditions for everyone.  Within these boundaries the economic liberty of the individual is guaranteed. 


Private property is guaranteed by the constitution.  Its character and limits will be regulated by laws.

Expropriation can take place only according to the law and for the welfare of the public.  It takes place with appropriate compensation, unless a federal law determines otherwise.  The courts will decide any dispute over the amount of compensation, unless federal laws determine otherwise....

Property confers obligations.  Its usage should also be a form of service for the common good. 


The Reich can make use of its powers of expropriation, with or without compensation, to transform privately owned enterprises suitable for socialization into publicly owned enterprises.  It can participate itself or have states or municipalities participate in the administration of economic enterprises or associations, or secure for itself a decisive influence in some other way.

The Reich can also, in case of pressing need and for the sake of a communal economy [Gemeinwirtschaft], require by law that economic enterprises or associations join together on the basis of self-administration with the goal of ...involving both employers and workers in economic administration, and of regulating production, distribution, utilization, and the import and export of economic commodities according to the principles of a communal economy. 


Freedom of association for the preservation and advancement of working and economic conditions is guaranteed for everyone and for all occupations.... 


To preserve health and the capacity to work, to protect motherhood and provide against the economic consequences of old age, infirmity, and the mishaps of life, the Reich will create a comprehensive system of social insurance to be managed primarily by the insured. 


            Workers and employees are called upon to participate on an equal footing with employers in the regulation of wages and working conditions and in the overall economic development of our productive forces.  The organizations of both sides and their agreements with each other are hereby recognized....

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[1]           These articles prohibited imprisonment without due process, the search of homes without a warrant, and the opening of letters or tapping of telephone lines, and they guaranteed freedom of speech, the right of assembly, the right of association, and security of property.

[2]           Otherwise the President enjoyed no veto power.

[3]           Note that this guarantee of tenure rights made it impossible to dismiss civil servants on the grounds of monarchist sympathies.