Happy birthday, Weimar Constitution!

Coat of arms of the German Reich (a.k.a. "Weimar Republic), 1919-33

Coat of arms of the German Reich (a.k.a. the "Weimar Republic"), 1919-33

ON AUGUST 11, 1919, the job was done. A special delegation carried the new “Reich Constitution” to the desk of Reich President Friedrich Ebert for his signature. With a flourish of his pen, this saddle maker turned statesman made Germany’s first democratic constitution the law of the land.

It had been a long slog up to this point. As historian Peter Gay puts it, the first German republic “was born in defeat,” namely in a disaster of a World War that had only just been formally ended. Some two million German soldiers lay in hundreds of cemeteries across Europe. They were joined in death by 700,000 civilians – victims of starvation, disease, and appalling industrial accidents. The economy was in free fall. Throughout the hot spring and summer, as the delegates to the National Assembly sat pounding out a constitution in the National Theater in the provincial town of Weimar, representatives of the victorious Allied powers had been convening in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles to draw up a draconian peace treaty that would hobble Germany forever. The results, presented to a stunned public at the end of June, convinced millions that their country had been “stabbed in the back” by evil foreigners and conniving politicians. Was this any time for democratic experiments?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: