President of the empire
The Reich President was the head of state of the German Reich from 1919 to 1934 and in May 1945. The office existed first on the basis of the law on provisional imperial power of February 10, 1919 and then on the basis of the Weimar constitution of August 11, 1919 People elected for seven years; re-election was permitted. However, this rule only came into effect when Hindenburg was re-elected. In addition, the Reich President was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he appointed and dismissed the Reich Chancellor and he was able to control the German Reichstagdissolve. In the years 1919–1923, and especially from 1930, the Reich President supplemented or largely replaced the legislation of the Reichstag with emergency ordinances .
For this reason, in retrospect, his position in the political system is often judged to be too strong (which has often been described with the catchphrase substitute emperor ). In the Basic Law of 1949, the office of Federal President was consciously given little power, with express consideration of the Weimar years .
The Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert was elected by the Weimar National Assembly in the 1919 presidential election, his non-party successor Paul von Hindenburg in the two presidential elections ( 1925 and 1932 elections ). After Hindenburg's death in 1934, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler took over the office of Reich President, which he had confirmed in the referendum on the head of state of the German Reich . Hitler also made use of the supreme judicial decision-making power. In his will, he determined Karl Dönitz as Reich President before his suicide , who held the office for three weeks until his arrest.
The office of Reich President existed under two constitutional orders. The Weimar National Assembly , elected in January 1919, gave the Reich a provisional constitution on February 10 with the law on provisional imperial power . A Reich President is already introduced in it, with powers similar to those later in the Weimar Constitution. On February 11, 1919, the National Assembly elected the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert as Reich President.
In the debates of the National Assembly, the USPD and, in part, the majority Social Democrats raised concerns about an individual as head of state. Reference was made to Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte , who had been elected President of the Second French Republic and transformed the republic into an empire . Interior Minister Hugo Preuss defended his proposal from a Reich President by stating that a Directory was not suitable for a large state. In addition, parliament has sufficient power to prevent abuse of state power. Furthermore, there were unsuccessful attempts in the National Assembly to translate the office into German as “ Reichsverweser ”, “Reichswart” or “Reichswalt”.
After Chancellor Adolf Hitler took office on January 30, 1933, there was a fundamental change in the constitution. Without the repeal of the Imperial Constitution, Hitler's laws and regulations led to a new system. After the death of Reich President Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler combined the offices of Reich Chancellor and Reich President. He had this confirmed in a bogus referendum. As a title he then led "Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor".
The influential political scientist Max Weber had already in the First World War a democratic and parliamentary system called for Germany. In his opinion, the political system suffered from the fact that the emperor and not the Reichstag determined the government. In this way, parliament did not become the place where political leaders rose and aspired to power . Weber was also critical of the bureaucracy and political parties : the bureaucracy worked excellently for day-to-day administrative tasks, but it led to amateurish and poorly conceived politics. Weber's answer to this was democratization, i.e. the introduction of universal suffrage at all levels in order to politically involve the lower classes. In addition, the best minds should be found through selection, struggle and competition, bypassing the meritocracy of the parties.
Weber also recommended a “plebiscitary leadership democracy”. At that time, the term “ Führer ” was not yet used negatively by National Socialism ; rather, Weber was thinking of the model of the American presidential election. As head of state, Weber imagined a directly elected politician who emerged from fierce competition. Such a leader, who accommodates the people's wishes for leadership, should have to seek votes and the favor of allies. From Weber's point of view, such a charismatic leader , by whom the ruled want to be led, was a type of legitimate rule. The head of state should not be allowed to rule absolutely, but be bound by the constitution. "For every attempt to touch the laws," said Weber, the Reich President must always see the "gallows and rope" in mind.
For the constitutional historian Ernst Rudolf Huber , the Reich President was not only a strong counterweight to parliament. The Reich President embodied the unity of the Reich. It could do that better than the pluralistic parliament, as the monarch had already described the "personal integration of the national unity". Through popular elections and far-reaching powers, the Reich President was given the "position of a non-partisan administrator for the nation as a whole", as the second representative body alongside the Reichstag.
In addition, according to Huber, the Reich President embodied the republican- democratic legitimacy, the freedom and equality on which democracy was founded. Anyone from the people could rise to the highest office of the state. The powerful office of the directly elected Reich President was a bulwark that did not allow a power vacuum. Hence, there have been no serious attempts to reinstate a monarch. Huber therefore refuses to contend with the polemical claim that the Reich President was a substitute monarch because of his powers. Because only the strong Reich President had made the full transition to a democratic republic possible.
Election and term of office
Any German who was at least 35 years old was eligible for election as Reich President (Art. 41, Paragraph 2, WRV). The draft of the imperial constitution still required that the candidate had been a citizen for at least ten years, but the constitutional committee considered this unnecessary. It was a matter of course, said Willibalt Apelt, that a candidate also had to meet the requirements for active voting rights. According to the constitution (Art. 44 WRV), the Reich President was not allowed to be a member of the Reichstag . This should guarantee its independence.
