PreviousHomeNext        Mouseover to see the AQA focus Mouseover to see the OCR focus

   

The Weimar Constitution

Summary

At the end of the First World War, the Kaiser was kicked out of Germany, and in 1919 the Weimar Republic was set up.  Before 1914, the government of Germany had been a military autocracy; after 1919, it was a parliamentary democracy.

     The question is: 'Was the new government doomed from the start?'

     

Links

HistoryLearning on the Constitution - excellent

Professor Rempel's site

Schoolshistory site - AS level

Wikipedia - encyclopaedia site

Constitution - selected clauses

AS level notes - see relevant section

 

At the end of October 1918, the German navy mutinied. Rebellion spread throughout the country. In November Germany was forced to drop out of the FirstWorld War. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled the country.

A new Republic was declared. In January 1919, elections were held for a new Reichstag and in February 1919, in the town of Weimar, a new government was agreed.

Freidrich Ebert was elected President of the new Republic.

 

Germany did not just get a new government. The Allies made sure that Germany got a different kind of government. Before1914, the government of Germany was almost a military autocracy; after 1919, it was a parliamentary democracy.

Weimar Reichstag 1927

Elected delegates meeting in the Reichstag in February 1927.

  

Source A

This British cartoon from 1919 shows the Kaiser booted out of Germany.

  

Source B

The new government inherited a difficult situation, but to say it was doomed is unfair.

Written by a modern historian.

  

Source C

The German Weimar Republic was doomed from the start.

Written by a modern historian.

  

Germany 1919–1933

The history of Germany 1919–1933 falls into three phases:

  • 1919–1923

    • At first the Weimar Republic had great difficulties:

    • Left wing rebellions

    • All people were angry with it

    • Right-wing rebellions and terrorism

    • Invasion and inflation

    • Munich Putsch

  • 1923–1929    

    • But the Republic survived and (after Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor in 1923) did well:

    • Economic Prosperity

    • Foreign Policy successes

    • Cultural flowering

  • 1929–1933    

    • After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, however, the Republic collapsed:

    • Unemployment

    • Nazi Party grew more powerful

    • In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor

New Words

Republic: a country without a king or queen.

Reichstag: the German parliament.

Democracy: where the government is elected.

Constitution: the way a government is set up

Proportional voting: parties got Reichstag seats, not by winning constituencies, but in proportional to the number of votes they got nation-wide.

 

   

Germany’s Constitution in 1914

   

 

Kaiser Wilhelm II (hereditary monarch)

 

appoints

calls/dismisses

controls

Government

Chancellor

Ministers

Reichstag

(elected)

which can stop laws proposed by the government, but cannot make laws.

The Army

 

 

 

Electors

Men over 25 can vote

 

       

       

  

  

Source D

There is only one master in this country.  That am I.  Who opposes me I shall crush to pieces.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, speaking before 1914.

 

Source E

The old Reichstag was a useless parliament. It could speak but it had no power.

A German politician speaking in 1926.

 

 

The Weimar Constitution of 1919

  

Bill of Rights

promises all Germans equality before the law and political and religious freedom.

 

Electors

All men and women over the age of 20 can vote.

        safeguards

elect

 

Freidrich Ebert (elected president)

Reichstag

(elected)

 

controls

from which is selected

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Army

Government

Chancellor

Ministers

must have a majority in the Reichstag, and do as the Reichstag says.

     

  

Source F

The German Commonwealth is a Republic.  Political authority is derived from the People.

The Weimar Constitution, 6 February 1919

 

Source G

The Constitution was a brave attempt to set up a democratic government…  All Germans had equal rights, including the vote.  Political parties were given seats in proportion to the number of votes they got.  This was fair.

A modern textbook.

   

Extra: 

Discuss with a friend how the Weimar settlement changed Germany's constitution in the following areas:

a.   The head of State

b.   The government

c.   The Reichstag

d.   The electorate

e.   Civil Liberties.