The Weimar Republic - Germany’s first democracy


July 1919

1 July

The forty-third session of the National Assembly, from 3:22 to 8:26pm
Government representatives answer various questions.
Budget Committee report on the “Decree on the acquisition of agricultural settlement land” of 30 January 1919. Extensive debate on the creation and promotion of small enterprises, state-funded housing developments i.a. [DNV, Vol. 3, pp. 484-528]

2 July

The forty-fourth session of the National Assembly, from 12:19 to 8:03pm
Deliberations resume on the “Draft constitution of the German Reich” (second reading) with reports on the constitutional principles and proposed amendments by members of the constitutional committee Conrad Haußmann (DDP), Wilhelm Kahl (DVP), Oskar Cohn (USPD) and. for the government, Hugo Preuß (DDP). Debate ensues on the official name of the state (“Reich” or “Republic”), the “unity question” (centralised or federal state system), the role of the Reichspräsident, referenda and people’s initiatives, and the Reich colours (“flag dispute”). First vote on Article 1: “The German Reich is a republic”; the use of the word “Reich” is maintained throughout the rest of the constitutional text.
The proclamation of a Councils’ Republic in nearby Gotha comes as unsettling news for the National Assembly. [DNV, Vol. 3, pp. 529-607]

3 July

The forty-fifth session of the National Assembly, from 2:16 to 8:01pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue. Topics include the competencies of the Reich and individual states, rights of parliament, the minimum voting age, and the duration of the legislative term. First vote on individual articles of the constitution, including Article 3: the new Reich colours will be black-red-gold; only the merchant flag will remain black-white-red. [DNV, Vol. 3, pp. 608-647]

4 July

The forty-sixth session of the National Assembly, from 2:22 to 7:27pm.
Government representatives answer various questions: Disparities in the remuneration of workers and civil servants, inadmissible wage penalties for employees not belonging to a trade union as violation of freedom of association i.a..
Second round of deliberations resume on the draft constitution i.a. with debate on parliamentary control authorities, voting age, election terms, election procedure and the competencies of the Reichspräsident, who is completely rejected by the USPD. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 5-69]

5 July

The forty-seventh session of the National Assembly, from 2:24 to 6:54pm.
Deliberations on the constitution continue with a debate on the special powers of the Reichspräsident (martial law, Reichsexekution (authority to impose imperial power over federal states), the Reichsrat as representative body of federal states, the conditions for later amendments to the constitution i.a. Session is terminated due to fear of absence of a quorum. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 70-103]

7 July

The forty-eighth session of the National Assembly, from 2:25 to 2:44pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with a debate on the function of the Reichswirtschaftsrat (economic council). Due to the absence of a quorum, the next session is scheduled for the same afternoon. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 104-107]

The forty-ninth session of the National Assembly, from 3:04 to 6:24pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with an in-depth debate on the role of the Reichspräsident in referenda and people’s initiatives, on the competencies of the Reich in customs and tax matters, railways, post and waterways, budget law, national defense and foreign policy. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 108-151]

8 July

The fiftieth session of the National Assembly, from 2:21 to 6:48pm
Statement by Finance Minister Erzberger (Center) on the financial situation and planned tax legislation followed by debate on the “Bill concerning an extraordinary war levy for the financial year 1919” and the “Bill concerning a war levy on capital appreciation” (both for the purpose of taxing profits from the war), as well as on necessary increases of entertainment tax, inheritance tax, tax on sugar, tax on tobacco, tax on matches and other ignition devices, tax on playing-cards and much else. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 152-190]

9 July

The fifty-first session of the National Assembly, from 10:47am to 12:00pm and 12:25 to 1:10pm Statement by Foreign Minister Hermann Müller (SPD) on the “Bill concerning the peace agreement between Germany and the Allied and Associated Powers”; after emotional statements and protests, the act is ratified with 209 votes in favor and 116 votes against. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 191-212]