Other incompatibilities arose rather from the meaning of the constitution and other regulations. A Reich President should not be involved in party politics. The Reich Ministerial Law (Art. 7) prohibited members of the government from engaging in secondary activities or sitting on supervisory boards, etc. This legal idea also applied to the Reich President, even if the law was not directly applicable to the head of state. In the National Assembly, a draft constitution stipulated that members of the former dynasties should not be eligible for election for 15 years (Art. 164). In the third reading the clause was deleted again, by 198 votes to 141, as it had shown little Republican self-confidence.
The election of the German Reich President provided for two possible rounds of voting. In the first round of voting, a candidate had to get at least half of the votes cast in order to be elected. If no candidate achieved this absolute majority, there was a second ballot. However, this was not a runoff election for the most successful competitors: in the second ballot, every candidate was allowed to participate again, even someone who had not participated in the first. You were elected in the second ballot with a simple majority. The election was described in more detail by the Reich Law on the election of the Reich President of May 4, 1920 (revised March 6, 1924 and March 13, 1925).
People could vote, not parties. However, a candidate did not stand a chance if he was not supported by powerful parties or other organizations. Political parties or organizations had the means to campaign, including many volunteers.
The term of office lasted seven years and there was no restriction on re-election. The term of office began after the electoral review committee had determined the election result and the person elected had agreed to accept the office. After that, the elected person had to take an oath of office before the Reichstag , as formulated in Art. 42 WRV:
- "I swear that I will devote my strength to the well-being of the German people, increase their use, prevent damage from them, uphold the constitution and the laws of the Reich, conscientiously fulfill my duties and do justice to everyone."
A religious affirmation could be added according to the constitution.
The Reich President could have exercised his office without taking the oath; the oath was not constitutive, but merely affirmative. However, the refusal to take the oath would have meant a violation of the constitutional duties of the Reich President. The Reichstag could have responded with a presidential charge.
The National Assembly had already elected Friedrich Ebert as Reich President on February 11, 1919, as stipulated by the law on provisional Reich power. The Reich Constitution of August 11, 1919 (Art. 180 Sentence 2) stipulated as a transitional provision that the Reich President elected on the basis of that law (ie Ebert) would remain in office until “the first Reich President took office”. However, the National Assembly delayed both the election of the first Weimar Reichstag and the popular election of the Reich President. For example, on October 21, 1921, Ebert himself asked the Reich Chancellor to hold a popular election. In the cabinet, however, there were doubts whether Ebert would actually get a majority or lose against a DNVP candidate Hindenburg.
On October 24, 1922, the Reichstag passed the law amending Article 180 of the Reich Constitution : The new version of Article 180 sentence 2 WRV limited the term of office of the Reich President elected by the National Assembly to June 30, 1925. Huber calls this constitution-amending act, in quotation marks, a breach of the constitution , because the parliament determined the term of office of the Reich President, although according to the constitution normally a popular election should take place. However, this constitutional amendment also meant a concrete limitation of the term of office of the previous Reich President and, indirectly, a fundamental commitment to constitutional popular elections.
Termination of office and substitution
The Reichstag could not vote out the Reich President itself, but could call a referendum with a two-thirds majority (Art. 43 para. 2 WRV). However, if the Reich President received the people's trust in the referendum, he was re-elected for seven years and the Reichstag was dissolved. The Reichstag had the right to indict the Reich President before the State Court of Justice for culpable violation of the Constitution or a Reich law. At least 100 MPs had to sign the application. A corresponding judgment would have led to the dismissal (Art. 43 Para. 3 WRV).
The Reich President could only be prosecuted with the consent of the Reichstag. Just like every citizen, the Reich President had to obey the law. A corresponding loss of office through criminal law was not provided for in the constitution, but resulted from the criminal code (§§ 31, 33, 35) with reference to the loss of public office.
The Reich President himself decided whether he could temporarily not exercise his office (Art. 51 WRV); in addition, the office was suspended during a referendum on the Reich President. If he was unable to attend, the Reich Chancellor was authorized to represent at short notice until 1932. In the case of permanent representation or discharge of office, a Reich law regulated representation, which became necessary in 1925 after the death of Reich President Ebert. That Reich Law made the President of the Reichsgericht the representative until the new election.
On December 17, 1932, the Reichstag amended the constitution and provided the President of the Reich Court as the representative instead of the Reich Chancellor. This was intended as a safeguard in the event that the elderly President Hindenburg should die. The controversial Chancellor Schleicher should not have the powers of the Reich President and thus the opportunity to launch a coup . However, it was not regulated who decided that the substitution case occurred. In any case, the President of the Reichsgericht would have been bound by the countersignature of the Reich Chancellor, so the constitutional amendment was not an absolute guarantee against a concentration of power by Reich Chancellor Schleicher.
