Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What were the main features of the Weimar Constitution?

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  • Warren
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
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    The Weimar Constitution was divided into 2 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 and the rise of the Third Reich.

    The 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 to:

    The German people united in its origins and inspired with the will to renew and strengthen the Reich in liberty and justice, to serve internal and external tranquility, and to promote social progress, has adopted this Constitution.

    [edit] 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.

    [edit] Section 1: The Reich and its States

    Section 1 consisted of Articles 1 to 19 and established the German Reich as a republic, with the power of the state being derived from the people. The Reich was defined as the region encompassed by the German provinces (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.


    currency and coinage

    customs and trade

    postal, telegraph, and telephone service

    With the exceptions of the subjects for which the Reich government has exclusive jurisdiction, the provinces could govern their respective territories as they saw fit. However, Reich law superseded or nullified provincial law in the event of a conflict. Adjudication of conflicts between the Länder and the Reich government was the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

    Provincial authorities were required to enforce Reich law and must have a constitution on free state principles. Each provincial parliament (Landtag) was to be elected by an equal and secret ballot according to representative election. Each provincial government could serve only so long as it had the confidence of the respective provincial parliament.

    [edit] Section 2: The Reichstag

    Articles 20 to 40 described the national parliament, the Reichstag, which was seated in the capital, 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. Representative election 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 provincial 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)

    [edit] Section 3: The President and the Reich Government

    Section 3 consisted of Articles 41 to 59. Principal provisions were: The Reich president represented the entire German nation. Any German 35 years of age or older was eligible to serve as president, but the president could not be simultaneously a member of the Reichstag.

    The President served a term of seven years and could be re-elected. He could be removed from office by plebiscite 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.

    Reich officials and civil servants (including the chancellor and ministers) were appointed and removed by authority of the Reich president, who also had supreme command over the armed forces.

    In the event a state government 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, in the event of a serious threat to public safety or Reich security, the President could take measures — including the use of armed force — to restore law and order, and could suspend civil rights if necessary. The president was required to inform the Reichstag of these measures and the Reichstag could nullify such a presidential decree. (This provision was the infamous Article 48 used by Adolf Hitler in 1933 to quash the civil liberty provisions of the constitution and facilitate the establishment of a dictatorship.)

    The chancellor and ministers were compelled to resign in the event the Reichstag passed a vote of no confidence.

    The Reich chancellor determined the political guidelines of his government and was responsible to the Reichstag. 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.

    [edit] 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 provinces (Länder) could participate in the making of legislation at the national level. Members of the Reichsrat were members or representatives of the provincial parliaments. Government ministers were required to inform the Reichsrat of proposed legislation or administrative regulations to permit the Reichsrat to voice objections.

    [edit] 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 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.

    [edit] 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.

    [edit] Section 7: Justice

    Articles 102 to 108 established the justice system of the Weimar Republic. The principal provision established judicial independence — 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.

    [edit] Main Part 2: 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 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.

    [edit] 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. Both genders had the same rights and obligations. Privileges based on birth or social status were abolished. Titles of nobility conveyed no rights.

    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 in the common law of England and elsewhere. (Article 114)[†]

    A German's home is an asylum and is inviolable

    Source(s): Wikipedia
  • 1 decade ago


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