The Weimar Constitution (1919)

Extracts from the Weimar constitution, passed in August 1919:

“The German people, united in all their racial elements and inspired by the will to renew and strengthen their Reich in liberty and justice, to preserve peace at home and abroad, and to promote social progress, have established the following constitution.

Structure and function of the Reich

Article 1: The German Reich is a republic. Political authority emanates from the people.

Article 2: The territory of the Reich consists of the territories of the German member states. Other territories can be incorporated into the Reich by law if their inhabitants desire it by right of self-determination.

Article 3: The Reich colors are black, red, and gold. The merchant flag is black, white, and red, with the Reich colours in the upper inside corner.

Article 4: The generally accepted rules of international law are to be considered as binding components of the law of the German Reich…

Article 17: Every state [of the Reich] must have a republican constitution. The representatives of the people must be elected by universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage of all German citizens, both men and women, in accordance with the principles of proportional representation. The government of the state must enjoy the confidence of the people’s representatives…

The Reichstag

Article 20: The Reichstag is composed of the delegates of the German people.

Article 21: The delegates represent the whole people. They are subject only to their own conscience and are not bound by any instructions.

Article 22: The delegates are elected by universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage by men and women over twenty years of age, according to the principle of proportional representation. Election day must be a Sunday or a public holiday.

Article 23: The Reichstag is elected for four years. New elections must take place at the latest on the sixtieth day after this term has run its course. The Reichstag convenes for the first time at the latest on the thirtieth day following the election…

Article 25: The Reich President can dissolve the Reichstag, but only once for the same cause. New elections will take place at the latest on the sixtieth day after dissolution…

The Reich president and executive

Article 41: The Reich President is elected by the whole German people. Every German who has completed his thirty-fifth year is eligible for election…

Article 43: The term of the Reich President is seven years. Reelection is permissible…

Article 46: The Reich President appoints and dismisses officials of the Reich and officers as long as no other provisions are adopted by law. He can allow the right of appointment and dismissal to be exercised by other offices.

Article 47: The Reich President is commander in chief of all the armed forces of the Reich.

Article 48: If any state does not fulfil the duties imposed upon it by the constitution or the laws of the Reich, the Reich President may enforce such duties with the aid of the armed forces. In the event that public order and security are seriously disturbed or threatened, the Reich President may take the measures necessary for their restoration, intervening, if necessary, with the aid of the armed forces. For this purpose he may temporarily suspend, wholly or in part, the basic rights laid down in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153. The Reich President must without delay inform the Reichstag of all such measures…

Article 50: All orders and decrees of the Reich President, including those relating to the armed forces, must, in order to be valid, be countersigned by the Reich Chancellor or by the appropriate Reich minister…

Article 52: The government of the Reich shall consist of the Reich Chancellor and the Reich ministers.

Article 53: The Reich Chancellor and, on his recommendation, the Reich ministers, are appointed and dismissed by the Reich President.

Article 54: The Reich Chancellor and the Reich ministers require for the exercise of their office the confidence of the Reichstag. Any one of them must resign if the Reichstag by formal resolution withdraws its confidence.

Article 55: The Reich Chancellor presides over the government of the Reich and conducts its affairs according to the rules of procedure laid down by the government of the Reich and approved by the Reich President.

Article 56: The Reich Chancellor determines the political program of the Reich and assumes responsibility to the Reichstag. Within this general policy, each Reich minister conducts independently the office entrusted to him and is held individually responsible to the Reichstag…

Article 76: The constitution may be amended by law, but acts amending the constitution can only take effect if two-thirds of the legal number of members are present and at least two-thirds of those present consent…

Fundamental rights of the German people

Article 109: All Germans are equal before the law. Men and women have the same fundamental civil rights and duties. Public legal privileges or disadvantages of birth or of rank are abolished. Titles of nobility shall be regarded merely as part of the name and may no longer be bestowed. Titles may only be bestowed when they indicate an office or profession; academic degrees are not affected hereby. Orders and decorations shall not be conferred by the state. No German shall accept titles or orders from a foreign government…

Article 114: Personal liberty is inviolable. Curtailment or deprivation of personal liberty by a public authority is permissible only by authority of law. Persons who have been deprived of their liberty must be informed at the latest on the following day by whose authority and for what reasons they have been held. They shall receive the opportunity without delay of submitting objections to their deprivation of liberty.

Article 115: The home of every German is his sanctuary and is inviolable. Exceptions are permitted only by authority of law…

Article 117: The secrecy of letters and all postal, telegraph, and telephone communications is inviolable. Exceptions are inadmissible except by national law.

Article 118: Every German has the right, within the limits of the general laws, to express his opinion freely by word, in writing, in print, in picture form, or in any other way… Censorship is forbidden…

Article 123: All Germans have the right to assemble peacefully and unarmed without giving notice and without special permission…

Article 124: All Germans have the right to form associations and societies for purposes not contrary to the criminal law.

Article 126: Every German has the right to petition…

Article 135: All inhabitants of the Reich enjoy full religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution and is under public protection…”

Signed in Schwarzburg, August 11th 1919
Reich President, Friedrich Ebert
The Reich Cabinet – Messers Bauer, Erzberger, Hermann Müller, Dr. David, Noske, Schmidt, Schlicke, Giesberts, Dr. Mayer and Dr. Bell.

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