When assessing the power of the Reich President, it is often overlooked that his actions had to be countersigned by a member of the Reich government (as with the Kaiser and today's Federal President, but different from the American President ). An order from the Reich President was not only not valid without countersigning, it was "absolutely inadmissible," as Huber emphasizes. This also applied to public statements and even internal statements by the Reich President. Even if a formal countersignature was usefully not possible, for example in letters or verbal statements, the Reich President had to obtain the approval of the relevant Reich organ. It was therefore the duty of the Reich President to inform the Reich Government about all official acts beforehand.
However, there was one important difference from the previous monarchical system . The emperor was inviolable and irresponsible; not according to Bismarck's imperial constitution , but according to the Prussian constitution, which (since the emperor was always the Prussian king ) was used accordingly. The Chancellor assumed ministerial responsibility .
In contrast to this, the Reich Chancellor or another Reich Minister, through the countersignature, was responsible for the act of the Reich President. However, the Reich President remained responsible for his actions. Both politically and criminally he could be held accountable, for example through a presidential charge.
Appointment of the Reich government
According to the constitution, the Reich President appointed the Reich Chancellor and, on the proposal of the Reich Chancellor, the Reich Minister. If the Reich Chancellor did not propose to be Reich Minister, the Reich President could not appoint him. The members of the Reich government were also dismissed by the Reich President (Art. 53). Hugo Preuss called the appointment of the government the most important independent function of the Reich President in which he had to prove his political leadership.
However, the Reich President was not entirely free in his choice: a member of the Reich Government required the confidence of the Reichstag (Art. 54). This had already become apparent through the October reforms of 1918, and the law on provisional imperial power also spoke of it (Article 8, Paragraph 2). The newly appointed members of the government did not have to expressly assure themselves of the confidence of the Reichstag through a formal vote. A Reich President nevertheless tried to set up a government that would not be overthrown immediately by a vote of no confidence.
The Reich President had a strong position through his powers, so that (as in the Kaiserreich) the question could arise whether the head of state or the chancellor determined the guidelines of politics. The Weimar Constitution expressly ascribes the authority to issue guidelines to the Reich Chancellor (Art. 56). However, the Reich President had a share in this competence, politically and partly in terms of constitutional law. For the Chancellor, this did not necessarily mean a restriction of his policy authority, said Huber: The presidential authority enabled him to shield himself from the claims of his coalition partners. Whether he succeeded in doing that was due to his quality as a politician. In the last years of the republic, during the so-called presidential cabinets , the control of the rule-making authority by the incapacitated Reichstag decreased and the influence of the Reich President increased accordingly.
Friedrich Karl Fromme sees the position of the Chancellor more negatively. His authority to issue guidelines had been restricted by both the Reich President and the Reichstag. If one of these two constricting organs became weaker, this did not liberate the chancellor, but rather tied him all the more to the other, dominant organ.
While right-wing politicians condemned Ebert's independent stance, a change of opinion began as soon as the Reich President's name was Hindenburg. In 1926 the German national politician Kuno Graf Westarp demanded that Art. 54 WRV should be deleted so that the Reich President no longer had to take the confidence of the Reichstag into consideration. When such advances failed and were not taken up by Hindenburg, the opponents of parliamentarism tried to reduce the influence of the Reichstag on the formation of a government by interpreting the constitution. Carl Schmitt , for example , considered the effectiveness of a vote of no confidence in purely negative majorities to be insufficient to overthrow the government.
Foreign policy and command of the Reichswehr
The Reich Constitution gave the Chancellor the authority to issue guidelines, including foreign policy , and the Reich Foreign Minister was responsible for his department. In addition, the Reich President also had tasks in the field of foreign violence: He was responsible for the representation of the Reich under international law (Art. 45 WRV), certified the diplomatic representatives, signed ratification documents and made formal foreign policy declarations.
President Ebert already insisted that his role in foreign policy was not purely formal, but included substantial co-decision-making power. He had to be informed that the Reich Chancellor had to coordinate his foreign policy with the Reich President. Ebert and Hindenburg also demanded that men be appointed as Reich Foreign Minister who had the personal confidence of the Reich President. This severely restricted the Chancellor's authority to issue guidelines in this policy area. However, the presidential power was able to give the chancellor support against the Reichstag.
The head of state had the supreme command of the armed forces , i.e. the armed forces of the country (Art. 47; as already in the empire). As early as August 20, 1919, the Reich President transferred the supreme command to the Reichswehr Minister in an ordinance. Nevertheless, this did not make the Reich President a purely nominal commander-in-chief: he remained substantially in charge of command. The exercise, however, looked more complicated. There was special cooperation between the Reich President and the Reich Defense Minister. That is why the Reich Presidents demanded in this case that the Minister should enjoy the confidence of the Reich President.