The fifty-second session of the National Assembly, from 3:25 to 8:13pm Deliberations on the tax laws continues in the form of a debate between Finance Minister Erzberger and the DNVP on a financial reform that has been needed for decades and the National Assembly’s competence in tax issues. The draft bills are relegated to three committees. The bills for the “German Reich Settlement Act” and the “Small Garden and Small-Rent Land Law” are relegated to the budget committee. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 213-249]

10 July

The fifty-third session of the National Assembly, from 3:25 to 7:25pm
Deliberations on the constitution with debate on the standing of the Reichsgericht (Imperial Court of Justice) and the future military jurisdiction, on the Volksgerichte (People’s Courts) or professional judges and their independence. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 250-273]

11 July

The fifty-fourth session of the National Assembly, from 9:50am to 12:19pm
Various questions are answered including the DVP’s criticism of the artistic design of the stamps in circulation commemorating the National Assembly.
Deliberations on the constitution continue with debate on fundamental rights and obligations (i.a. equality between men and women, freedom of emigration, rights of national minorities, freedom of expression, the inviolability of the home, protection of postal secrecy, prohibition of censorship). [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 274-295]

12 July

The fifty-fifth session of the National Assembly, from 09:48 to 11:55am Refusal to prosecute some Members for insult as the reasons behind this are political. Report by the Electoral Committee on the disruptions during the elections on 19 January and debate on the admissibility of repeat elections. Session is closed due to the absence of a quorum. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 296-304]

The Allies’ blockade against Germany ends [UB]

14 July

The fifty-sixth session of the National Assembly, from 3:24 to 7:15pm
Election examination continues in some constituencies, whose results are confirmed. This is followed by deliberations on the “Bill concerning increased attribution of the period served during the war by civil servants” and referral to the budget committee.
Query relating to the predicament of civil and military pensioners; Labor Minister Schlicke (SPD) reports. The Prussian Ministry of War agrees to a reform of legislation on military welfare. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 305-334]

15 July

The fifty-seventh session of the National Assembly, from 09:53am to 1:50pm Paul Löbe (SPD) is unanimously elected Vice President of the National Assembly. Deliberations on the draft constitution with extensive debate on the binding character of the fundamental rights and obligations, the abolition of the aristocracy, the equality of civil rights between men and women (full equality or equality as a principle), and the rights of national minorities. The USPD’s proposal to incorporate new regulations on prostitution into the constitution is rejected. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 335-360]

16 July

The fifty-eighth session of the National Assembly, from 09:55am to 2:31pm
Deliberations continue on the constitution with in-depth debate on the abolition of the death penalty; inclusion of this issue in the constitution is rejected because it is part of penal code reform.
Debate on the total abolition of censorship (restrictions for the protection of minors regarding pornographic and pulp literature and films). Debate on private fundamental rights (protection of civil marriage, family, minors), the equal legal status of unmarried and married mothers and their children as well as fundamental political rights (freedom of assembly, freedom of association, voting rights i.a.). [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 361-403]

17 July

The fifty-ninth session of the National Assembly, from 10:53am to 1:28pm and 3:52 to 7:22pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with a vote on the equal legal status of unmarried and married mothers and their children (which is rejected), extensive debate on youth welfare as well as on the special rights of civil servants. After a break, debate on the separation of state and church, total freedom of belief and freedom of conscience, and equal rights for all religions and religious communities. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 403-470]

18 July

The sixtieth session of the National Assembly, from 9:52am to 1:26pm and 4:10 to 8:10pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with debate on educational principles and the uniform structure and state supervision of the school system, the freedom of the arts and sciences, religion as a school subject, and on the permissibility of private schools. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 471-532]

