1919-33: The Weimar Constitution | GCSE History Revision | Weimar & Nazi Germany
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1919-33: The Weimar Constitution | GCSE History Revision | Weimar & Nazi Germany

October 19, 2019


It’s the 31st of July in 1919! A National Assembly in Germany has agreed a new constitution, by 262 votes to 75 votes. A constitution which becomes known as the Weimar Republic. The electorate (the people allowed to vote under the Weimar Constitution)… …consists of all men and women aged over 21. These people vote for a president every 7 years. The president plays no part in day-to-day politics. However, he does have some political powers. One of these powers is the power to choose the Chancellor. The Chancellor is the head of the German government and chooses all government ministers. Ministers are the people whose job it is to oversee a specific area of running the country… …such as finances or foreign affairs. The most important of these ministers make up the cabinet… …who are the most important decision-making body of the government. The Weimar Parliament was made up of two houses… …who the electorate vote for every four years. The Reichstag and Reichsrat. The Reichstag is the more powerful of these two houses. For instance, it controls taxation and is directly elected by the people. The Reichsrat, however, is made to represent the regions of Germany. And each region sends a different number of representatives, dependent upon its size. The bigger the region, the more people they send! The Weimar Constitution has many strengths. For instance, it is democratic. More so than both Germany under the Kaiser – and Britain at the time. The voting age had been reduced from 25 to 21, meaning even more people were able to vote. Furthermore, the Reichstag is elected using a system known as proportional representation (PR). This means a party gets one representative for every certain number of votes it gets. In the case of the Reichstag, every 60,000 votes elects 1 representative. The Constitution also has many checks and balances… …to stop any one person from gaining too much power over the republic. Under normal circumstances, the Chancellor, the head of the government… …can only pass laws if both the Reichstag and Reichsrat vote for them. The Reichsrat, the least powerful of the two houses… …can delay any new laws passed by the Reichstag. Unless the Reichstag overalls the Reichsrat by a two-thirds majority. Central government also has more power than it did under the Kaiser. However, local government still keeps some of its power… …giving each of the 18 regions of German some of their own independence. However, there are also weaknesses to the Constitution. Proportional representation means that smaller parties find it easier to gain seats in the Reichstag. Throughout the 1920s, 29 different parties held seats in the Reichstag at some stage. This causes weakness as it means there are often no majority governments. (where one party would hold more than half of the seats in the Reichstag) So coalitions have to be formed. These are governments where different parties team up. Until between them, they have more than half of the seats in the Reichstag. In order to do this, parties often have to compromise… …meaning there is often a lack of clear strong policies. Moreover, coalitions frequently fall apart. Between 1919 and 1923, there are nine different coalition governments! Also, the new constitution is weak in times of crisis. The compromise needed to form coalitions means it is hard for them… …to give swift clear decisions during a crisis. However, the Constitution does have a way to get around this problem – known as Article 48. Article 48 allows the Chancellor to bypass the Reichstag in times of crisis. He can pass laws straight through the President [, ignoring Parliament]. This article becomes open to exploitation, as it allows the Chancellor to bypass democracy. By 1930, the Chancellor is regularly relying on article 48. Not only is this undemocratic, but it makes the Constitution seem weak… …and encourages people to think that a single, all powerful leader, is better than an elected parliament. A fourth problem for the Constitution comes from the way it came about. During the German revolution of 1918-19… The government had used force, relying on the army to subdue riots in Berlin. This contributes to the sense that the Weimar Republic isn’t really the choice of the people. Furthermore, some parties elected to the Reichstag are openly opposed to democracy, such as the Nationalists. Together with the Communists, they openly despised the new constitution. The Weimar Republic has been created out of violence, without any real public enthusiasm. It is opposed by radicals, and considered flawed by moderates. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and tell all your friends. I feel like this video would be a good opportunity to get some meaty debate about democracy in the comments. What do you think of the Weimar Constitution? How would you amend it? Or, do you think it was a terrible idea that was always doomed to fail? Write what you think down in the comments and go critique other people’s ideas! Also, don’t forget about the link to the Quizlet flashcards and practice questions that you can find in the description. And I haven’t shouted out my Twitter in a while, so if you want some strange insights into my mind… …and updates on when videos are coming out, which generally takes a long time. I mean someone literally, between my last video and this one, commented asking if I was still making videos. Yes. I am still making videos! I was just busy doing sixth form [college in the UK]. But yeah, go follow me on Twitter – @alongtimeago_yt! Wesað ġē hāle! [subtitles by BYRON LEWIS]

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  1. I personally think that putting an unpopular and weak ragtag republic in power of a country fresh out of a war and fresh into an economic crisis, mountains of debt and a memory of a better life under a strong leader (the Kaiser) will always be doomed.

    Democracies never do well under crisis, especially when they're unpopular, and with coalitions in power no one really feels represented, which opens room to radicalization.

    A democracy is a good system for a politically and economically stable country, but never for situation which require quick resolve and action, loke war or an economic recession.

    This is why the best course of action for Germany at the time would be putting Wilhelm II back in power, at least symbolically as a popular figurehead, and then, after the crisis is over and a grounds for a stable economy has been built, is it a good idea to lessen the his power and give more to the elected government.

    Now, of course, I have the power of 21st century hinsight, but the fact remains that if a moderate Kaiser remained in power, even just symbolically, most people would have stayed infinitely more loyal zo him than a radical, populist would be dictator like Hitler.

    Wouldn't you agree that monarchism is even more fun in the 21st century? Tee hee…

  2. I don't do history anymore, and a teacher killed it for me i was thinking of just writing anything in the test but when I watch your videos you made history better for me and I feel like I did really well. Thanks

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  4. The voting age during the Weimar era was age 20, not 21. That fact is stated quite clearly not only in the Weimar Constitution, but in William Shirer's wonderful book on the Nazis, The Rise And Fall In The Third Reich(1960; Shirer's masterpiece).

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