The Reichswehr Minister was subordinate to the Reich President and bound by his instructions. Conversely, orders by the Reich President required the Minister's countersignature. The minister also had the important right to speak directly to the Reich President ( Immediatsrecht ) so that he could influence the opinion of the Reich President. Ordinances were reserved for the Reich President, the Minister could only issue decrees. The minister was a member of the cabinet, but due to his special subordination to the Reich President, the Chancellor's authority to issue guidelines was largely withdrawn. The parliamentary control, however, undisputedly extended to the supreme command and the minister. The minister was also unable to invoke that he was bound by instructions, because the Reich President could only exercise his supreme command through the ministerial countersignature.
Legislation and the Reichstag
When a law was passed by the Reichstag, the Reich President checked whether it had been formally passed in accordance with the constitution. Then he made it out. It had to be announced in the Reichsgesetzblatt within a month . It was disputed whether the Reich President had to or was allowed to examine a law materially, namely whether it was in accordance with the constitution.
In addition, the Reich President could play a role in popular legislation . To do this, the Reichstag had to have passed a law and two conditions had to be met: firstly, a third of the deputies demanded a referendum against the law, and secondly, a twentieth of the citizens entitled to vote demanded a referendum in a referendum. The deadline for this was one month. Then the Reich President had to order the referendum. Similar provisions, with different deadlines, existed when the Reichsrat objected to a law. In addition, the Reich President was allowed to order a referendum if he did not want to sign a law of the Reichstag (Art. 73, Paragraph 1).
The Reich President could dissolve the Reichstag, "but only once for the same reason" (Art. 25). The restriction was of no practical importance. Hugo Preuss had declared in the National Assembly that the head of state and the government are not allowed to dissolve parliament over and over again because of the same question. Preuss recalled the Prussian constitutional conflict of 1862/1863, when Otto von Bismarck tried to "wear down" parliament. Carl Schmitt therefore distinguished between a dissolution because of a factual issue, which could and should be decided once and finally by a new election, and dissolutions for other reasons. Schmitt was thinking primarily of the case that parliament was so divided that it could neither support the previous government nor form a new government. There could be no restriction for such cases.
Ordinances according to Art. 48 WRV
Article 48 WRV hardly appeared in the debates of the National Assembly. In 1919 one had probably not yet understood “what power for the president was hidden in these regulations”, assumes Willibalt Apelt. The article comprised regulations that continued the historical provisions on federal execution against member states and federal intervention in popular uprisings.
Art. 48 WRV stipulated that the Reich President initiate a Reich execution . This meant that he was forcing a country to honor its duties to the empire. Such a Reich execution had already taken place in Germany's previous constitutions. In the Weimar Republic, for example, the Reich President overthrew the Saxon state government in 1923 when ministers were briefly appointed by the KPD , or in 1932 he deposed the Prussian government ( Preußenschlag ).
According to Art. 48, the Reich President was also allowed to order other "measures":
- “If public security and order are significantly disrupted or endangered in the German Reich, the Reich President can take the measures necessary to restore public security and order, and if necessary intervene with the help of the armed force. For this purpose he may temporarily suspend the fundamental rights set out in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 in whole or in part. "
However, the Reich Presidents (and with them the prevailing doctrine in constitutional law) interpreted the expression “measures” very broadly. From this they derived a dictatorship competence on the basis of which they issued “emergency ordinances” on all kinds of legal matters. They also made their ordinances legally binding, so that they complied with the legal reserve to which most fundamental rights were subject. It was at the discretion of the Reich President whether there was a corresponding need.
A Reich law, which was supposed to determine the details according to Art. 48, was never passed. In 1925 the Reichstag treated the matter with delay and thus prevented a law that would have neatly separated a genuine emergency ordinance law under Article 48 from measures in the event of economic and social emergencies. Since 1930 in particular, the Reich President has taken over a large part of the Reich's legislation through “statutory dictatorship ordinances,” as Huber calls them.
The constitution stipulated that the Reich President had to notify the Reichstag of his measures. The Reichstag could demand that the measures be suspended. Such a negative majority was easier to get in the Reichstag than a positive majority for legislation that would have made the emergency ordinances unnecessary. Presidents of the Reich have therefore repeatedly threatened to dissolve the Reichstag when it opposed emergency decrees. The system of presidential cabinets or the Brüning system only worked from 1930–1932 because the SPD tolerated the emergency ordinances in the Reichstag: It did not join the requests of radical parties for their repeal.
Office of the Reich President
The Reich President was supported in his work by an " Office of the Reich President ". In substance it was reminiscent of the emperor's civil cabinet . There was no separate military cabinet, so that the Reich President was dependent on the Reichswehr Ministry for military questions .