19 July

The sixty-first session of the National Assembly, from 09:55am to 1:10pm
Deliberation on and adoption of the “Bill on paying customs in gold” and on legislation regulating the potash industry (“Reichskalirat” - National Potash Council) Deliberations on the “Bill concerning the increase of the pensions of civil servants older than 65 years of age” in connection with the “Bill concerning the retirement of civil servants as a result of restructuring the state system” (referral to the central parliamentary committee).
Deliberations on two bills concerning compensation for officers and sergeants to be discharged from military service in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles.
Deliberation and adoption of the “German Reich Settlement Act” and the “Small Garden and Small-Rent Land Law”. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 533-561]

21 July

The sixty-second session of the National Assembly, from 3:21 to 10:40pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with extensive debate on regulation of economic activities (freedom of contract and freedom of association, right to own property, compensation for expropriation, labor law, inheritance law i.a.), which turns into a fundamental debate on socialization, land reform, and above all on democracy and the council system, i.e. the future role of workers’ councils and economic councils. [DNV, Vol. 4, pp. 562-644]

22 July

The sixty-third session of the National Assembly, from 10:08am to 1:29pm and 4:18 to 7:07pm
Deliberations continue on the constitution with debate on the unity and restructuring of the Reich, majority of Members vote against parts of the territory breaking off (“Rhenish Republic”), against a fragmentation of Prussia, in favor of restructuring the federal states i.a.
After the break, lively debate on the eligibility of members of former ruling aristocratic houses running for the office of Reichspräsident (rejected) and on transferring the post and telegraph administrations of Bavaria and Württemberg to the Reich soon in order to standardize the communications system. Debate on the legislative competence of the National Assembly beyond the process of creating the constitution and its imminent replacement by a newly elected Reichstag. So as not to compromise outstanding planned legislation, in particular tax legislation, no date is scheduled for new elections.
Praise by President of the National Assembly Fehrenbach (Center) for the hard work of the Members present, mentioning however that overall, not enough of them - never more than 270 - were present at the last sessions. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 5-47]

23 July

The sixty-fourth session of the National Assembly, from 10:25am to 12:20pm
Government statement by Reichsministerpräsident Bauer (SPD) on the policy principles of his cabinet: unavoidable compliance with the Treaty of Versailles whilst rebuilding the country, rejection of right- and left-wing opponents of the new republic, assessment of what has been achieved so far: “No other nation can boast of such pure democracy”; in addition, outlook on proposed bills.
Statement by Foreign Minister Hermann Müller (SPD) on foreign policy principles: Willingness to reconcile with other nations by joining the League of Nations and to make amends as per the Treaty, specifically to France. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 48-86]

24 July

The sixty-fifth session of the National Assembly, from 10:27am to 1:40pm
On request, renewed emphatic rejection of the concept of a planned economy by Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Schmidt (SPD), who does, however, point to the need for temporary coercive measures and controls in crucial sectors.
On request, Labor Minister Alexander Schlicke (SPD) reports on measures for improving the situation of rural workers in order to prevent further strikes and the associated food shortages. Short debate on the government statement from the previous day. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 87-103]

25 July

The sixty-sixth session of the National Assembly, from 10:25am to 1:22pm and 3:45 to 8:40pm
President Fehrenbach (Center) proposes a work plan with the aim of moving the National Assembly back to Berlin soon, by the middle of August at the latest, which is met with approval.
Debate on the government statement of 23 July continues with a statement of approval from the Center Party as governing parliamentary group, a report by the Prussian Minister of Agriculture and Member Otto Braun (SPD) on his measures to combat the ongoing strikes by rural workers. Widespread support from the DDP as well (except with regard to the so-called “school compromise”), presented by Gertrud Bäumer. On the other hand, general criticism from the DNVP, presented by Albrecht von Graefe, culminating in accusations that the revolution had made Germany lose the war (“stab in the back myth”) and that Erzberger (Center) had negotiated a “peace of hunger and humiliation” through treachery. Extensive counter-argumentation by Erzberger, who justifies his peace policy and castigates the imperial warfare; constant and considerable unrest during all of this. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 104-199]

