Weimar Constitution: Structure and Weaknesses

Did you know that the Weimar Constitution first democratic constitution in Germany was? Here you can find out exactly how the Weimar Constitution came into being and what weaknesses make it no longer in existence today!

Weimar Constitution Summary

The Weimar Constitution is the constitution of the Weimar Republic. She replaced the monarchy with the principle of popular sovereignty. Thus, the Weimar Constitution paved the way for Germany democracy prepared.

The official name for the Weimar Constitution is Constitution of the German Reich. However, the previous Bismarckian imperial constitution was also called the constitution of the German Empire. About the two constitutions historically separate from each other, the latter was named by historians after its place of origin Weimar. Hence the name Weimar Constitution.

Background to the Weimar Constitution

Before the Weimar Republic, the German Empire was in crisis. World War I had a devastating impact on Germany and victory was all but impossible for the Germans. the population leaned Always stronger against the imperial government, until at some point they felt compelled to give their power to the people. Subsequently, Germany should parliamentary democracy be what in the Weimar Constitution was anchored.

Figure 1: Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic on November 9, 1918 from the window of the Reichstag building in Berlin. Source: bpb.de

At the July 31, 1919 became the Weimar Constitution with a large majority of the then National Assembly assumed. This took place because of riots and street fights in Berlin and Weimar. That is why this point in history is now also referred to as the beginning of the Weimar Republic. the Weimar Constitution entered on August 11, 1919 in force.

Weimar constitution diagram

The graphic below gives you an overview of the constitution. Here you will be shown which one political bodies and positions existed in the Weimar Republic and how these were filled or elected:

Figure 2: Weimar Constitution

Democratic Achievements of the Weimar Constitution

The Weimar Constitution itself introduced some important democratic innovations a. Next, learn about some of the greatest democratic achievements of the Weimar Constitution.

proportional representation

With the introduction of the Weimar Constitution, a universal proportional representation for men and women introduced. This allowed women in Germany to take part in an official election for the first time. In addition, the new constitution gave women equal rights in terms of citizenship and family law. The Weimar Constitution improved the women’s rights.

Election of the Reich President

Also in Germany for the first time the position of Reich President elected directly by the people. The President of the Reich had similar tasks as the Kaiser before him, among other things, both had the supreme command of the Reichswehr. What was new, however, was that the power to choose the military commander-in-chief rested with the people.


Also were in the Weimar Constitution referendums and referendums specified as central elements. As a result, the German people had a direct influence on political decisions in the Weimar Republic and citizens were able to propose laws.

Parliament of the Weimar Constitution

For the first time, Germany was also houses of Parliamentto the Parliament, reigns. The responsibilities of parliamentary government were also laid down in the Weimar Constitution. So they could too judged by the people will. In addition, Members of Parliament could vote of no confidence be removed from office.

Liberal and social rights of the Weimar Constitution

Of the welfare state was very advanced compared to the imperial period. That’s how it was social security system firmly anchored in the Weimar Constitution. So the constitution had to unemployment insurance as well as one job placement establish. In addition, the elementary school, as it still exists in Germany today, was established as the basis of the educational system.

Weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution

However, the Weimar Constitution was a very early construct of a legal constitution, which is why it left some problems unaddressed. Next you will learn the structural weaknesses of the democratic constitution know.

Missing lock clause

The Weimar Constitution had no blocking clause for small parties enshrined in the right to vote.

as lock clause is a percentage hurdle that parties must reach in order to be admitted to the Reichstag.

Since these did not exist, many small parties were able to move into the Reichstag, which led to a Fragmentation of the Reichstag with constantly changing coalitions and governments.

defense of Constitution

The Weimar constitution also had no protection mechanism against parties openly opposed to democracy were. Parties like the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) or the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) under Adolf Hitler could openly agitate against democracy and win people over to their side.


You wonder why referendums are also on the list of weaknesses? Although referendums and referendums offered the population a new opportunity to become politically active, weakened the strength of these referendums the Reichstag and the newly formed parliament. The referendums gave citizens the opportunity to have a direct say in legislation.

Functioning of referendums

if at least ten percent of those entitled to vote had signed a referendum, it could be submitted to the Reichstag. If Parliament rejects the bill, the people will vote on it. The Reichstag could be bypassed successfully as soon as 50 percent of the electorate in the vote involved and the majority for the bill.

President of the empire

through the strong position of the Reich President, who de facto as substitute emperor functioned, there was always that Risk of renewed dictatorial autocracy. Because the President could rule unilaterally through the so-called emergency decrees from Article 48 and dissolve the Reichstag under Article 25.

Article 25 of the Weimar Constitution

Article 25 of the Weimar Imperial Constitution read:

The Reich President can dissolve the Reichstag, but only once for the same reason. The new election will take place no later than 60 days after the dissolution.”

And what did that mean? Put simply, without a Reichstag, the Reich President ruled without the control of Parliament.

Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution

If public security was endangered, the Reich President was given special powers in the Weimar Constitution. Such a one Emergencywhere the state Bodies could not intervene, authorized the Reich President in Article 48, that deploy the military and fundamental rights to restrict. That meant in this case the Reich President was no longer controlled by Parliament. This meant that important principles of democracy were ignored in the state of emergency.

Weimar Constitution – Reich Government

Also had the imperial governmentprovided by the Chancellor and his ministers, a weak position. The government of the Reich needed both the confidence of the Reich President and the confidence of the Reichstag. That is why she rarely pushed through positive innovations.

Parties in the Weimar Constitution

Parties were hardly mentioned positively in the Weimar Constitution. This contributed to the negative public image of the old parties. the democratic parties competed with the anti-democratic parties, which the Democrats blamed for much of the trouble. Because the anti-democratic radical parties of the population big promises made, they became more and more popular. The democratic parties underestimated their power.

Weimar constitution fundamental rights

In the Weimar Constitution was the Enforceability of fundamental rights not recorded. That is why citizens were not protected from state arbitrariness.

End of the Weimar Constitution

In the end he became lack of statutory constitutional protection fatal to the Weimar Republic. After the Weimar Republic unable to make decisions and unstable due to many small parties had become, the anti-democratic party NSDAP under the leadership of Adolf Hitler the Weimar constitution according to her seizure of power and brought about the end of the Weimar Republic.

Weimar Constitution – The Most Important

  • The Weimar Constitution came into effect on August 11, 1919 in force. With the emergence of the new democratic republic, the empire officially came to an end. Instead of an emperor, Germany now had one Reich President.

  • Thus justified the Weimar Constitution The Weimar Republic. Their most important role was anchoring the parliamentary democracy in the legislation of Germany.

  • But she also led a number of others democratic achievements a, such as B. more participation of the people and the increased equality and women’s right to vote.

  • However, the Weimar constitution had a number of structural weaknesseswhich triggered the change from parliamentary democracy to a presidential democracy, which became increasingly anti-democratic.

  • After the Weimar Republic by many small parties indecisive and unstable had become, the anti-democratic party NSDAP under the leadership of Adolf Hitler undermined the Weimar constitution after seizing power and brought about the end of the Weimar Republic.