The office had a boss who had been State Secretary since 1923 . It advised the Reich President on his duties, drafted laws and contracts, prepared personal matters, and maintained contacts with the Reich government and the party leaders. In the years 1919 and 1920, the envoy Kurt Riezler was head of the office. After the Kapp Putsch in 1920, Otto Meißner replaced him .
The Weimar Republic had to cope with the aftermath of the First World War. Their reputation suffered in large parts of the population. Even if there was criticism of the Reich President as a person and incumbent, the office of Reich President itself was rated rather positively. From the right to the center of politics there was an opinion that the Reich President still had too little power to compensate for the weaknesses of the parliamentary system at the time. This tendency also existed in other countries where it has often led to very authoritarian solutions (for example in Poland ).
Heinrich August Winkler criticizes the Weimar Constitution for having appointed the people and, above all, the Reich President as substitute legislators in addition to the Reichstag. The National Assembly has thus promoted the “opportunism of parliamentary majorities”. If the coalition parties could not come to an agreement, it was easy to shift responsibility on to the President. With his powers and the right to dissolve, says Winkler, it was the Reich President and not the Reichstag that had “the longer lever”.
If there had been continuous majorities that could have supported a stable Reich government , the Reich President would have had much less to take on the political initiative. According to Fromme, the right of the Reich President to set up the government favored the so-called presidential governments. This had become "the precondition and preparation, the means and the excuse for calling the NSDAP into power".
The failure of the Weimar Republic is not unanimously and solely attributed to the office of Reich President. Many other reasons are given in the discussion. From the perspective of Willibalt Apelt, for example, the continued existence of the hegemonic state of Prussia was a difficult legacy that prevented real federalism . He criticizes less the office of the Reich President than Hindenburg as a person who was ultimately not up to the task. A “good part of the total blame for the fall of the Weimar Constitution” is to be blamed on the party leaders and the party system. Last but not least, the German people have a joint guilt that "carried National Socialism up to rule".
In a similar way, Huber looks back at the actors who were responsible for the downfall of the republic, from the Allies to the parties to the advisers of Reich President Hindenburg. He assigns the main responsibility to Hindenburg. Huber draws attention to the importance of the constitutional change after 1930. The Reich President was to intervene temporarily as the “ guardian of the constitution ” in order to compensate for disturbances in other organs such as the Reichstag. If, however, the Reich President exercised the actual power of government permanently, he was no longer a pouvoir neutral , but became a politically vulnerable actor.
According to Huber, it is understandable that Hindenburg wanted to get rid of this burden. The time around the turn of the year 1932/1933 was very unsuitable for this. In his oath of office, Hindenburg had vowed to protect the constitution. Therefore, he would have had to reject Hitler's request to be appointed Chancellor a third time. Hitler was a convicted high traitor whose loyalty to the constitution was not credible despite the oath of legality . "Instead, [Hindenburg] found himself prepared to hand over full power in the state to the representative of a totalitarian party in a hasty act." That was a violation of the constitutional duties of the Reich President.
Huber does not join the frequent criticism that the power of the Reich President has destroyed the parliamentary principle. If the Reichstag was capable of constructive majorities, parliament was always superior to the head of state. "When parliamentary power was abused by a Reichstag in which the anti-constitutional extremism from the right and left had gained a majority, the constitutional and constitutional superiority of the presidential authority was the last guarantee of the rule of law and constitutional state."
In the National Assembly, the office of Reich President was separated from the presidential offices in France and the USA. Bruno Ablaß , the rapporteur for the Constitutional Committee, praised Hugo Preuss's draft for avoiding imitation of these offices and for taking a new path. With his competencies, the Reich President is a counterweight to party rule in parliament.
According to Friedrich Karl Fromme, the Reich President is comparable to the German Kaiser. The right-wing liberal MP Wilhelm Kahl has already seen the connecting lines between the two offices in the National Assembly. Fromme explains the continuity by saying that the revolution was not carried by an in-depth movement. Therefore, one has largely adhered to the example of the old state. This was a lasting influence of constitutionalism , in which one had feared both an assumption of power and an incapacity of the parliament.
North German Confederation and Empire
The first head of state of a federal state in Germany was the King of Prussia . According to the North German Federal Constitution of 1867, he was entitled to the Federal Presidium (Art. 11). The later constitutions in the Empire also gave him the title " German Emperor ". The office, in which the republican expression "Federal President" was deliberately avoided, found little form in the constitution.