26 July

The sixty-seventh session of the National Assembly, from 10:00am to 1:50pm and 4:08 to 6:49pm
Discussion of the government statement of 23 July continues with a fundamental debate on the consequences of the 1916 declaration to wage submarine warfare, the war-guilt question, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the socialization question, the councils question and much more; general call for the official publication of records on outbreak of the war and the peace agreement, in order to determine the facts.
Report by Defense Minister Noske (SPD) on his fight against anti-Semitic agitation, politically motivated strikes and street fights between the USPD and the KPD, particularly in Berlin, which is still under siege (frequent unrest). [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 200-251]

28 July

The sixty-eighth session of the National Assembly, from 2:20 to 7:26pm
Political discussion continues in the form of a fundamental debate on the war-guilt question and lost opportunities for peace since 1916 (so-called “Belgian question”, “Pope’s note”, “Polish question” i.a.); statement by Interior Minister David (SPD) on the Bill establishing a state court and the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate these matters continuing to stir up constant controversy. Statement by Foreign Minister Hermann Müller (SPD) on the situation in the Baltics and the relationship to Soviet Russia as well as the planned publication of Reich files in order to provide answers to the war-guilt and peace questions. Statements by Reichsministerpräsident Bauer (SPD) and Finance Minister Erzberger (Center) justifying their peace policy and defending the republic against ongoing attacks by the DNVP in plenary and in the press (accompanied by loud heckling and frequent interruptions).
Amendments by Prussian Minister of Agriculture and Member Otto Braun (SPD) to his report of 25 July on unjustified attacks on his person from the right due to the rural worker strikes and the armament of the Pomeranian Rural League. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 252-309]

29 July

The sixty-ninth session of the National Assembly, from 10:20am to 2:38pm and 5:14 to 7:46pm
Continuation and conclusion of the political general debate from the previous day with Finance Minister Erzberger (Center) justifying his peace policy O.C. again to those attacking him from the right. The Bill establishing a state court is referred to the Constitutional Committee. A vote of no confidence initiated by the DNVP against the government is clearly unsuccessful with 243 to 53 votes.
At the request of the USPD, Defense Minister Noske reports on the harsh security measures for order in the Ruhr Valley targeting striking workers (protective custody and state of siege) whilst great unrest continues there.
Third reading of the draft constitution starts with a declaration of principles presented by its author Hugo Preuß (DDP) as the responsible government representative, including appreciation for the National Assembly’s work on the constitution so far; support and thanks from the SPD, the Center Party and the DDP. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 310-346]

30 July

The seventieth session of the National Assembly, from 10:19am to 1:51pm and 2:29 to 7:53pm
Deliberations on the constitution continue with the general debate: The DNVP, DVP, and USPD announce that they will reject adoption of the constitution. Final statement by Preuß (DDP) defending the constitution against its critics. This is followed by a special debate with a vote on the individual constitutional articles; prolonged debate only on the “unmarried article”. [DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 347-398]

31 July

The seventy-first session of the National Assembly, from 9:50am to 1:11pm and 3:23 to 8:53pm
Special debate continues with voting on the individual constitutional articles; thorough debate once again on the “unity question” (“Prussia problem”), “councils question”, and the “school compromise”, with substantial changes made; for instance, to the relationship between the federal states and the Reich, the electoral term of the Reichstag (shortened from five to four years), state of emergency declarations i.a.
This is followed by an overall vote on the new constitution with 262 votes in favor (from the SPD, DDP, and Center Party), 75 votes against (from the DVP, DNVP, Bavarian Peasants’ League, and USPD), and one abstention.
“The constitution is hereby adopted. (Loud applause).”
[DNV, Vol. 5, pp. 399-455]

Show glossary
A project of Weimarer Republik e.V., with generous support from


Abkürzungs- und Siglenverzeichnis der verwendeten Literatur:

ADGBFederation of German General Trade Unions
AEGGeneral Electricity Company
AfA-BundGeneral Free Federation of Employees
AVUSAutomobile Traffic and Training Road
BMWBavarian Motor Works
BRTgross register tons
BVPBavarian People’s Party
CenterCenter Party
DAPGerman Workers’ Party
DDPGerman Democratic Party
DNTGerman National Theater
DNVPGerman National People’s Party
DVPGerman People’s Party
GmbHLimited (form of company)
KominternCommunist International
KPDCommunist Party of Germany
KVPConservative People’s Party
MSPDMajority Social Democratic Party of Germany; the Majority Socialists
NSnational socialism (Nazi)
NSDAPNational Socialist German Workers’ Party; Nazi party
NVNational Assembly
O.C.Organization Consul
OHLArmy High Command
SASturmabteilung; Brownshirts
SPDSocial Democratic Party of Germany
StGBPenal Code
UfAUniversum Film Aktiengesellschaft
USPDIndependent Social Democratic Party of Germany
VKPDUnited Communist Party of Germany
ZentrumCenter Party
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[BauerBauer, Kurt, Nationalsozialismus. Ursprünge, Anfänge, Aufstieg und Fall, u.a. Wien 2008.
[BihlBihl, Wolfdieter, Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914 - 1918. Chronik - Daten - Fakten, Wien 2010.
[BüttnerBüttner, Ursula, Weimar. Die überforderte Republik 1918-1933, Stuttgart 2008.
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[Ebert/Wienecke-JanzEbert, Johannes/Wienecke-Janz, Detlef, Die Chronik. Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts bis heute, Gütersloh/München 2006.
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[EtzoldEtzold, Hans-Rüdiger, Der Käfer II. Die Käfer-Entwicklung von 1934 bis 1982 vom Urmodell zum Weltmeister, Stuttgart 1989.
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[GrüttnerGrüttner, Michael, Das Dritte Reich 1933-1945 (= Bd. 19, Gebhardt. Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte), Stuttgart 2014.
[HildebrandHildebrand, Klaus, Das Dritte Reich, 7. Aufl., München 2010.
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[KittelKittel, Erich, Novembersturz 1918. Bemerkungen zu einer vergleichenden Revolutionsgeschichte der deutschen Länder, in: Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 104 (1968), S. 42-108.
[KolbKolb, Eberhard, Die Weimarer Republik, 7. durchges. und erw. Aufl., München 2010.
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[Overesch/SaalOveresch, Manfred/Saal, Friedrich Wilhelm, Die Weimarer Republik, Eine Tageschronik der Politik, Wissenschaft Kultur, Augsburg 1992.
[PeukertPeukert, Detlef, Die Weimarer Republik. Krisenjahre der Klassischen Moderne, Frankfurt a.M. 1987.
[PK]Paul Kaiser: Die Nationalversammlung 1919 und die Stadt Weimar (Weimarer Schriften, Heft 16), Weimar 1969.
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[ThHB]Thüringen-Handbuch. Territorium, Verfassung, Parlament, Regierung und Verwaltung in Thüringen 1920 bis 1995, hrsg. von Bernhard Post und Volker Wahl, Redaktion Dieter Marek (Veröffentlichungen aus Thüringischen Staatsarchiven, Bd. 1), Weimar 1999.
[TofahrnTofahrn, Klaus W., Chronologie des Dritten Reiches. Ereignisse, Personen, Begriffe, Darmstadt 2003.
[UB]Ursula Büttner: Weimar. Die überforderte Republik 1918-1933. Leistungen und Versagen in Staat, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur, Stuttgart 2008.
[VU]Volker Ullrich: Die Revolution von 1918/19, München 2009.
[WinklerWinkler, Heinrich-August, Weimar 1918-1933. Die Geschichte der Ersten deutschen Demokratie, München 1993.
[WirschingWirsching, Andreas, Die Weimarer Republik. Politik und Gesellschaft, 2. erw. Aufl., München 2010.

(zusammengestellt von Dr. Jens Riederer und Christine Rost, bearbeitet von Stephan Zänker)