The German Kaiser appointed a Chancellor , the only minister , at his own discretion . At best, the composition of the Reichstag was taken into account. The chancellor was politically responsible for his own actions, but also for those of the emperor, which he countersigned. Without the countersignature of the Chancellor or (from 1878) a State Secretary, the Kaiser could not do anything. At the latest with the October reforms of 1918, when the Chancellor expressly required the confidence of the Reichstag, the emperor's position in the system of government was already reminiscent of that of the Reich President. However, for the Kaiser the military was far more than for the Reich President a separate area of responsibility without parliamentary control.
With regard to legislation, neither the Kaiser nor the Reich President had their own right of initiative. The Reich President had a share in the people's legislation, but in practice it did not happen that the Reich President had issues answered by referendum. With regard to the Reichstag, the Reich President was more powerful than the Kaiser because he alone (with countersignature) could dissolve the Reichstag. In the German Empire this was the right of the Federal Council. This has little significance for the constitutional reality: in both the German Empire and the Republic, it was usually the Chancellor who made the wish for dissolution. The Federal Council or the Reich President usually complied with this.
German Democratic Republic
The DDR addressed in the 1949 Constitution also initially an individual as a head of state. The President of the German Democratic Republic only had a representative role. He was elected by the two chambers of parliament; his oath of office was almost literally modeled on that of the Reich President. A two-thirds majority in the chambers was able to recall the President of the GDR.
In 1960 the first official, Wilhelm Pieck, died . The office was replaced by a collective head of state, the State Council of the GDR . The model for this was the construction in the Soviet Union. The members of the Council of State were elected by the People's Chamber ( there was no longer a regional chamber ). In 1990 the chairwoman of the People's Chamber took on the duties of head of state.
Federal Republic of Germany
After 1945 the West German constitution-makers decided expressly in favor of a less powerful head of state. The draft of the constitutional convention at Herrenchiemsee in 1948 already required this. The majority of the convention wanted an individual at the head of the state, but did not want the Federal President to have the strong position of Reich President. But the Reich President preserved the rule of law until 1933, when parliament was no longer able to run the state. A replacement for the Reich President therefore had to be found: the strengthening of the parliamentary system of government including the upgrading of political parties (Art. 21 GG).
Instead of the people, the Federal President elects his own body, which is occupied by the Bundestag and the state parliaments (the Federal Assembly ). Similar to the Reich President, one expects the Federal President to conduct a non-partisan administration.
Many powers were stripped from him or he became one of several participants in a decision:
- The Federal President appoints and dismisses the members of the Federal Government. However, it is binding for him who the Bundestag elects as Federal Chancellor. He appoints the federal ministers only at the suggestion of the chancellor. At most, if a Federal Chancellor candidate only receives a relative majority in the Bundestag, the Federal President can decide whether to appoint the candidate or dissolve the Bundestag. At the beginning of the procedure, the Federal President must propose a candidate to the Bundestag; Roman Herzog criticized the Federal President's right to propose as a “petrefact”, a holdover from the German Empire and the Weimar Republic.
- The Federal President is not the commander in chief of the armed forces; this is the task of the Federal Minister of Defense or, in the event of a defense, the Federal Chancellor. The Federal President announces the case of defense in the Federal Law Gazette . The Federal President has limited separate participation in foreign policy.
- As with the Reich President, the actions of the Federal President must be countersigned by a member of the government.
- Like the Reich President, the Federal President can also be charged. In the Federal Republic, however, there is no longer the possibility of letting the people decide on deposition.
- The Federal President signs the laws. In some cases, a debate has arisen as to whether he has only a formal or a substantive right to examine. Otherwise, the Federal President has no role in the legislative process, not even through popular legislation. However, in the special case of a legislative emergency, the consent of the Federal President is required to make a bill into law despite the rejection of the Bundestag.
- The Federal President can only dissolve parliament in special situations, namely after a failed chancellor election or after a failed vote of confidence .
The President of the Federal Council is the deputy of the Federal President . In the Weimar Republic such a regulation would have made little sense, since the chairman of the Reichsrat was a member of the Reich government.
Austria had changed its constitution in 1929 based on the German model, so that, formally speaking , the Austrian Federal President had more or less the same powers as the Reich President. In essence, this constitution still applies today. Nevertheless, due to the stable majorities in the National Council , the Federal President , like his German counterpart, only has a representative position and is largely without influence on the policy of the Federal Government supported by the National Council .
When the Weimar Republic was founded, the political system of the Third Republic existed in France . The President of the French Republic was elected for seven years by both chambers of parliament. He could only be dismissed for high treason . At first the president was also the head of government, but in 1875/1879 the separate office of prime minister and countersignature was introduced. The presidential office was given a more representative and mediating role. In the Fourth Republic from 1946 the office was weakened: the right to dissolve parliament was passed from the president to the government.
In the Fifth French Republic from 1958, the office of President experienced a strong appreciation. Since 1962 the president has been directly elected by the people . He appoints the head of government, has special rights in foreign and defense policy, can dissolve parliament and initiate referendums. In 2002 the term of office was shortened from seven to five years. Furthermore, a president can be re-elected without restriction.
The President of the United States of America is also elected by the people. The election, however, is not direct, but indirect and takes place through an electoral college . The US president has only been allowed to be re-elected once since 1951.
In contrast to the Reich President, the American President is not only head of state and commander-in-chief, but also chief and part of the government. The members of the government are appointed and dismissed by the president; the appointment requires the approval of the Senate. The actions of the President do not need to be countersigned. He also has extensive statutory rights.
Just like the Reich President, the President has no right of initiative. He can at least temporarily block parliamentary laws. Ultimately, however, the American president must work with parliament in order to govern effectively. As with the Reich President, it is possible to remove the US President. The decision on this is made by Parliament. The basis for this must be criminal charges, not political ones.
List of Reich Presidents
|No.||picture||Name (life data)||Political party||choice||Beginning of the term of office||Term expires|
|SPD||1919||February 11, 1919||February 28, 1925
(death in office; otherwise June 30, 1925)
Paul von Hindenburg
|independent||1925 , 1932||May 12, 1925||August 2, 1934
(death in office; otherwise 1939)
(" Führer and Reich Chancellor " )
|NSDAP||-||August 2, 1934
(By law of August 1, 1934, Chancellor Hitler assumed both offices in personal union )
|April 30, 1945
( suicide ; redistribution of the functions of the Reich President and Reich Chancellor)
|NSDAP||-||May 1, 1945
(assumption of office by virtue of Hitler's last will. That is why the legality of his presidency is disputed)
|May 23, 1945
(arrest; office dissolved)
1. Friedrich Ebert : The National Assembly had on 10 February 1919 law on the provisional Reich authority accepted and this law Ebert a day later under § 7 with an absolute majority for the President elected . He was to hold the office until a Reich President would be elected according to the new Reich constitution passed on August 11, 1919 . In October 1922, a constitutional amendment set the end of this term of office on June 30, 1925. Ebert died earlier, on February 28, 1925, in office.
Acting Reich Presidents:
- 1a. With Ebert's death, Article 51 was in effect: the Reich President is initially represented by the Reich Chancellor if he is unable to attend. That was Hans Luther in February 1925 . The other provisions had not yet been specified: If the prevention is likely to last for a longer period of time, the representation is to be regulated by a Reich law. The same applies in the event of an early termination of the presidency until the new election is held.
- 1b. From March 11 to April 30, 1925, Walter Simons held the office of President of the Reich as President of the Reich Court. The Reichstag had determined this by law on March 10th.
2. Paul von Hindenburg : Hindenburg was constitutionally elected for seven years in the 1925 Reich presidential election and then in the 1932 presidential election. He also died in office on August 2, 1934.
3. Adolf Hitler did not refill the office of Reich President, but merged it with his, thereby formally eliminating it - not least because he was reluctant to be formally dependent on the prerogative of a Reich President in his position as head of government . The union of the offices was confirmed by a referendum on August 19, 1934 . The turnout was, although no formal elective consisted, at over 95%, and 89.9% of the valid votes were votes in favor. Hitler renounced the title of "Reich President" and from then on bore the new official title of " Fuehrer" reserved for him , which was to be used exclusively in formal dealings with foreign countries and in addressing by 1943 at the latest .
4. Karl Dönitz , who was appointed Reich President by Hitler in his will, officially took over government power and supreme command of the German Wehrmacht on May 1, 1945 , when Germany was already largely occupied by the Allies . With the arrest of the executive government of Dönitz by the victorious powers on May 23, 1945, his term of office ended de facto. The government and the Dönitz presidency are legally controversial to this day. Dönitz was not confirmed by any other authority in his office of the Reich President, or legitimized by elections. As a result, the title of Reich President is rather inappropriate for Dönitz.
- Explanation of terms on rbb Prussian Chronicle
- Decree of the Reich Chancellor on the implementation of the law on the head of state of the German Reich of August 1, 1934
- Resolution of the Reich government to bring about a referendum on August 2, 1934
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 99.
- Manfred G. Schmidt : Theories of democracy. An introduction. Bonn 2010, pp. 166/167.
- Manfred G. Schmidt: Theories of democracy. An introduction. Bonn 2010, pp. 165/166 (there also the quote).
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 309 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 308 f.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 200 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 318.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume V: World War, Revolution and Reich renewal: 1914-1919. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1978, p. 1193.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 199 f.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 200.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 316.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VII: Expansion, protection and fall of the Weimar Republic. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1984, p. 264 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 311 f .; ders .: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VII: Expansion, protection and fall of the Weimar Republic. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1984, p. 264 f.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 201.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 314.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), pp. 201/202.
- Constitutional law on the representation of the Reich President of December 17, 1932 ( RGBl. I p. 547).
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 315 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the empire. 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, p. 815.
- Michael Kotulla: German constitutional history. From the Old Reich to Weimar (1495–1934) . Springer, Berlin 2008, p. 593.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 318 f.
- Quoted from Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, p. 57.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 327.
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, p. 61.
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, pp. 62-65.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 454.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 454 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, pp. 311-313.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 412.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 411 f.
- Carl Schmitt: Uniqueness and the same reason for the dissolution of the Reichstag according to Article 25 of the Reich Constitution (1925) . In: ders. (Ed.): Constitutional articles from the years 1924–1954. Materials for a constitutional teaching. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1958, pp. 15-29, here pp. 19-22.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 101.
- Michael Kotulla: German constitutional history. From the Old Reich to Weimar (1495–1934) . Springer, Berlin 2008, pp. 592/593.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 444 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 448.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 320.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 319 f.
- Cf. Oscar W. Gabriel , Everhard Holtmann : Handbuch Politisches System der Bundes Republik Deutschland , 3rd edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-27343-4 , p. 165 .
- Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. German history 1806–1933 . Bonn 2002, p. 407.
- Gerhard Schulz : Between Democracy and Dictatorship: Constitutional Policy and Reich Reform in the Weimar Republic , Vol. 2. Germany on the eve of the Great Crisis , Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1987, ISBN 3-11-002486-1 , p. 238 -240 .
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, p. 74.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), pp. 427, 431.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 323.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VI: The Weimar Imperial Constitution. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1981, p. 323/324.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VII: Expansion, protection and fall of the Weimar Republic. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1984, pp. 1278/1279.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume VII: Expansion, protection and fall of the Weimar Republic. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1984, p. 1100.
- Willibalt Apelt: History of the Weimar Constitution . 2nd edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1964 (1946), p. 99.
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, pp. 27/28.
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, pp. 33/34.
- Roman Herzog: Relics of the constitutional constitution in the Basic Law . In: Karl Dietrich Bracher et al. (Ed.): State and parties. Festschrift for Rudolf Morsey on his 65th birthday . Berlin 1992, pp. 85-96.
- Friedrich Karl Fromme: From the Weimar Constitution to the Bonn Basic Law - The Constitutional Consequences of the Parliamentary Council from the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist Dictatorship , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1962, p. 56/57.
Law on the Head of State of the German Reich , August 1, 1934:
“§ 1. The office of Reich President is combined with that of Reich Chancellor. As a result, the previous powers of the Reich President are transferred to the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler. He appoints his deputy. "
- Klaus Hildebrand , Das Third Reich , 2009, p. 17 .
- Thomas Olechowski, Rechtsgeschichte , 3rd edition 2010, p. 219 .
- According to § 7 of the law on provisional imperial power (RGBl. 1919, p. 169) and Art. 180 sentence 2 Constitution of the German Reich (RGBl. 1919, p. 1838) , each accessed on June 25, 2013.
- Law amending Article 180 of the Reich Constitution of October 27, 1922 (RGBl. 1922, p. 801) , accessed on June 25, 2013.
- Draft of a law on the deputy of the Reich President , accessed on September 12, 2009. Application of March 7, passed by the Reichstag on 10, entered into force on March 11, 1925.
- So Andreas Dietz: The primacy of politics in the imperial army, Reichswehr, Wehrmacht and Bundeswehr (= Jus Publicum; Vol. 210), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2011, pp. 356–357 .
- Cf. Ian Kershaw , Führer and Hitler Cult , in: Wolfgang Benz , Hermann Graml and Hermann Weiß (eds.), Enzyklopädie des Nationalsozialismus , 3rd, corr. Edition, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-608-91805-1 , pp. 22-33, here p. 28 .
- Ordinance on the implementation of the referendum on the head of state of the German Reich (August 3, 1934) , in: documentArchiv.de
- information, Otmar Jung: Plebiscite and dictatorship: the referendums of the National Socialists (= contributions to the legal history of the 20th century; Vol. 13). Mohr, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-16-146491-5 , pp. 64, 68 .
- Decree of the Reich Chancellor on the Enforcement of the Law on the Head of State of the German Reich of August 1, 1934 (August 2, 1934) , in: documentArchiv.de. The Austrian National Library offers a view in the original typography : Reichsgesetzblatt 1934 I, pp. 745–763 .
- See circular of June 26, 1943 - Rk. 7669 E - to all authorities in the Reich (PDF).
- On the evening of May 1, 1945, Grand Admiral Dönitz announced on the Reich broadcaster in Hamburg that Hitler had "fallen"; on this day he took office at the head of the Nazi state. Cf. DRA: Information Service Wort 2005 ( 25th anniversary of Karl Dönitz's death ) ( memento from October 20, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), German Broadcasting Archive Foundation , accessed on October 28, 2014.